Lubes, Moisturizers, and Mousse, Oh My! Vaginal dryness is a common problem. Here's the differences between feminine lubricating products. BY MACHELLE M. SEIBEL, MD
Vaginal dryness is a common issue that shouldn't be ignored.
The feminine hygiene aisle can seem like a perilous place, with so many different options and products that anyone shopping there can quickly become confused. Woe to the husband sent on a mission to find something specific then returns with the wrong thing. This is especially true when it comes to lubricating products designed to treat chronic or temporary vaginal dryness.
Vaginal dryness is an extremely common problem for young women, and the problem only increases with age. Women might notice feminine dryness around their monthly periods with tampon use; after childbirth or while nursing their baby; during times of stress, or after excessive exercise like jogging. Vaginal dryness is also an uncomfortable side effect of some cancer and diabetes medications that deplete the body of estrogen.
In fact, vaginal dryness is such a common problem that many married couples simply end up ignoring it, despite the potentially devastating consequences and the extremely uncomfortable symptoms of chronic irritation, itching, burning and soreness. However, if ignored, chronic vaginal dryness can lead to vaginitis, bleeding, urinary discomfort, bladder infections and painful intercourse, which can lead inevitably to marital strife.
There are certainly differences between all of the products available to treat vaginal dryness, and they each have different uses. The products can be broken down into three categories: lubes, moisturizers and mousses.
An effective vaginal moisturizer like Replens will last much longer than a traditional lubricant and use as much of the body’s natural replenishing process as possible. A vaginal moisturizer is designed to treat chronic vaginal dryness and can be incorporated into a daily skin care regimen in much the same way as hand lotion or a facial moisturizer. A vaginal moisturizer can last up to three days with a single application and is used to help the vagina’s epithelial cells heal and retain moisture, rather than as a prelude to a wild sexual adventure.
A lube is primarily designed with sex in mind and can take many different forms. Lubricants like K-Y and Astroglide provide excellent temporary help but last only a few minutes. They can be messy, drippy and not stay in place. They have also been reported as having a cold sensation at initial application that can interrupt the moment. Oil-based lubricants like Vaseline can destroy condoms and should not be used with them. They are also very sticky.
Since conventional lubricants are often criticized as being messy, companies are now beginning to seek out alternatives such as "intimate mousse," which allows for portion control and won’t ruin bed sheets. Intimate Options Personal Lubricant Mousse for example, is light, fun to use and easy to apply. Because it’s a mousse it stays right where you want it and disappears on contact to become a silky smooth lubricant. And, it’s safe with condoms.
Treating the causes of vaginal dryness can be just as important as treating the symptoms. Excessive exercise can cause chronic vaginal dryness, as can persistent emotional stress or past traumatic sexual experiences. Diuretics such as alcohol and caffeine can exacerbate an existing condition, as can cigarette smoking, certain allergy medications and antihistamines.
Research has shown that a diet high in soybeans can help alleviate vaginal dryness. Soybeans contains isoflavones, which are plant estrogens that produce effects comparable to estrogen therapy, except in a milder, less invasive form. Another really good way to maintain vaginal elasticity and lubrication is regular intercourse. Now you can tell your spouse a doctor recommended it!
As common as it is, vaginal dryness is not a problem to be ignored, and there are many options for treatment. Find one that works for you and enjoy it.
Dr. Machelle Seibel is a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Massachusetts, and former Editor in Chief of Sexuality, Reproduction and Menopause, a journal of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine