SLICK Articles

What Makes a Lubricant Sticky?

And what to look for instead

What Makes a Lubricant Sticky?

Sticky. It’s the last feeling you want in a lubricant. And it’s the #1 reviewer complaint. Here are the ingredients & formulas to look for if you want to avoid sticky situations.

Sticky Factors

There are 2 factors that determine how fast a lubricant will absorb or evaporate & the feeling it leaves behind:

The individual ingredients used – Some ingredients are stickier and dry out faster than others. By law, ingredients are listed on every lubricant in most-to-least order.

The amount of each ingredient and the combination of ingredients used – A lubricant’s formula is proprietary and can only be estimated by looking at the order of ingredients.  Even then it’s tricky – identical ingredients do not mean identical formulas.

Glycols

Glycerin: Ickiest of the Sticky

Most water-based lubricants are water-glycol formulas. Glycols are simple sugar alcohols that both occur naturally & are synthetically produced.

When shopping for a water-based lubricant, you’re typically choosing between glycerin, propanediol, and propylene glycol. Each of these glycols are common in bodycare products.

We’ve researched hundreds of lubricants and glycerin-based lubricants are the most likely to have negative user reviews that mention ‘sticky’.

From an ingredient perspective this makes sense – glycerin is great for the skin, but it’s notoriously sticky. In skincare, the gold standard is set by formulas that contain enough glycerin to be beneficial while avoiding the tacky feel.

Unfortunately, most glycerin lubes contain too much glycerin and not enough balancing ingredients – as a category, glycerin lubes are practically guaranteed to be sticky, which is one reason we don’t recommend them.

Propanediol and propylene glycol can also become sticky – but not nearly as fast or as much as glycerin does. Of the 3, propanediol is most often associated with premium formulas.

Don't Add Lube

We’re not telling you anything you don’t already know – water-based lubricants dry out the fastest and their slippery ingredients tend to become sticky ones.

Your first instinct might be to reach for more lube – but you’ll just be adding more sticky ingredients. Instead, add a few drops of water to reactivate the slip.

Keep a glass of water nearby and dip your fingers. Use a spray bottle to mist the area. Give the body part in question a big, wet kiss. Any of these might be all you need to reactivate a sticky lube.

Less Sticky Alternatives

Water-based lubricants – Look for formulas where carrageenan or plant gums like xanthan and guar play a key role. These natural ingredients are non-irritating, add slip & lasting power, and can be reactivated with a few drops of water.

Plant oil lubricants – Plant oils don’t dry out and are long-lasting. They’re great when you want a slower kind of action with more skin-on-skin friction.  While not for everyone, plant oils don’t get sticky the way water-based lubes can.

Silicone lubricants – Silicone is super slick and a little goes a long way. Silicone isn’t absorbed but, depending on the formula, can evaporate. Silicone never becomes sticky, even with multiple applications. If you only have one lube on your nightstand, we recommend silicone.

Our mission is to help you find safer, more effective lubricants. We hope this helps you avoid sticky situations ? Got questions? Have a sticky story? Want to share your favorite lube? Let us know in the comments below!

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