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Lubrication vs. moisturizer vs. vaginal Estrogen?

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Lubrication vs. moisturizer vs. vaginal Estrogen?
These different vaginal preparations can be confusing, and women don’t always know when to use which one.  So, let’s sort it out.

Vaginal moisturizers are the parallel to body/hand lotion, which add moisture to a dry skin, typically by mimicking the chemical makeup of the vaginal flora.  An important note: contrary to common misconception, vaginal moisturizers ARE NOT used for vaginal penetration!  Reasons for vaginal dryness include insufficient hydration, certain medications that have a drying effect, chemically-treated waters (pool, jacuzzi, etc.), after a swim in the salty ocean, menopause, cancer treatment, etc.  Examples of vaginal moisturizers are available over-the-counter (no prescription needed) and include products like Replens, Refresh, Vagisil, Luvena, etc.  Use a moisturizer at bedtime and let it work its magic inside your vagina while you sleep.

Vaginal lubrication is used to ease vaginal penetration, and to minimize friction during the sexual act (with a penis or a dildo).  They come in different grades of viscosity (thickness) to suit the particular needs of the different women, in different makes (water-based, silicon-based, petroleum-based), in different forms (liquid, gel, suppositories), in different temperatures, flavors, fragrances, etc.  Use the product that works for you without causing irritation or allergic reactions.

Vaginal Estrogen is a hormonal replacement preparation for when the natural storage and production of Estrogen is depleted or no longer existing, such as in menopause, after suppression therapy for fibroids, endometriosis, or cancer, or after removal of ovaries.  By introducing estrogen into the vagina (and on the vulva) your tissue will be restored, elasticity will return, and the area will no longer feel dry, pinchy, and uncomfortable.  Vaginal estrogen comes in different forms – cream (Estrace, Premarin), tablet (Vagifem) or a vaginal ring (Estring), and bio-identical formulations — discuss options with your attending clinician and have them write you a prescription for the product of choice.  An important note: vaginal estrogen is not used for sexual activities; for that purpose, use vaginal lubricants!

So, here is to your vaginal health!

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  • nancy says:

    is it ok to also use a vaginal moisturizer on non sex and non estrogen nights?

  • Sharon says:

    If I am using Estrace cream regularly is it ok to use a lubricant before sex also? I am concerned about a negative interaction between products.

    • Ditza Katz says:

      Estrace is typically used only once or twice weekly, at bedtime, and should not be ‘mixed’ with anything else (i.e. lubrication) in order to stay potent and do its thing. Lubrication for intercourse is fine to use on non-Estrace nights.