Buying Lube in your Local Pharmacy

It’s 2020: you can pick up a good water-based lube – along with condoms and sex toys – in your local supermarket or pharmacy.


Where do you buy your lube? It’s 2020: you can pick up a good water-based lube – along with condoms and sex toys – in your local supermarket or pharmacy.

The first place I bought lube was Boots – the UK’s leading pharmacy-led health and beauty retailer. I can remember it very clearly, because it was just after I’d started teaching myself to masturbate and I was so embarrassed to be looking at the lubes and condoms! I didn’t only buy lube that day, but also picked up a small hand mirror. I was sure whoever served me could tell that I was going to go home to explore my vagina, and I couldn’t stop blushing.

Nowadays I buy my lube in sex shops and know a lot more about my own genitals. It’s interesting to go back and apply my sex nerdery to the sexual wellbeing shelves. I have more condoms than I know what to do with for someone who doesn’t have penis-in-vagina sex, but I buy lube and sex toys frequently. So, would I still buy lube from Boots?

Let’s start with the first place I always start when buying lube…

Water-based versus silicone-based lubes.

Quick lube 101: there are different kinds of lube, something I didn’t know when I first bought lube. You can’t use oil-based lube with latex condoms; you can’t use silicone-based lube with silicone sex toys; and you can use water-based lube with everything, but it’s not great for shower sex and often requires frequent re-application. All three are body-safe – and there are many more kinds of lube, of course – but you want to pick the right one for the fucking you’re planning.

I most often use lube while masturbating – which is a thing I strongly encourage y’all to try if you’ve never done before: jerking off with lube is so much fun! My masturbation usually involves a vibrator, so I get through more water-based lube than any other kind. Which means that I need to know what kind of lube I’m picking up. And honestly? When I pick up a bottle of lube in Boots it’s not always easy to see.

Picking up a Durex Naturals Intimate Gel, it tells me that it’s made with 100% natural ingredients and normalises the idea that folks with vulvas don’t always get wet and that there’s no shame in using lube – yay! But unless you know what you’re looking for in the list of ingredients (which reads aqua, glycerin, propanediol, xanthan gum, sodium hyalurinate, potassium lactacte, lactic acid) it’s not obviously clear if it’s water-based lube.

It is, by the way. I don’t mean to imply that it’s not a good lube – any more than Durex’s Intense Orgasmic Gel or Durex Sensilube aren’t good lubes. Interestingly, I found that the Boots own-brand lube does state that whether it’s water- or silicone-based, as did some of the other brands of lubes you could purchase.

I’m not saying this is a reason not to shop for lube in Boots, but it IS important to know what you’re putting on your genitals. Especially if you’re not comfortable hanging around next to the condoms for too long, it’s useful if you can easily tell what kind of lube you’re buying. And personally, I’m always more comfortable ‘is this a silicone-based or water-based lube?’ in a sex toy shop than a pharmacy, but you might be totally chill with that!

However, this leads us on to…

Sexual shame versus sexual pleasure.

We live in a cisheteropatriarchical society that is deeply sex-negative. Women and afab (assigned female at birth) folks, in particular, are saddled with a lot of sexual shame. We’re not meant to want sex or to enjoy sex, and we’re definitely not meant to talk about sex. It makes sense some of that shame stays with folks of all genders when buying condoms, lube, and – shock horror! – sex toys, because they’re owning their sexuality.

Finding and going to a sex toy shop can be scary, and I understand the fear that people will be watching you as you head inside and wondering what kind of pervy sex you’re into. However, once you’re in a sex toy shop I find that I feel less sexual shame. People working in a sex toy shop know you’re there to buy lube or sex toys or kink kit – they’re there to sell you those things. They’ll be happy to answer your questions and won’t judge you for buying that massive dildo to satisfy your size-monarch kink.

You can buy condoms and lube and basic sex toys in a pharmacy, but they might be found under ‘family planning’ rather than ‘sexual health’ or ‘sexual wellbeing’. There’s an implication in this that sex isn’t something you do for fun – it’s something you do to procreate. Even though Boots offers cheap cock rings, I sometimes feel like my sex-positive, slutty energy is completely out of place.

It feels like the ways I’m going to use their products are wrong, because I’m planning to use them for my own pleasure rather than partnered penis-in-vagina sex.

No one has ever shamed me for buying slut supplies in a pharmacy – and maybe no one even thought twice about it when I bought lube and a hand mirror. No one should judge you for buying condoms or lube or a vibrator, any more than they should judge you for being on the contraceptive pill or asking for the morning-after pill.

And places like Boots are getting less sex-negative. Above their lube selection was a big sign that read ‘Sex. Feels. Better. With. Lube.’, which is exactly the kind of message that anyone who is selling lube should be sharing. We need to stop shaming folks for wanting to have sex, and until I feel comfortable discussing pegging with my partner in a pharmacy, I’m probably going to stick to buying lube in sex shops.

Parlour Talk is not sponsored by Boots or Durex, but we are affiliated with sex-positive sex shops. We encourage you to use the affiliate links in this post to buy lube!

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