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Don’t hate me, but over the last year I’ve been sent more than like 100 different arousal oils from persistent PR folks (the perks of being a sex writer). But because things can get a little steamy-in-the-medical-way down there, I steered clear.

Then the global pandemic stole my libido. And, too impatient for the food for sex route, I decided to give all those arousal oils a test drive. Basically, they were a convenient way to get it on.

Arousal oil vs. lube

“Lube formulas are not designed to support the natural arousal process. They are only intended to add lubrication,” says somatic sex expert Kiana Reeves, a sex and community educator with Foria, a company that creates arousal oil products intended to reduce pain and increase pleasure during sex.

“Arousal oils are typically formulated to get blood flow moving in the genital direction. As a byproduct of boosted blood flow, many of these products can increase your capacity to pleasure.”

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Arousal oils are formulated to enhance natural lubrication and typically shouldn’t be used for your vagina.

For all these products, I recommend external application only. For me, that meant vulva and around. That’s clit, clitoral hood, labia, and mons pubis. Not the vagina. Same goes if you have a penis — keep this fluid on the outside.

Intrigued? Lucky for all of you, I’m sharing a list of all the arousal oils that made my (ahem) cat purr — exactly the way I wanted it to.

Why I loved it

My pelvic floor muscles are cranky monsters. I have a hypertonic pelvic floor — that means there are times when I can’t get the muscles to relax, which can make penetration super uncomfy.

My pelvic floor therapist had previously suggested that I give an arousal oil with CBD in it a whirl. Why? Because not only is CBD thought to have relaxing properties), it’s also a vasodilator, meaning it promotes blood flow to the pelvic floor muscle tissues.

When I applied Foria Awaken, I literally felt the blood rush to my bits. The oil alone didn’t relax my pelvic floor enough for penetration, but the oil + a patient partner led to some of the best hand-sex of my life.

Obvi, no two folks experience pelvic pain the same way. But if you, too, experience any sort of pelvic pain during penetration, I’d suggest talking to your doc about Foria Awaken.

Remember: You shouldn’t “prescribe” yourself this oil in place of calling up your healthcare provider.

Note: There’s no detectable THC in Awaken, so you don’t have to worry about getting high. See the company’s test results for efficacy and potency here.

Price: $48

Buy Foria Awaken Oil.

What to keep in mind

With a coconut oil base, Awaken is not latex-safe (never use oil-based products with latex). And because it contains coconut, folks with tree nut allergies shouldn’t use it.

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Why I liked it

With a consistency somewhere between my go-to water-based lubes (ICYWW, Get Naked and Sliquid Sassy) and the other oil-based products on the list, Bloomi is by far the easiest *not* to spill.

My sheets: “Thank you!”

Beyond that, in my experience Bloomi lives up to its bold claim to “increase sexual arousal and make sex better.”

My clit is already super-duper sensitive, so the recommended 3 pumps were a little too sensating for my liking.

But the second (and third, etc.) time, I learned that a single pump of Bloomi was enough to pleasantly plump my labia. The tag team of Bloomi coating my labia and the Le Wand Point on my clit was divine.

Price: $58

Buy Bloomi.

What to keep in mind

At $58 a pop, this one’s on the pricier side. If you’ve never owned an external vibrator before, your quest for a better, stronger orgasm might be better served by investing in one with the same price. Sweet Vibe’s wand vibrator, Charmed, for instance, is only $44.99.

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Why I liked it

Since it was created by board certified OB-GYN Dr. Karen Patrusky and is made from coconut oil and peppermint oil, you can bet this stuff is genital-friendly.

And that means all genitals. That’s right — folks of any sex or gender can enjoy this stuff.

My partner, who was assigned male at birth, said it best: “It’s like sprinkles on top of ice cream.” As in, it makes an already good thing (sex) even better.

Price: $32

Buy Voila Intimate Moods Excite Oil.

What to keep in mind

My one complaint is that for a product that really can be used on all bodies, its motto is unnecessarily gendered: Enhance your feminine spirit.

Like, why use gendered and potentially triggering lingo when you could just… not?

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Why I liked it

Developed with 100 percent natural botanical ingredients like sweet almond oil, rosemary extract, and cinnamon, Sensuva ON Arousal Oil is designed to make your bits buzz.

You might think of this product as a liquid vibrator. It didn’t rumble and roll against my ruby the way, say, a wand-style vibrator like the Hitachi Magic wand or Le Wand would. But it did feel as stimulating as a low cost bullet vibrator.

The only downside was that after 30 minutes I was ready for my bits to stop buzzing. And because I couldn’t yank this “vibrator’s” cord outta the wall or beeline for the “off” button when it stopped working for me, I was forced to bear it until it wore off. (The Sensuva website says that takes about 45 minutes, but in my experience it took slightly longer.)

That said, the setting on said “vibe” depends on which of the three Sensuva ON Arousal Oils you opt for: Mild, Original, or Ultra. Mild is 50 percent less intense than Original, and Ultra is 25 percent more intense than Original.

Price: $24.95

Buy Sensuva ON Arousal Oil.

What to keep in mind

The first time you use it, start with the lower end of the 1 to 2 drop dose recommendation to make sure the product doesn’t work TOO well and cause physical discomfort so bad that you’ll be rubbing hard enough to pull your hair (err, pubes?) out.

Oh, and I have to say it: Nonbinary and trans folks, be warned — this product’s marketing spiel is gendered AF.

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The only reasons I was able to test out all these (and more) intimacy and arousal oils is that I’ve been sent samples for free over the years.

If budget is a limiting factor, clinical sexologist Megan Stubbs, Ed.D, recommends seeing if your local sex shop has sample packets. “Many do,” she says. Alternatively, you can see if the companies offer travel-size options.

“Just please don’t jimmy-rig your medicine cabinet to try to make your own,” she says. “When it comes to what you put in and on your genitals, you don’t want to put on something that hasn’t been tested and approved.” Fair!

Ultimately, says pleasure-positive sex educator Reba Corrine Thomas, “arousal oils can be helpful, but they’re not a cure-all for bad sex.”

So if you read this and are convinced to try them, before you hand over your CC number, spend some time interrogating why your pleasure feels thwarted.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I know enough about my own pleasure centers?
  • Is my partner prioritizing my pleasure the way I need/want?
  • What else in my life might be interfering with my arousal?
  • What else could I be trying to boost my arousal or pleasure?

As Reeves says, “There is so much in our daily experience that can impact how we experience arousal and our libido.” An arousal oil might do the trick, but it can’t be your only one.

Gabrielle Kassel is a New York–based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. Follow her on Instagram.