Warming lubricants contain specific ingredients to cause a sensation of warmth. Breathing on these types of lubricants may increase the effect. "Cooling" or "tingling" lubricants may contain ingredients such as peppermint. Some lubricants are sold together, such as "hot and cold", or are marketed for a specific use or effect.[15] Flavored lubricants contain flavorings, such as fruit flavors, to enhance oral contact. "Edible" lubricants may be flavored and/or may not contain any ingredients that are not advisable to eat.

Many lubricants are safe for anal sex, but there are products that are specifically marketed or designed to enhance enjoyment of anal sex. Often, this is simply a thicker gel rather than a liquid. This thicker consistency is preferable because it helps the lubricant stay in place. Some lubricants contain benzocaine, an anesthetic. However, the use of any numbing agent for anal penetration is not recommended as a lack of sensation makes accidental injury more likely. In addition, benzocaine can cause an allergic reaction in those with an allergy to PABA (4-Aminobenzoic acid). Some lubricants are conveniently packaged for ease of application. Many of these products such as Astroglide Shooters have been pulled from the market recently due to FDA Medical Device Requirements.

Products containing benzocaine can numb all body parts with which they come in contact. Some lubricants are designed specifically for male masturbation. Many of these are lipid-based for durability and quality of sensation at the expense of latex compatibility. By applying them to the penis, these lubricants can increase the pleasure of masturbation.

A personal lubricant can be used to increase pleasure and reduce pain during sexual intercourse or other activities and may be used for lubricating the penis, vagina, anus or dildo or other sex toy before or during activity. Lubricant may be applied to any body part desired, to the inside and/or outside of condoms, or to the hands or fingers. Personal lubricants are particularly useful for intercourse when a partner experiences dryness or excessive contraction (tightness) of the vagina or anus. Anal sex generally requires more generous application of lubricant since the anus does not have natural lubrication sufficient for most sexual activity.

In medicine, lubricants can be used for gynecological examinations, digital rectal examinations, the insertion of catheters, and the use of enema nozzles and rectal thermometers. The class of lubricants now known as "personal" derives from surgical lubricants; K-Y Jelly was originally introduced in 1904 for this purpose.

While most males and females both produce varying amounts of their own lubrication, it is often desirable to add extra lubrication. A circumcised male masturbating without lubrication can lead to friction burns, blisters, cuts, and calluses. There are specific lubricants which may be used in male masturbation but are not suitable for vaginal or anal use or for use with condoms. Lubricant that is safe for sexual intercourse is also safe for masturbation. Care is recommended in choosing a personal lubricant. Some women may experience irritation from the use of certain lubricants. Some lubricants (as mentioned above under 'Water-based') have been found to damage cells or even increase the replication of the HIV virus. Nonoxynol-9, a spermicide contained in some lubricants, is an irritant and can cause micro-tears which may increase the rate of HIV transmission and HPV infection.

Spermicidally lubricated condoms do not contain enough spermicide to increase contraceptive effectiveness, but application of separate spermicide is thought to reduce pregnancy rates significantly.