Coconut Oil as a Lube: Is It Safe and Can You Use It?

A lubricant works by decreasing friction during sexual intercourse, which can minimize feelings of soreness and pain as well as enhance pleasure. Lubes are especially helpful for women who are experiencing vaginal dryness. Coconut oil is one of many popular natural products often used for sex. This plant-based, chemical-free product is long-lasting and has a pleasant smell. But it’s not without its risks and drawbacks. In this article, gynecologists discuss the pros and cons of coconut oil as a sex lubricant.

Can you use coconut oil as a lube?

Coconut oil is widely used as a long-lasting lubricant during sex; however, the scientific research on coconut oil as a lubricant for sex and its safety is nonexistent. There have been a few small studies on the potential antimicrobial properties of coconut oil and the effects of oil-based lubricants on the integrity of latex condoms.

“Coconut oil is a natural option and may be gentler on sensitive skin, whereas some synthetic lubricants contain chemicals and preservatives,” said Jill Krapf, M.D., a gynecologist and director of the Center for Vulvovaginal Disorders in Tampa, Florida, commenting on the pros of using coconut oil as a lube.

Is it safe to use coconut oil as a lube?

For most people, coconut oil is safe to use as a moisturizer on the skin. However, it's important to note that there are no scientific studies to confirm the safety of coconut oil if used intravaginally. If coconut oil is a preferred option, it's best to choose a high-quality, unrefined product free from chemicals. Refined coconut oil is processed and contains additives that could irritate the skin. Nonetheless, even unrefined coconut oil carries risks.

Coconut oil has a neutral pH of 7, which is higher than the healthy pH of the vagina (approximately 4). “Because of this, coconut oil may potentially disrupt the naturally acidic environment of the vagina, increasing risk of bacterial or yeast infections in some people,” Krapf said.

Because coconut oil has many uses, including cooking, skincare, and haircare, there is a risk that the container could be contaminated with bacteria from your hands because the oil is solid and cannot be squeezed out of the tube as with typical synthetic lubes. Thus, even though coconut oil itself has antibacterial properties, it’s less likely to provide these benefits because, according to research, it’s proven not to have a strong inhibitory action on bacteria. This puts you at potential risk for vulvovaginal infections.

Synthetic water-based lubes, for example, are accessible, inexpensive, and known to be safe. Silicone lubes, which last longer than water-based lubes, are also safe for internal vaginal use. However, silicone lubes cannot be used on silicone sex toys as they may degrade the material. Oil-based lubes, including natural coconut oil, can degrade latex condoms, induce breakage, and put you at risk for STIs and unplanned pregnancy.

Some people have coconut allergies, and they should avoid all coconut products. “Those who are concerned about sensitivity may want to do a patch test on their arm to ensure they do not have an allergy or sensitivity,” Krapf said.

Having an allergy to coconut is relatively rare. According to a survey, less than 1% of adults in the United States reported having an allergy to coconut. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anybody in my practice who’s allergic to it,” said Alyssa Dweck, M.D., a gynecologist practicing in New York and author of the book The Complete A to Z for Your V. “Some people really find the smell offensive, so they don’t want to use it for that reason. But that’s not the majority by any means."

For these reasons, it’s generally advisable to try synthetic lubes specifically designed for sex before reaching for coconut oil. Consult your gynecologist or healthcare provider to determine which product is best for you.

Are there benefits of using coconut oil as a lube?

Coconut oil has a few potential external benefits to the skin, including its moisturizing capability and absence of chemicals and additives.

“Some people just use it after the shower on the vulva, which is everything external, as a way to moisturize the skin and create a moisture barrier so the skin doesn’t get irritated,” Dweck said. Anything going in the vagina could potentially affect the microbiome, according to Dweck. The vaginal microbiome consists of various species of bacteria that provide critical protective functions in genital health.

“For example, menopausal women have an altered microbiome; they have much less of a good bacteria called Lactobacillus, just by virtue of the fact that their hormone levels are different,” Dweck said, adding that postpartum women also have a different microbiome.

Dweck sometimes recommends a medical-grade silicone and vitamin E lube because it’s inert, does not alter the microbiome, and is long-lasting.

Risks and side effects

The main risks of using coconut oil as a lubricant are that it can degrade latex condoms, disrupt the vaginal pH, put you at risk of infection, stain fabrics, and potentially cause an allergic reaction. Furthermore, coconut oil can clog pores, which can result in folliculitis — a condition when a hair follicle becomes inflamed or infected — in the genital region.

If using a lube with a latex condom, it’s important to only use water- or silicone-based lubes.

Other lube alternatives

“Everyone has different sensitivities and preferences regarding smell, taste, and feel,” Krapf said.

With that in mind, some natural lube alternatives to coconut oil could be avocado oil, olive oil, sweet almond oil, and aloe vera gel. Like coconut oil, these oils are also not compatible with latex condoms because they can degrade the latex. Aloe vera gel, however, is water-based and is therefore considered to be safe to use with condoms.

Still, the safety of these natural products when used internally is not established, so it's better to stick to high-quality store-bought lubricants that have been formulated to be vulvovaginal-environment-friendly.

If you are experiencing vaginal dryness during sex and think you may benefit from using coconut oil, consult your gynecologist. There are a wide variety of lubes and vaginal moisturizers on the market, so you may need to try multiple different products to determine which one is best suited for your individual needs and preferences. As it stands, the potential cons and unknowns of coconut oil do not outnumber its benefits.

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