Is It Safe To Use Coconut Oil As Lube? Experts Weigh In
Coconut oil has become a popular staple in many kitchens and more recently in beauty routines for its wide range of health, cosmetic, and dermatologic benefits, though some health professionals are more cautious about overusing coconut oil due to its saturated fat content. But because of its moisturizing properties, coconut oil has also made its way to the bedroom, with many people using coconut oil as lube during sex. Here's everything you need to know about putting coconut oil on your private parts.
Is it safe to use coconut oil as lube?
As long as it's organic, OB/GYN Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, M.D., says coconut oil is safe as an overall moisturizer, including for sensitive vaginal and vulvar tissue. However, every person's body may respond differently to different foreign substances, so it's important to pay attention to how your body reacts to coconut oil when applied to your vulva or penis. Here are a few considerations and precautions you should take when using coconut oil as lube.
Look for unprocessed coconut oil.
Go for organic, unrefined, and unscented coconut oil. "The less messed with, the better," functional medicine gynecologist Wendie Trubow, M.D., says. "I would not recommend anything with fragrances or additional additives."
When purchasing coconut oil, you may come across labels like unrefined, preservative-free, and partially hydrogenated coconut oil. While those labels have more to do with cooking and smoking points than anything else, it's still best to look for coconut oil in its least processed form. Just like with soaps and other types of lubes, scents and unnecessary additives may cause irritation to the vulva or vagina.
Make sure you're not allergic.
It's rare to be allergic to coconuts, but it is possible. Coconut allergies will rarely cause an anaphylactic reaction, but they can cause rashes and blistering. So even if you've purchased the most natural coconut oil out there, it's important to do a patch test to make sure you're not allergic.
To do this, sex therapist Cyndi Darnell, MHSc, MNT, says to place a drop of coconut oil on your wrist and see how your skin reacts. After 48 hours, she recommends repeating the test on your vulva, penis, or around the anus. "Wait 24 hours to see if there is a reaction," she says.
Consider your skin sensitivity.
Clinical research has shown coconut oil is safe for the skin. However, at least one 2013 study linked vaginal use of oils with Candida colonization. Candida is a fungus naturally found in the vagina, though its overgrowth is typically what causes yeast infections. That said, the study didn't specify what types of oils it was testing. (One example it mentioned was baby oil; coconut oil was not mentioned.) All to say: If you're someone prone to yeast infections, proceed with caution with using coconut oil as lube. If it causes any irritation or discomfort, discontinue use.
For those with sensitive skin, osteopathic OB/GYN Anna Cabeca, D.O., recommends using fractionated coconut oil because it doesn't cake or clog pores as much. "And, of course, organic is always the first choice," she says.
Benefits of using coconut oil as lube.
In general, there's some disagreement about whether coconut oil is healthy among health professionals. Nonetheless, coconut oil has risen in popularity as a plant-based alternative to many products. The cooking oil contains a form of saturated fat called MCTs, which have been proved to speed up the metabolism, curb hunger, and burn fat. It's also a comparable replacement for butter in vegan baking projects. In the beauty department, coconut oil has been shown to prevent hair damage, reduce frizz, and moisturize the skin.
That said, there are no clinical studies that specifically test the benefits of using coconut oil as lube. Here are some potential benefits, though:
1. It's natural.
Some people prefer to use natural substances on their skin and body rather than human-made products. Coconut oil is a natural, plant-based lubricant that can be purchased in relatively raw, unprocessed form.
2. It's moisturizing.
Aside from coconut oil being a natural product, it's also extremely moisturizing, which can make it an effective lubricant. Coconut oil has been proven to treat dry skin and reduce skin inflammation when used as a moisturizer. While it may not be the best lube for everyone, Gilberg-Lenz says it's helpful for people who experience sensitivity or dryness at the entrance of the vagina and upon penetration.
Coconut oil is less effective for people who have general vaginal dryness, like those experiencing perimenopause or menopause.
3. Some people claim it may help soothe vaginal infections, despite a lack of scientific evidence.
There is currently no clinical evidence that coconut oil can treat vaginal infections such as yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis. That said, preliminary studies suggest coconut oil may have helpful antifungal properties when consumed by mice, including lowering the colonization of the Candida albicans fungus. Anecdotally, some individuals swear by coconut oil as a soothing treatment for infections, despite the lack of evidence.
Downsides and risks:
1. It's oil-based, so bad for use with condoms.
Coconut oil is not safe to use with condoms or most sex toys. Mineral oils have been proven to decrease the strength of condoms by 90%, according to one study. The oils break down the integrity of these surfaces, causing them to break, Gilberg-Lenz explains.
Since you can't use it with condoms, Darnell says coconut oil may be safer to use during toy-free masturbation, depending on how your body responds to it.
2. The antibacterial and antifungal properties may disrupt vaginal pH.
When ingested, coconut oil has proven antibacterial and antifungal properties. As mentioned, some studies have shown coconut oil may decrease Candida growth. Another study found the medium-chain fatty acids in virgin coconut oil can inhibit the growth of the bacteria Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which leads to inflammation in the colon and severe diarrhea.
While antibacterial and antifungal properties may sound like a good thing, bacteria and fungi naturally live in the vagina and often promote vaginal health. With long-term use, the antibacterial properties can affect your vagina's pH balance by disrupting the natural bacteria, Cabeca says.
pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline (basic) a substance is. The healthy vagina's pH is moderately acidic (low), but it can be affected by introducing new substances (including lube) to the area. A higher vaginal pH creates an environment for unhealthy bacteria to grow, which may make you more prone to infection.
Using coconut oil intermittently is typically OK, but if you're prone to yeast infections, consider speaking to your OB/GYN beforehand. For what it's worth, all fluids (not just coconut oil) that come near the vagina can potentially affect its pH too.
3. It can stain sheets.
If you've ever spilled oily food on your shirt, you probably know oils are some of the trickiest stains to remove—especially once the stain is dry. Well, coconut oil can do the same to your bedsheets.
Trubow recommends using solid, room-temperature coconut oil. This form tends to leave less of a stain than liquid oils might, but it can still leave a stain. It may help to have a special towel or blanket you can lay out before using coconut oil during sex.
How to use coconut oil as lube.
Use coconut oil as you would any other lube for sex: Apply it around the vulva and entrance of the vagina before and throughout all forms of play to help things slip and slide more comfortably. Just note that coconut oil is readily absorbed by the skin and may not stay slick, Gilberg-Lenz says, which may contribute to friction, pain, and tissue damage. So make sure to apply liberally and continue applying throughout the sexual experience as the area becomes dry again.
Coconut oil can be found at your local grocery store—just check the labels to make sure you're buying certified organic. If you have severe vaginal dryness and don't notice the lubricant making sex any easier, a coconut oil and water-based lubricant (like this one) may be more beneficial. You could also make your own DIY lubricant, using equal parts fractionated coconut oil and equal parts aloe vera.
The bottom line.
For the most part, coconut oil as a lubricant should not be harmful. If you begin to experience discomfort, odor, or discharge when having sex, discontinue use and speak with your doctor. Then just choose a different lubricant. Here's our full guide to choosing the right lube.
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