Is It Safe to Use Coconut Oil as Lube?
Just a few years ago, we were in the thick of a coconut oil heyday, with people swearing the product could do everything from improve brain function, soften hair, and hydrate skin to makeover the inside of your mouth.
The truth is, coconut oil is a glorious product with plenty of uses — but just like everything, there's a time and a place. Its many uses may not work for everyone and, occasionally, can do more harm than good. This brings us to one specific use of coconut oil that's been heavily debated: using coconut oil as lube.
It sounds great, in theory: Unlike manufactured lubes, which can have all sorts of ingredients inside (some of which are not vagina-friendly), coconut oil offers a seemingly "pure" way to keep things slippery and moisturized. If you can eat it, it should be totally safe for your genitals, right? Not to mention, it's something you likely already have in your kitchen, smells great, and is a fraction of the price of other lube options.
However, like many things in the sex and health world, it's not quite that peachy: there are instances where using coconut oil as lube might not be a great idea. Here's everything you need to know before you bring it into the bedroom.
Is It Safe to Use Coconut Oil as Lube?
Though coconut oil hasn't been thoroughly studied with this particular purpose in mind, in general, yes, you can use coconut oil as lube — whether during partnered or solo play. "Coconut oil is generally considered a safe and economical lube," says Jolene Brighten, ND, board-certified naturopathic endocrinologist and clinical sexologist.
Some pros of using coconut oil as lube? For starters, research confirms that coconut oil acts as an effective skin moisturizer, meaning it can certainly lube things up in the moment, and have moisturizing effects even after you're done. It has a great scent and taste, and because it's completely edible, you can easily and safely transition to and from oral sex. (Not-so-fun fact: Many manufactured, non-natural edible lubes use glycerin in their flavorings, which can trigger a yeast infection.)
That being said, coconut oil also has natural antibacterial and antifungal properties, says Karyn Eilber, MD, board-certified urologist and associate professor of urology and ob-gyn at Cedars-Sinai Hospital. While those two properties might seem like good things, it's a little more complicated than that, especially when it comes to the risk of using coconut oil on vaginas. "Because coconut oil has mild antimicrobial properties, there's the potential for it to disrupt your flora [bacteria that live in the vagina] and leave you susceptible to a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis," explains Dr. Brighten. Vaginas have their own microbiome, which naturally contains bacteria and yeast; if something (such as soap, semen, or lube) comes in and disrupts the environment enough, it has the potential to cause either of these super common conditions.
Another reason coconut oil — and any other oil-based product — may increase your risk for infection is because it can cause a biofilm to form, says Kim Langdon, MD, ob-gyn with Medzino. Biofilm is a collection of microorganisms and materials (such as mucus, polysaccharides, bacteria, fungus, oils, and immune cells) that forms a slime-like layer — "think how your teeth feel in the morning before you brush them," says Dr. Langdon. "It acts collectively like 'plastic wrap' to keep things out and hold things in." That's problematic, because this can allow "bad" bacteria or yeast molecules to thrive, protecting them from being eradicated by your body's immune system or antibiotics. In fact, that's one reason why a bacterial vaginosis infection can be so hard to get rid of: the bacteria has a tendency to form a biofilm to protect itself, she says.
All that said, there's a good chance you could use coconut oil as lube and be totally fine. After all, every body is unique; and by extension, every vulva and its ecosystem is as well. "I've had many patients use coconut oil for lube without any issue so it may not be problematic for everyone, but it's worth noting [that these risks exist]," says Dr. Brighten. And if you're experiencing persistent issues with either yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis, it's definitely worth examining any lube you're using, she says. On that note, you can (and should) consult your doctor if you're not sure about using something new on your vulva, or if you start to notice that something's off.
Things to Keep in Mind When Using Coconut Oil as Lube
There are a few other things to keep in mind in addition to the safety of using coconut oil on vaginas and vulvas. Oil-based lubes are not recommended for use with latex condoms or dental dams since oil can cause the latex to break down, increasing the risk of infection or pregnancy, says Dr. Eilber. So if you're using any latex barriers for protection, opt for a water-based lubricant instead.
Using coconut oil as lube is "compatible with most sex toys, but it's best to always check the manufacturer's recommendations and it's important to wash toys no matter what lube you use (or not)," says Dr. Brighten.
If you're picking a jar of coconut oil to use as lube, make sure "coconut oil" is the only ingredient. "Cold-pressed virgin or extra virgin coconut oil is best for purity reasons," says Dr. Brighten. Other coconut oils — refined or partially hydrogenated — have been subject to more processing, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
And a final heads up, before you go wild: oil can stain certain fabrics (@ your new bedsheets), says Dr. Eilber, so lube up accordingly.