Is Coconut Oil Safe To Use As Lube? We Asked The Experts

Photographed by Lula Hyers.
Sometimes it seems like coconut oil can be used for just about everything: as a makeup remover, a face mask, a hair treatment, to soothe eczema, and to cook with (plus, it's the name of an amazing Lizzo song and EP). But did you know that some people use coconut oil as lube? Should you, though? That's another question.
Coconut oil — the fatty oil extracted from the "meat" of a coconut — is all-natural, moisturizing, fragrant, and cheaper than many commercial lubricants. So it’s easy to see the appeal of using coconut oil as lube. While there aren't any studies exploring coconut oil’s use for this purpose, people on forums like Reddit’s r/sex swear by it for vaginal, anal, and oral sex. But Kristyn Brandi, an OB/GYN and family planning specialist at Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School in Newark, NJ and a board member of Physicians for Reproductive Health, says that coconut oil wouldn’t be her first recommendation when it comes to lube.
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“Coconut oil is a convenient lube if you're in a pinch because it is cheap, mostly harmless, and available already in many households,” Dr. Brandi explains. “But it does have some drawbacks."
First of all, like all oil-based lubes, it's not safe to use with latex barriers like condoms or dental dams because oils weaken latex, making it break more easily. Plus, coconut oil "can also alter the vaginal flora to lead some women to have increased episodes of yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis," Dr. Brandi says. "I wouldn't necessarily recommend it compared to more water-based lubes you can get over the counter." When it comes to anal sex, she'd recommend water-based lubricants over coconut oil, too.
Angela Jones, OB/GYN of AskDrAngela.com, agrees. She acknowledges that some people like to use coconut oil as lube because it's "natural," but adds, “I think there are plenty of lubes on the market where you don't have to risk vaginal infections or compromise safety (two reasons why coconut oil would not be my go-to).”
However, some experts say that if you're not using condoms with your partner, you can consider using coconut oil as lube. "Food-grade oils, including coconut oil, are a good option for people who don’t need condoms, and they work for oral sex too," says Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, MAPP, professor of Ob/Gyn and Medicine at the University of Chicago and director of both Program in Integrative Sexual Medicine and WomanLab. "Coconut oil works as an effective lubricant to reduce vaginal friction during sex, and is helpful as a moisturizer on the vulva for people who have dry skin," she explains.
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This moisturizing factor leads some experts to recommend coconut oil for those experiencing vaginal dryness, including people who are peri- or post-menopausal or those who have a condition such as vulvodynia or vaginismus. However, JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Virginia Health system, says, "Although it is a natural product, studies have not been done to show safety and effectiveness of coconut oil as a lubricant for sex. There are potential side effects." Along with the yeast infection risk and the fact you can't use latex barriers with coconut oil, some people experience allergic reactions. Instead, she advises, "If you are experiencing vaginal dryness due to loss of estrogen at menopause, consider tried and tested vaginal moisturizers or lubricants, including ones that are preservative free if you have allergies," and seek prescription vaginal therapies if symptoms persist.
If you're keen to try coconut oil as lube, one way to use it is to freeze it in long, skinny water bottle ice cube trays and insert the frozen oil into the vagina before penetrative sex (after putting a towel down first, because it can get messy), says Laurie Mintz, PhD, author of Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters — And How To Get It. This method is particularly useful for people experiencing vaginal dryness, though others might like it, too.
Ultimately, Dr. Mintz suggests people of all ages try a variety of lubricants to see which they like best, with a few caveats: always check for any irritation-causing ingredients, and if you're using condoms or another latex barrier, use a water-based lube. If you do decide to use coconut oil as a lube, keep the jar you use for lube separate from the jar you use for cooking. As Dr. Mintz puts it, “You don’t want to dip your sexy fingers into the lube jar and then cook with it!”
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