coconut oil

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Yoxly Awesome Contributors

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Medically Reviewed by:

Dr Danae Maragouthakis

Have you ever wondered what other things you can use as lube? Maybe you forgot to pick some up in your weekly shop, or you are unexpectedly in a sexy situation, and you don’t have any lube to hand! This article will talk you through all the things you may (or may not) use as an alternative to lube. 

Before we begin, let us first emphasise the importance of lube. Lube (or lubricant) is a liquid or gel which helps to reduce friction during sexual intercourse. Lube can be especially useful for people who experience vaginal dryness, pain during sex (also known as dyspareunia) or for those who want to engage in anal sex. Importantly, there are several different types of lube, which are appropriate for different types of sexual activity. To learn more about the types of lube and which one to choose, check out our article “Shedding Some Light on Lube”.

Lube helps to facilitate optimum sexual function and pleasure. It must be working, because lube has been used at least once by 65.5% of the female population of the United States. One study found that lube made sex better for women a whopping 70% of the time, both in terms of pleasure and comfort. Another study of both men and women saw 50% state that lube made it easier to orgasm

Lube is so great that even the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends its use!

Although the WHO recommends using lube, it also cautions against using “substandard products” as lubricants, which may have adverse health outcomes. 

So what are some of the lube look-alikes, and which can you safely use? Read on to find out! 

We aren’t the first humans to try these alternatives; lube look-alikes have been used since the dawn of time. Olive oil was likely the earliest popular lube, with its first documented use in 350 BC. Historically, there’s also been records of seaweed and crushed yams being repurposed for some sexy fun! 

Much like our ancestors, some of the common alternatives to lube people use are products they happen to have handy. Everything from saliva to face moisturiser to even baby oil has been repurposed as lube. The main issues with improvised lube alternatives are skin irritation and infection. They can also degrade condoms, rendering them less effective, and reducing their ability to protect against STIs and pregnancy. 

So, with that in mind, here is the ultimate guide to some commonly used lube alternatives and, importantly, whether or not they are safe to use:

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  • Vaseline: NOT SAFE. Vaseline may cause irritation as it persists on the skin for longer. If used inside the vagina, it can upset the natural vaginal flora, which increases the risk of bacterial vaginosis (BV*). In addition, vaseline is not safe to use with latex condoms.
  • Coconut oil: POTENTIALLY SAFE. There is limited research on the safety of coconut oil as a lubricant. It can cause irritation, and some people are allergic to it! As coconut oil is typically more alkaline than the naturally acidic environment of the vagina, it may alter the vaginal pH and increase the risk of BV. Coconut oil, as with all oil-based lubes, should not be used with latex condoms.
  • Aloe vera: POTENTIALLY SAFE. There is limited research about the safety of aloe vera. However, pure aloe vera is likely the safest formulation and any additives can cause irritation. Pure aloe vera is thought to be safe to use with condoms. 
  • Baby oil: NOT SAFE. Baby oil is not designed to be used internally and cannot be used with latex condoms. Any oils used internally can upset the natural bacteria of the vagina and leave you prone to infections such as BV.
  • Face moisturiser: NOT SAFE. Face moisturisers often contain perfume and other ingredients which can irritate the intimate skin.
  • Saliva: NOT SAFE. Saliva could cause significant irritation, depending on what the person has been eating! Also, remember STIs can be transmitted by using saliva as lube. Saliva also isn’t slippery enough to be very useful as a lubricant. 
  • Butter: NOT SAFE. Butter is a food and can cause discomfort, irritation or disruption of the normal vaginal environment. Butter is also likely to damage condoms. Keep your butter for the post-sex sandwiches! 

*Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a condition caused by an imbalance of the normal bacteria in the vagina, which causes discharge and a strong, “fishy” smell. If you are worried that you may have BV, or want to know more, check out our article, "What Is Bacterial Vaginosis? Signs & Symptoms".

Please remember: anything that is oil-based can damage latex condoms, even oil-based lubes! Condoms and dental dams are the only things that can protect against the majority of STIs, and if they break during intercourse, you may not be protected. If you’ve had a condom break, consider ordering one of our at-home testing kits - it’s always better to get tested if you are concerned about an STI. 

Ultimately, it is best to use actual lube rather than the alternatives, as it’s safer and specifically designed to be used during sex. To learn more about what lube is best for you, check out our article on lube.

We weren’t the first humans to use lube look-alikes, and we probably won't be the last. However, what is important is that we practice safe and consensual sex. 

We hope this guide has helpfully outlined the most common lube look-alikes and given you the information you need to make an informed decision! 

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Yoxly's Awesome Contributors (YACs) are a diverse group of individuals who are passionate about public health, and committed to furthering our mission. Yoxly provides a platform where a variety of sexual health topics (some more awkward than others!) can be explored, in an informative and non-judgmental way. If you'd like to become one of Yoxly's Awesome Contributors, contact us!