Ah, lube. This slippery tool is amazing to grab when you want to take that orgasm up a notch, or when you’re facing a dry situation down there and need a quick fix (it happens). So it’s natural that sometimes you’d want a DIY option when you realize you’re totally out of the stuff and sex is on the table.
But experts say you might want to think twice before putting any old lube substitute up there. Even seemingly harmless slippery substances can contain allergens, deteriorate your skin, or interfere with condoms, says Maureen Whelihan, M.D., an ob-gyn at the Center for Sexual Health and Education.
Beyond that little nugget of vagina wisdom, here’s a breakdown of the DIY or “natural” lubes you should avoid.
1. Baby Oil
Not only can it quash a condom’s effectiveness, but using baby oil in your vagina can increase your risk of developing a yeast infection, Streicher says. (A study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found a link between the intravaginal use of baby oil and Candida species colonization, which can lead to a yeast infection.)
Since this cooking staple is oil-based, it’s not condom-compatible. Plus, it actually makes for a terrible lubricant, says Lauren Streicher, M.D., an associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and author of Sex Rx: Hormones, Health, and Your Best Sex Ever. “It’s not all that slippery, so for most women, it’s not effective,” she says. And since it hasn’t been specifically formulated for vaginal use, she says there’s always a chance that it could irritate your vagina.
It’s there and it’s wet, so it makes sense that you’d consider using it as a lube when you’re in a pinch. But Streicher says it’s not slippery enough to be an effective lube. So you’re just wasting your time (and saliva). Plus, spit facilitates the transmission of STDs and could introduce infection into your vagina, just as unprotected oral sex can, says Jason James, M.D., medical director at Miami’s FemCare Ob-Gyn..
4. Petroleum Jelly
It looks like lube, but petroleum-based products can lead to infection, Whelihan says. A study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women who had used petroleum jelly as lube in the past month were more than twice as likely as non-users to have bacterial vaginosis. And, like other oil-based lubes, it can screw with condoms.
There are a lot of potential irritants in lotions, like perfumes and propyl glycols (the water-soluble compounds that help lotion stay moist), which can cause swelling, puffiness, and general irritation down there, says Whelihan.
Some Safer Natural Options To Consider
Rather than risk an STD or infection down there, consider these better alternatives:
1. Coconut Oil
“Coconut oil is a favorite of lots of women,”Alyssa Dweck, M.D., a gynecologist in New York told WomensHealthMag.com in a previous interview. Beyond the fact that it smells and tastes good, it’s also easy to use since it’s a solid at room temperature, and turns into a liquid with warmer temps (like your body heat).
Just keep in mind that it can deteriorate latex condoms, says Whelihan, so don’t pair these two during sex. The same goes for olive oil, or any other oil-based lube.
2. Pure Aloe Vera
When it comes to a natural grab-and-go lube, aloe vera is a great choice. Just be sure that it’s actually aloe vera, because some aloe products include ingredients that could irritate your vagina, advises women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D. Bonus: This one is totally safe to use with latex condoms.
3. Good Clean Love Almost Naked Lube
This brand of lube is another great option, picked by Tracy Scheller, M.D., a gynecologist based in New York. She says that since Good Clean Love doesn’t have ingredients parabens, glycerins, synthetic fragrances, and the like—all of which can cause yeast infections and mess with your hormones—she often recommends it to clients.
With just five simple ingredients, this natural and vegan-friendly, water-based lube is perfectly safe to use down there. According to Wider, many women she’s spoken with rave about this lube. And, again, since it’s water-based, it won’t cause any issue if you and your partner use condoms.
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