Over the past several years, coconut oil has been touted as a panacea for health and cosmetic concerns, in step with a wellness culture that seeks nontoxic and natural remedies as opposed to those synthesized in a lab. Studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicate that due to its high concentration of natural saturated fats, coconut oil is an effective moisturizer, one that can reduce symptoms of eczema. Another NIH study suggests that coconut oil can prevent hair damage and yet another concludes coconut oil can protect skin from mild ultraviolet rays. The fatty acids found naturally in coconut oil are credited with its cosmetic prowess, making the superfood not only a diet staple for wellness enthusiasts, but also a choice product for clean beauty gurus. (Though, it's important to note that coconut oil is quite comedogenic, meaning it clogs pores, so it should be applied with caution.)
As far as oils go, coconut oil has an extremely luxe feel. Not only is it derived from Mother Nature, its chemical composition is thick and creamy, and its divine scent can really set a mood. But speaking of which, is it wise to slather coconut oil during sex, particularly as a lubricant? Here's what you need to know.
Benefits of Using Coconut Oil as a Lubricant
Because coconut oil has a high melting point, it can "prevent friction during intercourse better than water-based lubes," notes general practitioner Sashini Seeni, which have a tendency to dry up in reaction to body heat. "Coconut oil hydrates the skin and possibly the mucous membrane," she says—a plus for women who have to contend with vaginal dryness.
Kristi Blustein, an Ayurvedic Specialist, Ayurvedic health practitioner, aromatherapist, herbalist, and founder of botanical skincare line Khus + Khus, is in favor of using coconut oil as a personal lube. "Its pH level is close to the ideal biome for the vaginal area, so it is unlikely to disturb vaginal pH levels. Coconut oil is 5.5 to 7.3 and the ideal pH for the vaginal area is 4.5 to 6. Maintaining the biome is important to our sexual health and should be considered when choosing a lubricant," says Blustein. In other words, because it's important to create a balance of healthy bacteria in your vagina, you want to be selective about what you put down there, lest you disturb the biome.
It's important to note there aren't any studies available that offer a concrete analysis of the effects of coconut oil on vaginal flora (more on that later). However, an elevated pH level in the vagina can lead to infection, so to keep bacteria in check, you always want keep pH levels balanced.
Risks of Using Coconut Oil During Sex
One of the major risks of using coconut oil during sex is its effect on condoms. "The oil can break down the latex in condoms," says well-woman expert, MaryEllen Reider, the co-founder of the pelvic floor strengthening program, Yarlap. This could render condoms ineffective as a barrier against STIs and pregnancy. Additionally, she notes that it's important to use a high-grade product as "coconut oil has varying levels of purity."
Blustein echoes this sentiment, noting that pesticides and other residues might be present if coconut oil is harvested from an unregulated cultivation process. "I can’t stress enough the importance of sourcing clean products from an ethical company," she says. "This can easily be avoided by purchasing virgin organic coconut oil."
Gynecologists Weigh In
If you are not dependent on condoms during sex, and select a high-grade, ethically-sourced coconut oil, is it safe to use as lube? We consulted Hedieh Asadi, M.D., Founder of DeoDoc, and her colleague Gunvor Ekman Ordeberg, M.D., Ph.D., an OB/GYN, to weigh in on the matter. "I would not recommend anything that has not been thoroughly tested," says Ordeberg. "It is unknown to what extent coconut oil will influence the vaginal flora. There are not any scientific studies on coconut oil used as a lubricant. With that said, there are also allergies linked to coconut oil."
Ordeberg also notes that because coconut oil contains sugar, it can put you at risk for candida overgrowth, which can cause yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis (BV). "Candida thrives on sugar," says Ordeberg. "We know that pH alterations in the vagina will increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis and candida."
When it comes to lube, Ordeberg favors silicone-based varieties. "There are very good studies that show silicone-based lubricants are the safest and best for the vaginal flora. These do not not contain preservatives, which when applied inside of the vagina can kill Lactobacillus, lowering pH, and therefore increasing the risk of infection."
To date, there's no scientific evidence to support the use of coconut oil for vaginal use, which means until the studies come in, some in the medical community are unlikely to get behind its use.
Amongst doctors, sexologists, and wellness experts, there exists a debate on whether or not coconut oil should be used as lubrication. The bottom line is that some extol its virtues, while others have doubts about its efficacy and safety.
Choosing a lube is one of the most personal decisions you can make, so ultimately, the decision is up to you. If you want to give coconut oil a try, an at-home pH test can help you monitor your levels so you can keep an eye on the vaginal biome. As a reminder, if you rely on condoms or are prone to vaginal infections, you might want to avoid using coconut oil altogether.