Lube Alternatives: What Can You Use?
When it comes to needing lube, time is often of the essence. If you’re in need a lube alternative, read on to find out which are best and which you should avoid.
When it comes to needing lube, time is often of the essence. Lubricants can make sex and masturbation more intense, increase comfort, and improve sexual satisfaction. So, if you find yourself in a jam and on the lookout for a viable lube alternative in the heat of the moment, you may be wondering which household products are a worthy substitute.
Whilst most of us will have at least one lube alternative option to hand, you should know that they're not all equal players and some have notable downsides you need to be aware of.
What can I use instead of Lube?
Found yourself in the time of need? No worries lover! There are alternatives to personal sexual lubricants that you can use in a pinch - some of which are better (and worse) than others.
Many of us may already have some ideas for which household items can provide a pretty convincing lube alternative. Some may opt for the classic Vaseline, whilst others may explore the culinary options of cooking oils – like olive or coconut oil (or even egg whites!).
Before you go oiling up, you may want to read on as each alternative has its pros and cons, as well as associated risks - from yeast infections to failing condoms.
We’ve partnered with a panel of sex experts to confirm the best substitute for lube and how to use them safely.
Why use Lubricants during sex?
While the vagina does create its own natural lubrication, some vulva owners still experience dryness, due to menopause and other hormonal imbalances.
In addition, the anus is not self-lubricating and always requires a good thick lube.
Lube helps reduce chafing and painful friction, which can cause micro abrasions and tears in delicate tissues of the vaginal or anus. These tiny abrasions can make you more susceptible to getting STIs and infections.
Another reason people use lube is for condoms safety. Adding a dab of lube inside the condom just before sex helps reduce condom breakage. And a bit on the outside smooths the way for insertion, as non-lubricated condoms can be drying.
Besides, it feels good and increases sensation! In a 2007 lube study, 70% of the women said that using lube during sexual penetration “improved the sexual experience… [and] made sex feel very pleasurable and more comfortable.”
So, if you want to get all the feels, lube is not an option. Wetter is always better!
The best alternatives to lube
What can you use instead of lube? Coconut oil? Aloe Vera? Olive oil? Vaseline? Crisco? Baby oil?
Let’s find out what our experts say about the best lubes to use for various types of sexual play, and which ones are the most safe and effective.
New to lubes? Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Lubricants for everything you ever wanted to know about the various types of lubes. You’re welcome!
Coconut oil as Lube
Lately, using coconut oil as a lube has become a big trend as people get more into “natural” home-remedy type products. But can coconut oil be used as lube?
We asked experts ACS Certified Sexologist & Intimacy Educator Sexologist E Michelle, AASECT certified sex educator Elle Stanger, and Sex educator Javay da BAE (aka The Millennial Sexpert) for their opinions on “Is coconut oil good for lube?”
E Michelle: “There are a lot of people who swear by coconut oil as a lubricant for sex. My suggestion is that inside the vagina coconut oil is an absolute no. The vaginal mucosa has a pH that is acidic-ranging. Coconut oil is more alkaline. Introducing it into the vagina can expose a vulva owner to infection, throw off the pH balance of the vagina, and also impact the natural lubrication of the vagina as a result. I say a good rule of thumb is external use only: penis, vulva, and anus (the outside).”
Elle Stanger: “Yes, it can be used for sex, but not for all people. I’ve used coconut oil for PIV and body rubbing and oral sex with male partners.”
Oil Based-Lube and Condoms
E Michelle: “I most certainly would never pair coconut oil (or any oil-based lubricants for that matter) with condoms - especially latex - if the goal is to use condoms for STI prevention or protection, because it has the potential to degrade the condom.”
Can coconut oil cause yeast infection?
Elle Stanger: “Some people with vaginas may experience irritation or heightened risk of vaginal infection because there IS sugar in coconut oil. Even though it’s natural and a lower amount, it can be disruptive for some people’s pH balances. Oil can also clog people’s pores, stain fabric, damage the material of some toys, and it eats through condoms slowly. I reserve the use of coconut oil for certain occasions and activities.”
Does coconut oil make for an effective lube?
Javay da BAE: “Yes, coconut oil can be used for sex, but I would not recommend it. You are going to have to melt it to be a smooth enough consistency to be used as lube.”
Can coconut oil be used for anal sex?
Javay da BAE: “I would not recommend coconut oil for anal sex, because it is not long-lasting, so you would have to reapply it more often because it is absorbed into the skin (that's why coconut oil is used as a moisturizer). I also don't recommend using coconut oil that is used for other things around the home, you never know if you are introducing bacteria and such to your genitals.”
So, yes, coconut oil can be used in some cases, but not for others. Here are the pros and cons:
- Good for penis masturbation
- Okay for external use on vulva or anus
- Great for erotic massage and oral sex
- Can disrupt vaginal PH and cause infections
- Breaks down condoms and makes them ineffective
- Clogs pores, stains fabric and can damage your sex toys
- Doesn’t have the smooth consistency of lubes
- Is not thick enough or long-lasting for anal sex
- You shouldn’t use household items as lube due to cross-contamination of bacteria
Aloe vera as Lube
Aloe vera is all-natural and great for the skin, right? But can you put aloe vera on your private parts?
Javay da BAE: “I would never suggest using aloe vera for sex of any kind. The consistency is not the best and it tends to be very sticky or tacky - and that is generally the opposite of what people are looking for. Generally, aloe vera is used as a topical gel, like to sooth sunburn and moisturize hair, it is not recommended for internal use.”
What about lubes made from aloe vera?
E Michelle: “Aloe vera-based lubes can be used during sex. In fact, they are some of the more naturally based lubricants you find on the market right now. Aloe based lubes can be used with most sex toys-including silicone and TPE.”
How about for anal penetration?
E Michelle: “I wouldn't use aloe vera-based lubes for anal sex because the pH is better suited for the vaginal mucosa versus the rectum, creating a potential for more infection exposure. Additionally, the viscosity (thickness) of most aloe-based lubricants aren't thick enough to avoid reapplication of it for prolonged use. Pros: Great for the vagina and for the penis for masturbation. Cons: Not great for anal.”
So, yes to aloe vera-based lubricants, but no to other types of aloe vera-type products.
Pros & cons of aloe vera Lube
- Natural and often has less ingredients than other lubes
- Can be used with most sex toys
- Shouldn’t be used for anal sex due to viscosity and the PH of the anus
- Aloe vera topical gels often contain other ingredients that are not suitable for putting on the genitals
Saliva as Lube
Saliva has long been an age-old alternative to lubes. But let’s see how it rates and what our experts say.
Elle Stanger: “Saliva is often used for sex but it’s not ideal: there’s more bacteria in mouths, so relying on saliva can make some people more prone to vaginal irritation or infections, depending on their health, activities shared, and other risk factors.
“Saliva is typically not long lasting like quality lubricants are designed to be, and it’s not thick enough for anal sex - lube should always be used for anal sex, to prevent pain, tearing, and potential STI transmission.”
Javay da BAE: “Of course saliva can be used during sex. For many people, saliva is the only thing they use (please note, I am not recommending you ditch lube for spit). It is a free option when you are in a pinch, but it doesn't meet all the needs that lube does.
“Saliva works for oral sex because it is already there. You can also use saliva for vaginal penetration, but I highly suggest against using saliva for anal sex. It dries up very quickly and that leads to having to use more saliva, but it is never enough. It is important to keep in mind that your saliva can carry germs and bacteria, so it may not always be the best option even if it is the free one. If you use saliva, you can be spreading germs.”
E Michelle: “Saliva is often used during sex, but it is never my recommendation for many reasons - most importantly, the exposure to infection. For example, did you know that many people transfer yeast from mouth to genitals? If your partner has an overgrowth of yeast in their mouth and they place their mouth on your genitals, they could then transfer their yeast to your vagina or penis and now you're wondering where the heck this nasty yeast infection came from. Outside of yeast, saliva just doesn't have the staying power of lubricants. Always, always use lube over saliva.”
So, while salvia is free and easy to access, our experts unanimously agreed that it is far from the best option.
Pros & cons of using saliva as Lube
- Free and easy to access
- Good for oral, but watch out for yeast infection
- Works in a pinch for masturbation
- Can be used for vaginal sex, but not recommended
- Dries out quickly
- Contains lots of bacteria that may cause infections
- Not thick enough for anal penetration
Vaseline as Lube
Some people use Vaseline as a lube. Our experts are not too keen on it, however, and here’s why:
Javay da BAE: “Vaseline should not be used for any type of sexual activity. The thickness of Vaseline alone makes it the worst option as a lube substitute. Vaseline is also oil-based, so it can break down condom materials.”
E Michelle: “Vaseline should NEVER be used during sex. Let's break this down: Vaseline is petroleum jelly. Petroleum is gas and jelly is basically a form of a wax or oil. Why would anyone ever introduce gas or wax on or inside their genitals? Avoid the introduction of Vaseline for sex - period.”
Pros & cons of using Vaseline as Lube
There doesn’t seem to be many Pros to using Vaseline as a personal lubricant.
Here are the Cons:
- Petroleum-based products are generally not good for the skin
- Too thick to be an effective lube
- Possibly contains toxic chemicals and is safe for external use only
- Difficult to clean from the body and may take days to work its way out, which means it can invite infection - one study noted that women who used Vaseline for lube were twice as likely to get bacterial vaginosis
- Breaks down condoms and sex toy materials
Olive oil as Lube
Olive oil has been used as a sexual lubricant and skincare product for thousands of years, and dates way back to ancient Egypt. Can you use vegetable oil as lube?
Elle Stanger: “Oil is nice if you don’t need condoms, and if you don’t have a vulva. Olive oil can also stain bedding, wreck synthetic toys, and upset your pH balance in your vulva. In the ancient Greek days, people used olive oil, but we have better technology these days.”
E Michelle: “As a general rule, I never suggest oil of any kind to be introduced inside a vagina or anus. While olive oil is technically safe to use on external skin, using it internally for penetration is not recommended - with or without a condom. If you want to use it to try external vulva touch or penis play, that would be acceptable.”
Javay da BAE: “Yes, it can be used, but I would urge you to stay away from it. For one it is an oil, which means that it can break down condom material. Olive oil can also cause reactions in people, especially when used on the skin. Also, with how fancy olive oils are getting these days it is better to be safe than sorry, because you may think that you have plain olive oil in the cabinet and it turns out to be chili-infused olive oil, and then you're burning, but not for your partner.”
Pros & cons of using olive oil as Lube
- Excellent for massage and topical skin use, unless you are allergic to it
- Disrupts PH of the vulva
- Breaks down condoms, making them unsafe
- Stains and can ruin synthetic toys
- You may not know what is in your olive oil
How to use alternatives to Lube to improve your sex life
Most alternatives to regular lubricants are household ingredients, and “technically” could be used for various sexual activities. However, sexual lubricants made specifically for sex are highly recommended over substitutes by our experts, and for many good reasons.
What to use instead of Lube?
Oils can typically be used topically for erotic play such as sexual massage, penis masturbation, and vulva and breast massage. The best of these includes coconut and olive oils. Saliva is okay for masturbation. While aloe vera as a household product is not recommended, aloe vera sexual lubricants are great. Vaseline and other petroleum products are a hard no.
Other than for convenience, some people avoid conventional sexual lubricants because of the chemicals that can be found in some lubes, like parabens, glycerin, and other preservatives. However, it is important to note, most lube manufacturers have cleaned up their act and now make body-safe lubes with less irritating ingredients. There are also many natural and even organic lubricants that are vulva and penis-safe, so you don’t have to worry about irritation or possible yeast infections.
For all-natural, organic lubes, I recommend Ah! Yes Organic Water-based Lube and Sliquid Organics Natural H2O Lubricant. Both lubes are all natural, organic, and made with Aloe Vera. Ah! Yes, is also free from fragrance and color, while Sliquid Organics is Vegan and cruelty-free. Both are condom-safe.
Elle Stanger recommends PJUR: “I’ve been fond of PJUR brand for years, especially their classic silicone, but I’d recommend their Woman Nude type of lubricant for people with vulvas and sensitive skin who are seeking a water-based lubricant. Water-based can be used with all toys and fabrics and condoms, and silicone is great for hand jobs because it’s long-lasting.”
Javay da BAE also recommend PJUR silicone lube and Sliquid H2O: “I always say that water-based lube is the safest choice, no matter if you are using toys, with a partner, using barrier methods, or just by yourself.”
So, while homemade lube recipes are fine for external use, our experts agree, and its better to toss the alternatives and use commercially available products specifically intended for sexual use.
Coconut oil for anal sex
Many people love coconut oil for lube, believing that because it is natural it is better. I like to say, well poison ivy is natural but you wouldn’t put it on your private parts, right?! Just because something is natural, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for you.
If you do choose to use it, make sure it is an unrefined, unbleached 100% coconut oil without other additives that could possibly irritate your skin. And like Javay da BAE already mentioned, don’t just use just any old oil that you have hanging around the house. Instead, put it in a clean, separate jar and use only for sex.
Is coconut oil for anal okay?
While it could be used for anal sex, keep in mind that you will probably want to use a condom - and coconut oil is not compatible with condoms.
Whether or not coconut oil is safe to use as a sexual lube is still unknown, as there haven’t been any scientific clinical studies on its use for sex.
Aloe vera gel as Lube for sex toys
Can you use aloe vera as lube? Some experts say it is okay to use pure aloe vera gel as lube for use with sex toys and masturbation. However, be aware, it is not long-lasting like a lube, so you will probably need to reapply often. Pub Med Central also warns that it can cause “redness, burning, a stinging sensation, rash or allergic reactions”.
Again, only use 100% aloe vera gel, without any other chemicals or preservatives. As E Michelle has said, aloe vera lubes, as opposed to other aloe topical products, are perfectly okay, but better suited for the PH of the vagina rather than the anus. And they are not thick enough to cushion the anus for comfortable sex.
Pure aloe may be very soothing to the outer vulva area as well, but don’t use if you have a latex allergy as small traces of latex can be found in aloe leaves.
Olive oil as Lube for fingering and hand jobs
Olive oil is excellent for hand jobs but should be virgin and first pressed. Because it is an oil, you can use it on the vulva - but not inside the vagina, and that includes internal fingering.
It can also be used as topical massage oil and works very well for that. To use, drizzle a small amount in the palms of the hands and apply to skin to massage in or stroke off to.
Other alternatives to Lube FAQs:
Can you use lotion as Lube?
Many people us regular hand lotion as a lube, especially penis owners during masturbation. But is it safe? For external use, it may be an alternative, but you would want to avoid getting into the urethra as it can cause urethritis. Most lotions contain chemicals like parabens and fragrances, which are not good for the vagina or anus membranes. It may also cause infections, rashes, burning or itching when used on the vulva as well.
Can you use vitamin E oil as Lube?
Yes, Vitamin E is body-safe, but is still an oil, so will break down condoms and may cause vaginal infections. However, studies show it has been effective in treating vaginal atrophy.
Can you use baby oil as Lube?
Absolutely not! WebMD reports that Baby Oil “irritates the vulva” and can cause “itching, burning, rash, soreness [and] discharge.” Like lotion, it is not good for penis’ either.
Should I use homemade oil-based product with Condoms?
Probably not. An article in the National Library of Medicine notes that, household items that damage latex condoms include “baby oil, burn ointment, dairy butter, palm or coconut oil, cooking oil, fish oil, mineral oil, suntan oil, hemorrhoid cream, petroleum jelly and body/hand lotions”.
Should I make my own homemade Lube recipe?
While there may be many homemade alternatives for lube, if is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your genitals. Bottom line? Skip the homemade lube and invest in a good quality natural organic lube if you want something that is more holistic but still body safe.
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Many thanks to our experts for contributing their wisdom to this article:
Elle Stanger is an AASECT certified sex educator, podcast host, and adult entertainer. ElleStanger.com.
Javay da BAE (aka The Millennial Sexpert) is a black, bisexual, sex educator and pleasure expert with a Masters in Sex Education. TheMillennialSexpert.com.
Sexologist E Michelle is an ACS Certified Sexologist & Intimacy Educator connecting adults to more pleasure. SexologistEMichelle.com.