Lubricants, or lubes, can make sexual activities more enjoyable and comfortable by reducing friction. While some alternatives are fine to use, there are others that people should avoid.
Sometimes, people may not be able to get hold of personal lubricants. In these situations, they could consider alternative forms of lube. However, it is important they choose a safe option.
This article looks at the types of personal lubricants, possible safe lube alternatives, and which varieties a person should avoid.
Types of lubricants
There are several lubricants specifically made for intercourse, masturbation, and other types of sexual activity. They include:
People who prefer a well-rounded lube can consider water-based lubricants.
These do not damage condoms or sex toys and are typically the safest option for intercourse and masturbation.
One disadvantage is that water-based lubes can dry out fairly quickly. However, someone can simply reapply more when needed.
Silicone-based lubes are suitable for sexual intercourse as they do not damage latex-based barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms.
If someone uses a sex toy, they should avoid silicone-based lubricants as they may damage silicone products.
Oil-based lubricants are safe to use if people engage in sex without a barrier method of contraception. However, these types of lubes can damage sex toys and latex condoms. This can increase the risk of pregnancy and developing an infection.
List of possible lubrication alternatives
Where people are unable to obtain personal lubricants, they could use one of the following alternatives:
Aloe vera is water-based and can improve skin hydration while also reducing irritation. Its consistency makes it a good lube alternative.
However, if someone uses an aloe vera product as a lubricant, it is best to check it does not contain other ingredients, such as alcohol. This is because it may irritate the genitals.
Plain yogurt could be a useful alternative lubricant. Anecdotal evidence suggests it does not dry out, has a suitable consistency, and is relatively cheap.
Although there is no scientific research that examines its use as a lubricant, yogurt has proven therapeutic properties for treating vaginal thrush.
Another potential alternative lube is olive oil, as it spreads quickly and easily. However, the skin does not easily absorb this type of oil, which means it can clog pores and lead to infection. If someone uses olive oil for lube, it is important to wash it off the skin afterward thoroughly.
As olive oil is an oil-based lube, it is not advisable to use it with latex condoms or other latex barrier contraception methods as it can cause them to break.
Virgin coconut oil
Virgin coconut oil contains anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties. As people generally like the smell and taste of coconut, it could be a suitable lube alternative.
However, like olive oil, people should not use virgin coconut oil if they use latex barrier methods of contraception.
Anecdotal evidence suggests egg whites may be a suitable lubricant alternative. This is because people believe it has a similar consistency to cervical mucus.
However, unlike the other options in this list, egg whites take a bit more effort to prepare.
List of alternatives to avoid
There are some liquids that people believe will make a good lubricant but can actually lead to infection and irritation. Some of these include:
People who use Vaseline as a lubricant may trigger an infection. An older study found females who used Vaseline as a lube were more likely to develop bacterial vaginosis.
In addition, Vaseline states that it is for external use only, so it is likely not suitable for penetrative or oral intercourse.
Lotion and soap
Some lotions and soaps contain perfumes and preservatives, such as parabens. These can irritate the genitals and lead to infection.
However, people can use lotion or soap as lube if the products are mild or perfume-free.
As butter is a dairy product and requires refrigeration, there are risks if people use it for sexual activity.
For example, if someone inserts butter into a vagina or anus and does not clean the area properly afterward, the butter may start to spoil and become rancid. This may cause an infection due to bacterial growth.
As saliva plays a part in oral sex, some people may assume it would be a good lube alternative. However, this could trigger an infection, while there is a risk that someone could pass or receive a sexually transmitted infection.
One study, which looked at intercourse between males, suggests that those who use saliva as a lubricant could spread gonorrhea. An older study also highlights saliva in oral sex might cause vaginal yeast infections.
Baby oil as a lube carries the risk of poisoning, infection, and damage to barrier methods of contraception.
One study looked at lubricant usage in the intercourse among men and found a link between baby oil and higher rectal infection rates.
Although it is best to purchase and use water-based or silicone-based lubricants, there are alternatives people can consider if they are unable to do this. These include aloe vera, yogurt, olive oil, and virgin coconut oil.
People should avoid the use of petroleum jelly, lotion, butter, or spit as lubricant alternatives, due to the increased risk of infection or irritation.