Unless you actually want an itchy, irritated vagina—or an STI.

Gabrielle Kassel
July 06, 2018

So you and your partner are in the mood for some bedroom action. You throw off your clothes and start steaming the windows with your foreplay moves, but even though you're feeling it, things are a little dry down below. No big deal—except that you're out of lube. In the moment, you grab another slippery product and assume it'll do the trick. 

Not so fast. Turning to DIY options for the awesome slickness that makes good sex mind-blowing isn't a smart idea. The best lubricants are water- or silicone-based and contain no chemical fragrances, dyes, or other potential irritants. Problem is, the lube swap you might rely on could be oil-based or have vagina-unfriendly ingredients.

To get the lowdown, we asked sexual health experts for the most popular substitute lubricants their patients admitted to using, plus why you should keep them far away from your lady parts.

RELATED: A Condom Got Stuck Inside Your Vagina. Now What?

Whipped cream

The 1999 movie Varsity Blues made whipped cream lingerie the ultimate bedroom fantasy. But while whipped cream is delicious, it poses a risk if it gets inside your vagina. Any products with sugar in them can throw off the pH balance of the vagina, and lead to irritation, says New Mexico-based board-certified sexologist Molly Adler, co-founder of the Self Serve Sexuality Resource Center. That includes other dessert-inspired foods, like maple syrup, chocolate sauce, and honey. 

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Lotion

“How many TV shows have you seen where an adolescent boy is using hand lotion to masturbate? Its prevalence might make you think it’s a good lube substitute, but it’s actually not,” says Adler. Even so-called natural lotions can contain dye and perfume, not to mention parabens, which some experts believe are potential hormone disruptors.

Olive oil

Consuming olive oil is good for your heart, and putting it on your skin can give you a radiant glow. Yet while this kitchen staple is a great option for massage and foreplay, says Liz Powell, PsyD, a sex educator, coach, and licensed psychologist in Oregon, it's not so good for penetration. That's because any natural oil—including coconut oil, also a popular sex lubricant—can weaken the latex in a condom and leave you less pregnancy- and STI-protected. 

Petroleum jelly

The idea lube will make things glide during sex—not get gunky, as petroleum jelly tends to do. It's tough to wash off and can trap bacteria, leading to irritation or infection, explains Powell. One study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women who had used petroleum jelly as lube were more than twice as likely to have bacterial vaginosis. Like oil-based products, it can also mess with the effectiveness of latex-based condoms which means a higher risk for pregnancy and STIs.

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Baby oil

Few products are as light and slippery as baby oil. But oil is the operative word here. Even though it feels good, it isn’t a great choice. Another study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found a link between the intravaginal use of baby oil and candida growth in the vagina, which can lead to a yeast infection. Plus, the oil can break down latex.

Mineral oil

“Mineral and suntan oils have not been specifically designed as lubricants, and your body may actually absorb them,” says Powell. “The problem with that is they can make our genital tissues more dry (the opposite of the intended effect), which means you’re more likely to tear." Plus, research published in journal Contraception found that latex condoms exposed to mineral oil caused a 90% decrease in the strength of the condoms after just 60 seconds.

Shortening

“Crisco was a common choice for the gay community for many years because you could freeze it and then let the body melt it,” says Powell. But since this cooking staple is oil-based, it interferes with the effectiveness of latex condoms, not to mention can irritate your lady parts. 

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Butter

It contains casein proteins from the milk—which is great for after a workout, but which can also become rancid pretty quickly, says Powell. Experimentation in the bedroom is a lot of fun, yet as a general rule, you want to keep rotting animal proteins away from your genitals.