In an ideal world, your home would be stocked with the very best lube that money can buy. But one rarely plans ahead for the moment they need a dollop of personal lubricant, whether it's for trying out Kama Sutra-style sex with your partner or playing with your very best vibrator. When it's time, you need the stuff ASAP. The only thing more mood-killing than a frantic fumble through the nightstand drawer is expanding your fruitless search into the bathroom and the kitchen. All thoughts of getting intimate vanish within minutes of squinting at your pantry, wondering un-sexy things like, "is it safe to use coconut oil as a lube substitute?"
You deserve to enjoy sex without worrying whether aloe vera or olive oil will give you a nightmarish yeast infection in the days that follow. And while we can't recommend investing in a good lubricant that's designed for intercourse, medical use, and/or sex toys enough, it can be tough to make it to the store and pick some up before you need it. Fortunately, you do have options close at hand that'll do the trick when you need to get slick quickly. We asked experts what to use if you have no lube, and they told us which household items to reach for in a bind—and what to never apply "down there." Here's the lowdown on the 13 best natural lube alternatives.
Your safest options:
Vaseline and other petroleum-based products
For sex: "In some women, petroleum based products might increase risk of vaginal infection including bacterial vaginosis (BV)," says Alyssa Dweck, MD, who was named a top gynecologist by New York magazine."With that said, many people use this without an issue as a lubricant for both vaginal and anal play."
For sex toys: Because any oil-based lubricant can break down materials like some plastic and silicone toys, Dweck says it's important to follow a vibrator manufacturer's recommendations for what to use instead.
For use with condoms: It's important to know that most STI and pregnancy protection devices mix with Vaseline like oil and...well, pregnancy protection devices. "They can’t be used with latex condoms, dental dams, latex gloves, cervical caps or diaphragms," says Caitlin V., M.P.H., clinical sexologist for Royal, a vegan-friendly condom and lubricant company. If Vaseline is all you've got, use a non-latex condom.
For sex: "My go-to natural lube suggestion is coconut oil, Dweck says. "Smells good, easy to use, can come as solid and liquifies on contact with warm skin. It's also well tolerated on skin." Coconut oil's antibacterial and anti-fungal properties may disrupt the vaginal pH balance in some sensitive folks.
For sex toys: As an oil, it's not ideal for regular use with a toy.
For use with condoms: Non-latex condoms only.
For sex: While Dweck calls E.V.O.O. "a popular household staple often used for sexual play," she warns that it can potentially alter a woman's vaginal pH balance—creating the environment for BV or a yeast infection. She also adds that the smell is off-putting for some (those who don't enjoy associating bedroom activities with a big pasta dinner, perhaps).
For sex toys: "Olive oil can be used with toys, although it may be hard to clean off of silicone toys and isn't best for vaginal insertion," explains Caitlin V. "It's not well-tolerated by all people either, so test it on your skin before using." Again, a water-based lube is generally best to use instead.
For condoms: It's okay to use with non-latex options, it's definitely not recommended for conventional latex. "Out of abundance of caution, I suggesting using a backup or alternate product," says Dweck.
Corn starch and water
For sex: "Corn starch and water is a generally safe, and well-tolerated, water-based lubricant option," Caitlin V. says. She's even got a recipe for it! "It can easily be made at home by mixing a ratio of 2 to 4 teaspoons of corn starch and 1 cup of water, bringing it to a boil while constantly stirring. Boil until it’s at your desired consistency, remove from heat, and continue to stir as it cools for about five minutes."
For sex toys: "The recipe forms a slippery liquid that's protective against friction and safe to use with both condoms and toys," adds Caitlin V. "It takes a bit of work, however."
For condoms: Dweck agrees that it's likely fine to use with condoms, though "there's no definitive medical research to support this."
For sex: The aloe plant doesn't just offer amazing benefits for skin and hair; it's a good vulva moisturizer, too. "Because of its restorative qualities and soothing, gel-like texture, aloe is a great choice for lubricant," Caitlin V. says. Dweck points out that this makes it a popular ingredient in over-the-counter lube, such as Aloe Cadabra. It's safe for both anal and vaginal sex.
For sex toys: Safe.
For condoms: Safe. "Make sure to choose a product that’s 100 percent aloe or designed specifically as a sexual lubricant," Caitlin V. says. And, of course, "those who are allergic should avoid aloe-based lubricants."
For sex: Essentially the same deal as olive oil across the board. "Like olive oil, vegetable oil isn't ideal for vaginal penetration, but can be used by most people as an external vaginal or anal lubricant," Caitlin V. says.
For sex toys: It's generally compatible with silicone, glass, and metal sex toys, according to Caitlin V. Just make sure you know what material your vibrator is made of, especially if you're using vegetable oil.
For condoms: It's oil, so no latex. "Keep in mind that polyurethane and polyisoprene are effective against most STIs, and lambskin condoms are effective against pregnancy but not all STIs," Caitlin V. adds.
Vitamin E oil
For sex: "Vitamin E oil is often recommended for topical application for women suffering with dryness, particularly related to menopause," Caitlin V. says. (Dweck suggests puncturing a capsule to try as a vulva moisturizer or massage oil, after you've conducted a skin patch test).
For those who are trying to get pregnant, Caitlin V. offers a caveat for DIY alternatives like olive, vegetable, or coconut oil: "Oil-based lubes may also slow down sperm, so they're best to avoid if you are trying to conceive. And, they can stain your sheets."
For sex toys: The same rules for oil-based vs. water-based apply.
For condoms: Non-latex only!
For sex: "While some women have used vaginal yogurt insertion for yeast infection, there is no evidence of efficacy as cure," Dweck points out. It can be used for sex, she says, it's another situation where "the odor could be a turn-off for some. It's also not particularly slick."
If you do use it, Caitlin V. says, "Be sure to use only plain, non-flavored and unsweetened yogurt, and avoid anything with fruit or added sugar."
For sex toys: It's not unsafe, but it's also not the most sanitary.
For condoms: Dweck says it's "likely not condom compatible."
For sex: "Vegetable shortening shares the same risks as other oil-based lubricants," says Caitlin V. It's still a time-tested choice, though. "It is possible to use shortening for anal sex, and has been popular among gay men."
For sex toys: Avoid it if you can, since it may degrade certain materials.
For condoms: Not suggested for latex. "If other options are available, such as silicone or water-based lubricant, it's best to avoid shortening all together," Caitlin V. adds.
Okay to use, but avoid if you can:
For sex: People definitely do use it as a lube substitute. But according to Caitlin V., "petroleum-based lubricants like baby oil and Vaseline should only be used as a last resort. Greasy, hard to wash out, and can linger in the body for days after sex, creating an inviting environment for bacteria." There is less infection risk for anal sex, however.
For sex toys: Not recommended.
For condoms: Not for latex.
For sex: While you certainly can't beat it for convenience, it's not a top choice. "Newsflash, the oral cavity probably has more bacteria than the vagina! With that said, women and men have been using saliva for lube in a pinch for decades," says Dweck. It dries quickly, too, so in addition to the infection risk, it simply doesn't last long for either vaginal or anal play.
For sex toys: Yes, but since it dries quickly, it's not the most practical alternative.
For condoms: "It's compatible with condoms, unless there is a food substance in their mouth, which could potentially alter compatibility," Dr. Dweck says (the imagination runs wild).
Please don't put these on your private parts:
For sex: The chemicals and artificial fragrances aren't meant for your most sensitive parts. "The surfactants in shampoos and other soaps can strip your skin of its natural protective oils, and therefore makes them a bad choice for lubricant," Caitlin V. advises, while Dweck simply says, "ouch!"
For sex toys: Avoid it if you can, particularly the high infection risk in vaginal insertion.
For condoms: "I can't advocate it, especially for women with sensitive skin," says Dweck.
For sex: Sticky, and not in a fun way. "Honey and anything with sugar should be avoided as lubricants," Caitlin V. says. Like petroleum-based substances, she says, "sugar can cause a pH imbalance in the vagina which can lead to irritation and infection."
For sex toys: Did you hear what we said about the bad kind of sticky?
For condoms: "I wouldn't imagine it's compatible with condoms," says Dweck.
For sex: "Although it’s a common choice for male masturbation, many lotions contain chemicals that can irritate the skin and may not be good for your overall health, such as parabens and glycerin," says Caitlin V. However, Dweck allows that it "depends on the individual person and the moisturizer."
For sex toys: Not recommended.
For condoms: Dweck doesn't recommend this, either. Sure you don't have any corn starch lying around?
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Senior Staff Writer
Samantha Vincenty is the former senior staff writer at Oprah Daily.