Oils as Sexual Lubricants: pros & cons

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Dear Dr. Myrtle,

Can’t I use oil as a sexual lubricant?


Maybe.

Oils are lubricants, and some people use them as sexual lubricants without any problem whatsoever. As long as you know yourself, your needs, and the potential issues involved, you may be able to use oils sexually. But before you do, consider all of the facts.

The Oily Debate

Some of the advantages of using oils as a sexual lubricant are:

  • Availability
  • Price
  • Texture/consistency
  • Non-drying
  • Skin moisturizing
  • Long lasting

I get that part: those are significant advantages.

However, oils have some significant disadvantages as well:

  • They do not clear from the skin very easily, and are particularly long-lasting within the vaginal space. This can lead to skin pores becoming clogged and infected.
  • Oils dissolve and hold the pesticides/chemicals that were used on the original bean or seed product. So, for example, unless you’re using a certified organic oil, you’re putting agricultural chemically-laced oils on/in your body.
  • Oils can be found with differing chain lengths, and shorter-chain oils (such as olive) are more likely to become rancid (on your skin/in your bottle). It is for this reason that some people prefer longer chain oils, such as almond oil.
  • Persons allergic to beans or nuts are often allergic to the oils processed from beans or nuts. The genitals are a painful place to have an allergic reaction.
  • Oils dissolve latex and some soft silicone products. If you think this doesn’t apply to you at first, sometimes you are using oil products when you didn’t think you were! Consider:
    • The oils commonly found in moisturizing soaps (ex. Dial), when used on the genitals, stay on the skin. When that same person goes to use a condom, *POP*. Or if a favorite silicone stretchy ring or toy breaks after just a few uses, look to the use of personal (oil-based) moisturizers as a potential cause.
    • Who doesn’t like to moisturize newly-shaven skin with a lotion? Well, for those who shave their genitals, know that most after-shave lotions contain oil. If you use latex or soft-silicone products afterward moisturizing, you’re likely diminishing the life of that product or latex condom, and increasing your exposure to sexually transmitted infections.
  • Oils are food for us and they are food for yeast. If you have trouble with vaginal yeast infections, or crotch rash, oils may not be helping your skin health.
  • Oil residuals can have long-lasting consequences. Consider: if a partner enjoys using oil-based products during self-pleasure, some of those oil residuals very likely remain on the skin. Even if that person never uses oils when sexual with another person, the residual can still break latex. This is particularly true for oil residuals in the vaginal space, since the clearing time can take days. Douching (a practice we don’t recommend) does not clear oils out of the vaginal space effectively, and detergents (like nonoxynol 9) dissolve not only the oil, but the vaginal wall membranes themselves (increasing infection transmission risk).

Slick Lubricant Solutions

Since we can’t always forsee the future, the use of non-oil products means that oil residues will not be present should you choose to be sexual with a new partner. If you don’t use oil, you won’t have to worry about future potential latex breakage.

Great alternatives to oils exist: silicone-based lubricants provide the same physical sensation as oils, but do not have as many disadvantages. It is true that silicone lubricants are more expensive than food-based oils, and can also break some soft-silicone toys. For thinner consistency, consider Move Lubricant, or choose UberLube for a thicker, more cushioning silicone lubricant. 

Some of the glycerin-based lubricants, such as Sex Grease, or non-glycerin non-silicone lubes, such as Sliquid Organics Gel, will last a very long time, giving you the sensation you’re looking for in a non-oil product.

For those still interested in using oils, most people agree that long-chain almond oil is the best suited. If you go this route, please find a source of organic, highly purified oil, and make sure to ask a partner about allergies.

Take Care.

Dr. Myrtle