Is olive oil safe to use as a sexual lubricant?
When looking for the right lubricant, a person may want to consider whether they will be using a condom. Olive oil has the potential to dissolve latex condoms, which can increase the risk of infection and unintended pregnancy.
Due to this, it is not advisable to use olive oil as a sexual lubricant.
In this article, we discuss the safety implications of using olive oil as a sexual lubricant. We also list some alternatives to consider.
Can I use olive oil as a lubricant?
Olive oil may cause damage to condoms or dental dams.
Olive oil is a thick, smooth liquid, and people can technically use any liquid or gel as a sexual lubricant. However, some options — including olive oil — may not be ideal.
People should avoid using olive oil because it can damage latex condoms and dental dams. This damage can cause these items to tear or break, increasing the likelihood of a person getting pregnant or contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Olive oil can also clog the pores in the skin. Clogged pores can cause breakouts or irritation, which may lead to infections inside or near the vagina and anus.
Cleaning up after sex can also present a challenge because olive oil is not water soluble, which means that it may take longer to remove. Oils of any kind have the potential to stain fabrics, so olive oil may leave marks on clothes and bedsheets.
Studies on the effects of olive oil on the body have also produced mixed results.
For example, some studies have found evidence to suggest that olive oil possesses anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cardioprotective effects.
In a 2016 animal study, researchers found that olive oil improved the healing of pressure ulcers in mice. According to the study paper, olive oil can promote skin regeneration by reducing oxidative damage and inflammation.
On the other hand, the authors of a 2018 review article noted study findings showing that olive oil could damage the outer layer of skin, or the stratum corneum. This layer acts as a barrier between the external environment and the body.
Why use lubricant?
Many people use lubricants to enhance their sexual experience. Lubricants add moisture, which reduces uncomfortable friction during sex.
Having sex without lubricant can damage the delicate epithelial lining of the vagina and anus, increasing the risk of infection.
Although the vagina naturally produces lubricant during arousal, many females experience vaginal dryness. Several factors can contribute to vaginal dryness, such as:
- perimenopause or menopause
- side effects from medications, such as hormonal birth control
- certain medical conditions
- undergoing chemotherapy
- smoking cigarettes
Using lubricant can improve a person's overall sexual experience, and potentially that of a partner's too. However, it is essential to consider the risks of using products that manufacturers did not explicitly intend for this purpose. Some lubricants can alter the natural pH balance, which could lead to infections.
Better lubricant alternatives include personal lubricant products and natural water based gels.
People can choose from a wide variety of lubricants. The best lubricant product depends on a person's preference and whether or not they are using condoms or other barrier methods.
Water based lubricants
Water based lubricants do not damage latex condoms. However, they do tend to dry out faster than oil based products.
When choosing a water based lubricant, people should check the ingredients for any potential allergens.
According to a 2015 animal study, water based lubricants with high salt concentrations (hyperosmolar) can damage the cells lining the rectum. This cell damage may increase the risk of infection and STI transmission.
However, the authors of this study concluded that hyperosmolar water based lubricants do not increase the risk of HIV transmission.
In a small 2018 study, researchers observed that using hyperosmolar lubricant led to changes in the bacterial composition in the rectum but did not affect the concentrations of preexposure prophylaxis — a preventive treatment for people with a high chance of contracting HIV — among adult males.
People can choose from a range of water based lubricants online.
Silicone based lubricant
Water and silicone based lubricants are safer to use than olive oil.
Prelubricated condoms tend to use silicone based lubricant because it does not damage latex.
This product also tends to last longer than water based lubricants, making it a popular choice for many people.
People can purchase silicone based lubricant online.
However, silicone based lubricants are difficult to wash out of fabric, as they do not react with water. These lubricants may also take some time to expel from the vagina and anus, which can increase the risk of infection if bacteria become trapped in the lubricant.
Other lubricants to avoid
In general, people should avoid using anything that the manufacturers did not intend to act as a sexual lubricant. However, natural products with high water content — such as aloe vera gel — can serve as effective alternatives to personal lubricants.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advise that people using nonlubricated latex condoms avoid any oil based lubricants or substances that contain fats or greases. These substances can weaken latex condoms.
People should also try to avoid using these products as sexual lubricants:
- petroleum jelly (Vaseline)
- cooking oils
- coconut oil
- baby oil
- dairy butter and shortening
- face creams and body lotions
Olive oil may seem safe and effective to use as a sexual lubricant. However, it is not advisable to use olive oil in this way.
Olive oil can damage latex condoms, which can cause them to break or tear. It can also weaken the skin's natural barrier function and clog pores, which may lead to breakouts and infections. Oils also repel water, making them difficult to clean up and wash out of fabrics.
It is technically possible to use olive oil as a sexual lubricant. However, better alternatives include high quality water or silicone based lubricants.
People can choose from a wide variety of safe and effective personal lubricants in stores or online.