Many of us at HelloGiggles are fans of Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand. But this week, the ultra-healthy actress surprised us by with a piece about lube, saying we should stick to coconut and almond oil (or Goop’s own lube, naturally) for sexytimes and leave the store-bought lube on the shelves.
“We’d never considered what went into lube, and that it’s actually super toxic (the most popular options contain parabens, for one), and that we are in theory putting it into the most vulnerable and permeable part of our bodies,” the article said. Referencing an episode of Netflix’s Grace and Frankie where Lily Tomlin’s character made homemade lube from yams, Goop spoke with Dr. Maggie Ney, co-director of the Women’s Clinic at the Akasha Center in Santa Monica for advice on how we should all be lubing up.
Many lubes contain “toxic ingredients” such as “parabens” that are meant to “prevent bacterial overgrowth,” Dr. Ney told Goop. “The problem is that parabens are endocrine disruptors, which means that they have an estrogenic effect in the body — they bind to the same cell receptors as our own estrogen but they interfere with our normal, rhythmic, hormonal process,” she said in the Q&A.
For that reason, Dr. Ney recommended ditching store-bought lubes and instead using the natural stuff: organic coconut oil, olive oil, aloe vera gel, or almond oil. “When it comes to lube, if it is safe to eat, it is generally safe to apply,” she told Goop.
So is this “safe to eat, safe to put in your privates” a rule of thumb that we should all be following? Should we all toss our AstroGlide and buy a jar of yams? Not exactly, said other women’s health experts contacted by HelloGiggles. “This is a partial truth that leads to a totally inaccurate conclusion,” OB/GYN Mache Seibel, M.D., professor at University of Massachusetts Medical School and author of The Estrogen Window, wrote in an email. “It is true that coconut oil and almond oil are reasonable and helpful lubricants that can be used. But safe in what way? Safe to the body yes, safe to sperm survival, no. On the other hand, not everything that is safe to eat is a reasonable vaginal lubricant — mustard?”
There are three ingredients that can be found in some lubes that may be cause for concern, said Claire Cavanah, co-founder of women-friendly sex store Babeland and the co-author of Moregasm: Babeland’s Guide to Mind-Blowing Sex. One is nonoxynol-9 (N-9), which can create a greater risk for the transmission of HIV; another is glycerin, which makes some lubes taste sweet but can cause yeast infections; and lastly, the aforementioned parabens. “Although [parabens are] considered to be safe by governmental agencies, there have been some concerns in the European Union about how they impact hormones,” Cavanah told us. “[Nevertheless,] Babeland offers lubes that are free of paraben, glycerin, and N-9.”
Claire agreed we don’t need to avoid store-bought lube and in fact, it can be the better option. Using natural oils as sexual lubricant can, in some cases, actually cause more issues, she said. “Oils like coconut and almond aren’t compatible with latex condoms and most materials that sex toys are made of,” she explained. “The vagina is also a delicate balance of bacteria that oils can disrupt. Just because it’s OK for cooking doesn’t mean that it’s good to use internally.”
It’s important to make active and informed choices when choosing a lube, agreed Dr. Kelly M. Kasper, MD, of the Indiana University Health Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She acknowledged that using oils like coconut and almond as lube can be a “controversial” topic among doctors, but believes it’s “perfectly fine” to use natural lubricants. “I actually recommend coconut oil to patients that would prefer to use a natural substitute versus an over-the-counter product,” she said.
We suggest you talk with your gyno about your best lube options and ask the staff at woman-friendly sex shops for their recommendations if you need some help. What you want to do with your yams, coconuts, and almond oil is entirely up to you!