Lube 101: 4 Lube Alternatives & Which To Avoid

29.10.2021
Mike Givens

Lube is an essential component of any sexual experience, be it with a sexual partner, a group of partners, or by yourself. 

The decrease in friction and increase in gentle and effortless movement that comes with slicking down your private parts are vital to ensuring that you’re experiencing sex in a fun and safe way. 

Sexual encounters without lube can lead to frustration, fumbling, and the disastrous predicament of turning you off. Just think about it. You’re with that special someone(s), and your attempts at achieving mutual pleasure are frustrated by a lack of moisture. You spend so much time trying to figure out how to provide that pleasure without lube that you spend more time worrying about how to make it happen than actually making it happen. Also, sex without lube can lead to anal tears, which increases the risk of transmitting HIV and other infections. 

The frustration of not having lube has happened to most people. So, there’s no harm in being prepared, whether you’ve invited someone over or are heading home with a stranger from the bar. Having lube on hand reduces frustration and gets you closer to getting off. 

But what if you haven’t planned things out? What if you need a lube substitute on the fly? 

Well, dear reader, we’ve got you covered. 

The best lube alternatives 

Believe it or not, the lube you can buy in the store is not the only kind of lube that can be used if you find yourself lacking. Below are four alternatives that can help you get slick and silky on your way to sexual serenity. None of these alternatives are ideal, but they can help you out when you’re in a pinch. 

Olive oil

Olive oil is a pretty natural substance that many of us keep in our kitchens. If you find that you’re looking to have sexy times and you don’t have a store-purchased lubricant, head on over to your kitchen to check this out. 

Obviously, olive oil is edible, but keep in mind: It’s an oil. So, it won’t work well with latex, can be hard to wash away, and will likely cause staining. Using virgin olive oil is preferable since the oil has been “cold-pressed.” This means the olives have been squeezed to extract the oil and are pretty much served without many other ingredients. Regular olive oil has more oils added in for taste. 

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is an excellent lube alternative because of its dirty little secret: As it comes into contact with the body, it turns from a solid to a liquid and provides a soothing, nourishing feeling. 

Coconut oil is used in cooking, and many people use it for skin and hair care. However, keep in mind that it’s an oil, and as such, it won’t work well with latex. 

Coconut, olive, almond, and Vitamin E oils are considered “natural” oils that may appeal to those who want fewer chemicals in their lubes. 

Aloe vera

This is an ideal lube for when you’re in a crunch. It works well on the skin, has a pleasant smell, and can meet your lubrication needs. Here’s the golden rule for aloe vera: It has to be pure aloe vera. So, no brand-name aloe vera gels or lotions with a list of ingredients as long as your arm. 

Pure aloe vera means it’s the only substance in what you’re using. There are no preservatives or chemicals with long and puzzling names that remind you of your high school chemistry class. 

Some people are sensitive to aloe vera, so if you use it, make sure that it doesn’t cause you or your partner(s) to have some sort of allergic reaction. Do a good old spot test—rub a small amount on yourself and wait to see if any itching or discomfort occurs—and if you’re in the clear, go for it. 

Yogurt

Yes, dear reader, yogurt can be used as a lube alternative. Make sure that it’s plain, no-frills yogurt. Besides being edible, it is smooth and has a feel to it that will make sex pleasurable. It doesn’t matter whether it’s regular or greek; just use plain, unscented yogurt and go to town. Not only is it a tasty treat that can help with weight loss and health, but it can also be used to grease your naughty bits! 

A note on spit

Admit it. You’ve seen the heartbreaking film adaptation of Annie Proulx’s short story Brokeback Mountain. There, of course, is that famous scene when Ennis Del Mar, played by the late Heath Ledger, and Jack Twist, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, have their first sexual encounter. In that scene, Ennis, preparing to top Jack, spits in his hand and proceeds to use it as lube to facilitate their lovemaking. 

It’s a beautiful cinematic experience, but let’s be honest, spit should be used as a last resort. Life rarely imitates art, and most of us won’t have enough spit to get the job done. If you’re truly in a bind, go for it. But remember that not using proper lube can increase the risk of tears in the anus, which increases the risk of transmitting HIV. PrEP can reduce the risk for HIV.

Just be realistic about how much you’ll actually be able to do without lube. Also, spit can transmit certain infections, so be wary of using it as an alternative. 

What lubes to avoid

When it comes to lube and how to use it, common sense reigns supreme. There are, however, certain lubes to avoid when having sex, and we’re going to dive into them right now. Here are some lubes to avoid if/when you find yourself getting ready for sexy times: 

  • Mineral-based products—Vaseline, baby oil, and petroleum jelly can break down latex,latex-based sex toys, and diaphragms. Baby oil can also cause skin irritation and can damage the vulva. Vaseline is also solely for use on our external body parts. 
  • Body lotion—While it may seem like a no-brainer, lotions are also not an ideal lube; they can break down condoms. Lotions and soaps can also contain chemicals that cause irritation.
  • Butter or margarine—While butter and margarine are common staples of any household, do not use them as lube. Why? Well, they both spoil when not in certain refrigerated conditions. If the hole that comes into contact with the butter or margarine isn’t cleaned properly after use, the chemicals will spoil and cause a foul odour. 
  • Parabens—Parabens are a preservative used in many cosmetics and personal care products, including a few lubricants. There’s a growing debate about parabens, specifically their impacts on human hormones and the endocrine system. There are even concerns that parabens could be linked to cancer. 

You have the right to do what you want with your body. Just make sure that you do your research and understand the benefits and risks of the lubes you use, and most importantly, know when to ask for help if you have a reaction. 

Next up: We’re going to learn why lube is such an important staple in the queer community.

Written by:
Mike Givens

Mike Givens received his bachelor’s degrees in Marketing and English Literature from Virginia Tech. He has a master’s degree in investigative journalism from Boston University. He is a social justice advocate and is the full-time communications director for an international human rights organization in New England. He spends his spare time writing on a range of issues, from LGBTQ+ rights and income inequality to sexual health and politics. He is also a freelance copyeditor.

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