Dr. Carol Queen breaks down natural lubes—which are best, which to avoid, and why

by Dr. Carol Queen

If you’ve ever raided the kitchen for slippery material during a hookup, you might already have discovered that not all lubricant comes from the drugstore or sex shop. (You might also have wondered if it was actually a good idea to dip into the olive oil.) In fact, it’s not an either-or situation if you’re looking for natural ingredients in your lube—the sex shop often carries that kind, too, in addition to brands you’ve seen before.

I hope I don’t have to tell you why it’s a good idea to find a lubricant you like, but here’s the elevator speech. Erotic touch often feels great with lubricant, and for insertive play, it can be extremely important for comfort and pleasure. (For anal, it’s essential.) Most people don’t get off on being penetrated without lube, and let me stop you if you’re going to tell me that you always get super wet. That is fabulous, but what if the day comes when you don’t? Because that day might come when you smoke weed or take antihistamines or birth control pills; when you’re stressed; when you’ve had a baby; when perimenopause starts changing your body chemistry. If (when?) it happens, lube is great to have around. Another reason to love lube is that it makes condoms more effective and less prone to breakage. (There is one huge exception to this rule, and I’ll get into it below.) 

Why do some people prefer natural lubes—and what are they? The first question is pretty easy to answer; basically, we might like them for the same reasons we’d choose natural foods. Maybe we’re more comfortable with plant-based ingredients over those that sound like they come from a chem lab. Maybe we’ve found ourselves sensitive to those other lubes and hope to have a better experience with natural substances. Natural = from nature, right? So generally when people reference “natural lubricants,” they’re talking about plant-based lubes, or sometimes lubes enhanced with botanicals. They may or may not be enhanced with CBD or other cannabinoids; they may advertise themselves as having aphrodisiac properties, though your mileage may vary.

You might not love the same lube your friend does. One of you might find a lube to be the perfect consistency, super comfortable, and pleasurable to use—and the other might be sensitive to it. Just because a lube is natural, there’s no guarantee that it won’t knock your pH off balance or cause you to itch. If you have a reaction to any lubricant, don’t use it again. Just as with food sensitivities, the fact that I have problems with gluten and dairy doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your buttered toast. We don’t all respond the same way! And it means we need to heed our bodies’ messages.

Plant-based oils are one common type of natural lubricant, and coconut oil—not peanut!—is probably leading the pack these days. Many plants have some level of antibacterial properties—coconut does—and many consider these safer than chemically based antibiotic substances. Fruit and nut oils are familiar to us, often taste and smell good, double as massage oil, and I bet you have some in your kitchen right now! There are reasons not to use them, depending on your personal choices. If you’re allergic to the food they derive from, pass. If your only oil is a well-worn bottle by the stove that’s been opened constantly during cooking, it might already be carrying some microbes. Stay safe by doing a patch test on your skin first—if intact skin reacts by getting red and itchy, I’d advise against using it vaginally or anally or any way at all.

If you’re using latex condoms, NO OIL. HARD STOP. Both plant-based and mineral oils (which are petroleum products, and I never recommend using them on genitals) will degrade latex, causing condoms or gloves to break (they’re bad for latex diaphragms, too, if you are old-school). If you’re a fan of polyethylene condoms, you won’t have to worry about this, but latex and polyisoprene should be used with water-based or silicone lubes only. Please take this warning seriously, because condoms are an important form of birth control as well as prophylaxis, and as you know, these days that is fraught. 

There are natural, plant-enhanced forms of lubricant that you may wish to turn to if you’re exploring water-based lubricants that are based in botanical ingredients. Good Clean Love is a brand that focuses on excluding all the potentially harmful ingredients it can, and they make great lubes for people who have had issues with other kinds. Sutil (using lotus root and other extracts and adding botanically sourced hyaluronic acid) and Hathor Aphrodisia Pure both lean into the natural world, using botanicals that aim to enhance arousal and comfort. Sliquid Organics is a top brand that includes a line of botanical lubes, Dame Aloe brings the famously slippery aloe vera to its formulation, and Divine 9’s central botanical ingredient helps protect against HPV. 

Coconu makes an oil-based and a water-based formula. CBD-infused lubes are generally oil-based: Coconu makes one of these, too. Other popular brands are Awaken by Foria, HighOnLove, and Privy Peach. People who seek CBD lubes often want them to aid in relaxation and otherwise soothe. (You can find these brands at Good Vibes and other fine establishments.)

Maybe you’re ecorotic (into planet-friendly sex practices), or maybe parabens just make you itch. Whatever your reason for turning to these lubricants, there are many options waiting to make your sex life naturally pleasurable.

Illustration by Marcellus hall

You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.