My Paleo-ish Sex Talk (Part 1): Coconut Oil as Lube is a fairly popular post. We use coconut oil as our sole sexual lubricant. After trying many silicone and glycerine based lubricants over the years, and never finding one that we liked, we stumbled upon coconut oil accidently (when we bought some for cooking and expanded its uses) and never looked back. Occasionally I’ll get asked about its use with condoms or toys and because of that, I thought it deserved a second post. It does get a little science-y, some of it admittedly superfluous geek stuff that doesn’t really matter that much to the masses or even to the main points of this post, but that I thought interesting.
Most people accept the fact that petroleum based oils or lubricants are not compatible with latex condoms. This is supported by research and articles like this pubmed.gov abstract (U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health): Mineral oil lubricants cause rapid deterioration of latex condoms. So while synthetic lubricants that are condom-compatible may do the trick, there is some question about how these interact with the body and their safety. This Chemical and Engineering News Article discusses potential safety issues of personal lubricants like K-Y brand. The concentrations and osmolatities are higher than the human body due to their chemical structures, meaning they get absorbed at a much higher rate. For example, from the article:
K-Y Warming Jelly, which has an osmolality more than 30 times the body’s own fluid, increased herpes transmission more than ninefold compared with rodents not administered lubricant (BMC Infect. Dis., DOI: 10.1186/1471-2334-10-331).
These lubricants that are compatible with latex condoms have higher concentrations of glycerin, propylene gycol, sugars and other chemicals, which means that to balance the body’s equilibrium when absorbed, water in our cells are released to dilute these chemicals and shrivel to some degree.
So let’s come back to latex condoms and their chemical compatibility with mineral oil. First, coconut oil is not a mineral oil like vasaline or baby oil. These mineral oils are a liquid by-product of petroleum refinement, composed of alkanes and cyclic paraffins. A cycloalkane, alkane or paraffin (all similar) are saturated hydrocarbon compounds consisting of only carbon and hydrogen, with no multiple carbon-carbon bonds that additional hydrogen can be added to. The World Health Organization classifies untreated or mildly treated mineral oils as a Group 1 carcinogen, but mineral oils have many applications including in cosmetics (like baby lotions, ointments and cold creams), and mechanical or electrical applications (like in transformers or high voltage switchgears).
Coconut oil on the other hand is used for edible and non-edible purposes. Detergent industries depend on coconut oil (and palm kernel oils) for lauric acid (a soap making oil). This saturated fat is easily washed out of clothes or bedding compared to mineral oils or other things like chapstick that contain (surprise) petroleum products. Crude coconut oil is composed of primarily triacylglycerols (95%), but also has minor or trace amounts of free fatty acids, partial glycerides, phospholipids, sterols, tocopherols (natural antioxidant) and pigments. The latter parts are what gets taken out when purified. Coconut oil post processing contains 46-50% lauric acid along with smaller amounts of medium- and short-chain fatty acids. It is very stable to oxidative deteriorization (meaning it doesn’t break down very much in air creating bad off-products), and it differs from other vegetable oils in that it is made of 90% saturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids are long-chain carboxylic acids that usually have between 12 to 24 carbon atoms (though short- and medium-chain have shorter tails) and no double bonds (each carbon atom has two hydrogen atoms as single bonds – remember that the mineral oils are all double-bonds, so behave very differently). By contrast, unsaturated fatty acids have one or more double bonds (hence their name, since they can be saturated by adding hydrogen thereby converting double bonds to single bonds) and mineral oils are all double-bonds.
So because coconut oil has the world “oil” in it, despite being very chemically different than mineral oils or even unsaturated vegetable oils, it tends to get lumped together with these oils. While it is generally accepted that coconut oil is not compatable with latex condoms, I’m not exactly sure why as there isn’t a lot of technical information or studies I was able to find that actually collaborates that fact. I’m not the only one who’s looked for research and couldn’t find it. From this study entitled: Condoms and condiments: compatibility and safety of personal lubricants:
The most-cited laboratory evidence describing condom breakage and oil-based substances is a 1989 paper published in Contraception, where the authors conducted burst testing with various substances, and concluded that mineral oil-based lubrications such as baby oil or body lotion had a significant degrading effect on latex . A careful reading, however, reveals that Voeller et al. did not test petroleum jellies in this analysis, as is sometimes implied when this article is referenced. From the same year, an abstract from the 5th International AIDS Conference claimed that similar mechanical testing found petroleum jelly to have a significant weakening effect on latex condoms . A 1999 study reported similar testing with vaginal application products, and found that products containing vegetable oil to weaken latex condoms . A 2011 study reported that two commercial lubricants tested (one oil-based and one silicone-based) and mineral oil were found to decrease condom puncture strength, while all water-based products tested had a significant strengthening effect. A search of the indexed medical literature reveals limited laboratory-based evidence to test condom compatibility of petroleum jelly and silicone-based lubricants. [AMD Note: See no mention of coconut oil here? More below…]
In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund and Family Health International, published an advisory document which reconfirms that oil-based lubricants should be avoided, and provides more clarity on the procurement of safer water-based lubricants. A list of household products are listed as damaging to latex including: baby oil, burn ointment, dairy butter, palm or coconut oil, cooking oil, fish oil, mineral oil, suntan oil, hemorrhoid cream, petroleum jelly and body/hand lotions . This WHO list, however, references a behavioural study in Jamaica  which actually does not specifically mention, or scientifically test the condom compatibility of most of these “condiments,” as is implied.
The underlined is my emphasis. Like this author, using my intensive Google-Fu skills, I haven’t been able to find any actual scientific data on testing coconut oil and latex, and this is consistent with other bloggers who promote coconut oil as for body and sexual uses. Like many things in life, as sheeple, we take things at face value without any real research conducted just become some national or world “expert” tells us that is the case. Often when you dig deeper on many of these topics (such as diet), it comes down to jumping to conclusions or making long leaps of logic based on flawed research or opinions. Now I’m not saying that coconut oil doesn’t break down latex condoms, but it may very well not break them down quickly. Some anecdotal things I’ve read are also inconclusive. Some people allegedly use coconut oil with condoms with no issues, others are convinced that it contributed to condom breakage.
With that said, I thought I’d do a little experiment and see if I could make any conclusions. We still had some latex condoms left over from before my vasectomy. As part of my real job duties, I occasionally need to test the integrity of plastic pipe materials by pressure testing it. If a leak is noted, it usually is found very quickly. I used similar methodology here. I used two brands of latex condoms: Durex standard latex and Trojan Magnum. All condoms filled with air and tied; one of each was then rubbed with baby oil and the other with melted coconut oil. I did a third group with nothing rubbed on it as a control group. I wanted to see if A) Mineral oil (key ingredient of baby oil, in fact baby oil is basically just scented mineral oil) really did rapidly degrade latex and B) if coconut oil had any noticeable deterioration compared to the no lube control group.
After I applied these liquids, the condoms were allowed to sit for an hour. I then handled the condoms, rubbing the outside to see if I could promote breakage in that manner; if it hadn’t broken by then, proceeded to pinch a little of the condom between my thumb and forefinger and rub to stimulate friction. As I’ll note below, this final test method was a flawed approach and didn’t really yield results that were worth much.
1) Mineral Oil rubbed condoms – both condoms popped immediately upon touching them. Conclusion – mineral oil breaks down latex pretty quickly
2) Coconut oil – both condoms could be handled and rubbed on the outside without any issues. No breakage at that point. Upon pinching and rubbing the interior of the condom together, it popped within 5 to 20 seconds.
3) Control no lube – both condoms handled and rubbed on the outside with no issues. Upon pinching and rubbing the interior of the condom together, they popped within 3 to 10 seconds.
After I did this, I concluded the pinching and rubbing wasn’t a good indicator of latex integrity as the friction inside the condom (both the same in all cases) likely resulted in breakage. The fact that the control group behaved essentially the same as the coconut oil group showed it was more a factor of interior friction than exterior lubricant.
Final conclusion on this “experiment”: it appeared that unlike mineral oil, coconut oil did not have an adverse effect on the integrity of the latex on normal handling, and behaved the same way as the non-lubricated control group under more vigorous testing.
Also, as an experiment for this post, I used one of these condoms with coconut oil as lubricant in vaginal intercourse with wife in the name of science, and it held up fine. After brief interval (about five minutes – that was all we could handle with the condom on, forgot how not-awesome they are for both of us), I removed the condom. No visual tears or holes were noted. I then filled with water to be sure and the thing looked like a water balloon with no pin holes or other integrity breaches.
So for a very, very small sample size, things appear ok with coconut oil for us. Though we’re not worried about pregnancy, those that are may consider the trade offs of the risk (condom breaking) versus the reward (not using chemically crappy lubricants in your body and enjoying the wonderful feel of coconut oil). Perhaps you could experiment yourself during non-fertile periods (would require tracking cycle and understanding timing of sex and ovulation – this is all you though).
So there you have it based on a quick experiment. If you are concerned about using condoms and coconut oil and the potential for degradation, then use polyurethane or polyisoprene (non-latex) condoms (some brands that I’ve heard people like and use with coconut oil are Durex Bare or LifeStyles Skyn) which apparently don’t have these issues. Don’t just take my word for it; if you end “with child” because of your own personal experiments, don’t go saying it’s ‘cuz some random blogger on the internet told you it was ok. My point is that without actual studies, it could be a better alternative for you and may not result in any adverse issues with latex.
A note on using coconut oil with toys. Like latex condoms, silicone toys are not compatible with mineral oils which tend to break them down quickly and make them sticky and gummy. Not a good thing when you spend a bunch of you hard-earned cash on a dildo or vibrator. Most silicone toys only recommend water based lubes, primarily due to the mineral oil issue, and the fact that coconut oils are lumped with those petroleum-based products. However, we have found coconut oil to be innocuous on the silicone toys we’ve used. While we usually wash off immediately after play with soap and water, we have occasionally left it until the next morning with no ill effects. No breakdown has been noted, no gummy residue and everything appears in full working order. Just some food for thought there as well.
Happy fucking, regardless of your lube of choice!