If you’ve got a pack of condoms in your goodie drawer, chances are they’re latex. They’re the most widely available—from your college’s health services center to your neighborhood pharmacy—and least expensive prophylactics on the market. And their efficacy is fantastic, too: according to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, the rate of breakage or slippage is just 0.4 to 2 percent. “Latex condoms are the most certain protection against HIV and STIs,” confirms Eden Fromberg, OB-GYN, the founder and director of Holistic Gynecology New York.
However, numerous studies have proven that as little as 60 seconds of exposure to oil can degrade latex condoms. (*Insert scream emoji!*) While oil-based lube can be great for foreplay or massage, most doctors recommend water- or silicon-based lube for vaginal sex and when using sex toys. “If you’re going to use oil, switch to polyurethane or lambskin condoms,” says Dr. Fromberg, adding one caveat: She only recommends this for monogamous partners because lambskin doesn’t protect you from STDs.
As little as 60 seconds of exposure to oil can degrade latex condoms.
Even if pregnancy prevention isn’t a concern, there’s evidence that water-based lubes are better for your natural ecosystem. A University of California, Los Angeles study published in 2013 found that women who used petroleum jelly or baby oil as a lubricant were especially likely to end up with bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection. Vegetable-oil-based ingredients in vaginal moisturizers and antifungal or antibacterial products can also be culprits—part of the reason douching has fallen out of practice in the last few decades. But if you’re experiencing burning, itching, or general irritation after using latex condoms with water-based lube, it’s possible you’re sensitive to the latex itself.
As organic brands gain popularity and consumers become more conscious of what they put in their bodies, it’s tempting to reach for your trusty all-purpose coconut oil instead of the KY. “It’s the darling of holistic wellness, but even though it’s safe to ingest, it’s not great to use as a lube,” says Tiffany Gaines, CEO of Lovability Inc., a startup that develops fem-positive sexual health products (including a vegan, all-natural water-based lube) and condoms.
Even if pregnancy prevention isn’t a concern, there’s evidence that water-based lubes are better for your natural ecosystem.
Like mineral oil, exposure to coconut or olive oil can also lead to latex erosion and possibly even form holes in the condom. Even if you’re in a monogamous relationship and have chosen to forgo condoms, the use of coconut oil as lube is divisive in the medical community. Vaginal pH levels get thrown out of whack easily (i.e. why yeast infections are a common side effect of antibiotics), says Gaines, and natural oils, too, can make you more prone to infection.
And while coconut oil may work wonders on your hair and body, it’s not as good for your vulva. So it’s best to leave the fan-favorite ingredient in your pantry or on your top shelf—not in your bedside drawer.
Now that you’ve got the lowdown on the proper tools, here’s how foreplay can improve your sex life. And this is how much sex you should be having to reap the health benefits.