Can You Use Lotion As Lube For Anal Or Vaginal Sex? Is It Safe?

Lotion is NOT safe to use as lube for anal or vaginal sex, nor during external masturbation of a vulva. It COULD be ok for external masturbation of a penis.
Photograph Of White Moisturizing Lotion Bottle On White Table With Bedding In The Distant Background

Although it might be an acceptable lube option for external masturbation of the shaft of a penis in some cases, lotion is not at all safe to use as lube for anal or vaginal sex, nor during external masturbation of a vulva.

Here’s why:

  • Lotion can contain a wide variety of ingredients that may irritate delicate vaginal and rectal skin, causing burning, stinging, itching, or rashes.
  • Many ingredients in lotion can easily disturb the pH balance of the vagina or anus, potentially leading to bacterial or yeast infections.

Lotion is perhaps the most common personal care item in all home bathrooms, but it’s best to use a limited-ingredient store-bought lube when it comes to penetrative sex.

In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about using lotion as a personal lubricant, including:

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Lube Alternatives and Everything Lube hubs, in-depth and evolving resources that comprehensively explore all aspects of personal lubricants from the different types and how to use them, to ingredients and safety — created to help you achieve the sexual pleasure you deserve.

Can You Use Lotion As Lube?

Although it may be safe for the shaft of some penises during external masturbation, lotion should not be used as lube during any type of penetrative sex, nor during masturbation of a vulva.

Lotion, often also known as moisturizer and sometimes body butter, contains a multitude of ingredients that provide excellent hydration to dry, parched skin.

The most common brands of lotion and moisturizer include:

  • Cetaphil
  • Lubriderm
  • Aveeno
  • CeraVe

Lotions and moisturizers such as these are fantastic for your skin, but they’re a terrible choice for your genitals.

When used as lube, the ingredients in lotion, moisturizer, or body butter may disrupt the delicate balance of your vaginal or rectal pH, resulting in an overgrowth of bacteria that can lead to irritation or infection.

Even though ingredients in lotion aren’t generally disruptive to the skin externally, they can be potentially harmful when used internally as lube during any type of penetration.

Lube Vs. Lotion

When comparing lube vs. lotion, you might note the similarities they share in both texture and feel. While equally slippery and smooth, the two products are very different from one another when it comes to their intended use.

Similar to lotion, lube provides hydration to your internal skin tissues, and unlike lotion, lube is perfectly safe to use internally for penetrative vaginal or anal sex and in many cases, oral sex.

Even if the lotion that you’re considering using as lube is made for sensitive skin — or marketed as baby lotion — it is still not safe for internal use and should be avoided for penetrative sex.

The formula of body lotion differs between products, as we’ll talk about in just a bit, but it often contains glycerol (glycerin), which is high in sugar and can create a breeding ground for yeast infections.

Another common ingredient in lotion is mineral oil, which is commonly found in baby oil and other skincare products.

Mineral oil is derived from petroleum — which is found in Vaseline — and certainly not something you want anywhere near your vagina or rectum.

Body butters may be made from body-safe oils derived from shea butter, coconut oil, or other vegetable-based oils, but they often include additional ingredients that can cause irritation.

Many lotions have added fragrances that can irritate the skin, however, a product that is fragrance-free is not necessarily safe to use as lube because of other potentially irritating ingredients it may contain.

Even though the pH of lotion ranges from low to high and some products may be in the same range as vaginal pH (around 4.5), the ingredients in lotion are still unsafe if used as lube.

It’s best to stick with a pH-balanced lube.

Additionally, hand lotion and hand cream might be great for keeping dry skin at bay, but you’ll want to steer clear from using them as sex lube because they use ingredients similar to lotion.

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Can You Use Lotion As Vaginal Lube?

You should never use lotion, moisturizer, or body butter as lube for vaginal sex because it can irritate the delicate tissues inside of your vagina while disrupting its pH and potentially leading to infections.

This is true even if you’re using a lotion or moisturizer designed for sensitive skin, like Aveeno, Cetaphil, or CeraVe.

In our article on lube pH, author and human sexuality educator Susan Milstein, Ph.D. who also sits on our medical review board, explained the importance of using a lubricant that matches the pH of your vagina or anus.

Every part of your body has a pH — from your hair to your skin, to your genitals.

If you use a product with a pH higher than that of your vagina (which is on the acidic side of the pH scale), it will in turn raise its pH and make it more alkaline.

When your vaginal pH is raised, the tissues are more susceptible to infections such as ​​bacterial vaginosis or yeast.

Additionally, lotion is often made using ingredients that are high in sugar content, which can lead to yeast infections. This means that even if a lotion has a pH level similar to the vagina (around 4.5), it is still unsafe as a lubricant.

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Can You Use Lotion As Anal Lube?

No — lotion should never be used as an anal lube, for many of the same reasons why it can’t be used vaginally.

The anus is another sensitive and pH-balanced treasure of the body that deserves only the best when it comes to lube.

The tissues of the rectum are very delicate, although its pH of between 7 and 8 is considerably higher than that of the vagina.

Lotion contains many ingredients that can disturb the pH balance of your anus and rectum, which increases your risk of experiencing irritation and infection if it’s used as a lubricant during anal penetration.

It’s best to use a lube specifically formulated for anal sex that matches the higher pH range of the anus.

When it comes to applying lotion, moisturizer, or body butter to your butt, the cheeks are about as far as you should go.

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Is It Safe To Use Lotion For “Sensitive Skin” As Lube?

Even lotion or moisturizer that is marketed for sensitive skin or labeled as “dermatologist tested” is not safe to use as vaginal or anal lube, and it should not be used for masturbation of a vulva.

This includes popular lotion brands like Lubriderm, Aveeno, CeraVe, or Cetaphil.

Depending on a person’s skin sensitivity, it may be okay for external masturbation of a penis shaft, provided it doesn’t cover the head or foreskin.

Most sensitive skin lotions contain fewer ingredients and no added fragrance, although, like all lotions, the formula differs between products.

That said, just because something is fragrance-free doesn’t mean it’s safe to use as a lube.

Cetaphil, for example, is a popular sensitive skincare brand that makes moisturizers and cleansers for sensitive skin. Their moisturizing lotion is made with cetearyl and benzyl alcohol, panthenol, and glycerin.

All of those ingredients can cause major disruption to the pH levels in your vagina, rectum, or even penile meatus — leading to irritation and possible infection.

The ingredients in sensitive skin lotion are not suitable for the inside of the vagina or anus, and therefore it should not be used as lube.

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Is It Safe To Use Lotion For Masturbation?

You might be thinking that lotion can be used as a lube for masturbating the skin on your penis or clitoris but in most cases, it should be avoided.

Even though you are technically using the lotion topically and externally, it is still a risky game to play, as a small amount of product might get inside your vagina or cause infection or inflammation of the urethra, known as urethritis.

Additionally, lotion, moisturizer, or body butter should not be used as a lube during external masturbation of a vulva because its ingredients can cause stinging, burning, itching, or rashes.

The skin on a penis is quite sensitive, as well, and lotion could potentially cause the same type of irritation.

If your skin is not sensitive, a gentle lotion may be acceptable for use if kept on the shaft only — and not anywhere near the foreskin or head.

As we mentioned earlier, lotion can irritate the urethra if it gets inside, causing inflammation or infection.

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What Is Lotion Made From And Is It Safe?

Lotion, moisturizer, and body butter are generally a mixture of water, oil, emulsifier, and preservatives.

The most common first ingredient in lotion is water, typically followed by either ​​glycerin or cetearyl alcohol.

Other common lotion ingredients may include:

  • Sunflower oil, a hydrating oil made from sunflower seeds that is rich in vitamin E, giving it regenerative and moisturizing properties.
  • Benzyl alcohol, an emulsifying agent that also acts as a preservative in lotion.
  • Glycolic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid that acts as an exfoliating agent on the skin.
  • Methylparaben, a preservative often used in lotion formulas to extend the product’s shelf life.

The ingredients in lotion vary from product to product.

Body lotion and body butter contain many ingredients that are helpful for hydrating the skin and healing dry cracked areas of the body.

While those ingredients are wonderful for adding moisture topically, they’re not safe to use as an internal lubricant because of the way they can affect the pH of your vagina and anus, potentially leading to infection and irritation.

To make any kind of lotion, you need an emulsifier that bonds oil and water together to create a proper texture. Common emulsifiers in lotion include glyceryl stearate and Cetearyl alcohol.

It’s important to note that in order for a lotion to have its signature texture, alcohol or stearate is a necessary part of the formula.

For this reason, all lotion contains some amount of glycerin and alcohol — which are not safe ingredients for lube.

Typically lotions marketed to be natural or organic are made with hydrating butters and oils like shea and coconut — which are ingredients that can be somewhat safe if they’re on their own.

Clinical lotions that are unscented and marketed for sensitive skin contain more chemical substances like ceramides, which are fatty acids that help to lock in moisture, and dimethicone, a compound derived from silicone.

It’s important to understand that silicones used in lotions are not the same types of silicones typically used in body-safe lubricants of similar origin.

Regardless of your preferred brand, lotions are meant for external use on the skin and should stay far away from the vagina or anus.

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What Are Better Lube Alternatives To Lotion?

Instead of lotion, moisturizer, or body butter, we highly suggest using a store-bought personal lubricant that is body-safe.

Every person and preference is different when it comes to lube, so if you’re curious to find the right lube for you, read through our in-depth lube guide or take our lube quiz to find the lube of your dreams.

There are many different lube options available, including:

Here’s a cheat sheet for selecting the best lube based on how you intend to use it:

Lube Type:
Water-Based
Silicone-Based
Oil-Based
Oral Sex Yes Yes Not usually
Vaginal Sex ONLY if pH/Osmolality suitable Yes Yes
Anal Sex ONLY if pH/Osmolality suitable Yes Yes
Condom Types All All Polyurethane, nitrile and lambskin only
Sex Toy Types All All but silicone All but latex
Bath/Shower Use No Yes Yes
Does It Stain? No Yes Yes
Lube Type:
Oral Sex
Vaginal Sex
Anal Sex
Condom Types
Sex Toy Types
Bath/Shower Use
Does It Stain?

Let’s take a look at the four main types of personal lubricants below.

  • Natural And Organic Lubricants

Natural and organic personal lubricants are made with natural and organic ingredients, and they’re typically free from unsafe additives.

You can find natural and organic lube in both water-based and oil-based formulas.

If you have nut allergies, be sure to double-check the ingredient list because many natural and organic lubricants use nut oils in their formulas.

If you’re in the market for the best and safest natural and organic lubricants that are available right now, we did the research already to find and sort the top tier.

  • Silicone-Based Lubricants

Silicone-based lube is long-lasting and therefore great for long sex sessions. It’s safe to use with all kinds of condoms but should not be used with silicone-made sex toys since it wears down the material over time.

Silicone lubes are thick in consistency and feel smooth and silky to the touch. Silicone personal lubricants tend to have a thicker consistency which makes them ideal for anal sex.

Since it’s waterproof and long-lasting, silicone lubricant is perfect for shower sex.

We found the five best silicone-based personal lubes on the market if you’re interested in picking one up for yourself.

  • Water-Based Lubricants

Water-based lubricant is a great lube for condom use because it’s compatible with all condom materials along with dental dams, diaphragms and sex toys.

The difference between water-based and silicone lube is primarily found in the ingredient list. However, the way you intend to use a personal lubricant should definitely play a part in choosing one.

Water-based lubes are water-soluble making for easy clean-up.

While they do dry out and often need to be reapplied, you can reactivate water-based lube with some water if you have it on hand. Do keep in mind that water-based lube doesn’t work for bath or shower sex because it easily washes away.

We did the research for you on finding the safest and best water-based personal lubricants if you’re interested in reading more.

  • Oil-Based Lubricants

Oil-based lubricant is made from body-safe oils that are formulated for luxurious anal and vaginal sex. Do keep in mind that some oil-based lubes are made with nut oils so if you have allergies it’s best to double-check the ingredient list.

They make for awesome anal sex because oil-based lubes are thicker in texture (just like silicone-based lubes) and provide a cushion. It’s not safe to use oil-based lubes with latex condoms or dental dams.

Learn more about the best oil-based personal lubricants.

Are There Any Safe Home Lube Alternatives?

In an absolute pinch there are a few safe home lube alternatives:

Aloe vera, as long as you are using 100% pure aloe vera with zero additives, is safe to use as lube. The aloe plant contains natural latex, which should be considered if you have a latex allergy.

Quality manufacturers like Aloe Cadabra, a brand we personally reviewed and trust, take steps to make sure that all latex is removed during the manufacturing process.

Vitamin E oil is another safe option that is often used in formulated oil-based lubes.

Extra virgin, unrefined coconut oil is safe to use as a lube but is not compatible with latex or polyisoprene condoms or dental dams.

Plain, flavorless, and unsweetened yogurt is safe to use for vaginal or oral sex, in certain circumstances, as well.

Bottom Line: 

Lotion might be your skin’s best friend in the dry winter months, but it certainly won’t get along with your genitals.

Instead of using lotion as lube, it’s far better to reach for a formulated personal lubricant that’s proven to be body-safe — and there are plenty of great options on hand.