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 an unbranded bottle of moisturizing body lotion on a white nightstand table with bedding in the distant blurry background, concept of using lotion as a personal lubricant for vaginal, anal, or oral sex
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Updated:February 2024
safety infographic about using lotion as lube for vaginal, anal, and oral sex with three separate slider bars depicting that lotion is not safe for vaginal sex, not safe for anal sex, and not safe for oral sex, with the women’s health interactive logo at the bottom

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 oral sex or external masturbation of a vulva.

Key Takeaways:

  • Lotion might help general skin irritation but it can contain a wide variety of ingredients that may irritate delicate vaginal, penile, 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.
  • Lotions made for sensitive skin typically have fewer ingredients and these may be safe (for some) to use while jerking off, although never for external masturbation of a vulva.

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.

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, hand creams, 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.

Although 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.

The formula of body lotion differs between products 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 a common ingredient in baby oil and other skincare products.

Derived from petroleum — which is found in Vaseline (petroleum jelly) — mineral oil is 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.

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.

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.

Lube Vs. Lotion

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

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 personal lubricant.

Can You Use Lotion As Vaginal Lube?

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

Can You Use Lotion As Anal Lube?

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

It’s always best to use a lube specifically formulated for anal sex.

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

Is It Safe To Use Lotion For Masturbation?

Even though you are technically using the lotion topically and externally during masturbation, 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 used while jerking off.

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.

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.

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.

What Are Better Lube Alternatives To Lotion?

Instead of lotion, moisturizer, or body butter, we highly suggest using commercial lubricants that are body-safe.

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:
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?

There is a personal lubricant designed for every situation, so if you’re not sure which to choose, you can read through our in-depth lube guide or take our lube quiz to find your perfect match.

Our Top Lube Recommendations

After researching hundreds of personal lubricants — and personally testing dozens of them ourselves — we have found the very best lubes of each type, vetted by our team and recommended for their safety and performance.

  • Are There Any Safe Home Lube Alternatives?

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

Anything that is oil-based is not compatible with latex or polyisoprene condoms or dental dams.

Closing Thoughts

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

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.

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.

All Things Lube