Can You Use Shea Butter As Lube Or For Anal Sex?

Yes, under most circumstances shea butter is a safe lube alternative. But as with other oil-based lubes, it does have some considerations you need to know.
Photograph Of Shea Butter Jar On White Tabletop With Out Of Focus Bedding In The Distant Background
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Updated:February 2024

Yes, you can use shea butter as lube for vaginal or anal sex — and safely — but it’s important to keep a few things in mind before you do.

Here’s why:

  • Like all oil-based lubricants, STI and pregnancy barriers made from latex or polyisoprene will degrade when they come into contact with oil, making them ineffective and putting you (or your partner) at risk for both.
  • Shea butter is only safe as a lube alternative if it is 100% pure, and ideally Grade A Certified (particularly for oral use, as it is the only type that is safe for that activity). Many shea butter products (like shea butter lotion) have added ingredients or fragrances that could cause irritation if used on the delicate skin of the genitals.
  • Although shea butter is made from the nut of the African shea tree, allergic reactions are very rare, and scientific research has found that it doesn’t pose a risk to those with existing allergies to peanuts or tree nuts.
  • Unrefined shea butter does contain latex, however, and should be avoided by those with a latex allergy.
  • Shea butter can be beneficial to the skin, however, it can clog pores and may irritate those with sensitive skin.

Although shea butter is safe to use as a personal lubricant in many situations, it isn’t necessarily the best choice for everyone.

Things To Know
In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about using shea butter as a personal lubricant, including:

Can You Use Shea Butter As Lube?

You can use shea butter as lube, but you should use it understanding that it isn’t a safe choice for all sexual situations

Here’s what you need to know about using shea butter as a lube:

  • Its purity may be questionable. If your shea butter has added ingredients or fragrances, as many products (such as lotions) do, these can cause genital or anal irritation when it’s used as a lubricant. If you intend to use shea butter as lube, it must be 100% pure. Additionally, only Grade A shea butter is safe for use during oral sex.
  • Shea butter will degrade condoms, diaphragms, and dental dams made from latex or polyisoprene, putting you or your partner at risk for STIs or unintended pregnancy. Similarly, it will degrade sex toys made from latex or jelly rubber.
  • Shea butter can be safe for those with nut-based allergies, even though it is made from the nut of the African shea tree. Allergic reactions to shea butter are very rare and scientific research has found that it poses no risk to those with allergies to peanuts or tree nuts.
  • Although unrefined shea butter is safest for most people, it contains natural latex that can trigger an allergic reaction in those with allergies or sensitivities to latex.
  • Shea butter can clog pores — which may cause breakouts or irritation in those with sensitive skin.
  • Shea butter, like other oils, can put you at risk for bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections if you are prone to them.
  • Additionally, shea butter is a thick oil and can pose a choking hazard if used as a lubricant during oral sex.
  • Its thick consistency can be messy and difficult to remove from the skin after use, and being oil-based, it will most likely stain fabrics.

Shea butter is a type of oil and will degrade condoms made from latex or polyisoprene, putting you at risk for STI transmission or unintended pregnancy.

You can use shea butter with condoms made from polyurethane, nitrile, or lambskin, but the latter do not protect against STIs.

Oil-based lubes (including shea butter) can increase the risk of vaginal infections like yeast or bacterial vaginosis, especially if you’re prone to these infections.

Allergic reactions, if they exist at all, are extremely rare; shea butter comes from the fat of the shea nut.

Studies have shown that shea butter is safe for those who have peanut and tree nut allergies.

Although the FDA lists shea nuts as tree nuts — they do grow on trees — shea butter lacks the amount of a specific protein that would result in an allergic reaction.

Shea butter is compatible with most sex toys, aside from those crafted from rubber, jelly rubber, or latex.

Overall, shea butter is a good lube alternative for many people, however, its safety depends on your circumstances — and what your skin can tolerate.

Can You Use Shea Butter As Vaginal Lube?

As with any other oil-based personal lubricant, shea butter can increase your risk of vaginal infections, including yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis.

That risk is increased during pregnancy, as natural hormonal shifts can put you at a higher risk of developing yeast infections in general.

If you’re pregnant, choose a body-safe, water-based lubricant, instead.

As we mentioned earlier, shea butter is a type of oil, so it will degrade STI and pregnancy barriers made from latex or polyisoprene, rendering them ineffective.

Shea butter has a very thick, butter-like consistency that can be difficult to remove from the skin, especially if it’s inside your vagina.

This can increase the risk of irritation and infection if it isn’t removed thoroughly, especially since shea butter can clog pores.

If your skin isn’t sensitive, shea butter can be used for external masturbation of the vulva — just make sure not to use it with sex toys made from latex, rubber, or jelly rubber, as the oil will degrade their materials.

Can You Use Shea Butter As Anal Lube?

You can use shea butter as an anal lube — we even have a recipe for a homemade DIY anal lubricant that uses it as a primary ingredient.

Shea butter’s texture is thick and it offers a lot of cushion, and it’s safe as long as you don’t use it with condoms made from polyisoprene or latex, as the oil will degrade them, and quickly.

When a condom breaks during anal sex, it increases the risk of STI transmission between partners.

It is always best to select a lube that is safe to use with your condom of choice — or to choose a condom that is suited to your preferred lubricant.

Never assume any lube is 100% compatible with your condom without researching it first.

Even though shea butter is generally considered a safe anal lube alternative, it is far stickier and much more challenging to clean than a store-bought lubricant.

Even so, oil-based lubes — including 100% pure shea butter — are excellent for anal sex and activities like pegging because they’re thick and very long-lasting.

It’s important to note, however, that it shouldn’t be used with anal toys made from rubber, jelly rubber, or latex.

What Is Shea Butter Made From And Is It Safe?

Shea butter comes from the fat that’s contained within the nuts (also known as the fruit) of the shea tree, which is found in many parts of Africa.

Shea nut kernels are very high in fat content, which makes the extraction of the butter fairly easy.

Traditionally, the fat is extracted by roasting the nuts before they are pressed, releasing the fat, which is then churned in boiling water before being strained and cooled.

Shea butter contains several beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, which are what make it so popular in cosmetic products.

Fatty acids found in shea butter include oleic, stearic, palmitic, and linoleic, along with the antioxidant vitamin E, and nourishing triglycerides and cetyl esters.

Shea butter is manufactured and graded based on its production and purity.

The purest shea butter (Grade A) holds the most nutritional properties while also being free from chemical residues that can result from heavy refinement processes. It is also the only type safe for oral use.

Grade A shea butter passes a “rigorous safety screen” that involves shelf life studies to confirm it will remain stable for longer than a year.

As we mentioned earlier, however, unrefined shea butter contains natural latex and as such, should be avoided by those with allergies or sensitivities to it.

What Are Other Lube Alternatives To Shea Butter?

At this point, you might be reconsidering the thought of using shea butter as lube, but you have plenty of other lubricant options to choose from.

Better personal lubricant options include:

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?

Thankfully, there is a lube for every sexual situation and preference — and personal lubricant is easy to use.

If you’re still considering what lube to use, read through our in-depth lube guide or take our lube quiz to find the right one!

Let’s explore the four main types of personal lube you might consider using instead of shea butter.

  • Water-Based Personal Lubricants

Water-based lubes are extremely versatile and popular because they can be used with all types of condoms, diaphragms, dental dams, or sex toys.

They are water-soluble, easy to clean, and the best ones are pH-balanced.

Water-based lubricants generally require reapplication during use. They feel similar to your body’s natural lubrication, however, which is why many people prefer them.

Water-based lubes won’t work in the bath or shower because the water will rinse them away too quickly.

If you’re interested in water-based products, be sure to check out our review of the best water-based lubes to find your perfect match.

  • Silicone-Based Personal Lubricants

Silicone-based lubes are much longer-lasting than water-based lubes, and they are safe to use with all condoms, dental dams, and most sex toys and diaphragms, except those crafted from silicone.

Silicone lubes feel smooth and silky to the touch, offering a lasting slickness that’s noticeably different from your body’s natural lubrication.

They’re luxurious in texture compared to water-based lubes, offering more cushion, making them ideal for anal sex.

Silicone lubricants are also waterproof if you’re looking for a lube that will perform well in the bath, shower, or jacuzzi.

They can stain bed sheets, clothing, and towels, however, so that might be a bit of a trade-off.

Take a peek at the best silicone-based lubes to find the safest and best options available.

  • Oil-Based Personal Lubricants

Oil-based lubes are blended from various natural and often organic body-safe oils.

Some oil-based lubricants contain oils acquired from nuts, which might be a point of concern for those with allergies or sensitivities.

As we discussed earlier, oils and oil-based lubes cannot be used with latex or polyisoprene STI and pregnancy barriers because they will degrade their material.

But like silicone lubes, oil-based products are waterproof for intimacy in the bath or shower, and they will stain fabrics just as easily.

We researched and reviewed the best oil-based personal lubes if you’re curious about finding one you like for yourself.

  • Natural And Organic Lubricants

Depending on their formula, natural or organic lubes might use a water-based or oil-based formula that’s made from natural ingredients.

If you have an allergy or sensitivity to nuts or seed oils, always be sure to check the ingredient list first.

We found the best natural and organic lubes if you want to treat yourself or your partner.

Are There Any Safe At-Home Lube Alternatives?

There are a handful of safe at-home alternatives for personal lubricant to choose from, including:

Oil-based lube alternatives should never be used with STI or pregnancy barriers made from latex or polyisoprene.

Additionally, it’s always a good idea to do a patch test of any lube alternative on your inner elbow first and monitor the area before applying it to genital skin.

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.

Bottom Line:

Shea butter is a safe lube alternative but as with other oil-based lubes, you need to be mindful of your circumstances before using it.

In the end, you may find the best option is a formulated lubricant — luckily, there are many store-bought options to choose from.

If you’re not sure what type of lubricant is best for your needs, take our lube quiz to find out — you’ll have an answer in less than three minutes!

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.

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