Can You Use Vegetable Glycerin As Lube, Or For Anal Sex?

For many reasons, you should not use vegetable glycerin as a personal lubricant for oral, vaginal, or anal sex.
Photograph Of Vegetable Glycerin Bottle On White Table Top With Bedding Out Of Focus In The Distant Background

No — you should not use vegetable glycerin as lube for any type of sex.

Here’s why:

  • Pure vegetable glycerin can break down the mucous membranes in your vagina or rectum, damaging tissues and putting you at greater risk of contracting an STI.
  • Although glycerin (also known as glycerol) is a humectant — it helps your body to retain moisture — studies have shown that it acts as a food source for Candida albicans, the most common microorganism responsible for causing yeast infections. Vegetable glycerin can increase your risk of such infections, particularly if you’re already prone to them.
  • When used as a vaginal lube or as part of a homemade lube mixture, glycerin raises osmolality, damaging genital skin cells and putting you at a higher risk of STI transmission.

Vegetable glycerin is a sugar alcohol compound derived from palm, soy, or coconut oils and is commonly used in cosmetic products for its softening and emollient properties.

Although it has a slippery, syrup-like consistency that can seem ideal as a personal lubricant, vegetable glycerin is NOT considered safe.

In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about using vegetable glycerin 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 Vegetable Glycerin As Lube?

You should not use vegetable glycerin as lube because it has the potential to cause yeast infections and vulvar or anal irritation, and it can put you at a higher risk of STI transmission.

Here’s what you need to know about using vegetable glycerin as lube:

  • Using pure vegetable glycerin as lube can break down the mucous membranes in your vagina or anus, damaging their tissues and putting you at greater risk of transmitting an STI.
  • Glycerin is a food source for the most common type of yeast microorganism responsible for yeast infections — Candida albicans — and as such, can lead to yeast overgrowth that causes infection, especially if you’re already prone to recurring yeast infections.
  • Since glycerin acts as a humectant — it draws in moisture and retains it — when used as a vaginal lube or as part of a homemade lube mixture, glycerin increases osmolality which can damage genital tissues and put you at higher risk of STI transmission.
  • Vegetable glycerin is safe to ingest but it can lead to dry mouth if used as an edible lube during oral sex.

Vegetable glycerin is a sugar-alcohol compound derived from palm, soy, or coconut oils — which, on the surface, sounds perfectly natural (and safe).

It’s commonly used in cosmetic products for its softening and emollient properties and it acts as a humectant, meaning it draws in and retains moisture.

Vegetable glycerin is so good at this, however, that it is capable of drawing in too much moisture, offsetting the osmolality of your vaginal or anal tissues, ultimately causing dryness and potential irritation.

Additionally, studies have shown that glycerin can serve as a food source for the yeast microorganism Candida albicans, potentially causing overgrowth that leads to yeast infections.

The risk is greatest among those who are prone to recurring yeast infections.

Although vegetable glycerin is safe for ingestion — it has a slightly sweet taste and is often used as a sugar substitute or preservative in food — it can potentially lead to dryness of the mouth if used as a lube during oral sex.

This study from 2018 found that glycerol affects tissue homeostasis (internal stability) at concentrations above 42.5%, and has a “desiccating [moisture removing] effect” on the oral mucus membranes.

In short, we do not recommend using vegetable glycerin as a personal lubricant — for any type of sex.

There are much safer lube alternatives available.

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Can You Use Vegetable Glycerin As A Vaginal Lube?

No.

It’s not a good idea to use vegetable glycerin as vaginal lube because it could lead to a yeast infection or increase your risk of STI transmission.

This 2015 study found that “vaginal application glycerin significantly increased susceptibility to herpes.”

Additionally, that same study found that “low concentrations of glycerin and their metabolites have also been shown to serve as a food source for Candida albicans.”

Candida albicans is the most common species of yeast responsible for the development of yeast infections.

Glycerin feeds this particular type of yeast, increasing your risk of developing a vaginal yeast infection in the process — especially if you’re susceptible to them.

Using glycerin as lube also offsets the natural osmolality levels in the vagina.

Since glycerin acts as a humectant, it draws in moisture and retains it. When used as a vaginal lube, glycerin increases osmolality which can damage genital tissues.

Pure vegetable glycerin is not a safe lube alternative and shouldn’t be used for lubricating the vagina during sex or masturbation.

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Can You Use Vegetable Glycerin As Anal Lube?

No, you should not use vegetable glycerin as anal lube for the same reasons it shouldn’t be used vaginally — and more.

Vegetable glycerin can lead to yeast overgrowth (yes — anal yeast infections are a thing) — and it can also disrupt the osmolality of the anus, as well.

Additionally, when administered rectally, glycerol acts as a laxative, making it great for relieving constipation, but not a good choice for anal sex.

Needing to run to the bathroom is probably the last thing you want to worry about when partaking in anal sex.

It’s best to leave the vegetable glycerin on the shelf and reach for a safe anal lube alternative or a store-bought anal lube, instead.

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What Is Vegetable Glycerin Made From And Is It Safe?

Glycerin, also known as glycerol or glycerine, is a clear liquid that is sweet to the taste and slippery to the touch.

Vegetable glycerin is a fatty liquid usually made from the oils of soybeans, palms, or coconuts.

It’s classified as a trihydroxy sugar alcohol and functions as an emollient in cosmetic products and a solvent and sweetener in food products. Glycerin is often found in formulated personal lubricants, as well.

You may be wondering, how is vegetable glycerin made?

Manufacturers produce vegetable glycerin by melting down coconut, palm, or soy oils under pressure.

This causes the glycerin to split off into the water which is then distilled to obtain pure vegetable glycerin.

Pure vegetable glycerin has a wide variety of uses, including herbal extracts (used as a substitute for an alcohol base), skincare and hair care products, and food preparation or preservation.

While vegetable glycerin is perfectly safe in such applications, it is not safe to use as lube for oral, vaginal, or anal sex, as we discussed above.

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What Are Better Lube Alternatives To Vegetable Glycerin?

Instead of vegetable glycerin, we highly suggest using a store-bought personal lubricant that is body-safe.

There are many 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
Oil-Based
Silicone-Based
Condom TypesAllPolyurethane, nitrile and lambskin onlyAll
Sex Toy TypesAllAll but latexAll but silicone
Bath/Shower UseNoYesYes
Does It Stain?NoYesYes
Lube Type:
Condom Types
Sex Toy Types
Bath/Shower Use
Does It Stain?

Personal lubricant comes in many formulas and there is a lube for every sexual situation and personal preference!

Be sure to look through our in-depth lube guide or take our helpful lube quiz if you’re on the hunt for one.

Let’s take a quick look at the four primary lube categories below.

  • Water-Based Lubricants

Water-based lubricant is typically more lightweight compared to other lubes.

It’s water-soluble, meaning it’s easy to clean up but it isn’t waterproof.

Some (but not all!) water-based lubricants are pH-balanced, which, if you’re prone to yeast infections or itching after sex, can be a boon for irritation-free sex.

You can safely use water-based lube with all condoms, diaphragms, dental dams, and sex toys, but you may find that they require extra reapplication during extended sex sessions.

We researched and reviewed the safest and best water-based personal lubricants if you’re interested in picking one for yourself.

  • Silicone-Based Lubricants

Unlike water-based lubes, silicone-based lubricants are waterproof and extremely long-lasting.

There are quite a few differences between water-based and silicone-based lubes. Ultimately when it comes to choosing a personal lubricant, personal preference and intended use are the most important considerations.

Silicone personal lubricants are usually thicker in consistency and feel silky and smooth to the touch.

Silicone lube is particularly great for anal sex because of its texture and consistency, offering plenty of cushion for comfortable penetration.

Silicone personal lubricant should not be used with sex toys made from silicone because it can degrade and damage the material.

Take a look at our review of silicone-based personal lubes to find the safest and best silicone lubes available right now.

  • Oil-Based Lubricants

Oil-based lubricants are made from natural, body-safe (and sometimes organic) oils that are great for vaginal and anal sex.

If you have nut allergies, do be mindful when choosing an oil-based lubricant as some contain nut-based oil ingredients.

Oil-based lubes feel luxurious and thick. Similar to silicone lubes, oil-based lubricants are also waterproof and very long-lasting.

You should not use oil-based lubricants with latex or polyisoprene condoms, diaphragms, or dental dams.

Oil-based lubes can pose a choking hazard due to their thickness and for this reason, most should not be used for oral sex.

We reviewed the best oil-based personal lubricants if you’re interested in finding your next favorite oil-based lube.

  • Natural And Organic Lubricants

Depending on the product, natural and organic lubricants may be oil or water-based.

It’s important to note that natural and organic lubes may include nut-based oils, which should be avoided by those with allergies or sensitivities.

Take a look at the best and safest natural and organic lubricants that are available right now.

Are There Any Safe Home Lube Alternatives?

In a pinch, there are a few safe lube alternatives that can be found around the house:

While we consider these alternatives to be safe for most, they are not necessarily safe for all sexual situations — or people.

Never use an oil-based lube alternative with latex or polyisoprene condoms, diaphragms, or dental dams, as the oil will degrade their material and render them ineffective.

As we recommend with any type of lube, it’s a good idea to patch test your lube alternative on non-genital skin to watch for potential allergic reactions before using it as a personal lubricant.

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Bottom Line: 

You should not use vegetable glycerin as a personal lubricant for oral, vaginal, or anal sex.

Instead, reach for a high-quality, store-bought lubricant or a safe at-home lube alternative.

If you’re not sure where to start — or what you need — read through our in-depth personal lube guide or take our lube quiz!