Who knew that Gwyneth Paltrow took her vaginal health (and ours!) so seriously? Inspired by an episode of Grace and Frankie, where Lily Tomlin develops a homemade lubricant out of yams, the actress and founder of the lifestyle blog, Goop, partnered with Netflix to explain the ins-and-outs (pardon the pun) of natural personal lubricants. Enlisting the help of Dr. Maggie Ney, co-director of the Women’s Clinic at the Akasha Center in Santa Monica, the good doctor elaborates on the perils of parabens and the virtues of coconut oil.
Why not simplify and use over-the-counter lubricants? According to Dr. Ney, most OTC lubricants (and beauty products) contain preservatives made from parabens, to give them longer shelf-lives. Dr. Ney warns that parabens “interfere with our normal, rhythmic, hormonal process” and have been linked to cancers and reproductive health issues, such as fibroids, endometriosis, infertility, and PMS. OTC lubricants also contain glycerin, propylene glycol, chlorhexidine gluconate, and petroleum — all potentially dangerous ingredients which contribute to yeast infections, irritation, and bacterial vaginosis.
So, what are our natural alternatives? Dr. Ney’s motto is, “if it is safe to eat, it is generally safe to apply.” She favors natural oils such as organic coconut oil, olive oil, aloe vera gel, or almond oil. However, there are some drawbacks; oils can compromise the efficacy of latex (don’t use oils with a latex condom) and lubricants can impede sperm motility (don’t use lubricants when trying to conceive). Also, coconut oil’s natural anti-microbial properties can also lead to yeast infections and vaginitis.
In any event, to improve one’s natural lubrication, Ney suggests to increase sources of omega-3 fatty acids (found in wild salmon, sardines, flaxseed oil/flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, or hemp milk) and increase activities that draw blood flow to the pelvic region (she cites cycling as a good example). Adding, “Topically you can apply Vitamin E oil or olive oil to the labia to help moisturize and strengthen the vaginal tissue.”