Can you Really use Coconut Oil for Everything?
Coconut oil has become a popular home remedy for multiple physical complaints including vaginal dryness. The vagina is a delicate microenvironment that is sensitive to pH changes. Using products in the vagina can affect the pH and overall health of the vaginal tissue. A product's osmolality or ability to draw out water can also make your vagina even drier. There has been recent interest in coconut oil as a natural moisturizer for the vagina. Often we think of natural is safe but that may not always true when it comes to our health. The bottom line is the research studies on coconut oil in the vagina have not been completed and there are varying opinions on whether it can be safely used as a lubricant or moisturizer for the vagina.
Coconut oil is oil based which can put your as risk for a biofilm in your vagina and therefore at risk for recurrent bacterial infections. Also, anytime your natural vagina flora is affected you can put yourself at risk for a yeast infection.
It is important to consider whether you are using it for a vaginal lubricant for lubrication during sex or a vaginal moisturizer to rehydrate dry vaginal tissue. As a lubricant it could degrade the latex in condoms and therefore put you at risk for unplanned pregnancy if you use condoms for your birth control method. This can also put you at risk for sexually transmitted infections.
Vaginal and vulvar (the skin around your vagina) itching are not always a sign of lack of moiture and more serious conditions could be causing your symptoms. Evaluation by a gynecologist is important to ensure correct diagnosis and treatment. Vaginal dryness can be caused by lactation, menopause, medications, inflammatory bowel disease, malingnancy and many others so it is important to be fully evalauted before self treating. I believe coconut oil is safe to try in moderation for vaginal dryness. Any time any product is introduced into a sensitive part of your body, it is important to monitor for signs of contact dermatitis or worsening symptoms. If you choose to use coconut oil for a moisturizer, use a small amount and only two times per week. Also monitor for changes in symptoms like itching, irritation, redness, pain or odor.
In general, for healthy vaginal and vuvlar care, I recommend the following:
- cotton underwear as much as possible
- no underwear when able
- mild soap only on the outside skin like non-scented white Dove
- no products on the inside of the vagina
- Sitz bathes (sitting in plain warm water) can be soothing and help reset the pH of your vagina
- avoid shaving pubic hair
Dr Shepherd is a native of East Texas. She trained at Brown University and is happy to be back in Texas