An extremely versatile product, natural coconut oil is one of the more well-known home remedies on the market. This multipurpose oil claims to solve nearly any problem, earning it a prized place in the pantry, as a cooking staple, and a must-have in the medicine cabinet, for its ability to soften skin and hair.1
Now, coconut oil is moving from the kitchens and bathrooms to the bedrooms of many women who are discovering that among its seemingly magical “cure-all” properties, is the ability to help naturally lubricate and alleviate symptoms of vaginal dryness that often accompany perimenopause and menopause.
A Not-So-Subtle Symptom: Vaginal Dryness During Menopause
Most women may associate hot flashes, mood swings, and weight gain as being some of the more common signs of perimenopause or menopause; likely because those symptoms are seen as less “taboo” for general conversation. It's not unusual to hear women commiserating about insomnia or irritability over lunch, but stories about vaginal dryness or painful sex? Maybe not so much.
But while they may not be talking about it, many women experience vaginal dryness and its associated symptoms. According to the Cleveland Clinic, of women ages 18-50, approximately 17% reported having problems with vaginal dryness during sex.2 Additionally, according to The Menopause Society (formally known as the North American Menopause Society) vulvovaginal atrophy is highly prevalent in menopausal women, affecting approximately 27% to 84%,3 although the exact rate is unknown due to a presumed underreporting from patients.
But it’s not just a woman’s sex life that vaginal dryness affects. It can make things like exercising, urinating, and even sitting for long periods of time uncomfortable. And while menopause may not be the only cause, it is a significant one. Why? Because estrogen production declines as a woman approaches menopause, resulting in less moisture in the lining of the vagina. Without that natural lubrication, the vaginal walls start to become thin and dry, making things uncomfortable. Topical estrogen creams, hormone replacement therapy, over-the-counter products and prescription medications can all potentially help. Still, coconut oil may offer a more natural and effective solution for women who may not want to go those routes.
Is Coconut Oil Good for Vaginal Dryness?
It’s important to note that not all oils are created equal, and unless you want bigger issues than just vaginal dryness, do your best to avoid grabbing the nearest jar of baby oil or Vaseline to solve this problem.
First of all, baby oil and mineral oil can weaken condoms. And while you may not be worried about pregnancy at this stage of life, you can still contract a STD through unprotected sex. Secondly, mineral oils are also more likely to irritate the vulva (the external genital tissues) and have been shown to contribute to different types of vaginal infections.3 On the other hand, coconut oil is naturally derived and can be applied to your entire vaginal area, to address vaginal itching and dryness, both internally and externally. While it, too, can break down the integrity of latex, and should not be used with condoms or diaphragms, it’s not as likely to cause irritation or infection and may help to address some of your existing vaginal issues.
“Coconut oil is soothing, lubricating, and cooling, which is very beneficial for dry, irritated, and sensitive skin and mucous membranes,” says Debby Andersen, Ayurvedic Practitioner and Women's Health Expert. “It also has antifungal and antibacterial properties, so it won't feed infections.”
Choosing a coconut oil boils down to two main options: refined and unrefined. Refined coconut oil undergoes processing after extraction from the coconut meat. Unrefined oil does not.4 Does it matter which one you choose? Sources say not really, although most experts would agree that anything you put on or in your body should be as pure as possible.
“Ayurveda (which is a type of alternative medicine that takes a holistic approach to caring for physical and mental health)5 says that anything we apply topically to our skin should be pure enough to be ingested, so, the stuff you would cook with is actually best,” explains Anderson. “I recommend organic, extra-virgin coconut oil. It's minimally processed, but the most important thing, is to be sure there aren't any additives or fragrances.”
How To Use Coconut Oil for Vaginal Dryness
While there are currently no scientific studies showing the effectiveness of coconut oil for managing vaginal dryness or itching, plenty of studies have shown that it’s an effective skin moisturizer.6 However, before using coconut oil for existing vaginal itching or dryness, (or anything else for that matter), it’s important to always perform a patch test on your arm or leg first, to ensure you don't have an unknown allergy. If no reaction occurs, you can choose to melt the solid oil by rubbing it in your hands and then apply it to the vulvovaginal area before intercourse or anytime you experience vaginal dryness or discomfort. Anderson recommends wearing a pantyliner if you apply it before getting dressed, as the coconut oil can stain if it comes in contact with fabric. You may also want to use a towel over your sheets if you’re using it during sex. A little goes a long way, so start with a small amount.
It’s always a good idea to check-in with your own healthcare provider as well, before trying something new, as they know your medical history best and can advise which management options may be most effective for your unique needs.
Natural Alternatives Other than Coconut Oil for Addressing Vaginal Itching and Dryness
While it’s considered a jack of all trades, and one of the most popular natural remedies out there, coconut oil is by no means the only option for dealing with vaginal dryness or vaginal itching. Anderson states she, “often recommends ghee, which is a natural, clarified butter7, that is sometimes infused with specific herbs, for my clients who struggle with vaginal dryness.” She continues, “it's [been shown to be] a really effective remedy for internal vaginal lubrication and could probably be used like coconut oil as well.”
Other Effective Options for Addressing Vaginal Dryness
If you prefer to keep your food in the kitchen there are other alternatives for the management of vaginal dryness. You could give Revaree® a try, which is a vaginal insert that works wonders in managing vaginal dryness, without hormones, steroids or parabens. Made with hyaluronic acid, a naturally occurring molecule in the body, Revaree is designed to attract and retain moisture in the vaginal cell lining, which helps to strengthen tissue and elasticity with consistent use. Simple, effective, and with much less mess than oil, you can use Revaree once every two or three days before bed to renew the body's moisture for comfort during intimacy or whenever you need it.
Bonafide's Solution for Vaginal Dryness
Revaree® is a hormone-free treatment option for vaginal atrophy and associated symptoms of dryness, burning, irritation and painful sex. .
Other management options include vaginal lubricants, which are used on a more “on-demand” basis, and can be helpful during sex to ease insertion or penetration. As mentioned, prescription options are available through your healthcare provider as well.
A Final Note on Coconut Oil and Remedies for Vaginal Dryness
Before using any oil or new products to address vaginal itching and dryness, always consult with your physician. And, if you find that naturally derived remedies provide no relief, you might need to consider another course of management.
“If vaginal dryness is interfering with your quality of life or your relationship, and home remedies such as [the above] haven't helped, you should definitely see your healthcare practitioner to discuss your treatment options,” advises Anderson.
We understand that the only thing more uncomfortable than vaginal dryness is discussing it, but you don’t have to suffer in silence. Chances are that almost every woman you know shares your concerns (or has at one point in their lives). Talking about it with friends and your physician helps to remove the stigma and can enable you get back to enjoying your life to the fullest.