An oil-based lubricant is a personal lubricant that has an oil base rather than a water or silicone base. Examples of oil-based lubricants include baby oil and Vaseline® — also called petroleum jelly. Oil-based lubricants may be used during sexual intercourse to enhance the natural lubrication of the vagina or anus. They may also be used by both men and women to enhance masturbation.
Oil-based lubricants, however, have fallen out of favor as a personal lubricant for sexual intercourse. This is mostly due to the fact that they cannot be used in tandem with a latex condom — most oil-based lubricants cause latex to weaken and tear. Sex toys made of latex also can be damaged by oil-based lubricants. It is, however, possible to use an oil-based lubricant with a polyurethane condom.
Another reason for the decline in oil-based lubricant use is that this type of lubricant is reputed to cause vaginal infections. Many women believe that the use of an oil-based lubricant may be responsible for a subsequent yeast or bladder infection. There is one oil-based lubricant approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that does not increase the risk of infection for women. This lubricant is made with natural oils, but still has not been approved for use with latex condoms.
Oil-based lubricants can be more effective than the alternatives during prolonged sexual contact, as they retain their lubricating properties longer. For this reason, they are also more effective in providing lubrication in a non-sexual context; for example, a menopausal woman suffering from uncomfortable vaginal dryness may wish to relieve it with an oil-based lubricant. This type of lubricant also does not dissolve in water.
There are two alternatives to an oil-based lubricant: water-based lubricants and silicone-based lubricants. Water-based lubricants are primarily water, with glycerin, cellulose, or carrageenan added to enhance lubricity. Generally, water-based lubricants are safe to use with latex condoms, but those that contain glycerin or sugar may cause yeast infections in some women. This type of lubricant also cannot be used in water, as it is water soluble and will wash away.
Silicone-based lubricants primarily contain silicone. This type of lubricant is usually safe to use with condoms and other latex products, but is not always latex-safe. Silicone-based lubricants can also be damaging to sex toys made of silicone. This type of lubricant is longer lasting and less "sticky" feeling than some water-based varieties. It is also more difficult to wash off than oil- or water-based lubricants, and can cause skin irritation in some individuals.