The pH of coconut oil is too high for the vaginal lining
I do love to cook; over the years, I have tried a lot of food “trends” including South Beach, paleo, gluten-free, anti-oxidant, carb-free, high-protein - and the list goes on and on. One of my favorite ingredients is coconut; I have been using it in many forms for decades. It’s great for paleo baking, frying, and is awesome in a curry. My daughter even makes a homemade facial mask using coconut oil.
Much as we love coconut at home and at Damiva, we can’t use it in our products because coconut oil is the wrong pH. We have tested several types of coconut oil and they all test too high - a pH of about 7 or 8, which is wrong for the vaginal tract. During reproductive years, our vaginal pH is between 3.5 and 4.5. After menopause, the pH of our vaginas rises to about 4.5 and even as high as 6. This can create an environment that increases the risk for bacterial vaginosis.
So while coconut is good in our piña coladas and foods, it’s not good for the vagina.
What is pH and why does it matter? pH is a measure of how acid something is. The lower the pH, the more acidic; the higher the pH, the more basic (or alkaline).
It took me a long time researching various 30-year-old microbiology texts before I found out that the optimal labial pH range of 4.5 to 5.5 is higher than optimal vaginal pH. The reason is that our “labial skin,” like the rest of the skin on our bodies, has a protective acid mantle that provides a barrier against the wrong bacteria and subsequent infection. Studies have shown that a pH of the skin, including labial skin, that is under 5.0, keeps the existing "good" bacterial flora attached to the skin. Once the pH of your skin rises, these “good” bacteria detach.
So knowing that we want our labial skin and vulva to be slightly more acidic than our skin, and more basic than inside our vagina, what are the things to know that can cause an imbalance in bacteria and acidity?
Firstly, you have bacteria in the vagina called Lactobacillus that helps keep the vaginal environment acidic. This helps balance the good bacteria and reduce the bad bacteria (such as E. coli) that can cause infections such as bacterial vaginosis. When the vaginal pH is unbalanced, then this allows bad bacteria, yeast, or fungus to flourish.
Secondly, be aware of what changes pH of the vagina and external genitalia. So - what can change pH?
1. Semen - Semen is actually basic, so after sex, the pH of your vagina naturally increases and becomes more basic
2. Menstrual blood - During your period, the pH of the vagina is also less acidic.
3. Hormonal declines after pregnancy or after menopause - Hormonal decreases contribute to different bacterial growth. Lactobacillus start to die off if estrogen is not present, and the result is that the vagina becomes more basic.
4. Soaps and douching - Soap is alkaline (basic) unless specially formulated, and douching removes the healthy bacteria in the vaginal tract. Using a pH-balanced intimate cleanser is the optimal way to clean your genital region.
5. Lubricants and vaginal moisturizers - It’s really important to use the right lubricant for your needs. If you are trying to get pregnant, you will want to use a lubricant that has a higher pH, e.g. 7 or 8. Acidity is not conducive to alkaline semen, so using an acidic lubricant can be a barrier to pregnancy. Conversely, if you are 40-plus and peri-menopausal or menopausal, you will need a lubricant or moisturizer that has a low pH between 3.5 and 4.5 for the vagina, and between 4.5 and 5.5 for the labia. It’s why we formulated Mae and Damiva for optimal pH.
6. Coconut oil - If you are using coconut oil as a lubricant or moisturizer, keep in mind that coconut oil has a high pH of 7 or 8. It feels great on the skin, but it’s not a long-term solution for the genital tract and can erode the protective acid mantle over the long-term.
Thirdly, you can change your vaginal pH by eating probiotics and yogurt to help maintain acidity. Remember that certain products such as lard, shortening or petroleum jelly are not meant to be used as a personal moisturizer. These products can contain contaminants and/or chemicals, and are not pH-balanced for the genital region.
It seems like a lot to remember, but the easiest way is to think of your mucous membrane as one long tract that goes from your mouth to your gut to your vagina. The importance of keeping this tract healthy increases as we age. So, think about what would you want to put into your mouth, gut and vagina? Soap and petroleum jelly? Or natural ingredients that are edible and healthy?
My obsession with good, healthy food was a driver behind the creation of good, healthy products for the vaginal tract and genital region.
Next time you pick up a vaginal product, look at ALL the ingredients and think: would I eat this and do I want this for my vagina, the most sensitive organ in the body? That’s what I did after I learned that vaginal dryness affects 85% of menopausal women. I couldn’t find any products I would want to use, so I decided that I needed to make one for myself and, if possible, other women. I asked Gardiner Smith, my life and business partner, to help me. And together, we made the world’s first 100% natural vaginal suppository, Mae by Damiva, and are now pioneering new menopausal health products across North America.
As we like to say, A Healthy Vagina is a Happy Vagina!
Freedman, Murray: “Vaginal pH, estrogen and genital atrophy”
Ambers, H: “Natural skin surface pH is on average below 5, which is beneficial for its resident flora.”
Washington, N. “Determination of baseline human nasal pH and the effect of intranasally administered buffers.”
Youtube videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8N0PPabHF1s