Are Lubricated Condoms the Right Choice for You?

Lubricated condoms often seem like the smart buy. After all, they provide both lubricant and protection. However, they aren't always the best choice. For example, they're often less than ideal if you're planning on oral sex. You should consider several pros when choosing lubricated versus non-lubricated condoms.

Assorted condoms laying next to each other
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Lubricated Condoms

Lubricated condoms are the latex condoms you find most often in drugstores. Some are lubricated with spermicides, which may be problematic for some people. Others are lubricated with a non-spermicidal personal lubricant.

Many people find that lubricated condoms are easier to work with, and put on, than non-lubricated condoms.

There's nothing inherently wrong with using a lubricated condom. However, most lubricated condoms don't contain enough lubricant for sex, so they may not be saving you as much time and money as you think.

Ideally, even when using a lubricated condom for intercourse, you'll want to also use additional lubricant. Keeping additional water- or silicone-based lubricants handy can improve your sexual experience. Proper lubrication can make safe sex both safer and sexier.

During Vaginal Sex

Lubricated condoms are ideal for vaginal sex. However, couples may require an additional condom-safe lubricant. There's nothing shameful about needing additional lubricant for sex. Not everyone produces an equal amount of lubrication.

Furthermore, when using condoms, you need to use more lubricant, not less. Condoms cause more friction when rubbed against skin than skin does. You can see this yourself by rubbing one on your hand.

One thing to keep an eye out for is what type of lubricant is used on your lubricated condoms. Non-monogamous couples should be careful about using condoms with spermicidal lubricant.

Evidence suggests that spermicidal lubricants containing nonoxynol-9 can increase the risk of HIV by compromising the lining of the vagina or anus, providing the virus easy access into the body.

During Oral or Anal Sex

Lubricated condoms are fine for oral sex. It's just that they may not be ideal. Why?

Because many lubricants taste terrible. In addition, the nonoxynol-9 in spermicidal lubricated condoms can make your tongue go numb. Unlubricated condoms or flavored condoms may be a better option for oral sex.

Lubricated condoms are fine for anal sex, as long as they don't contain nonoxynol-9. However, you will also need additional water-based or silicone lubricant.

Non-Lubricated Condoms

Non-lubricated condoms can be a good choice for some people. First off, they're great for oral sex. No need to worry about the lubrication tasting bad or making your tongue go numb.

They also allow you to choose your own lubricant. That good for several reasons. Not only does it mean you get to use whatever type of lube you prefer, it means you can use however much you want.

Unlubricated condoms are the chameleons of the latex condom world. They're so useful precisely because of that versatility. For oral sex, they can be used as is, or cut into a dental dam, without anyone ingesting lubricant. For vaginal or anal intercourse, they can be paired with the lubricant of your choice.

Avoid using oil-based lubricants with latex condoms as they can degrade the structure of latex and increase the risk of tears and rupture. Mineral oil is especially destructive.

Unlubricated condoms are particularly useful for people who are sensitive to one or more of the ingredients in commercial personal lubricants. With unlubricated condoms, they can find a water- or silicone-based lubricant they like.

Then they can use however much they choose without worrying about irritation from what is already on the condom.

To sum up:

  • Vaginal intercourse: Unlubricated condoms are fine for vaginal intercourse. Pair with a water-based or silicone-based lubricant.
  • Oral sex: Unlubricated condoms are ideal for use during oral sex. There's no lubricant taste to deal with! If you or your partner prefers flavored condoms, you can pair unlubricated condoms with a flavored lube.
  • Anal sex: Unlubricated condoms are fine for anal sex. However, they should be used with an appropriate water- or silicone-based lubricant.

A Word From Verywell

There are advantages and disadvantages of using a lubricated or unlubricated condom. Choose the type that will work best for you and select an appropriate lubricant as well. Wearing a condom is an important way to protect yourself and your partner.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. World Health Organization. Nonoxynol-9 ineffective in preventing HIV infection.

Additional Reading
  • National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Condoms - male. Updated October 8, 2020.

  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Male condom use. Updated July 6, 2016.

  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV Basics - prevention. Updated December 2, 2019.