Are Lubricated Condoms the Right Choice for You?

There are several considerations to keep in mind when choosing lubricated versus non-lubricated condoms. Lubricated condoms 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.

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. They may be lubricated with spermicides or a non-spermicidal personal lubricant.

Some people find that lubricated condoms are easier to manage and put on than non-lubricated condoms.

However, most lubricated condoms don't contain enough lubricant for sex.

When using a lubricated condom for intercourse, you might want to also use additional lubricant. Proper lubrication can make safe sex safer and sexier.

During Vaginal Sex

Lubricated condoms are often used for vaginal sex. However, when using condoms, you need to use more lubricant, not less. Condoms cause more friction when rubbed against the skin than bare skin does. You can see this yourself by rubbing one on your hand.

And not everyone produces an equal amount of lubrication—so there's nothing shameful about needing additional lubricant for sex.

If you use a separate lubricant, you need to make sure you're using a condom-safe lubricant, and some couples might opt for 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 generally better for oral sex. No need to worry about the lubrication tasting bad or making your tongue go numb.

And with non-lubricated condoms, you can choose your own lubricant. That's 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 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 because they can degrade the structure of latex and increase the risk of condom tears and rupture. Mineral oil is especially destructive.

Unlubricated condoms are particularly useful if you are sensitive to one or more of the ingredients in commercial personal lubricants. When you use unlubricated condoms, you can find water or silicone-based lubricants that you like.

You can use however much lubricant you 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 flavored lube.
  • Anal sex: Unlubricated condoms are fine for anal sex. However, they should be used with appropriate water or silicone-based lubricant.

A Word From Verywell

Lubricated and unlubricated condoms each have their advantages and disadvantages. Choose the type that will work best for you and you can also select an appropriate separate 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.