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 protection and lubricant to minimize friction. However, they aren't always the best choice. For example, they're often less than ideal if you're planning on oral sex.

This article discusses the differences between lubricated and non-lubricated condoms. It also covers how to decide which one to use.

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 to kill sperm 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 easier and safer. By helping minimize friction, it can reduce the chance of a condom breaking and decrease your risk of injury.

During Vaginal Sex

Lubricated condoms are often used for vaginal sex. However, you may need to use additional lubricant as well. Condoms cause more friction when rubbed against the skin than bare skin does.

Keep in mind that 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, either water- or silicone-based. 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. This gives the virus easy access into the body.

During Oral or Anal Sex

For oral sex, lubricated condoms help protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). However, they may not be ideal 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 help protect against STDs 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 means you can use the type you want and however much you want.

Non-lubricated 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 to use without 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. They can degrade the structure of latex and increase the risk of condom tears and rupture. Mineral oil is especially destructive.

Non-lubricated 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-based or silicone-based lubricants that you like.

You can also use as much lubricant you want without worrying about irritation from what is already on the condom.

When using non-lubricated condoms, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Vaginal intercourse: Non-lubricated condoms can be used during vaginal intercourse. Pair with a water-based or silicone-based lubricant.
  • Oral sex: Non-lubricated condoms can either be used with no lubricant or flavored lube.
  • Anal sex: Non-lubricated condoms should be used with an appropriate water-based or silicone-based lubricant.

Summary

Lubricated condoms and non-lubricated condoms both provide protection during sex. When choosing one to use, there are several factors to keep in mind.

Lubricated condoms can be easier to put on than non-lubricated condoms. However, they usually don't have enough lubricant to reduce friction. You may choose to use additional lubricant with lubricated condoms.

Non-lubricated condoms may be preferable during oral sex. They can also be used to provide protection in vaginal and anal sex. To reduce friction, use a separate water-based or silicone-based lubricant.

A Word From Verywell

Lubricated and non-lubricated 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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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.