Potential Causes of Irritation with Condom Use and What to Do About it

Having protected sex with your partner or friend can be an amazing experience, one that doesn’t have the consequences of starting a family sooner than you want and also knowing that you are protected from disease.

This is an important factor to most people to ensure that they are safe and comfortable with the situation.

However, if you are noticing that you are uncomfortable afterward it’s quite possible that you are having a negative reaction to the ingredients and materials used in the making of that condom.

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But what is causing the irritation and what can I do about it?


There are plenty of other options out there for those that have a reaction to condoms.

While some people may have an allergy to some of what is used, it’s quite possible that it could just me mild irritation from something that while not allergic to it, could be causing you a reaction.

Let’s take a look at the causes and the solution for this issue.

They Have to Fit Correctly

While this may seem like a reason that one wouldn’t think of, making sure the condom fits correctly for you so that the condom is not moving and causing chafing.

While this can be uncomfortable for the male, it can also be the same for the female as it should be tighter to the skin and not moving around so much.

Most studies even found that the leading complain was due to a condom that didn’t fit properly.[1]

Is There Enough Lubrication?

This is one of the easier ones to fix as well. One reason that the condoms can cause irritation is if there is not enough lubrication, either natural or from a bottle, there is increased friction and potential pain.[2]

This might not be because of a lack of arousal, which is a potential reason, but the woman not produce as much natural lubrication as others, or they need to drink more water.

Whatever the case may be, just use personal lubrication for more comfort and less irritation.

Ingredients that Could be Causing Irritation

Spermacides: These are products used in condoms to kill the sperm so in order to prevent pregnancy. The ingredient in this is nonoxynol-9 which is coated on the condoms and is a known irritant.

Many products even have a warning on them that multiple daily uses can cause vaginal irritation, which over 40% of women experience.[3]

One reason that they can cause irritation is that it’s a chemical and can create small cuts on the vaginal wall that can be painful.[4]

Something to remember regarding spermicides is that they don’t provide additional protection than regular condoms[5] so instead of using this, just get regularly lubricated condoms.

As long as they are used properly, they are both equally effective at preventing pregnancy.

Benzocaine: This is for those who are trying to have their pleasure last longer. This product is an anesthetic, which as many knows will reduce the sensation so the male can last longer.

There is really no alternative to benzocaine except for lidocaine, however that can cause the condom to dissolve, so not the best route.[6]

The Latex Itself: While some of the irritation could be from the ingredients used with the latex, it could also be the latex itself.

One the reactions that you could be experiencing with a sensitivity to latex could be a rash, redness, and itchiness, all of which are more mild symptoms, and could be experienced anywhere from 6 to 48 hours after the exposure.[7]

There are more serious symptoms that one could experience if they have an allergy however a sensitivity or irritation will be less intense.

What Can You Try Instead

There are plenty of options that you can try. There are non-latex condoms and while they are potentially more expensive, they are still safe, just as latex ones are, and safer for you as someone who gets irritated by other ones.

The more comfortable they are, the more likely you are to wear them.

There are Polyurethane condoms, which are made of a type of rubber that is not latex. Just know that if you try these ones, they are thinner than regular condoms and can tear easier, so be a bit more careful when using them (and don’t use an oil-based lubricant either).[8]

Another type of non-latex condoms is polyisoprene, a synthetic material but one that can be used if you have an irritation to latex or polyurethane.[9]

There are also female condoms that are made of a completely different material, nitrile, and this can be used for the woman instead of the man (it’s not recommended to use them both together).[10]

You Can Be Comfortable!

With all the information provided to you, there is a multitude of ways that can allow you and your partner to be comfortable when using condoms so that you don’t have any irritations.

Intercourse should be comfortable for the most part and enjoyable, and it will be neither if anyone is uncomfortable. It can be a trial and error process though, one that can also be pleasurable too.

Buy a multipack from a big-box store or online and have fun finding ones, with the combination of personal lubricants, that can work for you and your partner.

It can definitely mean the difference between enjoyable sex and something you don’t want to do again.


  1. Raja Sivamani, MD, MS, AP. Is Your Condom Bothering You? Learn What to Try. [ link ]
  2. University of California, Santa Barbara. During Sex, the Condom Has Been Irritating My Vagina. Why Could This Be Happening? [ link ]
  3. See Above #1
  4. See Above #2
  5. Planned Parenthood. What is Causing my Vaginal Irritation? [ link ]
  6. See Above #1
  7. See Above #2
  8. See Above #2
  9. See Above #1
  10. See Above #1
  11. Image: Pixabay

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