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Allergic To Sex?

Allergic To Sex? | Jo Divine

As a sex toy retailer who only sells skin safe sex toys and sexual lubricants we often spend time advising people about why the products they are using as a sexual lubricant or sex toy are not suitable because many can cause allergic reactions and irritation.

However there are many other reasons why you may think you’re allergic to sex.

From vulval/vaginal/penile/anal irritation, swollen or inflamed genitals, burning, itching or stinging, hives, thrush or bacterial vaginosis, it is important to seek medical advice.

A ”sex allergy”, as such, does not really exist, however an allergic reaction can frequently occurs as a result of using some lubricants and vaginal moisturisers, alternatives to lubricants, condoms, sex toys, DIY sex toys, feminine hygiene products and even semen. This is why it is important to rule out a latex or lubricant allergy and only use high quality products from trusted brands designed for sex play.

Sperm Allergy

If you notice your genitals swelling or feeling irritated during or after sex, it may be due to a sperm allergy. You may even notice redness or itching around your mouth after oral sex too. Known as seminal plasma hypersensitivity it is more common that many people think. A study by the University of Cincinnati published in the Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine (2011) found that around 40,000 women in the USA might have a hypersensitivity to one or more of the protein components in human semen.

Treatment is effective in the form of using condoms, desensitizing the vagina with dilutions of seminal fluid or subcutaneous desensitization using seminal plasma proteins from the woman’s sexual partner.

You may not be allergic to semen but to the components of semen. The food and drink a person ingests passes into their bodily fluids including semen so it may be an allergic reaction to food or drink or even a side effect from medication your sexual partner is taking.

It was reported in BMJ Case Reports ( 8th March 2019) that a woman in Spain was diagnosed with anaphylaxis — a severe, whole-body allergic reaction that can be life-threatening after oral sex with her partner. He had been taking a course of the antibiotic amoxicillin ( part of the penicillin family of antibiotics) for an ear infection. After receiving treament the woman later told doctors that she had a penicillin allergy. There are few studies on how much drugs accumulate in men’s semen, but in theory, amoxicillin could become quite concentrated in semen, according to the authors.

Latex Allergy

Latex allergy, caused by exposure to latex condoms, is probably the most common cause of allergic reactions during sex. Allergic reactions to latex could affect either partner coming into exposure with the latex condom.

Symptoms may include localized itching, burning, and rash, or could involve more severe symptoms, including hives, asthma symptoms, and anaphylaxis. Often these symptoms occur within seconds to minutes of latex exposure, although contact dermatitis to latex occurs many hours after latex exposure and involves itchy, blistering skin only at the site of latex exposure.

Some people often assume they have a latex allergy when they are allergic to the ingredients in the lubricant or spermicide. Some condoms are also perfumed to mask the smell of the material they are made from which can cause irritation.

Statistics show that more than 6% of the general population have a latex/rubber allergy, rising to 10% in healthcare workers.

People who are predisposed to allergic health conditions such as asthma, hay fever, eczema and food allergies are more likely to be at risk of developing a latex allergy. In addition to healthcare workers, those working in rubber manufacturing and people who have undergone multiple surgical operations and invasive procedures are also more likely to be sensitive to latex.

You do not have to give up on your sex life because there are many latex free sex toys, condoms and sexual accessories which are skin safe and hypo-allergenic but it is important to buy from a reputable retailer or manufacturer.

Allergic to Dairy Products

Some people who are allergic to dairy products can experience an allergic reaction when using certain condoms because of the use of Casein, a protein milk used to make latex smooth – or the dry dusting powder that makes condoms less sticky. Vegan condoms are a great alternative to use instead.

Allergic to Sexual Lubricant

Using a sexual lubricant is the simplest way to enhance your sexual intimacy and pleasure yet some people think using lubricant is just for fixing a problem. They prefer not to use a sexual lubricant even though our vaginal lubrication changes throughout the month due to our hormones, menopause, side effects to medication, breastfeeding, medical interventions and stress. This lack of vaginal lubrication can lead to friction during penetrative sex, irritation and even thrush.

The anus is not self lubricating which is why it is important to use a pH balanced lubricant such as YES BUT designed for anal play to prevent irritation or allergic reaction.

Many people are careful about what they eat and what beauty products they use on their face, hair and body, often spending £100’s. However, few think about what their sexual lubricant contains, even though they’re putting it on one of the most sensitive and highly absorbent areas of their body: their clitoris and vagina.

The vast majority of sexual lubricants and vaginal moisturisers, including many well known brands available on the high street and online contain irritating ingredients that can leave your vulva and vagina feeling itchy, sore, red and inflamed and even cause thrush or bacterial vaginosis.

The vagina is often referred to being a “well oiled engine”, as it is a self-lubricating organ. It also has a very delicate pH balance, so introducing ingredients found in many commercially available sexual lubricants can actually do more harm than good. This is also a common occurrence when people use household products as a lubricant substitute

By upsetting the vagina’s pH balance, also known as the “vaginal flora”, common vaginal infections such as thrush and Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) can develop. This is because the new environment caused by certain lubricants is more favourable for the bacteria or yeast to grow in.

It is so important to avoid products that contain glycerin, glycols, parabens, warming and cooling lubricants, flavoured lubes (great for oral sex, not good for vagina health), dyes and glitter. Often lubricants feel tacky because of the glycerin which can pill into little balls when rubbed. Glycerin is a sugar which creates the perfect environment for thrush to thrive.

Glycols ( propylene glycols) are well known vaginal irritants and found in nearly all sexual lubricants available over the counter and online.

Parabens (methylparabens) are included as preservatives in many cosmetics, personal care and food products to prevent bacterial growth. Being weakly oestrogenic it is best to avoid products which contain them as the vagina and vulva are highly absorbent.

Choose a skin safe pH balanced sexual lubricant or vaginal moisturiser such as YES products, free from all the above mentioned ingredients. Alway check the ingredients label before you buy or ask your GP if they are prescribing a product, do a skin test prior to use and wash off if it causes stinging, itching ,burning or swelling.

The same goes when choosing condoms as many are lubricated with products that contain irritating ingredients.

Using Food as a sexual lubricant

There seems to be a misconception that if a substance is slippery it’s fine to stick inside your vagina, anus or on your vulva for sex. Many people think by choosing what they think are more natural products for sexual lubricants, they will not experience any problems.

Yet olive oil, vegetable oil, coconut oil and almond oil are not designed for vagina use and can cause irritation and will destroy condoms. Coconut oil and almond oil can be particularly problematic for those who have a tree nut allergy but may not know they do.

The same goes for products found in the bathroom.

A 2 year study at UCLA of 141 sexually active women aged between 18 and 65 (2013) found that those women who reported using oils, such as those found in your kitchen cupboard had a 32% increased risk for yeast infection.

Using Bathroom Cupboard Products

A 2 year study at UCLA of 141 sexually active women aged between 18 and 65 (2013) found that women who used petroleum jelly intravaginally increased their risk for bacterial vaginosis by 22%. Owning a sex toy company we have heard of a wide range of completely unuitable products people use or think are safe to use as a sexual lubricant including vaseline, baby oil, olive oil, Bio oil, sudocream, germolene, butter, margarine, lard, cooking fat!

“Tingling” “Warming” and “Cooling” Lubricants

Some people find warming and cooling lubricants can enhance their sexual pleasure, but it’s important to be cautious about the ingredients. Often the tingling/cooling effect is caused by menthol. Many warming lubricants contain capsaicin, the active component of chilli peppers, which can be extremely damaging to the delicate tissue of the genitals. These products often contain glycerol and alcohol, also detrimental to intimate health.

Flavoured Lubricants

Many people love flavoured lubricants, especially for oral sex, however they have no place inside the vagina or on the vulva as many contain sweeteners, flavourings and ingredients which can cause thrush and irritation. Your vagina or penis should not taste or smell of strawberries or salted caramel.

If you like flavoured lubricants, keep them for oral sex, wash off after use and switch to a skin safe lubricant free from irrritating ingredients when enjoying vagina/vulval play.

Your Sex Toy

Many people have no idea that some sex toys are made from materials that are harmful to their intimate health. This is why it is so important to buy skin safe sex toys made from only silicone, glass, metal or ABS plastic.

You may think you’ve bagged a cheap sex toy but it won’t be cheap if you end up with an itching vulval or vagina or a bout of thrush and have to buy some anti thrush cream or pessaries or even a prescription for antibiotics if you get bacterial vaginosis!

It is important to buy from a reputable retailer like Jo Divine as there are many fake and used products available online and that is often the reason why they are selling it so cheaply.

Sex toys made from jelly and rubber should be avoided.The material used to make these products has not been clinically tested and can contain unpleasant substances such as phthalates, which are harmful to health and have been banned from children’s toys. Phthalates are used to make plastics and rubber softer to enable it to be moulded and more flexible. Rubber/jelly products are porous and therefore difficult to keep clean unlike non porous silicone, glass, metal and ABS plastic. The material used to make them is more prone to breaking down and degrading over time, making the product unhygienic to use and increase the transmission of infection and bacteria.

Be aware of jelly/rubber mix sex toys, it is one of the cheapest materials around because it can be shaped and dyed to almost any specification. The tell-tale sign of a jelly/rubber sex toy is the strong smell when you open the packaging. Some manufacturers will also use perfume to mask the unpleasant smell of rubber or jelly which can cause irritation or an allergic reaction.

Some sex toys are dyed which can cause irritation or an allergic reaction too.

Tha same goes for latex sex toys and accessories. Many people suffer from latex allergies due to the prevalence of latex found in most condoms and surgical gloves, some dildos, vibrators and bondage products.

When choosing a sex toy, do not assume it is latex free. Many mass produced sex toys are made in factories where the same mould is used for both latex and non latex sex toys. The moulds are not sterilised between factory runs, therefore latex particles can become embedded in the so-called latex free products. Latex dust particles can float around in the factory environment landing on the products being manufactured at the time, thus contaminating them.

This does not occur during the manufacture of silicone sex toys. Most silicone manufacturers only use silicone and can guarantee that their products are completely latex free. At Jo Divine we only sell skin safe sex toys and only work with reputable manufacturers.

DIY Sex Toys

It is alway good to be creative with your sex play but not when it comes to sex toys. Whilst it is safe to use kitchen utensils like spatulas, wooden spoons and meat tenderisers for impact play and the bristles of a hairbrush, comb, silk scarves and ribbons for sensate play, using DIY sex toys can damage your sexual health and pleasure and may land you in A&E.

Abrasive/rough foods such as vegetables may cause an irritation or allergic reaction, sugary food products such as syrup, honey, fruit or chocolate spread can cause thrush and sausages/salami based products contain nitrites which are not beneficial to the body.

Household products such as your electric toothbrush, hairbrush handle, facial exfoliator, TV remote, mobile phone, screwdriver handle, glass bottles, metal implements, aerosol cans, elastic bands as constriction rings are not hygienic, can be abrasive and cause irritation or allergic reaction. Also remember they are not easy to clean once you have used them inside your vagina or anus or on your vulva!

Feminine Hygiene Products

Many vagina/vulva owners have no idea that they are destroying their intimate health, friendly bacteria, disrupting vagina pH and sex lives by using feminine hygiene products.

In recent years we have been deluged with hundreds of feminine hygiene products, vulva make up, detox sticks and bags, vagina tightening products, perfumed condoms, scented menstrual products, intimate vagina wahes and douches, poor sexual lubricants and vaginal moisturisers that women are bombarded with from well known brands, celebrities, influencers and beauty brands. The myth that our vaginas need to be scoured, scrubbed, disinfected, detoxed, tightened and smell of roses or lavender needs to be debunked.

Research by the University of Guelp in Canada found that 95% of women use feminine hygiene products in the form of douches, washes, wipes, and lubricants to keep their vagina clean and smell lovely, yet many of these products can be detrimental to vagina health and our sexual pleasure.

They found that women who used gel sanitizers were eight times more likely to have a yeast infection and almost 20 times more likely to have a bacterial infection.

Women using feminine washes or gels were almost 3 ½ times more likely to have a bacterial infection and 2 ½ times more likely to report a urinary tract infection.

Participants using feminine wipes were twice as likely to have a urinary tract infection, and those using lubricants or moisturizers were 2 ½ times as likely to have a yeast infection.

If you care about your vagina/vulva health, want to keep it happy and healthy, save money and enjoy better sexual intimacy and pleasure, then ditch the feminine hygiene products, wash with water and choose a skin safe pH balanced glycerin, glycol, parabens free sexual lubricant or vaginal moisturisers.

Your Underwear

Many people find their underwear can cause irritation which can impact upon their sex life. Many men suffer from a form of contact dermatitis called intertrigo, more commonly known as “jock itch”. This is caused by a combination of eczema, a slight fungal infection and irritant such as sweat, all contributing to making the skin feel sore and red.

Those who exercise regularly are more prone to it, especially during the summer months when the weather is warmer as fungi need warm moist conditions to thrive but it can affect all men.

Christopher Eden, Professor of urology at the Royal Surrey County Hospital suggests sticking to underpants made from absorbent materials such as cotton which will soak up sweat and keep it away from the skin to prevent allergies and contact dermatitis. Materials such as silk, nylon and Lycra can exacerbate the problem, especially if they are tight body fitting designs which keep the material and testicles close to the body.

The same goes for our knickers too. Cotton knickers are much better for our intimate health as many synthetic materials contain harsh chemicals which can irritate the tissue of the vulva and even exacerbate/cause thrush. Artificial dyes can cause problems too. Phenylenediamine (PDD), a compound used in black dye is often used in cheaper, poor quality pants, causing skin irritations so choose reputable brands or avoid buying black pants.

It is really important to ditch your underwear at night and even your sleep wear to allow air to circulate around your genitals. Sleeping in the nude is healthier for women as it prevents yeast infections from thriving in warm, moist conditions. Wearing something tight or restrictive prevents air from circulating, causing you to sweat and encouraging thrush to grow.

The same goes for men too. A combination of not showering or bathing frequently and wearing the same pants/pyjamas for several days can lead to fungal infections such as thrush. Men get very sweaty and often scratch themselves, transferring bacteria from their bottom which stay on the pants.

Although it is a good idea to go commando during the summer months, especially when wearing long skirts or dresses, it is advisable to wear underwear underneath trousers and tights as the material may irritate the skin. You could switch to stockings to allow more air to circulate around your vulva.

Become your own Detective!

If you think you may be allergic to sex, become your own detective by eliminating some of the culprits mentioned above. Clearly if you think you may have a latex allergy, seek medical advice.

However, by switching to a skin safe pH balanced sexual lubricant, latex free condoms, checking the ingredients and material label on any future sexual lubricants, condoms and sex toys you buy, ditching feminine hygiene products, wearing cotton undies and sleeping naked you’ll soon find any sexual irritation will disappear.

Leave the DIY sex toys and products you think could be used as a lubricant in the kitchen and bathroom where they belong so you can enjoy better sexual health, intimacy and pleasure.