Condom allergy? It could be the lubrication!


According to the Cleveland Clinic latex allergies affect around 1 % of the population so are extremely rare, but they can still happen.

However, many people think they are allergic to latex condoms after experiencing irritation, painful sex or even a vaginal infection after using one during sex play so switch to latex free condoms, often more expensive than latex condoms. This is a conversation we often have.

Many condoms are not very well lubricated so cause friction leading to irritation and soreness, people use lubricants which contain irritating ingredients with their condoms, and it is often the ingredients in the lubricant/spermicide on the condom that causes irritation, stinging or even thrush.

One of the problems is that many vagina and vulva owners, in particular, experience a wide range of vulva/vaginal health issues due to the delicate pH of the vulva and vagina which can be disrupted by feminine hygiene products, sexual lubricants and vaginal moisturisers, dyes in underwear and many medical issues such as vaginal atrophy, vulvodynia, lichens sclerosus, genital eczema, to name just a few.

You can check the lubricant ingredients on the box but be aware that some condom manufacturers, including well known brands, do not include the lubricant ingredients on their packaging even when they have space. So it is worth exploring different brands such as SKINS which use a silicone lubricant if you experience any irritation.

Perfumed condoms, including vegan ones have hit our high street shelves and online, and it is advisable to avoid these brands if you experience any vaginal, vulval or anal irritation. No one needs a perfumed condom. Flavoured condoms are great for oral sex, but I never recommend them for vaginal penetration. It is frustrating when I see perfumed condoms, intimate washes and wipes, lubes and vaginal moisturisers full of irritating ingredients in goody bags at women’s health and medical events where we are talking about vagina/vulva/anal health.

Symptoms of Latex Allergy

According to the Mayo Clinic these include:

  • Itching
  • Reddened skin
  • A rash or hives

If your latex allergy is more severe, you may experience these symptoms:

  • Sneezing
  • A runny nose
  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • A scratchy throat
  • Trouble breathing
  • Wheezing (an abnormal whistling sound when you breathe)
  • A cough

So how can you tell if it is a latex condom allergy?

Timing of any reaction is key according to Dr Schaffir at the Mayo Clinic. He explains that “If you consistently have a reaction following sex with latex condoms – usually within a day and lasting one to four days – and the symptoms are not present otherwise or after sex without the latex condom, then an allergy should be suspected”.

Latex Allergy Link to Food

There also seems to be a link between having a latex allergy and certain foods including avocados, chestnuts, kiwis and bananas because they contain similar proteins to the ones found in natural latex.

I spoke to a breast cancer consultant who said one of his patients had an allergic reaction to a sexual lubricant available on prescription because it contained an extract of kiwi which she was allergic to so even if a sexual lubricant is considered natural, it is important to check the ingredients if you know you have an allergy to any of the food mentioned above.

This is why checking ingredients of any intimate product is essential, do a skin test on your inner forearm and on your labia before use, to rule out any allergic reaction or irritation.

Be a Condom Detective

For the vast majority of people latex condoms do not present a problem but if you have noticed irritation, itching or soreness, check the lubricant ingredients on the condom, the lubricant ingredients in the brand you are using with the condom or try using your own skin safe lubricant with your condom. It is also worth trying different condom brands because you may find that one lubricated with silicone lubricant does not cause irritation or prefer to use non lubricated condoms with your own water based or silicone lubricant. SUTIL Luxe offers the best of both worlds as it is water based but feels like a silicone lubricant. Getting the right fit is important for comfort and compliance too.

Just because a condom brand says their lubricant is natural without listing the ingredients does not mean it is free from irritating ingredients which is why you need to choose brands that list the ingredients on their packaging, do not just take their word that it is “natural”.