Sexual Health

Can Condoms Cause Irritation?

Some condoms can be more irritating than you think

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Using condoms is a responsible and effective way to practice safe sex. However, condoms can sometimes lead to skin irritation. In some cases, the irritation can be so bad that it leads to a severe rash. If you or your partner is dealing with constant rashes after condom use, here are a few tips to consider before shedding condoms forever.


Make Sure the Condom Is the Right Fit

It is important to find condoms with the right fit. Condoms that do not fit correctly can lead to irritation.[1,2] In fact, studies found that when condoms were ill-fitting, irritation was one of the leading complaints by users.[1]


Check the Coating on the Inside or Outside of the Condom

Condoms can have coatings on them that can lead to skin irritation and allergies. Here are a few chemicals to watch out for when using condoms:


If you or your partner are using condoms designed to prolong intercourse, you may find that many of these condoms contain benzocaine. Benzocaine is an anesthetic that reduces sensation to the penis and extends intercourse. While benzocaine allergies are rare, they are estimated to affect 0.2% of the population[3] and have been known to cause condom-related rashes.[4-6] While this seems low, that amounts to over 500,000 people that may have the allergy. Topical lidocaine could reduce benzocaine allergy but could also dissolve the condom, resulting in condom failure. It is best to discuss with a qualified health professional if you are hoping to use an effective alternative to benzocaine-based condoms.


Condoms that are coated with spermicide typically use nonoxynol-9 which can be irritating to the skin. These condoms may have a warning that multiple uses per day can lead to vaginal irritation. This is for good reason, as previous studies have shown that up to 43% of women can experience vaginal irritation when nonoxynol-9 is used multiple times a day.[7] The nonoxynol-9 based condoms may increase the rates of urinary tract infections among women as well.[8]


Try a Non-Latex Condom

Latex based condoms can lead to allergies in those that are latex-sensitive.[9] While many condoms are made of latex, there are many alternatives. There are several options to choose from:

  • Lambskin: These condoms will prevent pregnancy, but they are not good for preventing sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Polyurethane-based condoms: These condoms are a great alternative to latex condoms. They tend to be thinner and transfer heat better, which may lead to a better feel during the act.
  • Polyisoprene: This is the newest condom material on the market, and is a synthetic polymer that can be used in those that are latex or polyurethane sensitive.
  • Female condom: Female condoms are made of nitrile that is not allergenic compared to latex and are a great alternative for those who want to be nitrile-free. It is not recommended to use a male and female condom together. They may get stuck to one another or tear, which would break the condoms.

Condoms are meant to be a safe and effective way to enjoy intercourse. If you or your partner experience irritation after condom use, consider trying a few alternative condom options. If you are having frequent irritation and suspect that you may have an allergy, seek help from a local dermatologist for testing.

 For further information on the use of condoms and sexually transmitted diseases, click on the article links below:

SexuallyTransmitted Diseases That You Can Still Get if You Use a Condom

What are the Causes for Penile Discharge?

Six Causes of Vaginal Discharge

* This Website is for general skin beauty, wellness, and health information only. This Website is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. The information provided on this Website should never be used to disregard, delay, or refuse treatment or advice from a physician or a qualified health provider.

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  1. Crosby RA, Yarber WL, Graham CA, et al. Does it fit okay? Problems with condom use as a function of self-reported poor fit. Sex Transm Infect.2010;86(1):36-38; PMID: 20157178.
  2. Crosby R, Yarber WL, Sanders SA, et al. Condom discomfort and associated problems with their use among university students. J Am Coll Health.2005;54(3):143-147; PMID: 16335313.
  3. Thyssen JP, Linneberg A, Menne T, et al. The epidemiology of contact allergy in the general population--prevalence and main findings. Contact Dermatitis.2007;57(5):287-299; PMID: 17937743.
  4. Placucci F, Lorenzi S, La Placa M, et al. Sensitization to benzocaine on a condom. Contact Dermatitis.1996;34(4):293; PMID: 8730170.
  5. Foti C, Bonamonte D, Antelmi A, et al. Allergic contact dermatitis to condoms: description of a clinical case and analytical review of current literature. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol.2004;26(3):481-485; PMID: 15518180.
  6. Muratore L, Calogiuri G, Foti C, et al. Contact allergy to benzocaine in a condom. Contact Dermatitis.2008;59(3):173-174; PMID: 18759899.
  7. Niruthisard S, Roddy RE, Chutivongse S. The effects of frequent nonoxynol-9 use on the vaginal and cervical mucosa. Sex Transm Dis.1991;18(3):176-179; PMID: 1658953.
  8. Fihn SD, Boyko EJ, Chen CL, et al. Use of spermicide-coated condoms and other risk factors for urinary tract infection caused by Staphylococcus saprophyticus. Arch Intern Med.1998;158(3):281-287; PMID: 9472209.
  9. Docena GH, Benitez P, Fernandez R, et al. Identification of allergenic proteins in condoms by immunoenzymatic methods. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol.2000;85(1):77-83; PMID: 10923610.