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The odd ingredients in your condoms and lube

Whether you use them together or separately, condoms and lubricants can be made from some ingredients you may not have imagined.


Photo credit: Catherine Lane/E+/Getty Images

No two products are the same, so it can take a little trial and error to find products that you like most. And many companies that manufacture these are not quite open about what’s exactly in them.

That’s why we did a little digging. Here are a few fun facts on some of the ingredients in condoms and lubricants.

  • According to the American Chemical Society, some of them include capsaicin, an ingredient found in spicy chili peppers. Way to spice things up. Not all warming lubricants contain this — some have other herbs and vitamins to help heat things up.
  • Many condoms contain a milk protein or milk powder, so they’re not vegan friendly. If you are, you may want to consider a vegan condom option.
  • Sir Richard’s is one brand that has corn starch on the condoms. The baking ingredient helps keep the latex from sticking to itself and makes it easier to unroll. The same brand does not include the dairy protein casein. This means that their condoms can be vegan and animal friendly.
  • Latex condoms can be derived from plants, but lambskin condoms come from the intestines of lambs and sheep.
  • Looking to prevent pregnancy with the condoms you use? Some contain the spermicide nonoxynol-9, which some people can be sensitive to. Yes, it kills sperm, but it can lead to inflammation in the cervix and vagina. That irritation can lead to urinary tract infections and STDs. Nonoxynol-9 is also a type of detergent.
  • Organic condoms? GLYDE produces flavored condoms that are made with “organic food-grade extracts — no fake chemicals or sugars added.”
  • You have probably heard about avoiding parabens in makeup, so why would you want them in your vagina? They are in many lubricants because they can deter the growth of bacteria, but they also have been found in the tissue of cancerous breast tumors. Due to the fact that they can bind with estrogen, they are thought to be endocrine disruptors and can interact with normal hormonal processes. Not only is cancer a threat, but they may lead to lower sperm counts.
  • Some lubricants contain lidocaine and benzocaine to lessen discomfort — essentially numbing skin. Those can mask pain, which can be useful in telling if something isn’t right.
  • Glycerin, which is in many lubricants, is an ingredient you may want to avoid — especially if you’re prone to yeast infections. It is commonly added to water-based lubricants to make them more slippery, but is similar to glucose, which is sugar… and can help yeast infections grow. Sorbitol is another sugar that could spell problems down below.
  • Acetate is an alcohol that tends to be naturally drying — do you really want that in a lubricant? Still, it is in many and can also lead to tissue tearing, putting you at risk for contracting an STI.
  • Aloe is a must-have when trying to soothe a sunburn, and it’s another ingredient in many products.

Don’t fear condoms or lubricant altogether, though. With a little label reading and internet scouring, you can find a condom and lubricant product that goes easy on your bod and provides all the protection you need.

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