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Do flavoured condoms/lube/dental dams cause infections?

Q: Someone came to my sex ed class and was giving away flavoured condoms. Are they safe to use? I heard they can cause infections.

Sexual activity often does a great job of engaging the senses. There’s typically enough going on that you’ll have lots to see, smell, hear, touch, and yes, taste. Some people choose to add to the taste experience by using flavoured condoms, lube, and dental dams.

Flavoured items can taste like lots of things. Fruit flavours are common (like orange, banana, and strawberry), as are things like mint, cola, vanilla, chocolate, or even Pina Colada. Some companies even make novelty flavours, like bacon, whiskey, or garlic. They can be bought at pharmacies, sex shops, or online.

Folks may find that their skin is sensitive to ingredients that are added to make flavours. While the ingredients are often fine to be consumed orally, the tissue around vaginas and anuses is more sensitive, and can easily get to irritated. Viruses and bacteria like to find weak spots into the body, which rashes or hives are. So even though it’s not the flavours that cause infections, a negative reaction to them could make it easier for STIs to get into your body. The only real exception with this is around yeast infections: some people who are particularly prone to yeast infections find they are very sensitive to the sugars in flavourings and may react.

Flavoured items aren’t necessarily less effective at preventing STIs or pregnancy. However, they’re mainly designed to be used for oral sex only. Here are some things to consider if you’re interested in using flavoured condoms for other activities:

Read the Product Info

Some condoms will say if they’re meant for oral sex only, or if they’re also meant for vaginal and anal sex. If a condom says it’s meant for “novelty” purposes (like garlic or bacon flavoured ones), they aren’t necessarily trustworthy at preventing against STIs or pregnancy. (Items made as a joke are meant to be funny first, and may not follow the same safety precautions in manufacturing or storage.)

Stick with Brands You Like

If you’re already using condoms that don’t cause you any reactions or irritations, it might be worth trying their flavoured options first. While it’s not a guarantee, there’s a stronger chance the ingredients they use will stay consistent with what your body is okay with.

Prepare for Different Activities

The more activities you do with a condom, the more chances there are for the condom to break or tear without you noticing (from teeth, etc). Adding lube (flavoured or not) can also help reduce friction. It is never recommended to use the same condom when switching from anal sex to oral or vaginal.

Make Your Own Lube

As outlined in our DIY Lube post, there are a number of ways you can make your own lube that don’t involve sugars. Sometimes chemical ingredient can cause irritations (or just taste bad) and natural ingredients might be easier on your body. Be sure to choose a recipe that doesn’t involve oils, as those break down latex condoms and make them less effective.

So yeah, flavoured condoms can be just as safe and effective to use as non-flavoured condoms! It’s up to you if you want to use flavoured items if you want them to be a part of your safer sex practices, or for certain activities. The choice is yours!

Resources

If you have questions about this topic, feel free to contact one of our peer educators. [Link]