Is it true that using lubricant with condoms can be dangerous? That products like Vaseline can break the latex?

Great question! Condoms and lube are great ways to transform your sex life, but it’s important to know what works together and what doesn’t.

For those who aren’t sure, lube (sometimes called personal lubricant or sexual lubricant) is a slippery gel, liquid or cream used to decrease friction during sex. It’s a simple, easy way to make sex comfier and more pleasurable for everyone!

When someone with a vagina is turned on or sexually stimulated, their vagina and cervix produce some natural lubrication—aka, getting “wet.” The amount varies depending on the person and circumstances. Some people feel like they don’t need lube for penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex because there’s enough natural lubrication. Plus, many condoms have some lube on the outside already. However, other people find they need lube to make sex feel good. Others don’t need it, but like it anyway! Every body is different.

Unlike the vagina however, the anus doesn’t produce natural lubrication. This makes lube extra important if you’re having anal sex. Without it, anal sex may feel uncomfortable or even painful. Always use lube for anal sex.

You’re right that some kinds of lube just don’t play well with condoms, though.

Most condoms are made of latex. Unfortunately, oil-based lubes like Vaseline, cooking oils, coconut oil, baby oil and body lotions break down latex. This means using oil-based lube can make your condoms break. This puts you and your partner at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and/or pregnancy. In addition, oil-based lubes can trap bacteria and cause infections, which is no fun for anyone.

The good news is that there are plenty of other kinds of lube that you can use with condoms.

Water- or silicone-based lubes are safe to use with condoms. They also reduce the chance that the condom will break during sex. Water-based lube is easier to clean up, but usually doesn’t last as long as silicone-based lube (which means you have to reapply it more). However, silicone-based lube can destroy silicone sex toys, so be careful and use water-based lubes with toys.

Very few items marketed as sexual lubricants are oil-based. Most will be clearly marked as either silicone- or water-based. If you’re unsure, look at the ingredients list.

You can get lube at most drug stores, online and for free at many community health clinics, including the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center.

If you’re using non-latex condoms, keep in mind that polyisoprene reacts to oil-based lubes in the same way latex does. Polyurethane condoms, however, are totally safe to use with oil-based lubes.

Learn more about natural lubrication, the different kinds of lube and how to use lube.