When you’re practicing safe sex, some extra lubrication can be incredibly beneficial. Lube makes sex feel more natural with a condom, and by decreasing friction, it provides some additional protection for sensitive skin. However, you need to choose a lubricant that’s compatible with your condom.

The good news is that you’ve got plenty of options; silicone and water-based lubricants are completely safe to use with latex condoms. In fact, there’s really only one lubricant ingredient that can significantly increase the chances of a latex condom breakage: oil.

Oil-based lubricants are not safe to use with condoms (with one notable exception, Simply Slick) because they permeate the tiny pores in the latex, wearing away at them and causing damage. When you put pressure on the condom – as you do during sex – these tiny holes can expand and the condom can break.

Most oils can damage latex. Mineral oils and vegetable oils are commonly found in some masturbation lubricants and anal lubricants, so look out for these substances. If your lubricant contains oil and it’s not specifically approved for use with latex, play it safe and don’t use it.

Other ingredients that can increase the likelihood of a condom failure include natural acids and coarse sugars, but personal lubricants don’t use these ingredients in high enough concentrations to risk damage. If your lubricant is approved for sexual use and it doesn’t contain oil, it’s safe for your condoms.

The biggest threats to your condoms are environmental. Be sure to store your stash in a cool, dry place, and immediately throw away any condoms with damaged packaging. Never reuse condoms (not only is it gross, but it drastically increases your chances of pregnancy and STDs). Pay attention to expiration dates and promptly dispose of expired condoms.

Using Non-Latex Condoms with Lubricants

That’s all great if you’re using a latex condom, but what if you’re using another material?

Non-latex condoms are growing in popularity, and for the most part, you should follow the same general rules when pairing them with a lube. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Polyurethane – Polyurethane condoms use a non-porous material that doesn’t break down when exposed to oils. However, polyurethane may be more susceptible to breakage than latex. The FDA approves polyurethane as a latex alternative, noting that the material protects against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, but recommending latex over polyurethane.
  • Polyisoprene – Polyisoprene condoms use a special type of latex formulated for people with latex allergies. The same substances that will damage other types of latex will damage polyisoprene (including oil-based lubes). Polyisoprene condoms provide protection from pregnancy and many sexually transmitted diseases including HIV.
  • Animal SkinLambskin or sheepskin condoms can provide protection against pregnancy, but not against many sexually transmitted infections (including HIV), so you should only use them with a trusted partner. They’re safe to use with oil-based lubricants.
  • Remember, you should never use an oil-based lubricant for vaginal sex, as oils can cause fungal and bacterial infections. Never use a lubricant for sexual contact if it isn’t specifically designed for sex; petroleum jellies, hand lotions, massage liquids, and other products may damage your condoms, and they probably aren’t safe for internal use.

    Otherwise, have fun – using lubricant with a condom is an excellent way to get a more natural feel while staying safe.