Sexual Health Q&A

Can allergies to personal care items affect one’s sex life?

Yes, it’s possible. While it’s difficult to know how certain products will affect a person, common irritants include the following:

• Soaps, including bubble baths
• Perfumed products
• Powders
• Fabric dyes (such as in underwear)
• Laundry detergents
• Spermicides (creams, foams, and gels)
• Lubricants
• Douches
• Vaginal sprays
• Vaginal deodorants
• Latex condoms

Allergies may cause itching, tenderness, or pain in the affected area. There may also be a rash, lumps, or blisters. These symptoms can make sex uncomfortable.

Often, the symptoms clear up when the product is no longer used. For persistent symptoms, people with allergies should see their doctor. In some cases, treatment may be necessary.

For both men and women, it’s important to clean the genitals thoroughly and regularly.

Men can wash their penis with mild soap and water, although uncircumcised men should take extra care of the foreskin.

Women can clean their genitals with water only - or with water and mild soap. Douches, vaginal wipes, and other feminine cleansing products are not recommended, as they can irritate the area. They can also disrupt the normal balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the vagina.