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Can You Wear Two Condoms at Once?

Wondering if using two condoms is better than one for preventing unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? Most medical professionals say it is not worth the risk. Read on to learn all about “double bagging” and why it doesn’t work, as well as other options to help keep your sex life fun and safe at the same time. 

Does wearing two condoms increase protection?

Think two condoms means twice the protection? Think again. Using two condoms at once is considered unsafe because it increases the chances of ripping or tearing. 

Can you wear two condoms? While you might think that wearing two condoms at once means twice the protection, that’s not the case. In fact, the opposite is actually true — using a single condom is still considered the best form of protection from STIs (aside from abstinence). However, the entire medical community, as well as several small studies, says that using two condoms is counterproductive.

When you wear two condoms at once, the friction between the condoms during sex makes them even more likely to tear or break. The increased friction between condoms means a greater chance of breakage, which eliminates any potential protective benefits.

Health practitioners agree. They cite the same reason: Increased friction between the condoms equals a greater chance of one or both ripping. The National Health Service, the largest public health care system in the world, has called the effectiveness of using two condoms “a myth.” They recommend using only one at a time. The Centers for Disease Control also advise against using two condoms at once.

Potential risks of wearing two condoms

While there is not a lot of scientific research on wearing two condoms, several small studies show that doing so does have an increased risk of breakage.

One study, published by the Journal of Human Sexuality, found that using two condoms led to increased friction, which in turn increased the chances of ripping. In another study, researchers found that the condom(s) broke for one out of every five men who wore two condoms and that breakage rates were slightly higher when study participants wore two condoms instead of one. In another small study, researchers found that there was a small chance of ripping (usually at the condom’s tip) when two condoms were worn at once. 

How effective is wearing one condom?

Condoms are considered highly effective, both as a contraceptive and as protection against STIs. Finding the right condom, as well as making sure the condom is used properly, is key to getting the best protection.   

Wearing one condom is very effective at protecting you from unwanted pregnancy or STIs. In fact, of every 100 condoms used correctly, only two will fail, giving condoms a 98% rate of effectiveness. In fact, most incidences of single condoms breaking are found to be caused by improper use. Not putting the condom on right, reusing a condom, or using two condoms at once all greatly increase the chances of breakage. And while condoms do not provide complete protection from HPV (genital warts), genital herpes and syphilis because they can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, they do reduce the risk of transmission, and they offer more than 90% protection from other STIs, such as HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and hepatitis B. For these reasons, and considering the risks of using two at once, a single condom is more than sufficient.

Not putting the condom on right, reusing a condom, or using two condoms at once all greatly increase the chances of breakage.

To make sure the condom is used properly, consider watching a video together with your partner. Then follow these best practices:

  • Be consistent: Condoms need to be used every time you have penetrative sex, and they should be put on right before sex, onto an erect penis.
  • Check it: You should always check a condom for any defects before using it.
  • Keep it cool: Never store condoms in a hot environment, like a car or wallet. Doing so increases the chance they will rip or break. Store in a cool, dry place where they will be easily accessible when you need them.
  • Use an appropriate lube: You never want to use oil-based products like baby oil, petroleum jelly, or cooking oil with latex condoms. These oils can cause the condom to break. Also avoid using the spermicide nonoxynol-9, which has been known to cause irritation. 
  • Discard old condoms: Keep an eye on the expiration date and replace as needed. Expired condoms are a breakage risk.
  • Only use them once: Never reuse a condom. Reusing a condom increases the risk of both breaking the condom and spreading infection. If a condom is taken off for any reason, always throw it out and use a new one afterward.

Condoms come in a variety of different sizes and materials, so there is sure to be one out there that works for you and your partner. Latex and polyurethane are the most popular options, but lambskin is also available for those sensitive to either latex or synthetic materials.

There are some considerations to keep in mind when choosing a condom. Polyurethane is considered equal to latex in terms of protection against STIs. Lambskin, on the other hand, is considered less effective, as some studies have shown they do not protect against viral STIs. Polyurethane condoms also have higher reported rates of slippage and breakage than latex. Internal condoms are another option and are considered equally effective. They do, however, tend to be pricier than typical condoms.        

Are there other ways to increase protection?

If you feel nervous about relying on a single condom, there are other options, such as using an additional form of birth control, which is safer and more effective than relying on two condoms.

The simplest way to improve condom use is to use a personal lubricant. The right amount of lubrication can decrease friction that can cause a break to happen. Don’t use oil-based lubricants, as they have been known to damage latex and increase the chances of breakage. Stick to water-based instead, as these work well with both latex and nonlatex condoms. If you’re sensitive to latex, silicone-based lubes are very popular.

The right amount of lubrication can decrease friction that can cause a break to happen.

Spermicides are also an option, but keep in mind that they only offer protection from pregnancy, not from STIs. They can also irritate the genitals, and overuse can cause inflammation, increasing chances of STI transmission. It is also important to keep in mind that spermicides are less effective than condoms at preventing pregnancy. So if you do want to use one, use it with another form of birth control like a condom or diaphragm. 

You can also combine condoms with hormonal birth control. Choices include:

  • Pills
  • Patch
  • Vaginal ring
  • Estrogen implant (Nexplanon)
  • Injection (Depo Provera shot)

Of all the methods of contraception, the pull-out method is the least preferable, since it doesn’t provide any protection against STIs and has a high incidence of failure.

The takeaway

There are a number of ways to protect yourself from becoming pregnant or contracting an STI, but wearing two condoms isn’t one of them. Talk with your partner to decide which option works best for you both so you can worry less and enjoy your intimacy more. 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4660551/

http://www.ejhs.org/volume17/condom.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15504381

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8131395

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/condoms-know-the-facts/

https://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/male-condom-use.html

https://www.verywellhealth.com/double-bagging-condoms-using-two-condoms-906780

https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sex/best-condoms-barrier-methods#1

https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sex/lube-shopping-guide-types#types-of-lube

https://www.fda.gov/patients/hiv-prevention/condoms-and-sexually-transmitted-diseases

https://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/latex.html

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