CAS number 26571-11-9 YesY
PubChem 72385
ChemSpider 65319 YesY
EC number 247-816-5
DrugBank DB06804
KEGG D06490 N
MeSH Nonoxynol
Beilstein Reference 2031786
Jmol-3D images Image 1
Image 2
Image 3
Molecular formula C33H60O10
Molar mass 616.82 g mol−1
Exact mass 616.418648140 g mol-1
log P 4.02
Routes of
 N (verify) (what is: YesY/N?)
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Infobox references

Nonoxynol-9, sometimes abbreviated as N-9, is an organic compound that is used as a surfactant. It is a member of the nonoxynol family of nonionic surfactants. N-9 and related compounds are ingredients in various cleaning and cosmetic products. It is widely used in contraceptives for its spermicidal properties. However, its use in STD prevention is controversial.




As a spermicide, it attacks the acrosomal membranes of the sperm, causing the sperm to be immobilized. Nonoxynol-9 is the active ingredient in most spermicidal creams, jellies, foams, gel, film, and suppositories.[citation needed]

A 2004 study found that over a six-month period, the typical-use failure rates for five nonoxynol-9 vaginal contraceptives (film, suppository, and gels at three different concentrations) ranged from 10% to 20%.[1]


Many models of condoms are lubricated with solutions containing nonoxynol-9. In this role, it has been promoted as a backup method for avoiding pregnancy and a microbicide for sexually transmitted diseases in the event of condom failure. However, the 2001 WHO / CONRAD Technical Consultation on Nonoxynol-9 concluded that [2]

There is no published scientific evidence that N-9-lubricated condoms provide any additional protection against pregnancy or STDs compared with condoms lubricated with other products. Since adverse effects due to the addition of N-9 to condoms cannot be excluded, such condoms should no longer be promoted. However, it is better to use N-9-lubricated condoms than no condoms. Compared to regular lubricated condoms, condoms containing nonoxynol-9 present another disadvantage — they have a shorter shelf life.

Cervical barriers

Almost all brands of diaphragm jelly contain nonoxynol-9 as the active ingredient. This jelly may also be used for a cervical cap. Most contraceptive sponges contain nonoxynol-9 as an active ingredient.

Shaving cream

Nonoxynol-9 is sometimes included in shaving creams for its properties as a nonionic surfactant; it helps break down skin oils that normally protect hair from moisture, so that they become wet and, hence, softer and easier to shave. Gillette formerly used nonoxynol-9 for this purpose in its Foamy products, but has discontinued the practice.

Sports cream

Nonoxynol-9 is also found in Bengay Vanishing Scent as an inactive ingredient.

Poison ivy creams

Nonoxynol-9 is also found in Zanfel poison ivy cream. It effectively helps to break up the oil urushiol that causes the rash.

Side effects

From 1996 to 2000, a UN-sponsored study conducted in several locations in Africa followed nearly 1,000 sex workers who used nonoxynol-9 gels or a placebo. The HIV infection rate among those using nonoxynol-9 was about 50% higher than those who used the placebo; those using nonoxynol-9 also had a higher incidence of vaginal lesions, which may have contributed to this increased risk. Whereas these results may not be directly applicable to lower-frequency use, these findings combined with lack of any demonstrated HIV-prevention benefit from nonoxynol-9 use have led most major health agencies to recommend that it no longer be used by women at high risk of HIV infection. The WHO further notes that "Nonoxynol-9 offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia."[2]

Regular use of nonoxynol-9 appears also to increase the risk of infection with sexually transmitted human papillomaviruses (HPVs) that can cause cervical cancer.[3][4] In one of the studies, researchers at the National Cancer Institute also reported that the increased likelihood of HPV infection caused by N-9 was mitigated through the use of carrageenan-based lubricants mixed 1:1 with N-9. Two consumer products containing carrageenan, Divine 9 and BIOglide, prevented detectable HPV infection in the study.


Three alternatives to nonoxynol-9 spermicide are:[citation needed]

  • ContraGel Green: Manufactured by DeltaMed GmbH in Germany and approved for use in Europe with the CE0124 mark.
  • Menfegol: Available as a foaming tablet in Europe.
  • Benzalkonium chloride: The active ingredient in one brand of contraceptive sponge, available only in France.


  1. ^ Elizabeth G. Raymond, Pai Lien Chen, Joanne Luoto, for the Spermicide Trial Group. "Contraceptive Effectiveness and Safety of Five Nonoxynol-9 Spermicides: A Randomized Trial" Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2004; 103:430-439. available online
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ Marais D, Carrara H, Kay P, Ramjee G, Allan B, Williamson AL. The impact of the use of COL-1492, a nonoxynol-9 vaginal gel, on the presence of cervical human papillomavirus in female sex workers. Virus Res. 2006 Nov;121(2):220-2. Epub 2006 Jul 24. PMID 16860426
  4. ^ Roberts, Jeffrey N; Christopher B Buck, Cynthia D Thompson, Rhonda Kines, Marcelino Bernardo, Peter L Choyke, Douglas R Lowy, John T Schiller (July 2007). "Genital transmission of HPV in a mouse model is potentiated by nonoxynol-9 and inhibited by carrageenan". Nat Med 13 (7): 857–861. doi:10.1038/nm1598. ISSN 1078-8956. PMID 17603495. "A widely used vaginal spermicide, nonoxynol-9 (N-9), greatly increased susceptibility to infection. ... As expected, the CMC-based gel containing N-9 rendered the mucosa susceptible to significant HPV pseudovirus infection (P = 0.03), while the carrageenan-based gel prevented detectable infection. ... Overall, these results raised the possibility that use of over-the-counter N-9-containing vaginal contraceptives is a risk factor for genital HPV infection in women." 

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