Are There Any Benefits to Using Non-Latex Condoms?
Safe sex wasn’t exactly safe before the invention of the modern condoms. The first prophylactics were probably made from animal bladders, and linen condoms were common through the late 19th century. Accidental pregnancies and infections were fairly common, since condoms were often washed and re-used.
Fortunately, modern manufacturers have a much more effective (and comfortable) material – natural latex. Latex is strong, flexible, durable, and it transmits heat fairly well. However, it’s not the only material on the market, and non-latex condoms have gained popularity over the past decade.
Non-latex condom materials include polyisoprene, polyurethane, animal intestine (commonly referred to as lambskin), and AT-10 (a synthetic resin). If you’ve shopped for condoms recently, you might have wondered why people use non-latex materials and whether these products offer any significant benefits.
Most people primarily use condoms to practice safe sex, so before discussing the potential advantages of non-latex condoms, we’ll note that all condom materials are effective at preventing pregnancy. However, lambskin condoms may not provide adequate protection from sexually transmitted infections – only use lambskin products with a trusted partner.
The major advantages of non-latex condoms include:
Compatibility with Oil-Based Lubricants – If you’re a fan of the slick feel of oil-based lubricants, you can’t use latex; oil creates tiny holes in standard condoms, significantly increasing the chances of breakage. Condoms made from AT-10, polyurethane, and lambskin are compatible with oil-based lubricants, but polyisoprene condoms are only compatible with water and silicone lubes.
Remember, most oil-based lubricants aren’t formulated for vaginal sex and may increase the risks of certain bacterial and fungal infections.
Different Sensations – Users often prefer the feel of non-latex condoms. Lambskin transfers heat especially well and has a natural feel. Polyurethane, polyisoprene, and AT-10 condoms are often thinner than latex condoms, which allows for better heat transfer.
As you might expect, sensations will vary by brand, and your personal preferences certainly play a role in your experience. Try a few different types of condoms to find your favorites.
Fewer Allergic Reactions – Some people are allergic to latex, and normal condoms can cause painful or irritating reactions upon contacting the skin. AT-10, polyurethane, and lambskin condoms are all hypoallergenic. Polyisoprene is actually a type of latex, but it’s treated to remove the allergens that cause adverse reactions.
A Better Fit – If you feel like latex condoms are too snug or tight, AT-10 resin, lambskin, and polyurethane might offer a better experience. Polyisoprene condoms have a similar fit to standard latex, so they’re the best choice if you enjoy the fit of latex condoms, but you need to use a non-latex material due to an allergy.
What are the Advantages of Latex Condoms?
Latex is popular because it’s extremely strong and elastic, and non-latex materials have different qualities that can affect durability. Polyurethane isn’t as flexible and may break more frequently if used improperly; however, polyurethane is also less sensitive to light and extreme changes in temperature, so it has a significantly longer shelf life. Lambskin condoms can expire relatively quickly, while AT-10 and polyisoprene last for about as long as latex.
Latex condoms are also much more economical than condoms made from other materials. Lambskin condoms are usually the most costly option owing to their rather involved manufacturing process. AT-10, polyisoprene, and polyurethane products are also relatively expensive, though costs vary by manufacturer. Of course, all condoms are a smart investment from a long-term perspective – even the most expensive options are much less expensive than an unwanted pregnancy or a course of antibiotics to treat an STD.
Whatever condom you choose, make sure to use it correctly. Store them in a cool, dry place, pay attention to the expiration dates, and use plenty of lubrication to prevent unnecessary friction. By using your condoms properly, you can significantly reduce your risks while enjoying sex, and we strongly recommend protection for all types of penetrative sex.
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What Personal Lubricant Ingredients Can Damage Condoms?
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 Skin – Lambskin 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 a lubricant with a condom is an excellent way to get a more natural feel while staying safe.
Can I Safely Apply Lubricant to the Inside of a Condom?
We’ve said this before, but it’s worth reiterating: protection is an important part of a healthy sex life.
You probably already know that you need to wear a condom in order to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies, and you should also know that a high-quality personal lubricant can make safe sex much more pleasurable. The lube cuts down on friction and creates a natural feel. According to the CDC, adequate lubrication can also help to prevent the condom from breaking.
It’s easy to use lube with your condoms – you can apply lube to either the outside or the inside, provided that you’re using a water or silicone-based product. There’s a common misconception that lube can weaken a condom when applied to the inside, but this couldn’t be further from the truth; by reducing heat and friction, the lubricant helps to minimize stress. Adding a drop or two of your lubricant to the head of the penis will allow the condom to slip over the penis easily, and you’ll enjoy added sensations with every movement.
However, you need to use a little bit of caution when using a lubricant in this manner. Don’t use too much and don’t cover the entire penis with lube. You don’t want to make the inside of the condom too slick, as it could potentially slip off during sex. Because the inside of the condom has a limited amount of air, you won’t need too much lube anyways, and a drop or two should provide plenty of added sensations.
Here’s a few other tips to keep in mind when using lube with a condom:
Make Sure the Condom Fits Properly. Applying lubricant to the inside of a condom will make everything a little more slippery, so pay attention to the fit of the condom. If you begin to lose your erection or if the condom feels loose, withdraw immediately. Get a new condom before you continue having sex.
Store Your Condoms in a Safe Place. Keep them in a cool, dry area away from sunlight. Check for perforations in each condom’s wrapper before you get started and throw away damaged or expired condoms.
Put Your Condom On Early (And Don’t Take It Off Too Late). In order to protect yourself from STDs, you should wear a condom prior to any genital contact. Withdraw immediately after ejaculation and dispose of the condom.
Be Prepared if a Breakage Occurs. If you’re using condoms as your primary contraceptive, you may want to keep the morning after pill (also known as Plan B One-Step) at your home. She should take the pill if your condom fails.
Lubricants and condoms go together like peanut butter and jelly (although they make terrible sandwich), so don’t worry about applying a drop or two to the inside of the latex. It’s a great way to add something new to your sex life, and if you know how to properly store and use your condoms, you’ll stay safe while getting more pleasure from every new experience.
Is Propylene Glycol a Safe Lubricant Ingredient?
Propylene glycol (also known as PG) is one of the most common ingredients in water-based personal lubricants, and if you’ve used more than one lube, there’s a decent chance that you’ve already had contact with the chemical. In fact, if you’ve ever had frozen custard, used cosmetics, or brushed your teeth, you’ve almost certainly benefited from PG.
In recent years, there’s been a backlash against synthetic substances in sexual lubricants, despite the fact that synthetic ingredients aren’t necessarily more dangerous – they’re simply created through industrial processes. Many people avoid products with propylene glycol, but this is largely unnecessary: it’s a safe, useful ingredient, and it’s commonly found in some of the most popular lubricant formulas.
What is Propylene Glycol (And What Does It Do?)
In order to understand the risks of products with PG, it’s helpful to understand its function. Propylene glycol is most commonly used as a humectant, which means that it stops lubricants from drying out. This is important for water-based lubricants, which can evaporate in a matter of minutes if they’re not carefully formulated.
The substance is often misrepresented as a harsh industrial chemical, particularly on the Internet, but it’s important to note that the glycol used in lubricants typically needs to meets strict requirements for USP, USDA, or FDA approval (sometimes all three). Food-grade propylene glycol is created through a carefully controlled manufacturing process, and it’s not identical to the propylene glycol used in industrial applications. In fact, it’s created from different chemicals, and while it’s structurally similar, it’s much safer for internal use.
It’s also completely different from ethylene glycol, a toxic substance found in car antifreeze (PG is also found in car antifreeze, but only as a replacement for ethylene glycol, which has a sweet taste that attracts pets). Unfortunately, some websites mistakenly claim that propylene glycol and ethylene glycol are the same substance. This simply isn’t true.
The bottom line is that propylene glycol is commonly used in foods, and it’s completely non-toxic according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). You probably don’t need to think twice about using products that contain PG.
Will Propylene Glycol Irritate My Skin?
Just to reiterate: most people can safely use products with propylene glycol without any issue whatsoever. It’s considered safe, especially in the relatively low amounts found in personal lubricants.
However, as is the case with most lubricant ingredients, propylene glycol can cause skin irritation for some users. People with sensitive skin may experience burning or itching; symptoms usually subside within several hours. In rare cases, users might show the symptoms of contact dermatitis (think of a poison ivy rash). This is most common with cosmetics that contain PG.
Propylene glycol can also cause vaginal irritation for women with fungal and bacterial infections. However, it doesn’t increase the chances of contracting yeast infections, so it’s safe to use after you’ve recovered. If you have eczema or another skin condition, you should check with your physician before using products with PG to play it safe.
Of course, if you’re especially sensitive or if you’ve had a bad experience, you can easily find lubricants that don’t contain propylene glycol. Look for a simple silicone or water-based lubricant. Water-based lubricants might not last as long since propylene glycol provides an important function in the formula, but there’s plenty of great products out there that will give you plenty of lasting lubrication for your money.