The Epic Non-Latex Condom & Barrier Guide


 

When you think of a latex allergy, you’re probably thinking of something that involves an EpiPen and maybe a trip to the hospital… but there are actually different kinds of allergic reactions that latex can cause, which range from skin irritation to full-blown anaphylaxis. You also can develop an allergy or a sensitivity to latex at any time and the more you come in contact with latex the more likely you are to develop a sensitivity to it.

I was able to use latex condoms for a few years, but I eventually became sensitized to them, even though other latex products don’t generally bother me (mucous membranes like vulvas can be more sensitive than other skin on the body). It took me a while to realize that I was becoming sensitive to latex condoms because it was a gradual discomfort that kind of mimicked the soreness you get from having enthusiastic penetrative sex. The discomfort continued to get worse until it became a burning sensation, and it became clear the condoms were the culprit.

When I tried using a non-latex condom I couldn’t believe how much better things felt. I’d gotten so used to there being a bit of discomfort—often so minor that being caught up in the act was enough to ignore it—that I forgot how good it felt when there was no discomfort all.


Latex-Free or Does Not Contain Latex vs. Not Made with Natural Rubber Latex

I’ve always found the wording used on labels to be a bit confusing for latex-free products, and it turns out there’s a very good reason. As of December 2014, the FDA revised their guidelines for how products can be labeled:

To avoid false assurances about this hazard to your health, FDA is recommending to manufacturers to stop using the labels “latex-free” or “does not contain latex.” The reason for this recommendation is that the agency is not aware of any tests that can show a product contains no natural rubber latex proteins that can cause allergic reactions. Without a way to verify that a product is completely free of these proteins, a claim that it is “latex free” is scientifically inaccurate and may be misleading. The FDA […] advises firms who want to indicate that natural rubber latex was not used in the manufacturing of their product, to state on the label that it was “not made with natural rubber latex.”

Personally, I find this wording more confusing and I will be using the term “non-latex” throughout this article, but really it all means the same thing.


Quick Links:

 

 


 

Non-Latex Condoms [Section Header]

 


 

Lifestyles SKYN Condoms:

Lifestyles SKYN condoms are made from a material called polyisoprene, which is synthetic and contains absolutely no latex proteins. According to the American Latex Allergy Association (ALAA) “The polyisoprene is immunologically inert and is not known to cause allergic reactions.” Like latex, polyisoprene condoms are NOT compatible with any oil-based lubes or coconut oil, so stick to water-based, hybrid, or silicone lubes—just don’t use silicone lube with silicone toys.

Skyn condoms are the only non-latex penis condoms that come in Large, and they’re also the only brand available in multiple styles: Elite (20% thinner), Extra Studded, and Skyn Selection, which is a mix of Original, Extra Studded, and Extra Lube condoms.

Pros:

The easiest of all non-latex condoms to find (sold in most grocery/drug stores)
Comes in Large, as well as other styles (Elite, Extra Studded, and Extra Lube)
Polyisoprene is a synthetic material and is not known to cause allergic reactions

Cons:

Not compatible with oil-based lubes or oil products


Durex Avanti Bare RealFeel Condoms:

Durex Avanti Bare RealFeel Condoms, like Skyn, are also made from polyisoprene. These are the only condoms on this list I haven’t personally tried besides the Lambskin, because last time I tried to find them either in-stores or online, I wasn’t able to find them. That’s no longer an issue, and they now seem pretty widely available online. Still, there’s not too much to say about these since because by all accounts they’re pretty much the same thing as Skyn, except they’re harder to find in stores, don’t offer multiple sizes or styles, and seem to be slightly more expensive than Skyn.

Pros:

Polyisoprene is a synthetic material and is not known to cause allergic reactions

Cons:

I’ve never found this brand in a store before, but they’re available online.
Slightly more expensive than Lifestyles Skyn condoms (at time of writing)
Not compatible with oil-based lubes or oil products


FC2—the Internal (“Female”) Condom:

Despite the terrible gendered name of this condom, it can be a great option. The condom itself is quite large and easily accommodates (almost) all penis sizes (I’m sure there are exceptions to this, but I’ve heard positive feedback from people who often find Large/XL condoms too tight). Since the outer ring remains external, it also offers more coverage externally, which potentially could help to further protect from STIs that are transmitted via skin-to-skin contact. Since the FC2 condom is made of Nitrile (sheath/outer ring) and polyurethane (inner ring), it’s safe to use with all lubes, including oil-based lubes and coconut oil.

Side note though for all you over-achievers out there: just like you should never use 2 penis condoms at the same time, you should never use a penis and internal condom at the same time, as the friction will likely cause them to break.

The internal condom can look a bit intimidating if you’ve never used it before, but the CDC has a helpful illustration of how the female condom should be inserted:

Female Condom How-to Illustration - Hedonish.com

To see if FC2 is available in your country, see the FC2 distributor map or email: info@fc2femalecondom.com.

 

Pros:

Safe to use with all lubes, including oil-based lubes and coconut oil
Covers more external skin, which may help protect from skin-to-skin transmitted STIs
Works for (probably) all penis sizes
Does not require an erect penis
Can be used vaginally or anally
Can be inserted up to 4 hours before use

Cons:

As of June 2017, in the US FC2 will be going to a prescription-only model (however you can buy them for $20/12-pack for those uninsured or underinsured)
Cost much more than penis condoms
Difficult to find (not generally available in drug or grocery stores)
Studies show it to be less effective than penis condoms at protecting from pregnancy/STIs (due to user error)

 


 

Trojan Naturalamb Luxury Condoms

Naturalamb condoms are made from sheep or lamb intestines. They’re more expensive than the other penis condoms on this list, and while they protect against pregnancy, they offer no protection from STI transmission because there are tiny pores in the lambskin that viruses can pass through.

While I’ve never used these because I’m a bit squicked out about it being an animal product, Naturalamb condom users report that it’s the most natural feel of any condom, which isn’t surprising since the material is thinner than other condoms and allows for more heat transfer. It’s also biodegradable and is safe to use with all lubes, including oil-based ones.

Lamb skin condoms are also the largest condoms on the market at 2.7″ wide X 7.9″ long, and are held on by Trojan’s “Exclusive Kling-Tite Band.”

Pros:

Are reported to have a more natural feel than other condoms, and allow for more heat transfer
Trojan Naturalamb Condoms are the largest condoms on the market and use Trojan’s “Kling-Tite” draw string at the base to hold the condom in place
Safe to use with all lubes, including oil-based lubes and coconut oil
Biodegradable

Cons:

DOES NOT OFFER STI PROTECTION
More expensive than the other non-latex penis condoms
Made from animal products
The large condom size may be overly large for some users
Some users dislike the smell
Condoms expire more quickly than other materials

 


 

Synthetic Polyethylene Resin AT-10 Condoms

Another non-latex alternative is made from a synthetic polyethylene resin called AT-10, which is said to be “approximately three times stronger than latex yet one-third the thickness of standard latex condoms.” They are 15 microns thick, which is 35 microns thinner than the thinnest latex condom. Sold primarily by the brand Unique Condoms, they have received health certification approval in Canada, the European Union, Colombia, and Australia. In the UK, Passante Unique Condoms are made from the same AT-10 material.

They are available for purchase on Amazon in the US, and on the Unique Condoms website, but note that I’m unsure if these have received FDA approval (not that this means their unsafe, especially given their approval in other countries).

 


 

Outside the US

If there are other non-latex options available outside the US, I wasn’t able to find any additional information. Please feel free to reach out with information if there are other options where you live that aren’t included here and I’ll update this list.

 


 

Overall Pros & Cons:

 

Pros:

Great for latex allergies or sensitivities
Feel better during use than latex condoms
(they allow more heat transfer)
Non-latex external (penis) condoms are as effective when used correctly as latex condoms at preventing STIs and pregnancy (except Naturalamb)
Don’t have a bad taste or smell like latex

Cons:

More expensive than latex condoms
Certain brands can be difficult to find or less accessible

 


 

Other Non-Latex Barriers [Section Header]

 


 

Gloves

I’m personally a big fan of gloves for a whole lot of reasons—here’s just a few of them:
They help protect you from STIs—especially for anyone with a vulva who’s prone to micro-fissures or those who often have small cuts on their hands
Gloves reduce friction (just be sure to use lube),
They make clean up super easy
Great for people with long nails or if you’ll be penetrating someone and your nail polish tends to chip off
TIP: if you’ve got really long nails put a piece of a cotton ball in the end before putting them on

Nitrile gloves are a good alternative to latex, are generally pretty affordable, and are easy to find on Amazon. Stick to powder-free gloves and aim for ones with no texture. All the ones I liked had slightly textured fingertips so I turned them inside out before use.

They also come in lots of sizes–I even managed to find some small enough to fit my child-sized hands–and various colors as well. I prefer black gloves; I think they look a bit sexier and less clinical and bodily fluids don’t really show. Since I find well-fitted gloves more comfortable than ones with a bunch of extra room at the fingertips, we bought a small size for my hands, and large size for my partner’s much bigger hands.

 


 

Dental Dams:

While you can purchase latex dental dams, non-latex ones seem to be out of stock everywhere. Don’t worry though because there’s plenty of creative solutions to this problem.

 

A) Cut Up a Non-Latex Condom:

This is a pretty easy solution because there’s a good chance you’ll have these already lying around. Cut off the tip and the end of the condom and then cut down one side. Voila! Dental dam made.

How to Make a Dental Dam from a Condom

 

B) Cut Up a Nitrile Glove

Use the larger gloves for this so there’s more to work with, then cut off the three middle finger and cut it open along the palm on one side. Use the two remaining fingers as grips and enjoy!

 

C) Non-Microwavable Plastic Wrap

I hesitate to put this on here because there’s a big caveat—you can use plastic wrap, but only if it’s NOT MICROWAVE SAFE… and I’ve been unable to find one that can’t be put in the microwave. The microwave-safe kind isn’t safe because it has very tiny pores in it to allow steam to escape, and in this case, would also allow viruses in.

If you know of a brand that fits the bill, please let me know. In the meantime, I’m on the hunt for a non-microwavable plastic wrap, so avoid this for now.

If you’re interested in the science behind why the non-microwavable plastic wrap is safe, check out the video below.

 

 


Share Your Thoughts

One thought on “The Epic Non-Latex Condom & Barrier Guide

  • Luna

    Thanks for this! I had a really similar experience to yours– I got increasingly sensitive to latex over time. Sadly, I’m also sensitive to nitrile (once my labia swelled up like a balloon while my girlfriend was fingering me with a nitrile glove on. It actually was kind of fascinating in a really freaky, uncomfortable way).

    I tend to use Skyns the most, and I feel like the Elite are slightly thinner and better-feeling than the original/large varieties. I really like the feeling of the Unique condoms too, but there are some cons you didn’t mention:

    1. They must be applied to a completely dry penis. They stick to it almost like tight saran wrap, which is part of why they transfer sensation nicely. This means you can’t have spit or lube on someone’s dick before putting the condom on; it can be pretty inconvenient, and difficult/not super sexy to dry off someone’s penis between, say, oral and PIV sex.

    2. They tear easily during rough sex. I can’t use them with one of my partners because he breaks them *every* time.

    3. They can be too tight for people with larger penises. I think they make a larger size now, but I’m not sure how widely available it is, and I haven’t tested it yet.

    Anyway, this is a useful guide! Is it ok if I link to it in the resources page on my blog?