Allergic to latex AND polyurethane — other condom options?

Originally Published: July 17, 2009
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Dear Alice,

Some years ago my doctor, after using a pair of latex gloves to examine me, confirmed that I was allergic to latex. She recommended that I use polyurethane condoms when having sex which is what I have been doing ever since. The thing is, I still have a reaction with the polyurethane. It by no means as severe it is with the latex but I still develop infections after use. This is TREMENDOUSLY frustrating and I feel absolutely stuck and out of options for being able to protect myself against STIs and still enjoy my sex life. I figure I can't be the only woman in the world this happens to I am wondering whether you might be able to help!!!

Dear Reader,

Your frustration is quite understandable — having an allergic reaction can seriously hinder getting your groove on. Thankfully there are non-latex and non-polyurethane options, along with some recent modern technological advances in the condom arena that may be your saving grace for an allergy-free tango.

One option to suit your sensitive style is to use condoms made from animal membranes, commonly called lambskin condoms. Lambskin condoms have a natural look and feel but do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This choice may work well for people in committed monogamous relationships who have both been tested for infections and are trying to prevent pregnancy. Allergies to lambskin condoms are fairly uncommon.

Another condom option — polyisoprene — is new on the scene and may be your best bet. Polyisoprene is a material similar to latex but synthetically formulated to remove the compounds that cause irritation in many latex condom users. Additionally, unlike polyurethane condoms, which can feel somewhat less than form-fitting, polyisoprene feels and fits more like super stretchy latex. Polyisoprene condoms are also close in price to traditional latex condoms. Currently, Lifestyles is the exclusive manufacturer of SKYN polyisoprene condoms — for all the specs on polyisoprene technology, check out Lifestyles SKYN product information page.

Here's a general condom search tip: some reputable sex shops allow customers to handle and check out different types of new condoms and talk to experts about condom options, both of which drugstores don't offer. If you are in New York City, a visit to Babeland could get the ball rolling in your quest for allergy-free booty.

Given your sensitive side, be sure to watch out for condoms with spermicide. All spermicides sold in the U.S. contain the chemical nonoxynol-9, which kills sperm. Most condoms (including latex, polyurethane, and possibly soon polyisoprene) come in varieties lubricated with spermicide, which may offer additional protection against pregnancy but can also seriously irritate sensitive genital tissue.

Best of luck in your search for the perfect condom option, and here's to an allergy-free sex life!

Alice