Having a latex allergy — or simply being sensitive to the substance — can make shopping for condoms that won't irritate your skin frustrating. That's because latex condoms are pretty much everywhere, and with good reason: they're highly effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy and STI/HIV transmission. Fortunately, you can have safe sex with the best non-latex condoms, too — you just have to know what to look for.
Just how common is a latex allergy? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), anywhere from one to 6 percent of the general population can be affected by the allergy, which can cause itchiness, swelling, hives, and in very rare instances, anaphylactic shock. For healthcare workers who regularly wear latex gloves, that percentage is even higher: an estimated eight to 12 percent are impacted.
For people with a latex allergy or sensitivity, condoms made from alternate materials are usually considered the way to go. Polyurethane condoms, which are made from plastic, are ideal for those looking for a thinner, barely-there feel. Meanwhile, polyisoprene condoms, which are made using synthetic rubber, offer more stretchiness than ordinary latex does.
Polyisoprene and polyurethane condoms both have pros and cons, but either are a good choice if you're shopping for latex-free condoms. Lambskin condoms, which are made from an animal product, might appeal to some who prefer a natural option (after all, natural latex comes from trees), but it's important to keep in mind that lambskin won't protect against STIs or HIV.
Still unsure which non-latex condom is right for you? Here are four of my favorites so you can start having the hottest, safest sex ever.
1. Best Overall: Lifestyles SKYN (Polysioprene, Synthetic Latex Condom)
SKYN condoms from LifeStyles are the all-around best alternative to latex condoms for a few reasons. Made from polysioprene, they are technically latex, except because the material is lab-made, all the plant proteins that typically cause skin discomfort are completely eliminated. They're super soft compared to ordinary latex and offer the same degree of protection against pregnancy, HIV, and STIs when used correctly.
A word of caution: If you have an extreme latex allergy, polyisoprene might not be the best option for you since it's technically still in the latex family. For those with just a mild sensitivity, however, they should be fine. Just be sure to consult with a doctor or healthcare provider before you make the switch.
While regular SKYN condoms are a bit thicker than ordinary latex condoms, you can use them with your favorite water-based or silicone lube — but like traditional latex, they're incompatible with oil-based formulas, so be sure to keep them off your nightstand when you're getting down to business.
Another benefit of buying SKYN condoms is that you can actually find them in different sizes. The standard SKYN condom offers a medium- to standard-size fit, but for larger packages, you can definitely size up.
2. Best Ultra-Thin Pick: Trojan Supra Non-Latex Bareskin (Polyurethane Condom)
If you want to skip out on polysioprene (because it's still latex, or for any other reason), then your next best option for a condom that won't irritate your skin is one made using polyurethane, i.e. Trojan's Supra Non-Latex Bareskin condoms. One of the major perks of using polyurethane over polysioprene is that condoms made from this material are much thinner. Polyurethane is actually a type of plastic that doesn't have any traces of latex plant proteins whatsoever, but chances are plastic will be the last thing that crosses your mind once you unwrap one of these.
Perhaps the single greatest reason to choose these condoms over any others featured on this list is that you can use them with oil-based lube. Even if you don't have a latex sensitivity, the fact that these condoms are oil-compatible is a game-changer, since you can't use it with latex and polysioprene. If you're having anal sex and strongly prefer an oil-based option for lubrication, these Trojan condoms are a must-have. They also protect against pregnancy and STIs, so they're basically perfect. The only catch? They're a tad on the pricey side, and some reviewers complain that while thin, they feel looser than they're used to.
3. Best For Internal Use: FC2 Condoms (Nitrile Condom)
Typically, these types of condoms are designed to be worn internally, in a vagina. However, a lot of people are inclined to pass them over because they seem much more complicated to use than condoms made for penises. The truth is, that couldn't be farther from the truth. Yes, internal condoms are different, but there are plenty of advantages to using them, too.
For starters, they're made from strong but flexible nitrile and come with an easy-to-squeeze inner ring that makes insertion pretty easy, once you get past that learning curve. Of course, because they're made of nitrile and not latex, these condoms are a great alternative for anyone with a latex allergy.
Another fun thing about them? Since nitrile is heat-sensitive, this condom actually warms up when exposed to friction, which can feel extra stimulating. Also, because it's designed to worn internally, it can actually be inserted before you start messing around, so you don't have to hit pause on any action when you and your partner are finally ready to get down to business.
4. Best If You're Only Trying To Prevent Pregnancy (Not STIs or HIV): Trojan NaturaLamb (Lambskin Condom)
First thing's first: Natural lambskin condoms do not protect against HIV or STI transmission. That alone should be enough to cross them off your list if you're being sexually active with multiple partners. By all means, get yours — but if you're just using natural lambskin, you could be leaving yourself exposed to major health risks.
All that being said, these condoms are effective for just about everything else. They help protect against pregnancy and they're completely free of latex, so those with a sensitivity might want to consider them as an option.
Lambskin condoms are made from lamb intestines, and they have do have a slight smell that takes some getting used to, but many reviewers swear by them, and insist that they're the closest to going to wearing nothing.
One reviewer even raved: "Best feeling after not using any. This is as close to 'without' that you can get. It is amazing, although a bit different to put on. I would recommend this to anyone who is tired of condoms that make it hard to feel anything."
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