Don't be a fool, wrap your tool...but not with that!
May 23, 2010 10:59 AM   Subscribe

New girlfriend, we're talking about sex, doing it safely, but she's allergic to latex. What to do?

Looking for general condom advice for a person that's only done latex condoms in the past, and am a little clueless about non-latex options. For bonus points, need to be about the same dimensions as a Trojan Magnum (non XL version). What does the Metafilter community use to wrap up when they can't use regular latex condoms?

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total)
Non-latex condoms:

P.S. they're great :)
posted by torisaur at 11:02 AM on May 23, 2010

Polyurethane condoms have been around for a while, but their lack of stretchiness can be offputting. OTOH, some people like them better than latex. (Presumably the polyisoprene that torisaur just linked to is an improvement over the polyurethane. Haven't used 'em myself.)
posted by hattifattener at 11:14 AM on May 23, 2010

I went to the sexual health clinic and asked for advice on non-latex condoms. Honestly can't remember the brand, but go to the clinic - this is not common, but not that rare and they will be happy to give you advice.

Also, try one on beforehand - the investment of time, money, and energy is always worth it. You're not really going to trust pseudonymous advice from the Internet for that first time, are you?
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:21 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I recommend Avanti over Skyn.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 11:25 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding simply finding non-latex condoms. The brands I am most familiar with are Durex Avanti and Trojan Supra both of which are made of polyurethane.

You can still sometimes find lambskin condoms but they don't protect as well against STI's.
posted by Saminal at 11:27 AM on May 23, 2010

Although it's bit disturbing that someone called Wrinkled Stumpskin has good advice about condoms, it's is good advice.

On reflection, perhaps it makes perfect sense that Wrinkled Stumpskin would have the best advice.

The clinic people are likely to know things about related sensitivities and will be able to talk to you about any barrier issues with various materials and combing with gels and lubes and so forth.

(Upon even further reflection, I'm am starting to crush on Wrinkled Stumpskin. Always a fool for a clever username...)
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:30 AM on May 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Any polyurethane condom will work.
posted by hworth at 11:45 AM on May 23, 2010

My latex-allergic sometimes-partner has tried just about everything on the (Canadian) market and swears by Avanti over anything else. They suit me fine. Careful putting them on, though. They're not as forgiving, and tear a bit more easily than latex.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 11:50 AM on May 23, 2010


Good god, this. Lambskin condoms do not provide the protection that condoms should.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:18 PM on May 23, 2010


Also, they sometimes make this horrible crinkly paper bag noise, and they have a uniquely unsexy smell. Bad, bad, nogood, very, very bad.

Polyurethane condoms, on the other hand, are great. They transmit heat better than latex, and (if memory serves), they're thinner as well. Go, polyurethane!
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:27 PM on May 23, 2010

Hello, my name is Uniformitarianism Now! and I'm latex-sensitive (allergic contact dermatitis--Type IV reaction). I also come from a family chock-full of gynecologists, and received an 'A' on my 'history and evolution of the condom' paper I wrote for my freshman English class back in ninth grade. That being said, IANAPD, and you should still seek advice from a qualified health professional to confirm/disconfirm all of this.

Skyn and the new Avanti (as opposed to the old polyurethane kind), and Trojan Supra are not technically non-latex condoms. They are constructed from polyisoprene. This is the main compound that makes rubber....rubber. Most latex-sensitive people (like me) can tolerate products made from super-purified/synthetically-created/alternatively sourced polyisoprene, and our sensitivity is to either impurities in latex rubber--even medical grade, it's just how it is--or a few specific proteins found in rubber tree latex. If your gf is one of these people, go ahead with any of these. New Avanti is the winner in my personal book, anyway, then Skyn, and absolutely dead last is the Supra.

However, in the event she has true anaphylaxis, death-risk allergy (I've known people who can't be in the same room when a packet of latex gloves are opened), which could theoretically still be triggered by the new generation of non-latex condoms,* I'd avoid polyisoprene until she can have her reaction to pure synthetic polyisoprene tested medically. I might try the female condom (expensive and...weird, which is all I have to say about that, but some people find it works for them), or possibly late-manufacture old-school durex Avanti (there should still be some that are...IIRC...about two years from expiration, if you can find them), which was polyurethane--though as mentioned above, they don't stretch much, and that is a fantastic way to find out exactly how much adrenaline your system is capable of handling at a single time, given that it's already being cranked out in the moment.

One more hint: if your girlfriend has the more common 'allergic contact dermatitis' issue, as opposed to anaphylaxis, and you decide to try polyisoprene, I suggest ensuring that if you also use lube, you avoid glycerin-containing products, as in the event she finds polyisoprene irritating, glycerin's potential to trigger various infections in some women will be amplified by the irritation from the condom itself.

*It's much rarer but still technically possible for a person to be reactive to polyisoprene itself. The immune system is a crazy entity.

posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 12:28 PM on May 23, 2010 [5 favorites]

To be slightly more clear: Type I (think peanut allergy) reactions are also not usually reactions to polyisoprene itself. I'd have to run a lit search to see if any have been documented. And Type IV reactions (think poison ivy) could occur with synthetic polyisoprene. It's just that Type IV usually results in 'itchy, gross and terribly uncomfortable,' while worst-case Type I=dead.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 12:36 PM on May 23, 2010

But a bit of commentary on lambskin condoms, which for your purposes, I am not recommending. But my wife and I found them to be good for us. We used them for several years -- the Trojan Naturalamb product. I don't remember any particular smell, and the feel was nice. Our intent was only pregnancy prevention. Someone said "You can still sometimes find lambskin condoms but they don't protect as well against STI's." This needs to be further expanded on, they don't protect at all against viral sexually transmitted diseases because the density of the organic product is not enough to be a barrier for viruses. So, yes, not lambskin for you necessarily, but know why, and know that not everyone runs screaming from the room at the thought of lambskin condoms.
posted by artlung at 1:16 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lots of great advice and info already, and I especially second the suggestion to give whatever you decide to get a try on your own before using it with your partner.

You don't have to invest in a whole box of one kind to find out if it's going to work for you. Many decent sex shops sell condoms individually so you can buy one or two of several brands (they also do the same with lube). Online retailers such as Condomania and Good Vibrations sell non-latex sampler packs.

You mentioned that you needed something in a larger size, so you might want to be aware that polyurethane condoms don't stretch as well as latex or polyisoprene condoms, so they're less forgiving about fit. If you find that the polyurethane doesn't fit, and the polyisoprene doesn't work out either due to fit or sensitivity, you do have one more option: the Female Condom. It's made of polyurethane or nitrile (depending on whether you get the original or can find the newly-formulated FC2), and since it is inserted into the vaginal canal rather than fitted over the penis, fit isn't an issue. Some people have pretty strong opinions on the feel of female condoms, but you won't know how it works for you and your partner until you give it a try, and if you insist on barriers, it's better than nothing.

You also have the option to forego barriers, if you and your partner are aware of the risks and comfortable with it. Many committed couples do so if they are aware of their respective STI statuses, have another reliable method of contraception, and have discussed the risks (which are of course much higher if either partner has other partners). It's a highly personal choice and I'm not advocating either way, but wanted to mention it because it's an option that often gets ignored.
posted by rhiannonstone at 1:25 PM on May 23, 2010

A friend of mine is allergic to latex and she swears by Avanti.
posted by SisterHavana at 1:38 PM on May 23, 2010

Hmm, is it improper to suggest that you simply both get tested, and she uses a hormonal method if it turns out neither of you is carrying anything worrisome? Is there some worry that either one of you have a possibly unknown STD, or are not being exclusive, or the relationship is too new to have this level of trust?

Obviously, if any of those factors are in play, you need a barrier method.

(and I'm asking out of curiosity too: what stage of dating do Mefites feel able to forego barrier methods and rely on other kinds, if you wish to?)
posted by emjaybee at 9:25 PM on May 23, 2010

My husband is a Magnum sort of guy, and the Avanti worked ok for us. A little bit of a tight fit but not too bad. I've heard that Avantis run a little bigger than other brands, but that was a few years ago and maybe someone has come out with something a little more roomy since then.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:51 AM on May 24, 2010

I'm guessing you're American, and possibly over 25, but if you're neither of those Brook Advisory do give out latex-free condoms, and any UK family planning should too.

emjaybee - I wouldn't feel comfortable doing this to begin with, plus it may be that a hormonal method may not feel 'safe' enough.
posted by mippy at 9:38 AM on May 24, 2010

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