February is National Condom Awareness month. It’s a good time to look at what kinds of condoms are currently available. If you haven’t picked any up in a while, or you’ve been sticking to your favorite brand, you may have missed some of the alternatives that have been developed. This will be an overview of condom materials that might teach you something new or give you something different to look for next time you go shopping. Condoms have come a long way since the early use of linen, animal intestines, tortoise shell and galvanized rubber. Latex is not the only material on the block. Let’s look at all the options available today.
Latex condoms have been around since 1920 when it replaced vulcanized rubber. Vulcanized rubber, and later cement dipped rubber, were thicker and less comfortable. The invention of latex rubber improved this significantly. Latex was thinner and could be mass-produced with automated machines, a big improvement on the earlier handmade condoms. Latex hasn’t changed much in nearly 100 years. They tightened quality control, which produced better quality condoms. The 50’s also saw the introduction of lubricated condoms and the reservoir tip. Spermicides were later added, although Nonoxynol 9 is no longer recommended since research has shown it may increase the risk of HIV transmission, as well as HPV plus it can be an irritant to vaginal and anal tissue. There’s more variety in sizes and shapes now with ribbed, textured, colored and flavored latex condoms readily available. Latex produces a thin condom with elasticity and durability that makes it the most popular type used today. There are some drawbacks. Some people are allergic to latex causing redness, dryness, burning and other reactions. It’s also not compatible with oil-based products. Oil base lube, petroleum jelly, and mineral oil will cause the latex to break down and tear.
An age-old alternative to latex is lambskin. Lambskin is made from sheep intestine. A form of this type of condom has been around since time immemorial. Today it’s still made from the intestinal membrane of sheep. Lambskin is very thin and said to feel most like not wearing a condom at all. It can be a choice if you are looking for an all-natural condom or a latex alternative but it does have one big draw back. While it may work to prevent pregnancy, the material is not effective in preventing the spread of STD/STIs like herpes, gonorrhea, and HIV. Lambskin condoms are porous and while it can prevent sperm from getting through, it can’t reliably stop smaller viruses and bacteria. It should be used when your only concern is contraception. They are also more expensive than other condoms and are not considered vegan.
Polyurethane was developed in the early 90’s and is the second most popular type of condom. This synthetic latex can be made into thinner condoms, most of the ultra thin condoms you’ll find are Polyurethane, and can transmit heat more easily adding to sensitivity. They are a great alternative if you have a latex allergy and are considered vegan. While they are strong, they have been known to be less flexible and can shift, roll, and tear. They can be used with body safe oil base lubricants you can’t use with a latex condom. They are usually more expensive but are a great alternative to latex.
A much newer alternative to latex is Polyisoprene. Around since 2008, Polyisoprene uses a process that removed the allergens from natural latex. This makes them a good alternative for someone with a natural latex allergy. There is still a chance of allergic reaction, though, depending on your level of sensitivity. They are thin and flexible, and are known to conduct heat well. They are softer and more elastic than Polyurethane and said to have a more natural feel like a latex condom. Just like latex, Polyisoprene condoms cannot be used with oil based products. They also tend to be more expensive than natural latex but are a good alternative.
I’m going to include the internal condom, currently known as the Female Condom, because although it’s used slightly differently it is still a condom like barrier. It’s an effective and easy to use barrier too. The difference here is unlike the condoms we’ve already talked about, this one is not rolled down the penis but inserted into the vagina. If you’ve never seen or used one before, let me explain. The internal condom is a loose fitting sheath with flexible rings at both ends. The condom is inserted into the vagina by folding the flexible ring at the closed end, inserting it, then pushing it all the way up to the cervix. The ring on the open end helps to keep the condom in place and also covers part of the vulva giving more barrier protection to the user. The internal condom can be inserted hours beforehand and the penis does not have to be fully erect to use, unlike rolled on condoms. It’s a great alternative and many women like having more control when it comes to safer sex. There are other internal condoms in the works including a latex version. All are still in testing phase or haven’t been FDA approved yet.
Silicone (but not until at least 2015)
The Origami condom is currently in development. If it can get fully funded and make it through rigorous clinical trials, we could have an all-new condom on the market. The Origami is made of strong silicone. This significantly reduces tearing (a common problem with most condoms) and is flexible in two directions (unlike latex) making it fit more comfortably. The silicone allows the condom to be folded accordion style instead of the classic roll. The accordion fold is helpful in two ways; it makes putting on the condom easier and adds a new level of sensation. The condom, and it’s lubricated interior, move over the penis to increase pleasure for the wearer. An internal condom and a specifically designed anal condom are also planned in the future. There’s still a long way to go with this product and it will most likely cost more than any other on the market. The pluses gained with this new condom make it worth the wait.
Something for everyone
Condoms give you many more choices now than they did back in the day. They’re much safer, more reliable and more comfortable than their predecessors. We’ve learned so much and technology has really helped. Hard to believe we used things like linen dipped in chemicals and horn way back when. We not only have variety in materials and styles but sizes too. Many people don’t realize they need a larger sized condom until they check a sizing chart. Several brands offer different sizes and there are websites that offer help with condom sizing. Find one that fits yours needs and your style so you can have more pleasurable (and safer) barrier protected sex.
By: TechnogeishaFollow on Twitter @Technogeisha