Condoms Are for Everyone
March 6, 2019
Condoms. Perhaps the most well-known form of birth control and the only form of protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) besides dental dams, they are key when it comes to having safer sex. But for some teens, purchasing condoms isn’t always as simple as grabbing the first box they see on the shelf at the drugstore. (I am referring to external or “male” condoms here; internal or “female” condoms are not always available in drugstores.) In honor of National Condom Day on February 14th, let’s focus on an aspect of external condoms that we don’t often hear about: what to do if you have a latex allergy.
Your typical external condom is made out of rubber latex, a material that stretches to accommodate the penis. Latex condoms are available at drugstores, convenience stores and grocery stores (as well as online) in a wide variety of styles and even flavors. Some health centers may even provide them at no cost.* The problem with latex condoms is that not everyone is able to use them; some people are allergic. There are condoms for people with latex allergies—it just takes a little extra thought to get ahold of them.
For instance, Ruby, 18, of Takoma Park, MD, has dealt with this issue since she became sexually active. She had been aware of her latex allergy for years and realized she would need to find a different type of condom before starting to have sex. She knew that her options were condoms made from either lambskin or a synthetic latex alternative, like polyurethane or polyisoprene. She decided against lambskin since it’s not effective at preventing STDs, but it can prevent pregnancy. Ruby notes that polyurethane and polyisoprene have similar properties to latex: they also stretch and they also wear away if used with an oil-based lubricant such as baby oil or Vaseline. That’s why it’s important to use a water-based lubricant, like K-Y Jelly, regardless of the type of condom you choose.
Luckily, Ruby was able to find the brand Skyn (made from polyisoprene) at her local drugstore. She was disappointed when she found out that they’re more expensive than latex condoms, but says she was willing to pay because “safe sex is necessary.” For teens with latex allergies like her, Ruby advises not to let any partner pressure you into having sex unless you are able to use a condom. While she acknowledges how frustrating it can be to navigate condom use in a world where latex is the norm, she says that even if you have to go above and beyond to have safer sex, “It’s extremely important to understand that’s how you take care of yourself…because you deserve it.”
For more information on how to use a condom properly, check out our condom game!
*To find a health center near you that may provide free condoms, visit our clinic finder.