I think I’m allergic to condoms. My partner and I know we’re supposed to be practicing safe sex, but every time he uses a condom, I end up feeling irritated and sometimes, I even have pain and a bit of a discharge. We have tried different types from the drugstore, but they all seem to cause the same reaction in me. Should I just give up and “go without?” I know that probably doesn’t make good sense, even though I’m menopausal and the chances of getting pregnant are not likely, but then again, back in my day we didn’t worry about social diseases or AIDS, either. Now, that’s a concern. Can you shed some light on the topic of condoms — surely there must be different types of something else I could do to alleviate this problem?
Tony’s View: You may or may not be allergic to condoms. But that being said, many women have sensitivities to either condoms or sexual lubricants, both of which can be easily overcome and should not inhibit or deter you.
Most condoms are made of latex, a derivative of rubber and the rubber plant. Because latex derives from an organic material you can be allergic to it, but you have two other excellent options. The first is condoms made of polyisoprene (Lifestyle’s Skyn, Durex Avanti Bare), a synthetic latex which, because it is not organic based, does not cause an allergic reaction. The second option is polyurethane condoms (Trojan Supra), the good point is the guy feels more and feels your body heat which excites him, the bad news is the polyurethane film is stiff so it has a much less soft and natural feel.
Many lubricants can be irritants since they contain harsh chemicals (you need such to prevent infections since germs love the other components of the lube), this include most of what are known as “water based”. The alternative is the lube used on most condoms, silicone (Dimethicone, Dimethiconol) contained in such products as K-Y Intrigue (the best for allergies since it has no fillers), Wet Platinum, PJUR Eros BodyGlide. Note since silicone is not water soluble you should use less as it does not wear off like water based ones do. A third option is “natural” lubricants such as Wet Naturals, Yes water-based Organic (possibly the most hypoallergenic), Sylk, but since they contain biological products they may cause an allergic reaction.
NEVER use a petroleum based lube with a condom, it destroys the rubber and leads to condom breaks. NEVER use spermicidal lubricants or spermicidally lubricated condoms, the spermicide is an irritant and makes you more susceptible to catch an STD due to open micro-sores from the irritation.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be intimate! If you are in a monogamous relationship, the first and most obvious thing you could do is ask your partner to be tested, so you know he is clean, and he knows the same about you. Maybe that was something you never considered when you were a young girl, but the world has changed. And you can’t be sure that someone you have had a relationship with in the past, hasn’t given you a lasting memory you don’t want to pass along. You can be a carrier, and have no symptoms. And a condom is still your best defense against most types of sexually transmitted diseases and conditions. Although Tony and I are not doctors, we know that very few people really are allergic to condoms. But if you think you are, you’d know it if you had immediately experienced redness, soreness, dryness, itchiness, or a skin rash immediately after first contact with latex or after repeated exposure. If that’s the case, there are non-latex condoms. They are made of soft plastic material or polyurethane and are less likely to cause you distress. But it could be a lubricant that you’re using that is causing the reactions, Most condoms come with some lube on then, although you could gently wipe if off. And if you are a woman who needs a bit of help in this department, you might want to check what’s in your bottle or tube. Some may have fragrance or coloring that you are reacting to. You might try one like the Sinclair Institute Select USDA Certified Organic Lubricant that is 100% vegan, paraben, glycerin, and petrochemical free, and actually, edible. It’s available in Walmart and online in places like Drugstore.com.
Consider that you might have another issue that you’re masking — your irritation could actually be an infection or a different kind of issue. So I’d suggest you pay a visit to the doctor if this continues, and have him or her check it out. Finding out what might really be causing your rash or infection is the first step in treating it –and we can’t really do that, through the computer screen!