Safe sex wasn’t exactly safe before the invention of the modern condoms. The first prophylactics were probably made from animal bladders, and linen condoms were common through the late 19th century. Accidental pregnancies and infections were fairly common, since condoms were often washed and re-used.

Fortunately, modern manufacturers have a much more effective (and comfortable) material – natural latex. Latex is strong, flexible, durable, and it transmits heat fairly well. However, it’s not the only material on the market, and non-latex condoms have gained popularity over the past decade.

Non-latex condom materials include polyisoprene, polyurethane, animal intestine (commonly referred to as lambskin), and AT-10 (a synthetic resin). If you’ve shopped for condoms recently, you might have wondered why people use non-latex materials and whether these products offer any significant benefits.

Most people primarily use condoms to practice safe sex, so before discussing the potential advantages of non-latex condoms, we’ll note that all condom materials are effective at preventing pregnancy. However, lambskin condoms may not provide adequate protection from sexually transmitted infections – only use lambskin products with a trusted partner.

The major advantages of non-latex condoms include:

Compatibility with Oil-Based Lubricants – If you’re a fan of the slick feel of oil-based lubricants, you can’t use latex; oil creates tiny holes in standard condoms, significantly increasing the chances of breakage. Condoms made from AT-10, polyurethane, and lambskin are compatible with oil-based lubricants, but polyisoprene condoms are only compatible with water and silicone lubes.

Remember, most oil-based lubricants aren’t formulated for vaginal sex and may increase the risks of certain bacterial and fungal infections.

Different Sensations – Users often prefer the feel of non-latex condoms. Lambskin transfers heat especially well and has a natural feel. Polyurethane, polyisoprene, and AT-10 condoms are often thinner than latex condoms, which allows for better heat transfer.

As you might expect, sensations will vary by brand, and your personal preferences certainly play a role in your experience. Try a few different types of condoms to find your favorites.

Fewer Allergic Reactions – Some people are allergic to latex, and normal condoms can cause painful or irritating reactions upon contacting the skin. AT-10, polyurethane, and lambskin condoms are all hypoallergenic. Polyisoprene is actually a type of latex, but it’s treated to remove the allergens that cause adverse reactions.

A Better Fit – If you feel like latex condoms are too snug or tight, AT-10 resin, lambskin, and polyurethane might offer a better experience. Polyisoprene condoms have a similar fit to standard latex, so they’re the best choice if you enjoy the fit of latex condoms, but you need to use a non-latex material due to an allergy.

What are the Advantages of Latex Condoms?

Latex is popular because it’s extremely strong and elastic, and non-latex materials have different qualities that can affect durability. Polyurethane isn’t as flexible and may break more frequently if used improperly; however, polyurethane is also less sensitive to light and extreme changes in temperature, so it has a significantly longer shelf life. Lambskin condoms can expire relatively quickly, while AT-10 and polyisoprene last for about as long as latex.

Latex condoms are also much more economical than condoms made from other materials. Lambskin condoms are usually the most costly option owing to their rather involved manufacturing process. AT-10, polyisoprene, and polyurethane products are also relatively expensive, though costs vary by manufacturer. Of course, all condoms are a smart investment from a long-term perspective – even the most expensive options are much less expensive than an unwanted pregnancy or a course of antibiotics to treat an STD.

Whatever condom you choose, make sure to use it correctly. Store them in a cool, dry place, pay attention to the expiration dates, and use plenty of lubrication to prevent unnecessary friction. By using your condoms properly, you can significantly reduce your risks while enjoying sex, and we strongly recommend protection for all types of penetrative sex.