Polyisoprene Condoms for People with Latex Allergies

Rubber plantation in Kerala
A rubber plantation in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Latex is obtained from the bark of the rubber tree by tapping, a process of controlled wounding during which thin shavings of bark is removed. Rubber latex is collected in the plastic container fixed onto the tree. Photo by Jogesh S / Getty Images

Polyisoprene condoms are the newest safe sex option for individuals with latex allergies. They are stretchier than polyurethane condoms. As such, many people feel that polyisoprene condoms provide a sensation profile that is far more similar to their latex counterparts. There's a good reason for that -- polyisoprene is the synthetic form of latex. In other words, it's latex made in a laboratory rather than natural rubber latex -- which is made in a tree.

 

Confused as to why a latex product is being recommended as an option for people with latex allergies? The answer is simple. Most people with latex allergies aren't actually allergic to latex. It's weird but true.

Most Latex Allergies Aren't About Latex

Natural latex is derived from trees and made into glovescondoms, and other latex products. The latex rubber that makes up these products is therefore, not surprisingly, often contaminated with other proteins from the trees it is harvested from. It turns out that most people with latex allergies are not allergic to the latex itself. Instead, they're allergic to one or more of the plant proteins that contaminate it.

In contrast, polyisoprene is created in a clean laboratory environment. Therefore, it does not suffer from the same contamination problems as natural latex. It has, by and large, the same physical properties as latex. What it doesn't have is the other components of natural rubber latex.

It's those components that tend to cause a bit more biological havoc, including allergies. That's why polyisoprene condoms are so similar to latex condoms. They're fundamentally a cleaner version of the same thing. Polyurethane, on the other hand, is a different type of polymer entirely. That is why those condoms tend to be baggier and less stretchy.

If you have latex allergies and are looking for products that can make your sex life safer, things are looking up. It may be worth some experimentation with one of the polyisoprene condoms on the market. They may be a better option than polyurethane for some people because of their lower price. Many men also prefer the way they fit.  Polyisoprene condoms stretch like latex and feel like latex.  It may seem strange that scientists have created a latex-based, latex allergy condom, but it actually makes a lot of sense.

Buying Polyisoprene Condoms

Curious about whether polyisoprene condoms might be a good idea for improving your sex life? Here's what you need to know: 

Price:

Right now there is only one brand of polyisoprene condoms available - SKYN condoms from Lifestyles. They are slightly more expensive than natural latex condoms but much cheaper than polyurethane condoms. Polyurethane condoms are the other alternative for people with latex allergies.

Ease of Acquisition:

The SKYN polyisoprene condom is available at many drugstores and also online.

Use During Vaginal Intercourse:

Polyisoprene condoms were FDA approved for the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in 2008.

As such, they are suitable for use during vaginal intercourse.

Use During Oral Sex:

Polyisoprene condoms are fine for use during oral sex.

Use During Anal Sex:

Polyisoprene condoms can be used anywhere latex condoms can, including for anal sex. Just don't forget the lube.

Lubricants:

You can safely use both water and silicone based lubricants with polyisoprene condoms. You should not use oil-based lubricants. They can break down the condom and increase the risk of breakage. That's another way in which polyisoprene condoms are like latex condoms. 

Pros of Polyisoprene Condoms:

Polyisoprene condoms provide the stretchy comfort of a latex condom without the itch factor for most people with latex allergies.

These condoms are much cheaper than polyurethane condoms -- the other allergy friendly condom option. They have similar efficacy to latex condoms and work in similar ways

Cons of Polyisoprene Condoms:

These condoms are slightly more expensive than similar latex condoms. However this price difference can be eliminated by buying in bulk. The original SKYN condoms were slightly thicker than latex condoms, which could affect sensation during use. 

A Word from Verywell

In November 2008, the FDA approved the first polyisoprene condom for prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The SKYN condom, made from polyisoprene, has made a lot of waves since it has been on the market. It is much stretchier, and more form fitting, than the other alternative for people with a latex allergy, polyurethane condoms. It also significantly cheaper.

The sensation of using these condoms is just different enough that some people prefer them to natural latex condoms even if they don't have latex allergies. The main downside was that the original  polyisoprene condoms were slightly thicker than polyurethane condoms. Still, for many individuals with latex allergies, the benefits were be a worthy trade-off. Furthermore, Lifestyles has expanded the SKYN line to include larger condoms, thinner condoms, and studded condoms as well as a polyisoprene condom with additional lubricant. 

Please note: Polyisoprene is, chemically, the same type of rubber as latex. However, synthetic polyisoprene condoms should not contain the natural proteins that are the source of most people's latex allergies.

Sources

Alenius H, Mäkinen-Kiljunen S, Turjanmaa K, Palosuo T, Reunala T. Allergen and protein content of latex gloves. Ann Allergy. 1994 Oct;73(4):315-20.

Brown RH, McAllister MA, Gundlach AM, Hamilton RG. The final steps in converting a health care organization to a latex-safe environment. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2009 Apr;35(4):224-8.

Palosuo T, Mäkinen-Kiljunen S, Alenius H, Reunala T, Yip E, Turjanmaa K. Measurement of natural rubber latex allergen levels in medical gloves by allergen-specific IgE-ELISA inhibition, RAST inhibition, and skin prick test. Allergy. 1998 Jan;53(1):59-67.