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You might be allergic to latex but hankering for some hanky-panky with the barrier method that works for you. Enter polyurethane condoms.

Are polyurethane condoms as good as latex-free alternatives?

Yep! They’re great because:

  • They’re hypoallergenic for folks with latex allergy. ✅
  • They don’t fail when using oil-based lubes. ✅
  • They’re thinner. (Oooooh, hello there!) ✅
  • They also have a looser, more comfortable fit. ✅
  • They’re available for both male and female contraception. ✅
  • They’re odor-free. ✅
  • They’ve got a long shelf life. ✅

🚨 But be careful. 🚨

Polyurethane contraception is a little more prone to breakage. It also doesn’t stretch as much as latex — so, pay more attention to the size of condom you buy.

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Using condoms may help you prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). But how do you decide which one will suit your needs and those of your partner?

Polyurethane is a type of plastic. Manufacturers use rubber to make latex, which means latex can contain various allergens found in nature. And if “allergic reaction on your genitals” doesn’t sound like an appealing way to spend a Saturday afternoon, it might be time to seek out alternatives.

Just like any other barrier method, polyurethane condoms have their pros and cons. We dive in to give you the naked truth about polyurethane condoms.

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Megan Madden / Refinery29 for GettyGetty Images

Absolutely — but they are different. And switching up choices means you have to adapt and weigh up the pros and cons.

1. They’re hypoallergenic

The main benefit of polyurethane condoms is that they can be a superb, safe alternative for people with a latex allergy.

If you’ve got gluten sensitivity, you buy gluten-free pasta. Likewise, if your genitals scream at you whenever you let latex touch them, it makes sense to reap the health benefits of different condoms by switching products.

2. A long shelf life

The good news is that polyurethane has a reasonably long shelf life, depending on the lubricant you use. (And condoms do have a shelf life, so it might be time to replace the one that’s been sitting in your wallet for the last year.)

So, keep some in stock. And if the opportunity for bonking doesn’t arise, you can keep them for your next encounter.

3. Doesn’t split with oil-based lubes

Oil-based lubes can spell disaster for latex condoms, leading to all kinds of unwanted outcomes. But polyurethane stands firm in the face of these lubes, meaning that you can choose the lube that makes you feel best without a fear of a splat-astrophe.

4. No leakage

It’s all about how you use them. Polyurethane condoms don’t leak unless they tear. So, provided they stay on, don’t tear, and you remove them very carefully, they are just as safe as their latex cousins.

5. Looser, more comfortable fit

Latex condoms are more elasticated than polyurethane ones, so they stay on better. But they also tend to be too tight, which can kill the buzz a little — and who wants that?

6. They don’t smell

Latex can smell a bit icky and dampen the mood. A great bonus to using polyurethane is the absence of odor. You won’t be rinsing the stink from your bits and hands after sex.

7. They’re thinner and feel better

A thinner condom means peeps with penises can (quite literally) get their heads in the game. Plus, if you get turned on by penises and prefer a more au naturel look, the thinness of polyurethane has your back (and front).

Whether you want to try polyurethane condoms for the buzz or are allergic to latex, it’s not all roses.

Polyurethane doesn’t stretch

We’ve all heard that size doesn’t matter, but it does in this case. Polyurethane doesn’t stretch. So, you might wanna try a larger size than you would if you were choosing latex.

More prone to tearing

If the condom doesn’t fit, that sh*t can split (especially if it’s too tight). Polyurethane is not as strong a compound as latex. Polyurethane condoms also tend to slide around more easily, which can lead to breakage.

Harder to buy

They’re also a little harder to find and more expensive than the standard latex option.

You really want three things from contraception:

  • They stop you or your partner getting preggo.
  • They stop the transmission of STIs.
  • They don’t get in the way of good sex.

Does polyurethane pass the test?

For preventing pregnancy

One 2003 study with 900 couples over 6 months revealed a 9 percent likelihood of pregnancy using polyurethane condoms and a 5.4 percent likelihood with latex ones.

Polyurethane condoms were more likely to break or slip than latex ones, too. But if you’re allergic to latex, don’t let that percentage difference scare you. Polyurethane might’ve had a lower score, but it’s safer than using no contraception at all.

So, just be careful.

For preventing STI transmission

If you use condoms whenever you do the deed, use them the right way, and they don’t slip off or split, then polyurethane condoms are effective against STIs that transmit through bodily fluids.

Polyurethane plastic is impenetrable. So, microscopic nasties can’t slip through it.

These STIs can transfer through bodily fluids:

This is a pretty great roll call of STIs to keep way the f*ck away from your body at all costs.

Be warned though, no condom’s gonna prevent STI transmission through skin-to-skin and mucosa contact if a condom doesn’t cover that area.

If either partner has an STI, you both need to take extreme care before, during, and after sex. You also need to communicate openly and honestly, making sure you’re both aware of the STI-tuation.

Do they *feel* better?

Peeps in the same 2003 study rated the polyurethane condoms significantly higher for comfort and sensitivity. There were also fewer allergy-related problems.

Since polyurethane condoms are thinner and not as tight, they’re more sensitive. Polyurethane also transmits heat more efficiently than latex. This combination makes for more pleasurable sexy times. No, we don’t hear any complaints.

Male and female contraceptive methods are available in polyurethane form. This means that there’s an irritation-free option for latex dodgers with any set of sexual organs. Polyhellyeah!

If oral sex is your thing, a dental dam may be the barrier method you need. It’s a thin sheet of latex or polyurethane that you can place over your genitals for oral-genital or oral-anal sex.

The characteristics of dental dams may help prevent STI transmission. And provided you’ve got yours snugly in place, a polyurethane dam is as effective as the traditional latex option. The trick here is a dab of lube to help keep it in place (you’re welcome).

Another barrier method for peeps with vaginas is the spermicide sponge, which also has polyurethane alternatives. This barrier method is disk-shaped and has a loop attached for easy removal. When you insert it correctly, the sponge blocks entry to your cervix and the spermicide kills sperm at the same time.

Your vaginal muscles hold the sponge in place after insertion. You can place it up to 8 hours before having sex. It can stay inside your bod for up to 30 hours but has to stay in for at least 6 hours after intercourse.

The polyurethane sponge is effective as a contraceptive method but doesn’t protect against STIs. It’s easy to apply and sometimes doesn’t rely on your partner’s cooperation. This isn’t a method that works well for unplanned encounters.

And let’s not forget polyurethane gloves. These can help prevent the transmission of STIs during and after hand stuff. They also prevent nicks and scratches from rough fingernails (which… ow, tbh).

As with any contraceptive method, there is usually a downside, but it’s all about how you use it.

Some tips to avoid the possible risks:

  • Make sure the condom fits properly.
  • Make sure the condom hasn’t passed its “sell-by” date or faced exposure to bright sunlight for too long.
  • Put your condom on before there is any skin contact.
  • Never use a condom more than once.
  • As you pull out, hold the base of the condom to avoid spillage.
  • Always use lubricant inside the condom to prevent splitting. This applies to all types of barrier method protection.

Use lube inside your condom to reduce the risk of breakage

This is a great tip for two reasons:

  1. Using lube reduces the risk of condom breakage.
  2. It also boosts the pleasure. (Bonus!)

Silicone- or water-based lubes are fine to use inside and outside any condom.

Oil-based lubes are fine with polyurethane condoms. However, if you’re using both latex and polyurethane condoms, take extra care that you don’t use oil-based lube in your latex condom. This breaks down the material and reserves you a one-way ticket to Split City.

If you are using both types of condoms, perhaps just stick with water- or silicone-based lubes. You’re then spared the need to make important choices at crucial moments and ruin the mood. (“I know we’re both having a great time and all, but lemme just check Greatist…“)

Polyurethane condoms are not easy to come by (lol). You might want to start with these options available online:

  • Trojan Supra Non-Latex Bareskin. The claim on this polyurethane six-pack is that it’s got the thinnest condoms in the United States.
  • Trojan Supra Lubricated Premium Condoms MicroSheer Polyurethane Ultra-Thin. These nonlatex polyurethane condoms come with a premium lube.

Overall, latex condoms are stronger and safer because they fit more snugly.

But if you’re allergic to latex, now is the time to switch it up. Trying to persevere despite your latex allergies will just steer you away from using condoms. And we all know how that can turn out.

Whether you’re allergic to latex or not, if you haven’t tried polyurethane condoms, perhaps now is a good time.

Try not to tear them or let them slip off. It’s easier said than done in the heat of the moment, but the extra peace of mind should also enhance your performance and experience.

Correct and regular use of condoms is key to maintaining a healthy sex life. Keep practicing. (And have fun doing so 😘 )