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Last Updated June 6, 2017
There are 3 main types of condoms available: latex, non-latex and natural condoms.
Below, we dig into a breakdown of the key differences, examining material basic, durability and stretch, sensation, health and safety, and finally lubrication requirements.
For the most part, availability and cost are in line for all three types, with natural condoms being slightly more expensive because they come from animals and cannot be mass-produced in the same way as latex and non-latex condoms.
Non-Latex condoms come in two materials: polyisoprene, basically a synthetic latex, that uses a natural rubber, which is then synthetically formulated, so it doesn't contain the natural proteins that cause most people’s latex allergies – and polyurethane – the more popular latex condom alternative. Polyurethane is made from special plastic.
Natural condoms (also known as lambskin condoms) are made from the intestinal membrane of a lamb. Lambskin condoms are the oldest type of all condoms, and have been used for hundreds of years. If you’re interested in trying lambskin condoms, try Trojan Naturalamb.
Durability (stretch, thickness, endurance)
Latex condoms are incredibly durable because latex has outstanding elasticity properties; it can stretch up to 800% before breaking.
Non-latex polyisoprene condoms can be stretched more and are more resistant to breaking because they are slightly thicker. While non-latex polyurethane condoms, which are not as form fitting and less elastic are not very flexible, so they need lot of lubricant. However, Polyurethane condoms use a thinner material than the latex condoms.
Some studies show that polyurethane condoms are more likely to break than latex or polyisoprene condoms. However, they are still considered to be acceptable alternate for people who don’t feel comfortable or are allergic to latex condoms.
Natural lambskin condoms are not as stretchy as latex condoms, but they are just as durable. Lambskin condoms are also biodegradable, so if you care about the environment, this is an added perk.
Of the three types, latex condoms tend to provide the least sensation and are reported as the least comfortable, although some latex products are more comfortable than others.
Non-latex condoms are generally preferable for ‘feel’ over latex condoms, due to the fact that their material is thinner than latex. Men asked to compare the sensations have reportedly experienced better sensation with polyurethane and polyisoprene condoms than latex.
Natural condoms are very thin and reported to have the best, most natural feel and allow for the most pleasure. They are considered the closest feeling to not wearing a condom at all, and many men have even reported that they cannot feel them during intercourse.
This enables men to experience a more intimate type of sensitivity. They also transmit body heat better than latex condoms, and this adds an even greater sensation during sex.
Health & Safety (allergies/STD protection)
Latex condoms provide protection against pregnancy and STDs, however some people are allergic to the latex – or sensitive to latex products.
Non-latex polyisoprene condoms are just like latex without the proteins present which tend to cause allergic reactions. Polyurethane condoms are another non-latex alternative that is effective as a contraceptive and to prevent against sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.
Natural condoms are a great alternative if you have a latex allergy, and are also reported to cause less irritation than other condom types.
However, although lambskin condoms perform equally well as a contraceptive as latex and non-latex condoms, they do not protect against STD or HIV transmission due to very small pores in the material. Sperm cannot pass through these pores, but viruses can.
Due to this, they are generally recommended for those in a committed relationship, where partners have been tested.
Latex condoms are available with or without spermicidal lubricants. The most important factor to note is that oil-based lubricants damage latex condoms. Likewise, Petroleum jelly, skin lotions or creams, cooking oil and baby oil result in loss of elasticity and finally breakage or slip of condom.
The recommended lubricant to use with latex condoms is a water-based lubricant.
Non-latex condoms can be used with any kind of lubricant, ranging from water-base to oil base lubricant.
Natural condoms can be used with oil-based lubricants, including Vaseline and massage oil, as well as water and silicone based lubricants.
Each condom type has its advantages, however the best way to find out what works – and feels – best for you is to give a couple of products a test drive.