Have you ever wondered if the condoms you use are chemical free? Have you turned condom packages over and over in the supermarket aisle looking for an ingredient list only to find nada? You’re not alone. Condom companies are not required to list ingredients, so…they don’t.
Simply put, condom companies are not very straightforward about the ingredients they use and they may be adding chemicals that could impact your health. If you’ve noticed this by now, you’re probably concerned about what companies are hiding.
Why does a FAM charter need condoms anyway? Glad you asked!
With the Fertility Awareness Method, a couple can choose to either abstain from sex or use barrier methods during a woman’s fertile wave (which lasts 7-12 days in a typical menstrual cycle). Needless to say, relying on barrier methods during the fertile wave is a popular preference and there are 4 choices: male condoms, female condoms, diaphragms, and cervical caps.
Couples who use barrier methods during a woman’s fertile wave are relying on the effectiveness of that barrier method to prevent pregnancy (and not on the effectiveness of FAM). For this reason, FAM charters want barrier methods that are most effective and health conscious charters also want chemical free options. Don’t know when your fertile wave starts and ends? Sign up to take a FAM class so that you can learn!
Chemical Free Barrier Methods
Out of the four types of barrier methods, diaphragms and cervical caps require the use of spermicide for greatest effectiveness and are therefore not chemical free (when being used according to the guidelines). These can be a great alternative for couples who cannot use condoms, unless they are also looking for chemical free. In such a case, abstaining from sex for the woman’s fertile wave can be a great way to avoid chemical products and prevent pregnancy. Plus, the break from a normal routine can allow couples to experience intimacy in other ways during those few days of the fertile wave.
The first recordings of male condoms in history go back to roughly 1000 BC. In China, oiled silk paper or lamb intestines were used. The Japanese used glans coverings which were made of tortoise shell or animal horn and eventually made fine leather condoms that covered the entire penis. The male condom evolved into a rubber covering and eventually became the classic latex condom doused in lubricants and/or spermicides that we know today.
Today, male condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy when used correctly. Watch this clip called Condom Sense to see what you didn’t know about using condoms correctly.
The latex used to make male condoms comes from tapping rubber trees in Brazil, Southeast Asia and West Africa. However, almost all condom companies add a mysterious cocktail of chemicals in the manufacturing process, turning a naturally sourced product into a potential endocrine disruptor that can impact your health.
The female condom is another good choice and is found to be 95% effective when used correctly. Fortunately, it doesn’t require the use of spermicide to work. Unfortunately, the first and second generation of the female condom are made from either synthetic polyurethane or synthetic nitrile. There is a big difference between using natural and synthetic materials on the genitals. The third generation female condom is made with natural latex like male condoms and is awaiting final FDA approval.
4 Tips for Buying Natural Condoms
1. Find the Ingredients: Do you have a favorite brand or line of condoms? Take a moment to scan the website and call the company. On one hand, it's good that the packaging usually lists if the condom comes lubricated, but on the other hand it sucks that lubrication ingredients are not listed. It’s more likely that a company will list if the box was made with recyclable materials than it is to list the condom ingredients!
Ask if there are ingredients like parabens, glycerin and benzocaine. These are endocrine disruptors that can impact health in men and women and even contribute to recurring yeast infections. Keep reading to find out which brands sell the most natural condoms out there.
Repeated use of chemicals on male and female genitals is no bueno. The skin, particularly mucous membranes, absorb anything we put on or into the body. That, in turn, can cause immediate issues such as rashes, irritated skin, and infections. What's worse, is that endocrine disruptors can cause issues that arise over time from accumulative exposure such as hormonal imbalance in women as well as in men. When hormones are imbalanced...a myriad of other health issues can surface from hair loss to insomnia to loss of sex drive and infertility.
2. Choose Spermicide Free Condoms: Just as it sounds, spermicide is a substance ( such as liquid, gel, film, or foam) that poisons and kills sperm. It takes an active chemical ingredient called nonozynol-9 to work. Condoms containing nonoxynol-9 were previously thought to help prevent the transmission of HIV and other STDs. However, nonoxynol-9 sometimes causes adverse effects, which can facilitate the transmission of HIV. For this reason, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that condoms containing spermicide (nonozynol-9) should not be bought or promoted.
If spermicide can cause adverse effects, do you want that anywhere near your genitals? Today, most companies are forthcoming about spermicide and will show on the front of the packaging: "With Spermicide."
3. Ignore "Enhanced Pleasure" Marketing: In the production of most condoms, lots of chemicals are added to the natural latex and then added to the lubrication (if applicable). Then, when companies manufacture special versions of condoms that advertise things like “extended pleasure” this essentially means they've added a lot more chemicals. In order to avoid getting clogged up with a surplus of chemicals, you can simply stick with the good ol’ classic condom sold without lubrication (simply adding your choice of lube). There are plenty of other ways to spice up one’s sex life without chemicals.
4. Latex Allergy: Did you know that a true latex allergy is rare? Apparently a true latex allergy affects less than one percent of the population. People who believe they have a latex allergy after reacting to condom use could very likely be having a reaction to the chemicals within the latex or within the lubrication. If you’ve been buying latex free condoms, consider trying the most natural condoms on the market to test your reaction.
(Mostly) Chemical Free Condoms
While they are more expensive than other brands, remember that a FAM charter only needs to rely on condoms during a woman’s fertile wave which is just 1/3 of a typical menstrual cycle. That's not very many condoms per month!
One company that is making a difference in chemical free condom production is Sir Richard’s line of Vegan Condoms. Made of all-natural latex, this company does not use any fillers in their natural latex! Their condoms are free of glycerin, parabens, spermicide and petrochemicals. The line of Vegan Condoms is free of animal byproducts and not tested on animals. Many condoms contain an ingredient called casein which is a milk protein used in processed foods, but the vegan line of condoms do not.
The lubricant which comes on the condoms, however, is silicone based. Silicone is a synthetic form of the natural occurring chemical element silicon. You can read more about silicone to decide if you are comfortable with silicone base lubricants. Ideally, Sir Richard’s will start selling lube free vegan condoms so that consumers can be in control of which chemical free lubes they apply on their natural condoms such as the certified organic lubrication brand Yes which you can read more about here.
Sir Richard’s Vegan condoms are available nationally at Kroger’s, CVS, and Whole Foods Market. Find out where to buy Sir Richard’s condoms or shop online at SirRichards.com to buy in bulk. For every one condom purchased, one is given to a community in need with their Buy One, Give One program.
Another natural option on the market is a product known as lambskin condoms made by Trojan called Trojan Naturallamb. Since these condoms are made from a natural membrane, popular opinion says they feel more like a second skin than a condom and is the closest to wearing nothing at all. Lambskin condoms are membrane condoms made from a thin layer of sheep cecum, a part of the intestine. To many, this may sound somewhat odd, but this is a natural animal product that is eaten world wide.
Lambskin condoms are natural, thin, about 98% effective in preventing pregnancy, can be used with oil-based lubes (like organic coconut oil or jojoba oil!) and are latex free. The Trojan brand, which is the only known brand of lambskins on the shelf to date, come with a water-based lubricant instead of silicone based lubricant. The packaging and website do not list the ingredients of the water-based lube on their product. Why the mystery?
The most important disclaimer is that lambskin condoms DO NOT protect against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and should only be used in long term relationships.
A 100% natural barrier method that is 98% effective when used correctly does not exist, yet. But, buying condoms that are close to being 100% natural is best. A. You're getting less chemical exposure on your most cherished parts. B. Fewer chemicals mean fewer potential health problems. C. You're voting with your dollar.
Choosing the most chemical free barrier methods on the market will make a huge impression on condom companies and so will calling companies relentlessly asking for ingredients and letting them know you will not continue purchasing their products until they get chemical free options (including chemical free lubrication to go on the chemical free condoms).
#1: Shutterstock from Red Coral Fertility
#2: Flickr by Writing On The Mall