Sex. Most of us are doing it at one point or another. This sacred act is one of our greatest gifts as humans. The ability to connect, to create, and to collapse into another.
The practical act of having sex comes with certain logistical measures that need to be taken. The biggest being preventing sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy. While there are numerous options for preventing unwanted pregnancy, there are less when it comes to STDs.
If you are choosing to have penetrative sex, whatever the iteration of your relationship may be, you may also be choosing to use condoms. For many of us, our first experience with condoms was seeing a health teacher slip one onto a banana, or our parents embarrassingly handing us a stack “just in case”. While it is important to practice “safe sex,” what wasn’t discussed was the possible implications of the presence of toxic condoms in our delicate vaginal microbiomes.
The vaginal microbiome are the bacterial communities comprised of vaginal flora- microorganisms that colonize the vagina. A balanced microbiome, much like a balanced ecosystem, helps to prevent STDs, maintain natural hygiene, aid in fertility, and the overall health and wellbeing of people with vaginas.
Part of maintaining a healthy vaginal microbiome, is watching what you put up there. Between latex allergies, toxic ingredients, and other possible carcinogens- condoms can be tricky territory.
Some conventional condom ingredients to watch out for include:
Petrochemicals: Just what it sounds like- chemicals obtained from petroleum or natural gas. No thank you! A 2013 study found that women who used petroleum jelly in the past 2 month were 2.2 times more likely to have a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. Yikes!
Glycerin: While glycerin gives the appearance of moisturizing, it utilizes osmosis. This means that when a product with glycerin is applied to the vagina, the glycerin molecules pulls natural moisture from the vagina, dehydrating it. The opposite of what you want during your intimate moments. When left in the vagina too long, glycerin can turn into a sugar- increasing the risk of yeast infections.
Latex: Latex allergies are fairly common, yet many people are unaware of them. If you experience itching, swelling, and other signs of irritation after sex with a condom, you may have a latex allergy. Luckily, there are wonderful latex alternatives out there these days.
Nitrosamines: These are chemical compounds that form during the production of latex. While levels tend to be low in condoms, there is a potential for increased risk of cancer from exposure to nitrosamines.
Parabens: Parabens are a common preservative that are used in many personal care products, including personal lubricants and condoms. Parabens have been found to mimic estrogen in the body, causing a disruption of the hormone. This leads to an increased risk of breast cancer, amongst other things.
Dry Dusting Powder: This is used to help prevent a rolled up condom from sticking together or breaking while unrolling it. While these are typically made from corn starch, it may contain other ingredients, including harmful preservatives that are there to prevent the breakdown of latex.
All hope is not lost. As the demand for sustainable and non toxic products in every industry has grown, it has trickled into the condom community. There are a growing number of companies offering non toxic condoms, redefining the meaning of “safe sex”.
Sustain Natural: These latex condoms are ultra thin and lubricated inside and out- all while being free from nitrosamines, as well as being fair trade. Woohoo!
Lovability Inc. : These ultra stylish and millennial focused condoms have a brilliant brand, and an awesome product to back it up. Their condoms are made from 100% natural, vegan latex. They coat them with an aloe infused silicone lube to avoid harmful spermicides, dyes, fragrances, and other toxic chemicals. Even better? Their cute packaging makes them the perfect accessory.
GLYDE America : This company prides themselves on clean plant based formulas, sustainable ingredients, and ethical processes to produce their vegan and cruelty free condoms.
Sir Richard’s : All natural latex condoms free from parabens, spermicides, and petrochemicals. They are PETA approved, and all vegan. Cruelty free condoms for the win!
Whatever your sexual preferences and journey may look like, it is important to understand the effect that the products we expose our vaginas too have implications. Finding the right “fit” can take time and some experimentation, but there is a non-toxic sustainable condom option out there for everyone. So take some of these brands for a test ride, and have at it!
Stay frisky, Alila Grace CEO of Mahina Menstrual Cup