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Condoms, Condom Ingredients

Most condoms are made from latex, but polyurethane and lambskin condoms are also available.

Latex Condoms
Latex condoms used with oil-based lubricants (e.g. Vaseline) are likely to slip off due to loss of elasticity caused by the oils.

Some latex condoms are lubricated at the manufacturer with a small amount of a nonoxynol-9, a spermicidal chemical. Spermicidal lubricated condoms have no additional benefit in preventing pregnancy, have a shorter shelf life, and may cause urinary-tract infections in women.

Nonoxynol-9, N-9 Spermicide
Nonoxynol-9, sometimes abbreviated as N-9, is a non-ionic nonoxynol surfactant that is used as an ingredient in various cleaning and cosmetic products, but is also widely used in contraceptives for its spermicidal properties. Nonoxynol-9 is the active ingredient in most spermicidal creams, jellies, foams, gel, film, and suppositories.

Nonoxynol-9 was once believed to offer additional protection against STDs (including HIV) but recent studies have shown that, with frequent use, nonoxynol-9 may increase the risk of HIV transmission. N-9 Condoms came under scrutiny in 2001 when The World Health Organization says that spermicidal lubricated condoms should no longer be promoted. However, they recommend using a nonoxynol-9 lubricated condom over no condom at all. As of 2005, nine condom manufacturers have stopped manufacturing condoms with nonoxynol-9, Planned Parenthood has discontinued the distribution of condoms so lubricated, and the Food and Drug Administration has proposed a warning regarding this issue.

There’s no reason to choose spermicidal condoms over other kinds. They have no additional benefit in preventing pregnancy, have a shorter shelf life, and may cause urinary-tract infections in young women.

Polyurethane
Polyurethane condoms tend to be the same width and thickness as latex condoms, with most polyurethane condoms between 0.04 mm and 0.07 mm thick. Polyurethane is also the material of many female condoms.

Polyurethane can be considered better than latex in several ways: it conducts heat better than latex, has less rigid storage requirements and a longer shelf life, can be used with oil-based lubricants, is less allergenic than latex, and does not have an odor. Polyurethane condoms have gained FDA approval for sale in the United States as an effective method of contraception and HIV prevention, and under laboratory conditions have been shown to be just as effective as latex for these purposes.

Polyurethane condoms are less elastic than latex condoms, and may be more likely to slip or break than latex, and are more expensive.

Avanti condom, the first male condom made from polyurethane

Lambskin
Condoms made from one of the oldest condom materials, labeled lambskin and made from lamb intestines, are available. They have a greater ability to transmit body warmth and tactile sensation, when compared to synthetic condoms. They cause fewer allergenic reactions than latex. There is an increased risk of transmitting STDs compared to latex because of pores in the material, are large enough to allow infectious agents to pass through.

Lubricants
All condoms are made more comfortable for both partners when used with additional, latex-safe lubricants. Lubricants reduce friction, which lessen the risks of breakage by keeping the barrier moist and in doing so, also help ensure that genitals remain moist enough to make barrier use more pleasurable.

Use only lubricants which are marked for sexual use or as latex-safe. Oil or lotions, Vaseline or other household items, should not be used as a lubricant with a latex barrier as they can degrade the latex or polyurethane. If you are prone towards vaginal yeast infections, look for lubricants which say they have lower levels of glycerin.

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Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonoxynol-9
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condom
http://www.birth-control-comparison.info/condom.htm