Q: How can I test if I’m allergic to lube or condoms?
A: This is a tricky topic. Like with many allergies, the quickest way to find out if you’re allergic to something is by exposing yourself to it. The problem is that, especially for those with vaginas, it can be uncomfortable, painful, and even dangerous. If you suspect or even fear you might be allergic to condoms or lube, here are some helpful tips to keep yourself safe.
For condoms, it’s a little simpler because there aren’t as many mysterious ingredients as there can be with lube. Start with a non-lubricated latex condom, or a latex glove. Either hold it in your hand, or put the glove on. No itching and burning? No trouble breathing? Then you’re probably alright.
Here’s another important thing, too: if you think you’re allergic to latex condoms, but the last latex condom you tried was over five years ago, you may want to try again. With the exposure of the side effects of nonoxynol-9 (spermicide) on mucous membranes becoming more widely known, many companies are pulling it from their pre-lubed condoms. Symptoms of a nonoxynol-9 reaction are usually a sharp pain, itching, or burning. If you have had trouble breathing or an anaphylactic reaction, that’s probably still a latex allergy and we don’t recommend re-testing. Stick to polyisoprene condoms, like Lifestyles SKYN, or polyurethane ones, like Trojan Bareskin Supra.
An interesting thing to note: healthcare workers have a much higher rate of latex allergy than the general public. While you may not be a healthcare worker, it’s important to note because it could mean that constant exposure will increase the likelihood of having an allergic reaction.
If you’re really nervous about it, you can always see an allergist or immunologist. Latex is something they will test for in many allergy tests, especially in blood tests. You will need to specifically ask to have it done though.
I have a whole slew of allergies. My skin has reactions to Aveeno, so you can see that finding the right lube can be a real nightmare for someone like me. You don’t want to buy a big tub of lube and then bring it home and find out you’re allergic, right?
My go-to test is to put it on the inside of my elbow. This has worked 99% of the time. You can read about the terrifying time when it didn’t work in my review of WET Wow arousal gel. While the inner arm is just about as sensitive as your skin is going to get, the vagina is a labyrinth of sensitive mucous membranes. It may respond very differently, just as getting a little table pepper on your skin feels like nothing but getting it up your nose is excruciating.
Silicone is often regarded as a hypoallergenic lube because it’s very, very rare to have a silicone allergy, and most silicone lubes only consist of a couple different types of silicone which make up the entirety of the lube, whereas water-based lubes can often have many different ingredients.
It’s very difficult for an allergist or immunologist to test for lube allergies because lubes have many different ingredients. Additionally, certain ingredients can do things to your biology that might not be covered in an allergy test– for example, many women who have repeated yeast infections may determine that it is the glycerine in lubes that is causing them. A scratch or blood test would not be able to detect this.
If the elbow skin tests makes you nervous but you still need a lube, try something more neutral. Liquid Silk is highly rated for women who are prone to allergies and infections. I personally use it when I use latex condoms and have never had any problems, but it does have parabens in it, which some people are uncomfortable with. An all natural alternative is coconut oil, which I also use with my Trojan Lambskins and on many of my toys. But you should keep the coconut oil away from latex and polyisoprene condoms– it will degrade them.