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Sunday, March 1, 2020

From The Strategist: the 10 best eco-friendly condoms and lubes

Looking for eco-friendly condoms is complicated. Kim Marks, the owner of As You Like It, a nontoxic and environmentally conscious sex shop in Eugene, Oregon, describes the concept as a Catch-22: “Condoms are onetime use, but we need them for safe sex,” she says. Matthew Nolan, the co-author of the Oh Joy Sex Toybook series who runs a website of the same name, agrees. “Condoms are super tricky,” he says. “Almost all condoms are made from latex or a latex derivative — stuff that takes forever to degrade. The best thing you can aim for is a cruelty-free, considerate condom manufacturer.” And there are a handful of companies that go the extra mile to ensure that their rubber and manufacturing processes are sustainable.

“As an FDA-approved item, condoms are highly regulated,” says Coyote Amrich, the director of purchasing and product development at Good Vibrations. “As such, there are only so many ways a condom can appeal to people looking for a more responsible brand.” There are two main companies, Glyde and Sustain, that are transparent about their manufacturing, and mostof the nine experts we spoke to recommended their condoms. And in talking about eco-friendly condoms, Marks also stresses the importance of paying attention to the lube used on them. Below are the four eco-friendly condom brands our experts recommend, along with the best vegan, organic, and cruelty-free lubes to use with them.

Best eco-friendly condoms

Glyde Ultra Thin premium condoms

Glyde condoms were the most recommended by our panelists, with Marks, Amrich, Nolan, Searah Deysach of Chicago-based sex shop Early to Bed, Zoë Ligon of Spectrum Boutique, and sex-toy reviewer and designer Venus O’Hara all recommending them by name. A certified B Corporation based in Australia, Glyde touts itself as the “first certified ethical, vegan, and fair-trade premium condom brand” and produces products that are free of glycerin, parabens, talc, and other harmful chemicals. Made from sustainably grown, non-GMO natural rubber that’s sourced from worker-owned-and-operated producers with fair-trade and labor practices, the condoms are also considered vegan because they’re free of casein, which is a dairy-derived ingredient common in many other brands. “They have been around for a long time, we trust them, and their condoms are great,” says Deysach. “I think they are a really top-notch and trustworthy company.” Glyde’s are also the “only condom certified ethical and vegan by the Vegan Society,” according to the brand.

Sustain Natural Ultra Thin latex condoms

Sustain also sells condoms that are non-GMO, vegan, fair trade, and made from natural latex. The rubber is sourced from a Forest Stewardship Council–certified plantation in southern India that provides free medical facilities for workers and schools for their children. Free of dyes, fragrances, and nitrosamine, Sustain is more “vagina friendly” and hypoallergenic, according to Ligon, who recommended the condoms along with Marks, Amrich, Nolan, and Lisa Lawless of Holistic Wisdom, a shop that specializes in nontoxic, eco-friendly sexual wellness products.

Lovability Condoms

Jenelle Marie Pierce, a spokesperson for matchmaking service PositiveSingles and the executive director of The STI Project (a website that promotes sexual health with a focus on breaking the stigma of sexually transmitted infections), recommends Lovability’s condoms, which are made with 100 percent natural vegan latex and are free of dyes, fragrances, irritating chemicals, and spermicide. Pierce, who “has seen firsthand how an STI diagnosis can strip your autonomy and make you feel as though you are not sexually healthy or deserving of pleasure,” appreciates the company’s “empowering and uplifting” messaging, saying that “they’re all about making the customer feel good about their sexual health and their pursuit of pleasure.” The FDA-approved condoms are pre-lubricated with long-lasting silicone lubrication.

Best eco-friendly latex-free condoms

Unique Latex-Free Condoms

If you prefer to use a latex-free condom, Ligon recommends the new brand Unique, which makes its condoms with synthetic polyethylene resin. The condoms, which are vegan and odorless, are a third of the thickness of other condoms and three times stronger than those made with standard latex, according to the brand. “In general, latex-free condoms are more hypoallergenic and cause fewer reactions for people (even if they don’t have a latex allergy),” Ligon says. As a bonus, Unique’s condoms come in ultra-thin packaging, which is better for the environment as there’s less waste to throw out.

Best eco-friendly personal lubricants

Sliquid H2O original water-based lubricant

“For the widest selection of body-friendly lubes, I’m a fan of Sliquid,” says Epiphora, a sex-toy reviewer and blogger at Hey Epiphora. “Their robust line features an array of water-, silicone-, and oil-based options, none of which contain potentially irritating ingredients such as glycerin or parabens.” Nolan, O’Hara, Pierce, and Jacquelyn Jones, the owner of Baltimore-based sex-toy shop Sugar, are also fans, with Jones saying the brand “uses some of the fewest ingredients and one of the safest preservatives on the market.” Epiphora and two others specifically called out this water-based H2O lube. “I love that it’s made with minimal ingredients, and it’s also body safe,” says Pierce, who adds that body safe (which generally means nontoxic and nonporous) is “especially important for people who have an STI or those who are prone to genital infections, like yeast or bacterial vaginosis, because outside chemical ingredients can interact with and disrupt the body’s natural balance of flora.” Sliquid has a base of purified water and is free of glycerin and parabens. It’s also 100 percent vegan friendly, cruelty free, and compatible for use with latex, rubber, and plastic. O’Hara, who’s vegan and avoids lubricants unless she’s using a pelvic-floor trainer, swears by Sliquid H2O because “it’s so pure.” Epiphora agrees, saying, “I love the simple, no-frills formula.” While H2O isn’t organic (Jones says there’s no such thing as organic water), Sliquid does make a line of organic lubricants that have an aloe vera base, are formulated with 95 percent organic ingredients, and are NSF certified.

Sutil Luxe original formula, 2 oz.

For another body-safe, water-based lube, Deysach recommends Hathor’s Sutil Luxe original formula, which she keeps by her bedside. She says it’s a staff favorite at her store, adding “Sutil is really gentle, pH balanced, and stays slippery for a long time.” Made with botanical eco-certified ingredients, it’s hypoallergenic and paraben and glycerin free. It also comes in biodegradable packaging, which Deysach says is rare for lube. Epiphora is also a fan of Sutil, but prefers Hathor’s Original Lubricant Pure, which has a “midrange viscosity slide.”

Aloe Cadabra Organic Personal Lubricant and Moisturizer

“When it comes to picking out a condom, you are experimenting a little bit, and that’s why picking out the lube that’s really body safe is really important,” Marks explains. “Some people need to have latex-free condoms, but other people are just reacting to the lube that the condom companies are using on their products.” If the lube that comes with your condom of choice doesn’t work for you, she suggests wiping it off and slathering it with one that does. Her choice is Aloe Cadabra, “one of the most organic lubes on the market,” she says. “It’s NSF certified and designed as this amazing menopausal and postmenopausal vaginal moisturizer, which means it’s excellent for anybody dealing with vaginal dryness or irritation.” The all-natural lube contains more than 95 percent of organic aloe vera in each tube, and is enriched with vitamin E oil and other natural ingredients to enhance its feel. It’s also vegan and pH balanced.

Good Clean Love Almost Naked Personal Lubricant

Marks also likes Good Clean Love, as it, too, is certified organic and contains aloe vera. The water-based formulation is pH balanced, free of petrochemicals, parabens, and glycerin, and is infused with lemon and vanilla for “a light flavor,” according to the product description.

Coconu oil-based organic lubricant

Coconu is an oil-based lube made from natural ingredients that Marks also recommends. The coconut oil formula is USDA-certified organic, hypoallergenic, cruelty free, and edible (it contains no alcohol, petroleum, parabens, gluten, fragrances, and dyes).

Überlube luxury lubricant

If you’re looking for a silicone-based lubricant, Pierce and Nolan both recommend Überlube. Pierce likes that it’s “body safe and has versatile applications,” but notes that it’s important that it’s not used with silicone toys, as the silicone in the lube can break down the silicone in the toy. “If you’re going to enjoy a toy with these lubricants, pick one that is not made from the same material,” she says. As far as uses, Pierce says that silicone lubes are great for all kinds of sex, noting they’re “especially great for marathon, rough, or anal activities, because they last a long time, they don’t get sticky, and their endurance helps ensure that your endurance is matched with fewer cuts and tears or discomfort from a lack of sustained lubrication.” While it isn’t organic, Überlube is made with pure silicone and a tiny bit of vitamin E for smoothness, and it contains no animal products. It’s also vegan and cruelty free. Other things it’s free of include gluten, glycerin, parabens, scents, and flavors.

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