If there’s one thing more embarrassing to buy than tampons, it’s buying condoms. In fact, 71 percent of women report feeling shy about purchasing protection—which means they're less likely to use condoms altogether, according to a recent study in the journal Psychology, Health & Medicine. Scary, right? [Tweet this stat!]
Luckily, there’s a new wave of rubbers that may encourage you to feel confident about covering up: Your purchase can benefit other women around the world who don’t have easy access to protection. “More than 69 million people have been infected by HIV,” says Richard Crosby, Ph.D., an endowed professor of health behavior at the University of Kentucky, who studies condom use. “Stopping that epidemic through the use of condoms has to be a moral and ethical priority.”
Ready to do your part? Check out these four condom companies that are giving back.
The cause: The founders of Sustain—a father/daughter duo, interestingly enough—tracked down a rubber plantation in India that produces fair-trade, fair-wage latex. Plus, they donate 10 percent of the company’s proceeds to 10%4Women to benefit females who lack access to sex education, STD testing, and breast exams.
The condom: You don’t even have to open the box to realize that Sustain condoms are different: The packaging looks fresh and natural, unlike the sexy boudoir vibe of most brands’ boxes. Crosby is sold: “Women and men need to share in the initiation of condom use,” he says. “Marketing condoms to women is the first step in creating this shared decision-making, which I believe will boost the consistency of condom use.” Sustain also appeals to the animal lovers out there: The condoms are vegan-certified (that means they don’t contain casein, an animal protein commonly used in condoms, according to PETA) and don’t test any of their ingredients on animals.
The cause: Sir Richard’s has been called the “Toms Shoes of Condoms” because for every love glove you purchase, the company donates one to a developing country.
The condom: This socially conscious line of condoms boasts that its latex is “all-natural." What does that really mean? Probably not much, says Crosby, since the government doesn’t heavily regulate the use of this term. “Whenever you see ‘all-natural,' it’s usually marketing, not science,” says Lauren Streicher, M.D., author of Love Sex Again: A Gynecologist Finally Fixes the Issues That Are Sabotaging Your Sex Life. That said, Sir Richard’s does forego many of the chemicals commonly used in condoms, including glycerin (often added to lube), nonoxynol-9 (a spermicide), and parabens (a preservative). Although the negative health effects of these additives are disputed, Crosby says, avoiding extra chemicals is never a bad thing. “If you have a tendency toward yeast infections, you may want to try going glycerin-free,” says Streicher, who adds that the silicone-based lube coating Sir Richard’s condoms is slicker and longer-lasting than the water-based, glycerin-containing lube most brands use.
The cause: If you “like” the NuVo Condoms Facebook page, the company will donate a condom to someone in need in the U.S. through a non-profit promoting research and prevention of AIDS and STDs.
The condom: NuVo advertises that its latex is “low odor”—which may be more critical to getting people to cover up than you realize. In a 2008 study, Crosby found that about a third of people (especially women) consider the smell of condoms a turn off. Another plus: These condoms feature a “reservoir tip,” which NuVo claims adds safety and comfort. “It’s probably not going to add comfort, but it does add safety,” says Crosby. “The tip collects the ejaculate, keeping it from coming up the shaft of the penis and out the rim, which would, of course, compromise pregnancy and STI prevention.”
The cause: L Condoms' motto is “Get love, give love”: For every condom you buy, they’ll donate one to a country in need. Bonus: Any excess latex is used to make products like flip-flops, and the packaging is produced with 100 percent recycled paper.
The condom: Vegan-friendly, glycerin- and paraben-free, and low latex scent—what’s not to love about this glove?