One of the surprising examples you might hear of a non-vegan product is latex condoms. But it can be difficult to find more information on this. What about latex gloves, balloons, or mattresses? Is latex never vegan? I decided to find out.
Is latex vegan? Latex itself is vegan, as it is made naturally (from a rubber tree) or synthetically (from petroleum). However, dipped latex products, such as condoms, balloons, and latex gloves, often use the milk protein casein in the production process. As casein is an animal product, such products aren’t strictly vegan.
Below, I’ll cover exactly which latex products contain casein and which ones don’t. (I actually emailed a bunch of companies to find out!) I’ll also explain why many vegans (myself included) don’t worry too much about the small amounts of casein, and we use these latex products anyway.
Does Latex Contain Dairy?
Some latex does contain a small amount of dairy, in the form of the milk protein casein. It is used as a “viscosity modifier” or “compounding ingredient,” particularly in dipped latex products. It is not present in all latex, however.
Here is the bird’s eye view. Then we’ll dive into details and sources below.
Latex products that may contain casein:
Latex products that do not contain casein:
- Latex mattresses
- Liquid latex
Casein in Latex
Casein is a by-product of the dairy industry. When you let milk sit, it forms curds and whey—and casein is part of the curds. Casein, therefore, is an animal product, and as such, it is not vegan.
Casein is used in some latex products, but not all. Mainly, it’s used in dipped latex products.
I found a few industry documents with some more details about how casein is used as a “latex compounding ingredient” (source, source). I also found some documents about alternative ways to produce latex without casein (source).
Aside from the headlines about how latex condoms aren’t always vegan, there’s also some research that found casein in several brands of latex gloves (source).
I’ve also seen packages of latex balloons that specified on the package that they contain casein. But more on all of these specific questions below.
Latex, Lactose Intolerance, and Milk Allergies
Overall, the risks of latex to those with lactose intolerance and milk allergy seem to be minimal.
According to this short post from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (AAAAI), casein in latex should not be a concern for those with milk contact allergies. That said, it may still be a good idea to opt for latex-free options when available.
This article in Women’s Health includes some quotes from an OB-GYN on whether latex condoms could cause an adverse reaction for lactose-intolerant people. Dr. Sherry Ross, M.D., says it is possible, but it’s not a known issue in the medical community.
Should Vegans Avoid Latex?
Whether you avoid dipped latex products as a vegan is up to you. We all make our own decisions about how strict to be. Personally, as a vegan of 12 years, I have not prioritized consistently avoiding latex.
After doing more research for this post, I may start checking packages at the store a bit closer. I might prefer to get a non-latex alternative when buying rubber gloves or condoms. But I wouldn’t leave the store empty-handed if latex is all they have.
More about vegan condoms below, but for now, I’ll say this: Practicing safe sex is more important than being 100% purely and perfectly vegan. And even PETA agrees with that:
“If you don’t have certified vegan condoms, sex with any condom is better than sex with no condom.” – PETA2.com
Are Latex Condoms Vegan?
Some latex condoms are vegan, but many are not. This is because the milk protein casein is often used to modify the qualities of the latex. However, most popular condom brands have some vegan options, and there are also specific brands dedicated to making vegan condoms.
I contacted several major condom brands in February 2020, asking which of their condoms are fully vegan. Their responses are below.
I’ve also listed a couple of the most popular all-vegan condom companies below that, so you can get a sense of your full set of options!
Most Trojan condoms are not vegan. However, the Trojan G condom may be vegan, along with some others.
I spent a while talking with a Trojan representative about this. Here’s how the conversation went:
- The Trojan rep was unwilling to answer whether their latex condoms contain casein because it is proprietary information.
- The Trojan rep said that some of their condoms contain animal by-products, but others do not. They weren’t willing to share a full list with me, but I could ask about specific products.
- I asked about some of the most popular Trojan latex condoms: Trojan Enz lubricated condoms, Trojan BareSkin lubricated condoms, and Magnum condoms. I was told that all of these contain animal by-products.
- Then I asked about Trojan’s non-latex condoms, known as the Supra BareSkin condoms and NaturaLamb condoms. I was told that both of these contain animal by-products.
- I finally asked if I could just get an example of a Trojan condom without animal by-products. I was told that Trojan G condoms do not contain any animal by-products.
Another issue I’ve seen some vegans discuss, however, is that Church and Dwight, the company that owns Trojan, sometimes tests products on animals. So some vegans may also choose to boycott Trojan condoms for that reason.
Overall, Trojan is not a very vegan-friendly company. However, they make at least one condom without animal by-products (the Trojan G condom). You can contact the company to ask about any other specific condoms.
The only Durex condoms I can confirm to be vegan are their non-latex “Real Feel” condoms.
When I asked Durex which of their condoms were vegan, this was the response:
“In response to your question, Real Feel condoms: made of polyisoprene do NOT contain casein, and the lubricant does not contain animal derivatives.” (February 2020)
Presumably, this means the other options from Durex, including all their latex condoms, are probably made with casein or other animal products and are not vegan.
Both the latex and non-latex options by LifeStyles condoms appear to be vegan. When I asked LifeStyles which of their condoms contain casein, this was the response:
“Both our Natural Rubber Latex and Polyisoprene (non-latex) condoms do not contain casein.” (February 2020)
I was a little surprised by this answer because I hadn’t heard any other vegans mention that LifeStyles condoms are all vegan.
Due to this surprise, I followed up, asking more explicitly if all their condoms are vegan. After a full month, they responded saying:
“My apologies for my delayed response to you. To the best of our knowledge, products supplied to our plant do not contain the following:
(1) Animal products or animal product derivatives.
(2) Allergens such as gluten, soybean/soybean products, wheat/wheat products or nuts.” (April 2020)
So, my takeaway is this: All LifeStyles condoms are vegan to the best of our knowledge. If there are any animal products in LifeStyles condoms, then even the customer service reps aren’t aware of it.
Kimono condoms are all vegan. Their website FAQ specifically states, “Yes Kimono condoms are Vegan-friendly—no animal or milk proteins.“
Sir Richard’s Condom Company
Sir Richard’s condoms are all vegan. These natural latex condoms are made in a way that does not contain casein.
Sir Richard’s is also a nice company to support because they are helping to donate condoms in parts of the world where they are sorely needed. Learn more about their condoms here.
Glyde condoms are all vegan. They’re also fair-trade, which is an ethical consideration I haven’t seen any other condom company address. Buy a pack of Glyde condoms here on Amazon.
What Are “Vegan Condoms” Made Of?
Vegan condoms can be made of a non-latex material like polyurethane or polyisoprene, or they can be made of latex that does not contain casein.
For more on vegan condoms and other—ahem—reproductive issues, check out this post from VegNews.
Are Latex Gloves Vegan?
Some brands of latex gloves may contain the milk protein casein, but other brands are fully vegan. I recently emailed several major latex glove brands to ask if their gloves contain casein. The responses I got have confirmed that Aurelia and Curad latex gloves are vegan and casein-free.
Remember what I mentioned above: There was a study in 1997 showing that some latex glove brands did contain measurable amounts of casein. This industry document also explains that something like 10% potassium caseinate (a salt of casein) would be common in exam gloves.
But it’s harder to find up-to-date specifics. I haven’t heard back from any specific companies yet confirming they use casein.
Instead, I’ve only received emails that Aurelia and Curad latex gloves are made without casein. Here’s the response from Supermax Manufacturing, which makes Aurelia latex gloves (link to buy them on Amazon):
“While yes casein, a protein from cow’s milk, is commonly used in the preparation of natural rubber latex compounds as a viscosity modifier, Supermax Manufacturing does not use casein in our natural rubber latex glove production processes.”
And here’s the response from Medline Industries, which makes Curad latex gloves (link to buy them on Amazon):
Our Curad latex exam gloves are not made with casein.
These emails were received in February 2020. If I receive more responses, I’ll update this post. If you have questions about a specific brand of rubber gloves, I encourage you to contact that company and ask!
Is Liquid Latex Vegan?
Liquid latex is generally considered vegan. Unlike dipped latex products, liquid latex does not commonly contain the milk protein casein. Below, I’ve listed several brands of liquid latex that are confirmed vegan.
I actually didn’t know much about liquid latex before researching it for this post. It’s often used in theater and for makeup. It’s typically made from latex, water, and a bit of ammonia. Sometimes BHT or other ingredients will be added, too.
The main concern for vegans may be whether the latex is processed with casein, as we know it sometimes is for dipped latex products. This doesn’t seem to be at all common in liquid latex.
Some vegans may also want to ensure that the company doesn’t test on animals. Luckily, there are some liquid latex companies that disclose this information publicly—so we don’t have to wonder.
Vegan Brands of Liquid Latex
- Mehron liquid latex is confirmed vegan and not tested on animals (public source). Click here to check the price on Amazon.
- Graftobian liquid latex is confirmed vegan and not tested on animals (public source). Click to check the price on Amazon.
- Liquid Latex Direct mentions on their website that their liquid latex is confirmed vegan and casein-free.
Those were the ones that were listed publicly. But I also got emails back from a few more brands about their liquid latex (February 2020):
- Ben Nye told me in an email, “Our Liquid Latex does not contain casein.” The ingredients are simply latex rubber, water, and ammonia, with the possible inclusion of some iron oxides. So Ben Nye liquid latex is vegan! Click here to get some on Amazon.
- Kryolan told me in an email, “Our latex only contains the natural latex with no modifiers.” So Kryolan liquid latex is vegan-friendly, too. Get it on Amazon here.
- TAP Plastics told me in an email, “Ours does not contain casein.” They also linked me to this safety data sheet with more specific information. So TAP Plastics liquid latex is vegan-friendly.
I sent an email to Monster Makers to check if their liquid latex contains casein or not. I’ll update this post if I receive a response. But at this point, I would assume it is vegan, as well.
Are Latex Balloons Vegan?
Latex balloons are probably not vegan by the strictest standards. As dipped latex products, they’re often made with a small amount of the milk protein casein. Vegans generally avoid such animal products. However, in practice, since it is a minor ingredient, many vegans still use balloons.
I emailed several balloon sellers and manufacturers to check if their latex balloons contain casein. I only heard back from one. That response was from Longbehn & Co., and it confirmed that their balloons do contain casein:
“I verified with production that the balloons we offer are made with milk protein casein.” (February 2020)
This makes sense, as balloons are a dipped latex product made in a somewhat similar way as latex condoms (to my knowledge). Therefore, it is common for the latex in balloons to also contain casein.
Are Latex Mattresses Vegan?
Latex mattresses are often vegan. Unlike some dipped latex products, the latex foam used in mattresses does not typically contain the milk protein casein. However, some latex mattresses may contain wool or, less commonly, other animal by-products. Look for the word “vegan” or ask the company to be sure.
I contacted around 10 natural latex mattress brands to ask if their latex contains casein. None of the latex from any of these brands was known to contain casein, although I received a few “I don’t know for sure” answers.
After hearing back from all these companies, I feel confident saying that casein is not commonly added to the latex used for mattresses. More on those details below.
Be aware that some latex mattresses may also contain wool, however. Wool is not considered vegan, either, since it is a product taken from sheep and other animals.
Let’s dive into some of the specific brands I looked at.
Vegan Latex Mattress Brands
First, there are some publicly confirmed vegan latex mattresses on the market today. I think it’s great to support these companies. They have shown that they value the vegan market enough to label their products as vegan.
For example, Avocado Green Mattress has this certified vegan latex mattress, PlushBeds has this one, and Brentwood Home has this one. There may be quite a few more, too. PETA has published this guide to vegan mattresses.
Casein in Latex Mattresses?
As mentioned above, the responses I got from numerous mattress brands have reassured me that casein is not a common ingredient in the latex foam used for mattresses. Here, I’ll just cover a bit more about the specifics.
The two most common processes used to make the latex foam used for mattresses are the Talaylay process and the Dunlop process. Both these processes seem to be vegan-friendly, from what I can gather.
Here’s the low-down on the Talaylay process, as explained in an email from the Saatva brand:
“All-Natural Talalay latex is a blend of approximately 98% natural latex and 2% carbon dioxide (CO2). The 2% CO2 is needed as a bonding agent in the ‘Talalay’ process and obviously does not alter the fact that it is classified as 100% natural. The Natural latex is tapped from South American rubber trees and strained for impurities.”
Here is another explanation of the process used to create some latex mattresses. This one was from an email with the Sleep on Latex brand. Again we see no animal by-products:
“During the manufacturing process, ammonia, sulfur, and zinc oxide are used. Ammonia is used to preserve the liquid latex and is completely removed from the latex during the manufacturing process. Sulfur and zinc oxide are ‘vulcanizing agents’ which means that they’re used in the process when the liquid latex is heated up.”
Here, Birch Living confirmed that their mattresses are free of casein:
“I heard back from our manufacturer and they confirmed the natural latex in our Birch products do not contain any casein.“
Here was the response from Spindle Mattress:
“We’ve confirmed with the Director of Latex Chemistry at Mountain Top Foam that our latex does not casein.“
Here was the response from Nest Bedding:
“[O]ur latex in the Natural latex mattresses does not have milk proteins in it.”
Lastly, here was the response from Brentwood Home:
“There is no casein in our latex products. The ingredients for our latex are as follows: 95% all natural dunlop latex and the other 5% are organic materials — zinc oxide, sulfur, sodium, and fatty acid soap…. However, our only fully vegan mattress is our Crystal Cove mattress. It contains no wool or animal products.”
So, in conclusion: Latex mattresses do not typically contain casein. But some contain wool or possibly other animal by-products. Your best bet is buying one of the specified “vegan” mattresses or asking the company if it is fully vegan.
Other Latex Products That May Not Be Fully Vegan
The latex products most likely not to be vegan are dipped latex products. Condoms, gloves, and balloons are the ones we’ve covered in-depth here. But there are a few others I’ll mention before closing.
I did not take the time to email manufacturers of any of these products, but logic would suggest that casein may be used in their production.
Again, I am not suggesting that vegans must boycott these products. I think that is likely unnecessary. I personally do not boycott them. But I just wanted to mention them, to be complete.
I understand band-aids (adhesive strips) are made from dipped latex, so before doing all the research, I would suspect casein might be involved.
Rubber bands are also made from dipped latex, from what I have read. Therefore, they may contain casein—but I did not do the research to find out for sure.
Other Medical Equipment?
Various other dipped latex products are used in the medical industry, such as various kinds of balloons, artificial lung/diaphragm things, etc. I have not done all the research, but it’d make sense if casein was used in some of these latex products.
Again, I am not suggesting that vegans should deny any kind of medical treatment due to the possibility of casein being used. Please be practical. Casein is only a minor ingredient in some latex products anyway. Your health is far more important than anything in this article.
That was a lot of information! So here are the main takeaway points when it comes to latex and veganism:
- The latex products most likely to contain milk protein are condoms, balloons, and gloves (dipped latex products).
- Latex mattresses and liquid latex do not contain casein.
- The amount of milk in any latex product is very small, not likely to cause problems for those with milk allergies or lactose intolerance.
- Whether you try to avoid latex products containing milk is up to you. Some vegans prefer to be thorough like that, but others consider it good enough to avoid the main animal ingredients, without worrying about casein in condoms!
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