What to Know Before You Go Buy Condoms

How to Buy Condoms
Buying Condoms. CatLane/Getty Images

Before you go buy condoms, it's important to think about what you are going to be using them for. There are many types of condoms to choose between. Do you want STD protection? Do they need to be latex? Do you want your condoms to be form-fitting or flared? It is easy to get distracted when buying condoms. So before you go buy condoms, learn what you need to know about condom use—it'll make buying condoms much easier.

When you are buying a condom, there's some things you need to think about before handing the condom box to the cashier and taking out your money to pay.

Use this guide to help you buy condoms that will best match your needs.

Buying Condoms for Safe Sex

A lot of guys embarrassed when they go to buy condoms. Don't worry about what the cashier or other shoppers will think about you (most likely, they don't really care). What matters is, if you have decided to buy condoms, it means that you are being safe and that you want to be prepared if and when you have sex. And, if you want to use condoms for safe sex, you should know that only latex condoms, polyurethane condoms, and non-latex condoms can be used to BOTH protect against pregnancy and many STDs. Lambskin condoms are great for pregnancy protection, but they don't protect you against STDs.

All condoms are 82 to 98 percent effective against pregnancy. This means that with typical use, about 18 out of every 100 women whose partners use condoms for one year will get pregnant. With perfect use, two will become pregnant.

You may also want to keep in mind that condoms may not be as effective if you use the wrong size. You don’t want to buy a condom that’s too small since this may cause it to break. If you buy a condom that is too big, it could fall off. Also, other factors that may affect your condom choice could include your budget, willingness to experiment, availability, how they feel, and your stance on animal rights.

Condom Discussions

Before you even buy a condom, make sure that you have discussed this option with your partner. It is important to know if either of you have any latex allergies or major objections to using a condom. Will condoms be your main form of birth control, or will it be a back-up method to a hormonal option, like the pill, patch, Nexplanon, Depo Provera or NuvaRing?

It may also be wise to learn the truth about many of the condom myths that are circling about. Like, you should never use Saran wrap around our penis as a condom (a balloon doesn’t work, either). Also, did you know that a woman is NOT more protected, the tighter a condom fits her partner?

Are Polyurethane Condoms as Effective as Latex Ones?

In lab tests, latex and polyurethane condoms have been shown to be just as effective as barriers to sperm and HIV.

But, with typical use (inconsistent or incorrect use), latex condoms may protect you better than polyurethane ones.

Though polyurethane condoms are thinner, stronger, and more resistant to deterioration, they're less elastic and fit looser than latex condoms—making them slightly more likely to break or slip off. So, latex condoms may be a better choice for those who don't have latex allergies. This also doesn't mean that polyurethane condoms are bad—after all, they are FDA-approved as an effective contraceptive method.

Know How to Use Condoms

If you are going to buy condoms, you will also need to know how to properly use them. Condoms should be put on before the penis comes into contact with the vagina (or anus or mouth) and must be removed immediately after ejaculation.

Condom effectiveness can be compromised if:

  • Semen leaks from a condom when you are taking it off
  • The condom is not put on early enough
  • The condom breaks due to defects or user error. If this happens, you may want to think about buying Plan B One-Step or another form of emergency contraception—just to be safe. 

Condoms also deteriorate with age. If properly stored, condoms should stay effective until the expiration date (located on the condom box and wrapper). After buying condom, keep them in a dry, cool place—condoms should not be exposed to heat, air, or sunlight for long periods of time. If the condom seems discolored, brittle, or sticky, throw it away and buy a new one.

What Condom to Choose?

Ah, the million dollar question! Though latex condoms are, by far, the most popular, widely available, and least expensive of all condoms, these may not be the right choice for you. Even if they are, latex condoms are available in all types of styles, so choosing one may be difficult. Don't allow yourself to get too stressed out over all of your condom options. Truthfully, condoms aren’t really that all that different. You may find, over time, that you develop a preference for a certain brand, but you can't ever really go wrong if you buy a plain lubricated condom. (At the end of the day, most condoms are pretty similar and, they all work the same way).

Condoms seem to get a bad rap (no pun intended). Some men complain that they fit too tight while others protest that condoms ruin the mood. But, condoms can be fun, they can be fruity, and can even glow in the dark! They may be regular shaped, form-fitting or flared and also come with different tips (reservoir, plain, spiral and over-sized). You can buy condoms that come in regular and thicker strengths (either strength is equally effective). There is also no standard length for condoms, but there’s about a 1.5 cm difference in width between the smallest and largest condom. Condoms can also have various textures, colors, and flavors. You may need to experiment with a few types before you find "the perfect condom"—and when you do, you'll know exactly which condoms to buy in the future. 

To Lubricate Or Not to Lubricate?

When buying condoms, you may notice that they come wet (lubricated) or dry (non-lubricated). Lubrication can help prevent condom breakage, and lubricated condoms may make sex more comfortable. You can use a non-lubricated condom—then add the lube of your choice (this may allow you to have more control over the sensations you and/or your partner feels).

Also, while some prefer to lubricate the outside of the condom, some men find that putting a small drop of lubricant inside the tip of the condom can increase their pleasure. You can only use water-based or silicone-based lubrication with latex condoms. Using oil-based or petroleum-based lubes (like Vaseline or baby oil) can lower the effectiveness of condoms.

The Fun and Sexy Side to Condoms

Novelty condoms can be fun to buy. Keep in mind that these condoms are meant for sex play, so they usually don't offer pregnancy or STD protection (a tip: you can wear a regular condom under a novelty one). These condoms should be labeled FOR NOVELTY USE ONLY. Some novelty condoms are FDA-approved for contraception, so make sure to read the label.

Flavored condoms can add a yummy dimension to oral sex (and many are also FDA-approved for pregnancy protection). If using these for vaginal sex, look for brans that are sugar-free since the sugar may cause a yeast infection.

Edible condoms are rolled on, and then can be eaten off!

French tickler condoms have a soft, rubber tips, fit over the penis, and "tickle" the inner walls of the vagina.

Condoms and Spermicide

Spermicide immobilizes and kills sperm. Most spermicides can be used with condoms for even greater pregnancy protection. Some condoms come lubricated with the spermicide nonoxynol-9 (N-9). With frequent use, N-9 can cause inflammation of the vagina and cervix and can kill layers of cells. This may make a woman more susceptible to infection and make it easier for her to transmit STDs to her partner. Use of N-9 may increase your risk of HIV, herpes & other STDs. If you’re having a lot of sex, its best to use condoms that don’t contain N-9. Also, allergic reactions to N-9 may cause sores that allow HIV to spread easier.

Now, You're Ready to Buy Condoms!

Once you have considered all of these points, its time to go to the store. You can either buy condoms the day you'll need one or just to have them handy—just incase. Don't worry if you find yourself feeling nervous when you go to buy condoms. This is normal. You mazy feel that the cashier is judging you, but when you think about it, he/she has probably sold plenty of boxes of condoms before selling them to you. You can also be any age to buy condoms and do not need to show the cashier any identification. So, no worries. Just be confident and keep your head up. Your decision to buy condoms means that you are worthy of respect—it shows maturity and that you care enough about yourself and your partner to practice safe sex.

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