What to Know Before You Go Buy Condoms

Before You Buy Condoms
Before You Buy Condoms. Photo Courtesy of R. Kaser

Before you go buy condoms, it's important to think about what you are going to be using them for. 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.

When you are buying a condom, there are some important factors to think about, so use this guide to help you buy condoms that will best suit your needs.

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 condom use be your main form of birth control, or will it be a back-up method to a hormonal option like the pill, patch, Implanon, Depo Provera or NuvaRing?

It'll also be wise to find out the truth from the condom myths circling about. Like, you should never use Saran wrap around a penis as a condom (a balloon doesn’t work, either). Also, know that a woman is NOT more protected, the tighter a condom fits her partner.

Buying Condoms for Safe Sex

If using condoms for safe sex, you should know that only latex condoms, polyurethane condoms, and non-latex can be used to BOTH protect against pregnancy and many STDs.

Lambskin condoms are great for pregnancy protection but don't protect against STDs.

All are 85 to 98% effective against pregnancy. With typical use, about 15 out of every 100 women whose partners use condoms will get pregnant the first year. With perfect use, 2 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 while a condom that is too big could fall off. Also, other factors that could factor into your choice could include your budget, willingness to experiment, availability, how they feel, and animal rights stance.

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 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 doesn't mean that polyurethane condoms are bad -- they are FDA-approved as an effective contraceptive method.

Know How to Use Condoms

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.

Effectiveness can be compromised if semen leaks from a condom during withdrawal, the condom is not put on early enough, or the condom breaks due to defects or user error. Plan B One-Step might be worth pursuing if this happens.

Condoms also deteriorate with age, but if properly stored, they should stay effective until the expiration date.

What Condom to Choose?

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 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). They come in regular and thicker strengths (either strength is equally effective). There is 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.

To Lubricate Or Not to Lubricate?

Condoms 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 (allowing for more control over sensations).

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. Only water-based or silicone-based lubrication can be used with latex condoms. Oil-based or petroleum-based products (like Vaseline) will compromise the integrity of the condom.

The Fun and Sexy Side to Condoms

Novelty condoms are meant for sex play, so they don’t usually offer pregnancy or STD protection (but you can wear a regular condom under a novelty one). These condoms are labeled FOR NOVELTY USE ONLY. Some novelty condoms are FDA-approved for contraception, so read the label.

Flavored condoms can add a yummy dimension to oral sex (and many are FDA-approved). If using these for vaginal sex, they must be sugar-free as the sugar can 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.

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