Condoms are one of the best ways to protect yourself during sex. Unlike the pill, shot, patch, ring, and other hormonal forms of birth control or not using protection at all, condoms protect you from both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). When buying condoms, itís very easy to become overwhelmed with all the different brands, textures, and materials that they can come in. It's also common to wonder which one is right for you. While it is tempting to just grab the first one you see for fear of ďbeing seen buying condomsĒ, or thinking ďany will doĒ, it is best to do research about your and your partnerís preferences, sizes, and allergies before making any purchases.
There are two main types of condoms: male and female condoms. If you have attended a typical sex-ed class you have probably heard of and seen the regular male condom (the one that the teacher put over the banana) but you may not have seen a female condom.
While a male condom is made to be put over the penis, the female condom is made to be put in the vaginal canal. There is a ring on both sides, one covering the cervix, and one covering the outer vulva while leaving an opening for a penis. Female condoms are made out of polyurethane (which we will talk about when we get to materials, so it is better for people with latex allergies). It is also better for women who want to be in charge of their birth control.
Male condoms have a higher success rate of 98% in perfect use and 82% in typical use, while female condoms have a success rate of 95% in perfect use and 79% in typical use. The difference in success rate between male and female condoms may be due to having more education about how to put on a male condom. Another important thing to remember is to not use both type of condoms together (or any two condoms together), because they are more likely to rub against each other and break.
Female condoms are sold in some pharmacies, and you can easily find them online. For the rest of this article, we are going to focus on the male condom, because there is more variety in these.
Condoms come in a range of sizes, and you may be wondering which size will fit you or your partner best. Most men can easily use regular-sized condoms, as they can be stretched well over your arm. Condom sizes mostly vary for men with wider or narrower penises. The best way to test whether or not you or your partner need a different size condom is to buy some regular condoms and test them out. If the condom is slipping off, you may need to buy a narrower condom, such as Beyond Seven or Lifestyles Snugger. If the condom is tight, and makes you/him feel uncomfortable, you may need a larger condom, such as Trojan Magnum or Lifestyles King XL. However, most men will fit in a regular-sized condom.
Most condoms are made out of latex, a type of rubber material. Latex is a very durable and stretchy material, which is why it does so well in condom form. The most important thing to remember with latex condoms is to use the right types of lubricant. Latex condoms can be used with both water-based and silicone-based lubricants, but cannot be used with oil-based lubricants (doing so will create little holes in the latex, lowering the effectiveness of your condom).
Most latex condoms are made from material in milk called casein. This product does not affect those with allergies, but may not be suitable for people following a vegan lifestyle, so a few condom companies have made condoms especially for vegans. Some of these brands include Gyde, Condomi, and Sir Richards. These condoms can also be good for people who are not allergic to latex, but are allergic to other chemicals in condoms, because they are often made with fewer chemicals. That is something you may want to look into for your particular allergy.
Some people are allergic to latex and have to use other types of condoms. Polyurethane condoms are the most common type of non-latex condom, and are made out of a plastic-like material. Like latex, they can only be used with water and silicone-based lubricants. They also tend to conduct heat better than regular latex condoms. However, they are not as stretchy as latex, and for that reason are not always preferred. You can get polyurethane condoms at any pharmacy in brands such as Durex Avanti and Trojan Supra. These condoms are typically a bit more expensive than latex condoms. Also remember that female condoms are made out of polyurethane, and can be used for people with latex allergies.
Polyisoprene is the newest type of material used to make non-latex condoms. It is made out of rubber, like latex, but does not have the chemical that causes most latex allergies. Like polyurethane and latex, you cannot use oil-based lubricants. They also have the stretchy qualities of a latex condom, while conducting heat better than latex. The main brand selling polyisoprene condoms at this time is Lifestyles SKYN, and these condoms tend to be around the same price as latex, which is a relief for anybody with allergies.
Last, there are lambskin condoms. Lambskin condoms are made out of sheep intestines. They are often preferred because they feel natural, as if you were not wearing a condom. These condoms can also be used with any kind of lubricant. However, these condoms are not recommended because they have tiny little pores in the material, which means that while these condoms can protect against pregnancy, they cannot protect against all STIs. They are also quite expensive, and you can usually only find them online.
Different styles of condoms
Condoms come in a large variety of styles that can help increase pleasure. These are things you may want to experiment with after you have learned to successfully use a condom and are using it as your main form of contraceptive.
The majority of condoms sold are lubricated. This is a very good thing for your pleasure and safety because if the condom gets dry, it has a higher chance of breaking. It is still recommended that you buy your own lubricant in case the lubricant amount on the condom is not enough. You can also find condoms that are not lubricated if you want to be completely in charge of how much lubricant you put on, you want to use a special lubricant, or you are having oral sex on males (blow jobs). Lubricant is also very important to remember when having anal sex, because condoms dry quickly and, unlike the vagina, the anus does not provide its own natural lubricant.
There are also condoms that come with lubricant that can create a warm and numbing sensation. These are often made to increase pleasure, and lengthen your time during intercourse. However, these can often cause irritation. These condoms are something you may want to consider trying, but overall, may just be another irritant to avoid.
Flavored condoms are, as expected, condoms that taste like something else. They can be flavored in many different varieties, such as ice cream, fruits, chocolate, coffee, and many more. These condoms are not recommended for vaginal or anal use because of the high chance of infection from the flavors, and are more recommended for oral sex on males.
Colored condoms are just condoms with color, coming in a variety of fun colors, even festive, neon, and glow-in-the-dark. The colors do not change the effectiveness, but as is the case with flavored and warming condoms, you may want to stay away from them if you are prone toward infections or irritation.
You can also get condoms that are studded, dotted, or ribbed. These are all meant to increase sensation for both parties and increase pleasure. However, it is important to note that the majority of stimulation on women comes from the vulva (in particular, the clitoris), and that many women find no additional pleasure with these products. They are worth a try if you and your partner want to try something new, but donít expect the change to be incredibly drastic.
To increase protection, some people like to get spermicide-lubricated condoms. They feel that if the condom were to break, they would have that extra protection of the spermicide. However, there are a few problems with spermicide-lubricated condoms. First, the spermicide lowers the shelf life of the condom, causing them to have to be thrown away faster because it reduces the durability of latex. Next, if you are putting a condom on correctly, itís very unlikely to break, but if it did, the amount of spermicide on the condom would not be enough to add further protection. Finally, many people are allergic to or are irritated by spermicide, and because of the irritated skin, these people are more prone to infections. Overall, using spermicide with your condom, either with it lubricated or adding it yourself, is not recommended. Rather than using spermicide to further your protection, it is recommended to use more lubricant, put condoms on correctly, and possibly use another form of contraceptive, such as a hormonal method.
Overall, using condoms can protect you against pregnancy and STIs, as well as add pleasure and variety to your relationship. No matter whom you are, what size you are, or how often you have sex, there is a condom that is meant for you!