With so many condoms out there it’s hard to know which is best. Do you simply pick the one someone suggests in an article because it works for them? Or do you use whatever is handy? Choosing the condom that’s right for you can be exciting. What works well for your best friend, may not work so well for you. Experimenting with many different condoms can be fun and happens to be the best way to find the condom that is perfect for you. Hopefully this information will help you decide what condom is best for you.I suggest considering three important factors when choosing the condom that’s right for you: purpose, material and size. First and foremost is the purpose of sex. Are you having sex with the intention of getting pregnant or catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI)? If not, then read on! When used correctly condoms are up to 98% effective (typical use is around 83% effective) with preventing unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV.1,2

Insertive Condom

Traditional or Insertive? Condoms come in two main types: traditional and insertive. Both types of condom prevent pregnancy, STIs and HIV by creating a barrier between your body and someone else’s during sex thus prohibiting the exchange of bodily fluids. Traditional condoms are worn on a penis or penis like object such as a dildo, while insertive condoms are worn by the person being penetrated. You may have heard the latter referred to as a “female” condom, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a condom that can be worn by females, males and folks somewhere in between for vaginal or anal sex. Amazing! I know, right?

Latex or Non-latex? Second factor you’ll want to consider when choosing the perfect condom is material. Both traditional and insertive condoms come in at least 5 materials that I can think of. Most people are only familiar with latex condoms as they tend to be the most widely available. Latex condoms are pretty stretchy and fantastic for allowing heat to transfer. They also effectively prevent unintended pregnancy as well as many bacterial and viral STIs and HIV. Latex condoms are not compatible with oil-based lubricants and some people are sensitive to this material. Only traditional condoms come in latex.

If you are sensitive to latex there are several material options available for you like polyisoprene, polyurethane, nitrile and animal skin. Yes, you read that correctly, some condoms are made of animal skin. “Animal skin” condoms are actually made from the intestinal membranes and not skin. Such condoms are great for folks who want a more natural feel. It is important to remember animal skin condoms only protect against pregnancy. This is because much like human membranes, animal membranes have pores which may allow unwanted microorganisms and viruses to pass through. Animal skin condoms are only available in traditional condoms.

Polyisoprene, polyurethane and nitrile condoms are similar to latex in that they prevent both pregnancy and STIs but do not cause irritation associated with latex making them an awesome alternative for folks with latex sensitivity. Polyisoprene condoms resemble latex with regard to color and stretchiness. These condoms are soft and comfortable. Polyisoprene is derived of natural rubber. Polyisoprene condoms are not compatible with oil-based lubes. Polyurethane condoms are made of plastic and tend to be clear and thin. Condoms made of this material transfer heat extremely well which may increase pleasure for some people. Plastic is not as flexible as latex therefore polyurethane condoms are a bit less stretchy yet pleasurable nonetheless. Polyurethane condoms can be paired with any type of lubricant. Traditional and insertive condoms offer a polyurethane option. These condoms are currently available as an insertive option only. Nitrile condoms are softer than polyurethane and significantly decreases sounds associated with polyurethane insertive condoms.

Small, Medium, or Large? When choosing which condom is best for you, size is a factor worth considering too. A condom that is too loose may not avoid the exchange of bodily fluid. Condoms that are too tight may break due to friction or roll up a phallus until it comes off inside your partner’s body. If fishing condoms out of bodies is not your thing, then having an appropriately sized condom is necessary. Traditional condom sizes vary by brand. Most regular condoms fit the average male penis when erect, which is about 5-7 inches in length and 4-5 inches in circumference. A smaller than average penis may be well accommodated with a “snugger” fit condom. While it may be best to use a larger condom such as a Trojan Magnum, Kimono Maxx or LifeStyle XL for toys and penis’ that are larger than average. For specific information on condom sizes by brand, visit http://www.condom-sizes.org/condom-size-chart/condom-size-chart. It is important to try several brands and sizes to determine which fit is best for you or your partner. Condoms should fit comfortably around the penis head, and shaft, down to the base. Tang Center Urgent Care Supervisor and Nurse Practitioner, Lee Fagan, suggests people find a “brand that fits good and stick with it.”

After considering the basics you can think about flavors, colors and textures! Flavored condoms can make oral sex on a penis (fellatio) tastier. Traditional condoms come in a wide variety of flavors such as vanilla, strawberry mint and more. If you decide to use these tasty treats, remember they are for mouth to penis sex only. Flavored condoms may lead to vaginal or anal irritation and possible infection. Traditional condoms come in several different colors with or without flavors. You can even get a condom that glows in the dark! Play around with various fun textures like smooth, studded, ribbed, and more! Textured condoms are designed to increase pleasurable sensations for the partner being penetrated.

Now that you have the 4-1-1 on what to consider when looking for the best condom, talk to your partner(s) about which you’ll try next. If you’re on campus the fabulous folks of Health Promotion – located on the 2nd floor in the Tang Center – have a variety of condom samples available free of charge. Know what you like and want more? Come to the Tang Center Pharmacy before your next sexperience and stock up on name brand condoms at an inexpensive price. You never want to be in the situation where you’re hot, horny and ready to have steamy sex only to realize that you nor your partner brought condoms. Don’t rely on your partner for your protection. Be prepared at all times. Carry your favorite condoms with you in a safe, dry place free from exposure to heat. Plastic, vinyl or tin condom carriers are great for this. Happy informed condom hunting!

Robin Mills, MA
SHEP Staff Coordinator