You already know that being sexually active means being responsible for buying and using protection. If you or your partner uses condoms, you also know that when it actually comes time to decide which ones to buy, the choices can be overwhelming: latex or poly, ribbed or smooth, lubricated or un-lubricated, the list goes on. Don’t worry bb, options are a good thing. Finding the right condom for you and your partner can actually make sex better. Here are some tips to keep in mind before your next condom shopping trip.

Shop smart

Don’t limit yourself to the drugstore. Adult stores or sex shops have a wide selection of brands and styles. The salespeople are knowledgeable and nonjudgmental so feel free to ask questions, especially if you’re looking for a specific fit or feel. If you really want to see how a particular model works, go ahead and buy one to try on a dildo in the store (also a good idea to taste flavored condoms before using them in the bedroom). Another easy and discreet option for browsing is to shop online. Online stores stock hard-to-find brands and offer plenty of reviews. Check out some of our fave women-owned online sex stores like Unbound, Babeland, and Good Vibrations. Some online stores, like Sustain and L., even offer a subscription delivery option, so you’ll never forget to stock up.

Size does matter

One of the main reasons people complain about condoms feeling uncomfortable is because they or their partner is wearing the wrong size. When it comes to condoms, finding the right fit is key — too small, and the condom is likely to tear; too big, and the condom can slip off.

Condoms stretch quite a bit, so very few people actually need to wear a magnum size. Try a brand that offers multiple sizes or purchase a variety pack so that you can compare fits. If you want to test a condom beforehand, you or your partner can masturbate with one on to see how well it fits without worrying about rips. If you don’t know what size your partner is, shop for the “average” penis size (between 5-7 inches long with a circumference of around 4.5-5 inches when erect).

Keep material in mind

Both latex and non-latex condoms are effective in preventing STIs and pregnancy. However, some non-latex condoms, such as polyurethane models, are more rigid and loose, so there is a slightly higher chance for the condom to slip or tear during intercourse if you are not careful when putting it on. Polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms are ideal for people with latex allergies. Some people also find that latex can cause irritation or dryness, while non-latex condoms transmit body heat well.

Don’t forget lube

Most condoms come coated with a water-based lubricant, either on the outside or on both sides. Some of these lubricants are “heated” or “tingling,” which may not be for everyone, so make sure to grab some normal condoms as well if you want to try these. Some lubricants contain spermicide, which adds an extra layer of protection against pregnancy. However, the spermicide most often used in condoms, nonoxynol-9 (N-9), can cause inflammation of the vagina and cervix, and can cause irritation during oral or anal sex, so you may want to skip these. It is possible that you or your partner can have an allergic reaction to the generic lubricant that comes with condoms. In this case, buy un-lubricated condoms and your own choice of lubricant — just make sure it is compatible with your condom. Oil-based lubes break down latex(!) causing tears, so stick to a water-based lube. Even if you use a lubricated condom, condoms are drying, so buy some extra lube just in case.

Choose your style

Different types of condoms are better suited for different types of sex — makes sense, right?

Thicker condoms, which decrease tactile sensation in order to prevent breakage, are best suited for rough sex or anal. Thick condoms can also help prolong sex for people who experience premature ejaculation. So can condoms that contain “climax control lubricant” aka benzocaine, a mild numbing cream, inside the tip. On the other end of the spectrum, wearers who complain about lack of sensation should try ultra-thin sensitive condoms. Textured condoms, usually ribbed or studded, add friction, which can be a good or bad sensation, depending on the situation.

Buy in bulk

Don’t get caught with your pants down, literally. Condoms are the best way to avoid most STIs, and way less expensive and stressful than buying Plan B. Buying in bulk ensures that you’ll always be prepared and have extra on hand to help out a friend or roommate in need. 

Condoms have a long shelf life and even premium brands are more affordable when you buy in bulk.

Store wisely 

Once you’ve stocked up on condoms, keep them in a cool, dry place to maintain their effectiveness. That means not storing a condom in your wallet where constant rubbing can break it down over time. Brands like One and Lovability even offer individual travel tins with their condoms. Obviously never use a condom that is expired, and if you open a condom and find that it is discolored, brittle, or sticky, toss it and get a fresh one.

When in doubt…

If you have no clue about your partner’s size or potential allergies, we have a couple go-to’s for you. Lifestyles Skyn condoms are a safe bet: lubricated, a basic straight shape, safe for people with latex allergies, and available in most drugstores. For a latex option, try the Lelo Hex condoms, which are both ultra-thin and ultra-strong. 

Image Source: Tony Futura