Condoms don’t get a lot of love outside the bedroom. Many state sex ed classes focus on abstinence and barely mention condoms if they come up at all. Even if your sex ed class discussed condoms, you’ve probably forgotten most of the details by the time you're actually ready to use them. Here are six essential facts about condoms you need to know in order to use them safely.
Condoms come in different sizes.
Most condoms are designed to fit an average-sized penis, which measures between four and seven inches long and about five inches in girth. If your penis is longer or thicker than that, you need to buy a large or extra-large condom. But don’t buy extra-large condoms unless you really need them. Oversized condoms can actually slip off during sex.
Condoms are made from materials besides latex.
There are condoms made specifically for people who are allergic to latex. Sheepskin or lambskin condoms are the most popular alternatives to latex. But these non-latex condoms play by a different set of rules. While sheepskin and lambskin can help prevent pregnancy, they do not do anything to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. If you’re allergic to latex and want to be protected from STDs, you need a polyisoprene condom.
Don’t keep a condom in your wallet.
Carrying a condom with you is a smart thing to do. Keeping a condom in your wallet for months at a time, however, is not. Condoms should be kept at room temperature, while your wallet is closer to body temperature. All that extra heat gradually weakens your condoms and makes them more likely to break during sex.
Be careful opening the package.
Ripping open the package with your teeth might look cool, but it’s not very safe. You run a good chance of damaging your condom in the process, and most of them taste awful.
Stick with water-based lubes.
Play it safe and only use water-based lubes with condoms. Oil-based lubes, lotions, and even certain foods can weaken the condom.
Don’t try to reuse your condom.
If your condom breaks during intercourse, discontinue sex and put on a new condom. Never share a condom or try to use one more than once.
And just to reiterate: Condoms are not 100% guaranteed to prevent pregnancy or STDs. But condoms are one of the most reliable and most effective methods available outside of total abstinence.