Rubber. Jimmy-hat. Love sock. Wrapper. However you say it, condoms are one of the most popular forms of birth control out there. They slip over the penis to prevent pregnancy and lower the risk of STIs by keeping sperm inside the condom and out of the vagina. (There are also internal condoms that go inside the vagina.) Condoms come in hundreds of shapes and sizes, with lube and without.

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types of condoms

  • Spermicide

    These condoms are lubricated with a chemical that kills sperm. Ok for vaginal intercourse, but not recommended for oral or anal sex.

  • Spermicide-free

    Women and men who are sensitive to spermicide can use spermicide-free condoms. Condoms have very few side effects. This type has even less.

  • Latex

    Elastic fantastic latex can stretch up to 800%. These are the most common condoms. But don’t use them with oil-based lube. They can break or slip off if you do.

  • Non-latex

    Allergic to latex? Prefer oil-based lube? Then these are for you. Usually made from polyurethane, other synthetic high tech materials, or natural lambskin.

STI protection!

The best thing about (most types) of condoms is that they help protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. Lambskin condoms, however, are the one type you should not rely on for STI protection—they are able to block sperm, but not infections.

Condoms take effort and commitment

You have to make sure to use condoms correctly, every time, no matter what, in order for them to be effective.

May help sex last longer

Condoms can decrease sensitivity, and in some cases, that’s a good thing. (Eg. if you or your partner has trouble with premature ejaculation), condoms may help sex last longer.

Cheap and easy to find

Condoms are inexpensive (and sometimes even free from clinics and bars). You can find them just about everywhere, from truck stops to supermarkets, and even online. Plus, there are so many different kinds to choose from!

No prescription necessary

If you can’t make it to the doctor (or don’t want to), you can always use a condom.

Not so good if you’re allergic to latex

If you’re allergic to latex, you’ll need to use a non-latex condom, or try another method.

Don’t take our word for it. Check out the videos above to hear people talk about their experiences with condoms.

Condoms have a reputation for being extremely affordable and accessible. And what’s not to love about STI and pregnancy prevention that fits in your purse or pocket?

Since condoms come in a variety of materials (and shapes, sizes, colors, textures, etc.), prices may vary more than for some other methods. Most basic condoms cost around a dollar, but splurging on condoms of different sizes, appearances, and materials might increase comfort and/or pleasure.

Payment assistance: Check with your local family planning clinics and find out if they offer free or low-cost condoms and other kinds of birth control (most do). Depending where you live, there may be other places where you can find free condoms.

In-Store Vendors (price range per condom)

  • CVS: $0.30 - $5.10

  • Rite Aid: $0.90 - $4.00

  • Target: $0.30 - $5.40

  • Walgreens: $0.40 - $5.40

  • Walmart: $0.15 - $7.80

Note: These ranges are averaged from a survey of select vendors as of June 2016. Prices may change over time.

Online Vendors (price range per condom)

  • $0.20+

  • $0.50 - $2.50

  • $0.30 - $1.15

  • $0.25 - $4.40

  • $0.60 - $3.90

  • $1.10 - $15.00

  • $0.35 - $2.80

  • $0.60 - $3.75

  • $1.66

  • $0.30 - $3.00

  • $0.20 - $4.40

  • $0.20 - $7.60

Note: These ranges are averaged—including taxes and standard shipping costs—from a survey of select online vendors as of June 2016. Prices may change over time.

Condoms are pretty easy to use, but life isn’t high school health class, and a dick is not a banana, so follow the tips below. And remember—if you’re relying on condoms, you have to remember to use them EVERY SINGLE TIME.

How to put a condom on

  1. First things first: Before you use a condom, check the expiration date. Just like cheese, condoms can go bad. (Outdated condoms break easier.)
  2. Put the condom on before your partner’s penis touches your vulva. Pre-cum—the fluid that leaks from a guy’s penis before he ejaculates—can contain sperm from the last time the guy came.
  3. One condom per erection, please. (So stock up.)
  4. Be careful not to tear the condom when you’re unwrapping it. If it’s torn, brittle, or stiff, toss it and use another.
  5. Put a drop or two of lube inside the condom. It’ll help the condom slide on, and it’ll make things more pleasurable for your man.
  6. If your partner isn’t circumcised, pull back his foreskin before rolling on the condom.
  7. Leave a half-inch of extra space at the tip to collect the semen, then pinch the air out of the tip.
  8. Unroll the condom over the penis as far as it will go.
  9. Smooth out any air bubbles—they can cause condoms to break.
  10. Then lube up, and get at it.

How to take a condom off

  1. Make sure the guy pulls out before he’s soft.
  2. One of you should hold on to the base of the condom while he pulls out so that semen doesn’t spill out.
  3. Throw the condom away in a trash can (preferably one that is out of the reach of children and pets). Don’t flush it down the toilet! That’s just bad for your plumbing.
  4. Make sure to wash up his penis with soap and water before it gets near your vulva again.

There are positive and negative things to say about each and every method. And everyone’s different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friend experiences.

The Positive

  • Protects against STIs, including HIV
  • Cheap and easy to get a hold of
  • No prescription necessary
  • May help with premature ejaculation

The Negative

  • Unless you’re allergic to latex, condoms cause no physical side effects (only 1 or 2 out of 100 people are allergic, and if you happen to be one of them, you can always use a plastic condom instead)
  • Some people may be sensitive to certain brands of lubricant (so, if the lube bugs you or your partner, try another brand)
  • Some guys complain that condoms reduce sensitivity
  • Hard to remember to use if you’re drunk (but that might be when you need one most, so keep them on hand anyway!)

We’re here to get this method working better for you. And if it still doesn’t feel right, we’ve got ideas for other methods. Just remember: If you change methods, make sure you’re protected while you switch.

  • ...My partner says it reduces his sensitivity.

    Not all condoms are created equal, so try a few different brands or types to see if that helps. You might want to check out the condoms marketed as “ultra-thin” or “ultra-sensitive.”

    Still not working?

    You can also try switching to a method you can “forget about” for a while, like an IUD, implant, shot, ring, or patch.

    But remember, none of these other methods will protect against STIs. So if you want STI protection, you could try a female condom instead.

    Try a different method

  • ...Condoms keeps slipping and/or breaking.

    You should also make sure to check the expiration date before using a condom and check the package to make sure it hasn’t been damaged. It’s also possible that you’re not putting it on properly. Check out our section on how to put on a condom.

    It may be that you’re talking about the condom slipping as your partner is pulling out, after he’s ejaculated. You should be able to avoid that by having him pull out while he’s still hard. Give it a shot.

    Still not working?

    You may want to check out a non-barrier method, like the patch, pill, ring, IUD, implant, or shot.

    But remember, none of these other methods will protect against STIs. So if you want STI protection, you could try a female condom instead. Or you can try again to find a male condom that works for you. There are lots of different kinds out there.

    Try a different method

  • ...My partner is allergic to latex.

    Latex allergies are rare, but they happen. If you or your partner are allergic to latex, there are non-latex polyurethane condoms you can use to protect against pregnancy and STIs. Lambskin condoms are another option for preventing pregnancy, but they don’t protect against STIs.

    Still not working?

    Try a different method

  • ...My condom is expired.

    Let’s face it, we aren’t always as nice to our condoms as we should be; we stuff them in pockets, and leave them in hot cars or the bottom of our purse. That’s why before using a condom you should always check the expiration date, and then give the wrapper a thorough inspection.

    To make sure your condom is still intact, first press on the wrapper—you should feel a little cushion of air. If you can feel the air cushion it means that the outside of the wrapper has not been damaged or punctured. Next, while still pressing on the wrapper, feel for the slip-slide feeling of the lube. (Unfortunately this won’t work with unlubricated condoms.) When condoms are left in the heat or punctured, the lube can dry or leak out which in turn dries out the condom, weakening it and making it more likely to break in action.

  • ...I only have flavored condoms.

    The good news: flavored condoms are amazing for oral sex and can help prevent STIs from making camp in your throat. The not-so-good news: some flavored condoms contain sugars that can create chaos down below in the form of yeast infections. So, before jumping in for some fun down south pause and read the packaging to check for added sugars.

  • ...My condom is expired.

    Just like milk, condoms can go bad… And when they do, they can break more easily. That’s why you should always check the condom’s expiration date and give the wrapper a thorough inspection before opening it.

    Heat, sun, moisture, and fluorescent light can also make condoms more likely to break. To reduce the risk of breakage, store your condoms in a cool, dry place.

    Still not working?

    Try a different method

  • ...Condoms don't feel good for my partner and he can't get hard.

    If a condom is too tight or uncomfortable, he can lose his erection. It’s not you, it’s the condom, so don’t feel embarrassed.

    A good way to avoid this problem is to try out different kinds of condoms. Lucky Bloke has a “Not Sure What Size to Buy” condom sampler if you think size could be the issue. They also offer lots of other samplers if you just want to explore your options. You can also get variety packs through a bunch of other online retailers like Amazon, Condom Jungle, Sustain, and Condomania.

  • ...I heard that I don't need to use lube with condoms.

    Using lube with condoms can increase pleasure while reducing discomfort and the chance of condom failure. Many condoms come with lubricant on them, but it never hurts to add extra. Just make sure if you do that your lube is condom-compatible—oil-based lubricants (including massage oil, hand lotion, and Vaseline) can cause condoms to break.

  • ...Sometimes when I drink, I have trouble using condoms.
  • ...Why am I hearing the term STIs?

    According to ASHA, “disease” suggests a medical problem associated with clear signs and symptoms. Since several of the most common sexually transmitted viruses have little to no signs or symptoms, it is more accurate to refer to them as infections rather than diseases. Also, the use of STI instead of STD reflects the reality that not all sexually transmitted infections turn into a disease.


Perfect use
98 %
Typical use
87 %
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quick facts /

  • They protect against STIs, don’t require a prescription, and are inexpensive.

  • The condom is so-so the way people typically use them—better when used perfectly.

  • Usually none. Unless you have a latex allergy.

  • You have to use one EVERY time.

  • Drug stores, clinics, supermarkets, and even some bars and clubs.

  • About $1 per condom or free at lots of clinics and bars. Read more about costs.