The Best Condoms for 2018
Depending on how you view it, buying condoms may just be like any other purchase, or it could somewhat of an awkward situation you try to get through as quickly as possible. Thanks to online shopping, the, erm, embarrassment of buying condoms can be a thing of the past.
Types of Condoms
No doubt you've heard of some of the more popular types of condoms (ribbed, extra-large, or ultra-thin), but you'd be amazed by how much variety there is! Condom manufacturers are always experimenting with new ways to make sex more pleasurable.
Here are all the types of condoms you need to know about:
Standard – This is your garden variety prophylactic with zero frills or extras. It's a simple, cheap condom made of latex. If you want your penis to be the star of the show (without all that ribbing), this is the ideal choice. You can find standard condoms in all sizes.
Studded/Textured – These condoms come with ribs, studs, dots, or a wide range of other textures intended to increase both male and female stimulation. There's no "best texture" to recommend, as each woman has their own preference of sensations. However, according to Cosmopolitan Magazine, some women dislike the texture of the condoms.
For His Pleasure – These condoms often include warming lubricant on the interior of the condom as well as a pouch-like top that increases friction on the head of the penis.
For Her Pleasure – The enlarged head of these condoms are designed to cause heat-induced friction with the tip of the penis. Add to that the warming lubricant and the ribbed shaft, and the condoms can help to improve sensations during intercourse.
Shared Pleasure – These condoms have special warming lubricant (such as Trojan's Fire and Ice) on both the interior and exterior, and the tip is designed to increase pleasurable friction for both the penis and the vagina.
Warming – These condoms are coated with a special warming lubricant that is activated by the moisture produced during sex, producing a pleasant warming sensation that can heighten intercourse. They are also usually made of thinner latex to enhance sensations.
Colored – These are usually standard or textured condoms that are made in any of a broad range of colors. They're FDA-approved as a contraceptive and STD protection.
Ultra-Thin – For men with less sensation in their penis, ultra-thin condoms can improve the pleasure of sex with condoms. The thinnest condoms are roughly .0016 inches, and they increase sensation while still offering protection from pregnancy and STDs.
Glow-in-the-Dark – Since the Star Wars movies were released, this has been the (not always so secret) fantasy of men around the world. The condoms are made with three layers: a phosphorous pigment interior between two layers of latex. They're FDA-approved and offer the same pleasure as your average condom—the only exception being they light up in the dark!
Flavored – Flavored condoms aren't made of the same material as edible underwear; they're still latex, but they're coated with a flavored lubricant that makes the taste and smell of the condoms more pleasurable. On the downside, some women experience vaginal irritation with flavored condoms.
Edible – These condoms are like edible underwear, made from a material that is fully edible and can be eaten off during oral sex. They are NOT contraceptive condoms and will not protect against STDs. They can also lead to a higher risk of vaginal infections if used for regular intercourse.
Non-Latex – Latex allergies affect roughly 1% of the U.S. population. That's 3 million people who can't have sex with regular latex condoms. Non-latex condoms are usually made of polyurethane, and they tend to be thinner than latex. On the downside, they're less popular than latex condoms, so they only come in two sizes and styles. Not a lot of variety here!
Spermicide-Free – Spermicide is a secondary contraceptive method, one that increases the effectiveness of condoms as a birth control option. However, contact with spermicide more than twice a day can lead to problems for the woman, among them increased risk of HIV acquisition and vulvovaginal epithelial disruption. Women who want to have sex more than twice in a day are better off using spermicide-free condoms.
Tantric-Style – These condoms come with fancy tattoo-looking designs that enhance the appearance of the condoms. They're pricey, but they do nothing to improve the sensation. It's all about the looks with these!
Novelty – Novelty condoms may come in odd shapes (such as the French Tickler) or with a unique pattern (similar to the Tantric-Style condoms). They're not always effective for preventing STDs or pregnancy, so be cautious when using them!
Female Condoms – This type of condom is inserted into the vagina rather than slid over the penis. It gives women more control over the contraception, but sadly it's less effective than condoms (see below for reliability rates of condoms). They're also more expensive—on average roughly $18 for a 5-pack.
There are five basic materials from which condoms are made:
- Latex is the cheapest and most widely available on the market. They come in the largest variety of shapes, sizes, and styles.
- Polyurethane is a material used for non-latex condoms, a material that is less likely to cause allergic reactions than with latex. The material is thinner but offers similar durability and protection to latex.
- Polyisoprene is another material for non-latex condoms, and many believe it's a more comfortable alternative that offers better sensations. They are stronger and thinner than latex, with a less constricting fit and a better heat transference to enhance pleasure.
- Nitrile is used for female condoms. Nitrile is the same material used for surgical, CSI, and police gloves, and it's a highly durable material that can be made thinner than latex. However, it's the priciest of the synthetic materials.
- Lambskin is one of the oldest materials used for condoms, dating back thousands of years to the earliest contraceptives. They're not as effective for protecting against STDs and STIs, but they are good at preventing pregnancies. It offers a "natural" feel that synthetic materials cannot.
How Safe and Reliable are Condoms?
Condoms are the most common, popular, and cheapest of the birth control methods around. Roughly 93% of sexually active women have had partners that use condoms. 39% of high school students are taught condom use in health class, with 20% of sexually active teens using condoms—even along with other birth control methods. Given that the average condom costs roughly $0.45, they're definitely the most widely available, with over 450 million sold each year!
But let's talk reliability and safety. Just how effective are condoms at preventing pregnancy? How about STDs and STIs? What sort of results can you expect when using condoms?
According to the CDC, condoms are 98% effective when used properly. Even if used incorrectly (a lot more common than you'd expect!), they still have an 82% effectiveness rate. Compared to the top-rated birth control methods—such as implants, vasectomies, or IUDs—condoms are still pretty reliable.
Protection Against STDs/STIs:
When it comes to STIs and STDs, condoms are most effective against those that are transmitted via bodily fluids, including (but not limited to) chlamydia, HIV, and gonorrhea. Consistent condom use can reduce the risk of HIV transmission by anywhere from 80 to 94%.
They can also protect against diseases like HPV and herpes, which are passed via skin to skin contact. As long as the sores are covered, the condom will be effective.
Condoms are the ONLY form of birth control that can also protect against STDs/STIs, provided they are used properly. Common condom errors include:
- Removing the condom too soon
- Putting on the condom upside down, taking it off, and putting it on correctly
- Applying the condom too late in sex (after skin to skin contact)
- Opening the package with something sharp (knife, scissors, etc.)
- Using condoms with an oil-based lubricant (which can damage the latex)
Are Thicker Condoms Safer?
When it comes to protection from STIs and pregnancy, it seems like a thicker condom would be the safer option. After all, a larger barrier = more effective protection, right?
Extra-thick condoms aren't any safer than regular or extra-thin condoms. These condoms are designed to withstand the sort of use that comes with intercourse (even wild animal sex!). They are manufactured from durable material that is resistant to damage. Just because it's extra-thin, that doesn't make it weaker. One clinical study found there was no significant difference between extra-thick and extra-thin condoms in terms of breakage and slippage rates.
However, novelty condoms are more prone to damage, regardless of thickness. They are designed for "fun" rather than offering real protection. You should avoid using novelty condoms unless you are having sex with your long-term partner or spouse. There is a very real risk of slippage or breakage, leading to a higher risk of STIs and pregnancy.
Tips for More Effective Condom Use
To make sure your use of condoms is effective—protecting against disease and pregnancy—follow this advice:
- Make sure it fits! Poor fit is the #1 cause of slippage and breakage. Too-large condoms will slip off, while too-small condoms are more prone to damage. Find the right fit for your penis.
- Use water-based lubricants. Even if you use non-latex condoms, water-based lubricants are less likely to degrade the condoms than oil-based lubricants.
- Check the expiration date. If the date has passed, throw out the condom. Don't take risks that an expired condom will break or the spermicide will have worn off.
- Keep them in a cool, dry place. You can store condoms in your wallet short-term (a week or two), but for long-term storage keep them in a drawer or closet, out of sunlight and heat.
- NEVER re-use condoms. It should go without saying, but we're saying it anyway! If you're going from vaginal to anal sex or vice versa, always use a fresh condom.
- Get used to it. Putting on a condom needs to be part of your foreplay/pre-sex routine. It's only effective if you actually put it on right.
How to Make Sex with Condoms Feel Better
A lot of guys hate condoms because they believe it diminishes sensation and interferes with the pleasure of intercourse. Here are some tips to make your sex with condoms feel better:
- Use a bit of lube – Not only will this help make it easier to slip on, but it can increase sensation at the sensitive head of your penis.
- Buy a vibrating ring – The vibrating ring, which goes around the base of your shaft, can help to increase your sensation and speed up orgasm for both you and her!
- Have her squeeze her legs – The pressure of her squeezing her legs together (both in doggy style and missionary) can apply more pressure to your penis, increasing sensation.
- Try "For Him" or "Shared Pleasure" – If a regular condom isn't doing the trick for you, try using a condom designed for your (or both of your) pleasure.
- Change it up – Some condoms feel thicker than others. Changing up your brand or condom type may help you find a texture that leads to more or better sensation. "Variety Packs" can give you a lot of options to choose from.
- Stop bashing it – Condoms are intended to protect from disease and pregnancy. Stop mentally hating on condoms; they're there to make your life better!
Best Condoms for…
A 2014 study from the University of Oregon examined condom styles and brands to find the best for each use. Here are the results:
Durability – GLYDE Ultra, Trojan Her Pleasure Sensations with Spermicidal Lubricant, and Lifestyles Ultra Lubricated were the strongest and most durable condoms on the market.
Sensation – The Night Light offered amazing heat transfer (for more sensation), while the ONE Pleasure Dome had the best quality of lubricant. But it was the Kimono MicroThin that offered the best texture and sensation. Durex High Sensation also won for best applied texture.
Easy Application – The Trustex Lubricated was the easiest to put on correctly and avoid putting on inside out, while the Trustex Non-Lubricated was the easiest to put on in the dark. Durex Extra Sensitive was the quickest to put on.
Taste and Smell – The best tasting condom is the Trojan Supra Bareskin Lubricated, while the Fantasy Flavored condoms tied with Trojan Supra Bareskin Lubricated for best smell.