What You Need To Know About Condoms

What You Need To Know About Condoms


A century and a half after they were invented, condoms remain our preferred choice for preventing STIs and unwanted pregnancy. Today, they’ve come a long way from the early days and are available in myriad materials, textures, sizes and shapes. SLMan spoke to two sexual health experts to find out everything from why size does matter to the latest innovations.

Size Matters

“Condoms are designed to stretch, and standard sizes should fit most men. Sadly, saying condoms don’t fit you is often a poor excuse to try and shirk the responsibility of wearing one. However, if you’re packing a larger package, a standard sheath can feel uncomfortably restrictive, as well as being harder to roll on smoothly and more likely to burst or rip if under strain. On the flip side, put a standard condom on a penis that’s more slim, trim or small, it may well be baggy or slip off, which not only stops it from working as intended, but can cause your body confidence to slip too. Some guys also find that being hugged by a snugger fit condom (such as Durex’s Thin Feel Close Fit Condoms) helps them last longer too.” – Alix Fox, sex & relationships educator at Superdrug, and script consultant for Sex Education


They Can Help Delay Climax

“Some condoms contain benzocaine, which can creates a numbing sensation that can delay the wearer’s ejaculation. Some people find these types of condom effective in helping with premature ejaculation but it can lead to a loss of sensation, although the effect is only temporary. If you are concerned about PE, it’s best to speak to your doctor to find longer-term solutions (there are already some incredible options on the market such as MYHIXEL, which is the world’s first natural, therapeutic solution to PE). If you do opt for the benzocaine condoms, start with one that has a low percentage, ideally less than 4%.” – Dominnique Karetsos, co-founder of The School of Healthy Pleasure

Try Pairing With A Toy

“Currently there aren’t condoms easily available that can specifically help with maintaining an erection, but this isn’t an excuse to ditch them entirely. If you find yourself losing your erection during sex, you could try including a cock ring into your play. These are worn at the base of the penis and help prevent the backflow of blood, allowing you to stay harder for longer. It’s also possible the condoms you’re using are the wrong size or comfort level for you, so definitely spend some time trialling different ones to see if they make a difference. Most people with penises experience erectile issues at some point in their life and ED is one of the most common sexual issues. If you are worried, your best option is to consult your doctor and see what treatments are available.” – Dominnique

It’s Worth Practising

“Lots of men tell me they have trouble maintaining an erection when they’re using condoms because they’re not used to the sensation of wearing one – it weirds them out, puts them off their game, and then things start to become a bit of a flop. I highly recommend using condoms during masturbation to become a pro at putting them on, and to familiarise yourself with how they feel.” – Alix

Technique Matters

“The good old ‘pinch and roll’ technique is the best to make sure you’re wearing it correctly. Not only does pinching the tip ensure you’re removing any air (as air bubbles can cause it to break during use) but it allows for space at the top to catch the semen – most condoms are made with a reservoir tip and I would strongly recommend only using brands that have this. Remember space at the top is different to an air bubble. There are a few hacks that can make using condoms more pleasurable: try putting a few drops of water-based lubricant inside the condom, which can increase the pleasure significantly. Alternatively, you can incorporate the condom into your play; having your partner put it on you can be a really intimate experience or you can ask them to massage or tease you in other ways while you’re putting it on to build excitement.” – Dominnique

Store Them Properly

“Condoms have an expiry date printed on each individual foil wrapper, which is usually three to five years after they were manufactured. As well as checking this before use – to prevent them from degrading and potentially becoming more liable to breakage – you should keep them in a cool, dry place, i.e. not car glove compartments that get scorching when it’s sunny, or bathroom cabinets right next to hot water pipes. Repeated creasing of a packet in a wallet can weaken them too – ideally, you want to carry your condoms in a small rigid box or tin.” – Alix

Not All Condoms Provide Adequate STI Protection

“Provided they’re used carefully and carry the quality marks, all types and brands of penile condoms will give you the same protection against STIs – apart from those made from lambskin. These are harder to find in the UK, but still sold in the US. They’re crafted from part of a sheep’s intestine, and some people claim they feel ultra-natural because animal membranes conduct body heat well. However, they have tiny pores in them, small enough for sperm cells not to be able to get through, but plenty wide enough for bacteria and viruses to be transported and transmitted. That means they prevent pregnancy, but not STIs.” – Alix

Thin Varieties Are Just As Durable

“Extra thin condoms like Durex Invisible can be made of rubber – which is thinner than the average human hair – or advanced man-made materials like polyisoprene, which is super soft, flexible and warms up quickly, as well as being fine enough to enhance sexual sensation. Mates Skyn and Durex Real Feel are great examples, which suit those seeking a realistic, barely there ‘skin on skin’ feeling. Special manufacturing processes and rigorous testing mean thin condoms are just as strong as thicker varieties, including for anal sex. Some men do prefer a thicker style, like Durex Extra Safe though, because actually being able to feel the condom a bit more reassures them of hygiene and safety.” – Alix

Check Out Recent Innovations

“One of the most recent innovations in condoms is the Lelo Hex. Its hexagonal structure (think beehive design – minus the bees and honey) means the material can be extremely thin (0.045mm) while maintaining strength so is still safe to use. Another exciting condom brand is One Condoms’ MyOne Perfect fit, which has 56 different sizes and a ‘FitKit’ allowing condom-wearers to tailor the condom to their exact size.” – Dominnique

Consider An Eco-Friendly Option

“While natural rubber latex condoms are biodegradable in theory, they require certain environmental conditions to break down. It can take a really long time if there’s not much light or oxygen present, and some of the chemicals added to certain varieties elongate that process even further. The problem is that you don’t want condoms to break down too easily, for obvious reasons. They have to resist friction and the pH of bodily fluids, as well as having a shelf life of three to five years, and foil packets have to be plastic-coated to meet medical standards for safety. HANX is fighting the good fight though. Its condoms come in recyclable card boxes without cellophane, and HANX adds vegan thistle extract to the rubber to make it smooth, rather than the more commonly used milk-derived protein casein. Whichever condoms you plump for, you should always put them in the bin, and never flush them down the loo.” – Alix

You Don’t Need To Spend A Lot

“A lot of generic and own-name condoms (such as Superdrug Regulars) are produced in the same factories as the big brand varieties, so you don’t necessarily need to splash the cash. For example, there’s a manufacturer called Karex in Malaysia, which is close to many natural rubber plantations, where they make one in every five condoms sold globally. As long as the British Kitemark or European CE Mark is stamped on the packet, you know the product’s been tested to high specifications. What you pay for when you purchase pricier condoms tends to be fancier features, which enhance the experience of using them, or bring added benefits: innovative lubricants, stimulating textures, next-generation extra-sensitive materials and classy packaging.” – Alix


Shop the experts’ edit here…

Alix Fox is an award-winning writer and broadcaster. As well as being Superdrug’s resident sex and relationships educator, she’s a script consultant for Netflix series Sex Education, and resident x-rated agony aunt on BBC Radio 1’s Unexpected Fluids and The Modern Mann podcasts. Find her on Instagram: @AlixFox.
For more information on The School of Healthy Pleasure, head to TheIntimology.com.



*Features published by SLMan are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programmes.

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