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Condoms get a bad rap. Despite being around since the dawn of time (well, modern condoms were invented in the 1800s) and being a pretty reliable and safe way to prevent pregnancy and STIs, their use has been on the decline since roughly 2015.
I think most people would agree that the trend isn’t a positive one. CDC data suggest that STI rates hit an all-time high in 2019 for the sixth consecutive year in a row.
One of the reasons people may not be that into condoms is they are using the wrong type or size. Yes, fit matters! (When was a one-size-fits-all approach ever a good idea for anything?) If a condom is too small, it’s more likely to break. On the other hand, if it’s too large, there could be spillage or it may simply fall off.
According to Melissa White, founder and CEO of fit-focused condom purveyor Lucky Bloke, only about 50% of people with penises should be wearing a medium or standard-fit condom, which is about 90% of what you’ll see on the shelves in conventional retail stores.
Another 30% to 35% require a snugger, more secure fit, and the remaining 10% to 15% may need a larger size or Magnum condom. And no, condom size is not actually related to length, so put away your ruler or measuring tape. Instead, grab an empty toilet paper roll and measure for girth (if it fits nicely in there, you’re likely a standard fit; too tight and you should go larger, too much space and you should go smaller).
Though it may be tempting for people with penises to grab a box of Magnums more as a status symbol than for actual need, experts strongly advise against using condoms that are too big.
People probably aren’t talking enough about condoms
All too often sex education in general is a fail in the US, and that can certainly apply to knowledge about condoms, said Ashley Townes, a postdoctoral research associate at the CDC who focuses on sexual health. A stigma against buying the correct size condom may be particularly pervasive in teenage boys who simply don’t know any better.
Townes, who is a former sex educator, explained how most people aren’t learning everything they need to know about choosing and using the right condom.
“You get one lesson to talk about contraceptives, and condoms are only a sliver of all the different contraceptives available,” she said. “You don’t have a lot of time to dive into it, so it can be challenging even as an educator to really go in depth about, How do you choose one that fits? How do you choose one that feels good for you?”
And the sliver of information that her students received about condom use is more than some people get, including those at schools where sex ed isn’t covered at all.
“Sex education isn’t mandatory across the United States,” said Éva Goicochea, founder of sexual wellness company Maude. “Even if it is, it's not always medically accurate, and so what ends up happening is that when they're teaching about condoms, often they’re not able to open them in the classroom, so it's harder to talk about how to use them.”
Condom use has fallen out of the conversation a bit as focus has shifted to consent and sexual assault prevention, social demographer Laura Lindberg said.
“What we see in sex education and health education more generally is as certain topics rise in importance, there’s less space and time to talk about other things that used to be discussed because nobody's expanding the amount of time,” she said.
A 2021 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health of 2,291 college students found that people were more comfortable talking with partners about consent than condom use or STI prevention.
“In my era, I was literally the first group who was getting the, Here’s a banana. Here’s a condom. This is important because everyone around you could have HIV,” Lindberg said. “Now the first talk you get your freshman week on a college campus is about consent. But they’re not doing two talks, so you don’t get space to talk about condoms.”
Finding the right condom can equal better sex
One perk of wearing a properly fitting condom is that it’s also going to feel better, likely for both partners.
“A common response we get is that using a condom will interfere with your pleasure,” said Lindberg, who is also a principal research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute, referring to the answers they get on their surveys. “I think we need to be honest that it may interfere with people’s sexual pleasure, and here are steps you can take to improve that.”
Aside from finding the right fit, Lindberg had one main piece of advice when it comes to making sex with condoms feel better: “Lubricate, lubricate, lubricate.”
Townes agreed, noting that people often don’t want to use lubricant even though it can increase pleasure and reduce the feeling of the condom itself. White added that using lubricant also makes the condom more effective from a safety perspective.
“Latex condoms in particular are naturally drying,” White said. “So your receiving partner is going to dry out at some point, which makes the condom less safe.”
White recommends putting a few drops inside the condom and a generous amount on the outside to help both parties feel more pleasure and reduce friction to maximize safety. Townes also recommended trying compatible sex toys with your condom to spice things up, like a vibrating cock ring or an external vibrator that won’t interfere with the effectiveness of the condom.
People are still using condoms, just not often enough
Despite the fact that there’s less consistency in condom use today than there was 10 years ago, Lindberg feels it’s important to recognize how far we’ve come in making condoms more socially acceptable. Her research shows that condom use at first intercourse has gone up dramatically, and 9 out of 10 sexually active teenagers have used a condom at some point.
“There aren’t declines in contraceptive use overall,” Lindberg said. “So young people are replacing condom use with other methods of contraception, and I think that speaks to the increased availability and awareness of long-acting reversible contraceptive methods like the pill.”
As great as it is that there are so many other contraceptive methods available, only condoms can protect against both STIs and pregnancy. Depending on your access to healthcare, condoms may also be easier to get since they don’t require a prescription and are relatively inexpensive. That can be particularly appealing if you’re not having consistent sex and don’t want to be on a contraceptive all the time. And on a very basic level, they make sex less messy.
Some may question their effectiveness, but Lindberg assured that the best way for a condom to fail is to not use it. (In truth, condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly.)
If you find you have barriers to buying condoms IRL, such as a fear of judgmental drugstore clerks or running into your old English teacher, this guide should help.
All of these condoms are available online for an embarrassment-free buying experience.
Townes said a great way to get more into condoms is by experimenting with a variety pack, and Lucky Bloke offers that in a discreet package that’s shipped right to your door. This “not sure what size to buy” condom sampler gives you the opportunity to test out all different kinds in different sizes to see what they feel like and what you actually prefer. Once you decide on a favorite (or a few favorites), you can simply order more of those for continued use.
Promising review: “This sampler pack was perfect to test out different condoms. Being in a new relationship I was unsure of the correct size for my boyfriend and this pack made it very enjoyable to find out. I loved trying condom brands and styles not found in typical drugstores. The added extras were also a wonderful surprise. Lucky Bloke is the only place I will be buying condoms from.” —Frogg, via Lucky Bloke
What else to consider: If you only have one partner and/or already know which size generally works best, but are still interested in testing out different types and brands of condoms, you may want to go straight for a more specialized sampler specifically for deciding between snug/smaller and medium/standard or medium/standard and large.
Best for: people who are in new relationships, have multiple partners, or anyone who is looking to explore and truly has no idea which size will be best suited for them.
You can buy the Lucky Bloke Perfect Fit Finder Condom Sampler from Lucky Bloke for around $17.
Japanese manufacturer Okamoto is one of White’s favorite condom makers. She said that people are loving its new Wink line since it offers very thin, lubricated latex condoms in two different sizes (everything but the slim fit). The Closer option is the most basic, everyday product in the Wink line, which also includes the Slider with extra water-based lubrication and the Super for those who need a larger, slightly thicker variety.
Promising review: “It feels like nothing is there! The condom is much better fitting than other brands and they stay on great. Most importantly the condom is thin. Great buy.” —Rebecca Turner
What else to consider: The Wink line is a newer offering from Okamoto, so if you’re interested in trying something from the company with more reviews, the 004 is probably its classic, best-selling condom. Note that they’re more lightly lubricated, but they also have over 2,000 reviews on Amazon and 4.5 stars.
Best for: people looking for the thinnest, most natural feeling condom with some lubrication to keep things moving smoothly.
You can buy a 24-pack of Wink Closer Condoms from Amazon for around $15.
If you care about buying products that align with a natural, vegan lifestyle, you should definitely look into Glyde condoms. It says its lubricated natural rubber latex condoms provide exceptional comfort and sensitivity for both partners. Not only are they 100% vegan (latex condoms can contain casein, a milk product, and lambskin condoms are made from lamb intestinal membranes), but they’re also certified to be ethically made, fair trade, and free of glycerin and parabens. They’re sustainable and body-friendly, double-washed to reduce any unpleasant latex odor, and “double-dipped” for added strength and resilience.
Promising review: “So I have dealt with my vagina burning during sex for the longest time. Figured out recently, it was the damn condoms! As soon as I tried these, my sexual experience and happiness and bonding with my partner went up 150%. I could have sex for longer without the burning pain caused by the unnatural ingredients in regular condoms. My skin is very sensitive to lotions and reacts to different kinds, so it makes sense that my vagina is just as sensitive. Anyway, if you have pain with sex, give these a try!!!” —Meowow
What else to consider: These are the standard-fit variety, but Glyde also makes Slimfit and Maxi condoms if you’re drawn to the natural brand but need a different size. Though they are body-friendly, they’re still made with latex, so they’re not suitable for those with any sort of latex allergy. Reviewers also note that they are lightly lubed and dry out quickly so it may be helpful to have extra lubricant on hand.
Best for: those who want sustainably harvested, natural latex condoms that are suitable for all bodies, even people who are super sensitive.
You can buy a 12-pack of Glyde Ultra Thin Premium Condoms from Amazon for around $18.
Yes, Playboy makes condoms, and people seem to love them. White likes that they offer not two, not three, but four different size options to help ensure the best possible fit. These ones in particular are more of a standard fit and get great reviews. They’re triple tested for strength and quality, but thin enough to increase sensitivity and pleasure for both partners. They’re also vegan, finished with premium silicone lubricant, and quite affordable as far as these better-branded, higher-quality condoms go.
Promising review: “Had to check to make sure it was still on. Or not broken. In a good way. Really good product. Will definitely buy again.” —Misty, via Playboy
What else to consider: Be aware that the lubricant is silicone, so if you don’t tend to respond well to silicone lubricant or plan on using them in conjunction with silicone toys, these aren’t the best option (opt for something with a water-based lubricant).
Best for: people who want thin yet durable condoms from a brand with lots of name recognition, in case that’s important to you.
You can buy a 12-pack of Playboy Ultra Thin Closer Sensitive Condoms from Walmart for around $7.
Maude Rise condoms are another great option if you’re looking for the most natural possible product. They’re formulated without any harmful chemicals yet they’re still super thin and lubricated. The biggest thing that differentiates Maude from other brands is an easy-to-open package design that makes it clear which way is up so you know exactly how to put it on and don’t need to waste any time ripping open a traditional wrapper. This design also happens to make them look much cuter than most other condoms, so you won’t be embarrassed to keep them displayed on your nightstand.
Promising review: “This is by far the best condom I have ever used. Feels great and no chemicals. All natural, even the lubrication has no taste or smell!! BEST CONDOM EVER!!” —Sun R., via Maude
What else to consider: While Maude also released the Rise Plus for those who need some more room in a condom, they don’t come in a snugger variety, so they’re best for those who are in the standard or larger range.
Best for: those who want an aesthetically pleasing, easy-to-open natural condom that’s still affordable and gets overwhelmingly positive reviews.
You can buy a 10-pack of Maude Rise Condoms from Free People for around $12.
These may be the most unique and innovative condoms on this list. They’re engineered with a hexagonal web to improve grip and strength while reducing slippage. This design is supposed to decrease the chance of tears and contain them if they do occur, providing the strength of a thick condom with the pleasure of a thin one. They’re made from natural latex that’s textured on the inside to improve sensation for the wearer and lightly lubricated on the outside. Hex condoms also come in XL.
Promising review: “I've never experienced a tear with these condoms. They feel like nothing is there. I know nothing is as great as "bare bones" but we've tried many and these get the closest! They also fit amazing. They are not preshaped, so they hug you where you need it. Worth the money. Definitely.” —Monica
What else to consider: Again, there's no slimmer fit option, which isn’t ideal since more people fall into that category than the XL one. Most reviewers loved them, but some did note that they didn’t find them different enough to be worth the price.
Best for: those looking to try something new in terms of texture and design who are also willing to splurge a little.
You can buy a 12-pack of Lelo Hex condoms from Amazon for around $14.
Skyn Elites promise to be not only thinner but also softer than the average condom. They feature a smooth surface with long-lasting lubricant and a reservoir tip. These condoms are latex-free, made from polyisoprene, which is a type of natural rubber, so they’re suitable for those with a latex allergy. The Elite line also offers an extra-lube condom and an extra-large condom to meet a variety of preferences.
Promising review: “I picked these up because my girlfriend has a latex allergy. But they turned out to be some of the best condoms that I’ve had to use. The other woman that I'm seeing liked them so much that she wanted to know what they were so she could get more. I honestly don’t even notice that I have it on once the action starts. Frequently I will struggle to reach climax while wearing a condom. That hasn’t been an issue since I started using these.” —Bugmeat
What else to consider: Skyn makes other latex-free condoms, but reviewers who have tried both prefer the Elite line due to the thinner material and increased sensation.
Best for: anyone with a latex allergy who still wants a super-smooth, comfortable, and durable condom.
You can buy a 10-pack of Skyn Elite Condoms from Amazon for around $9.
LifeStyles is a very affordable condom brand that still makes a quality product. It’s also one of the few that offers a snugger-fit condom. For those that tend to have too much extra room with a standard condom and need something a bit tighter to ensure effectiveness and comfort, these are a great option. They’re lubricated latex condoms, very similar to the standard LifeStyles, just a little snugger.
Promising review: “Works great for small and/or thin. Don’t be ashamed to buy these, keep yourself safe and buy what actually fits for you!” —Doki
What else to consider: Something to note about slimmer condoms is that they’re generally not much shorter in length. As we mentioned, condom size is mostly about girth, so if you’re long and lean, these are still a great option.
Best for: those who may be slightly on the thinner end of average or a bit slimmer who want a secure, comfortable condom.
You can buy a 25-pack of LifeStyles Snugger Fit Condoms from Amazon for around $7.
This may be a lesser-known brand, but it should definitely be on your radar if you’re in the market for a high-quality, nontoxic latex condom. This ultralubricated option is, as the name implies, extra lubricated for long-lasting enhanced sensation. The lubricant is also safe to ingest, so that means you don’t have to worry no matter what sort of sex you’re having. They’re also triple-tested, odor-free, and come in various sizes for an ideal fit.
Promising review: “My girl and I have been using these for the past year. She’s really into organic and clean products and supporting Black owned businesses is always a plus. They feel amazing and they don’t give off that nasty condom smell. Definitely worth it!!” —Amazon Customer
What else to consider: These are a bit more expensive than some other condom packs, but most reviewers seem to feel that they were worth the price. Some also noted that they feel more small to medium in fit, so if you’re veering toward the medium-plus end, maybe go for the larger variety.
Best for: people who want organic and nontoxic condoms that are thin enough for that barely there feel but strong enough to stay intact even during rough sex.
You can buy a 12-pack of B Condoms Classic from Walmart for around $7.
Another non-latex option from a more mainstream brand, these Durex condoms are made from thin and lubricated polyisoprene for that comfortable “skin on skin” feeling. They’re durable despite being fairly thin and five times tested to maximize protection. These ones in particular are suitable for a standard fit, but Durex also makes condoms in various sizes and materials.
Promising review: “My wife has a latex allergy and these don’t bother her at all. We have been using them 5 months now. Not one has broken yet. They work great.” —Zach N.
What else to consider: These aren’t the thinnest condoms on the market, although they do promise to feel like you’re wearing close to nothing. If you prefer a condom that’s as thin as possible, these may not be the way to go, but if too thin freaks you out, they’re a good option.
Best for: those who want non-latex condoms that come in a large quantity for a solid price.
You can buy three 24-packs of Durex Avanti Bare from Amazon for around $20.
Though Melissa White does not think that Trojan condoms are the best, even when it comes to Magnums, reviewers beg to differ. Trojan is probably the best-known and most available brand on the market, which is definitely appealing to those who want something tried and true that the majority of partners will trust. Of all the Trojan offerings, Magnums are probably its most notorious as a status symbol for being well endowed. Yes, customers are big fans of these, but we cannot emphasize enough that these are only best if you actually need a larger condom. If they’re too big, it will not feel as good nor will it be as effective. These latex condoms feature a tapered base and silky smooth lubricant for ideal comfort and sensitivity.
Promising review: “I’ve always used regular size condoms and wondered why it felt like they were strangling me ‘down there’, to the point of almost cutting off circulation. Finally something clicked in my head and I decided something wasn’t right and I should look at different sizes. I had always thought Magnums were for extra long dudes, didn't know they were also for thicker guys. After doing some ‘girth measuring’ I found these matched, so I ordered. Tried one on and they FIT! No more strangling, no more discomfort. Feels so much more natural now. Obviously not as natural as without a condom, but much, much better!” —B.A.
What else to consider: To reiterate again, please do not get these just for name recognition. However, if a Magnum condom actually fits you best, they are a solid option that also comes in thin, ribbed, or BareSkin varieties.
Best for: girthier types looking for an affordable, well-known, and well-reviewed condom.
You can buy a 36-pack of Trojan Magnum Large Size Condoms from Amazon for around $15.
According to the brand, these are currently the slimmest condoms available in the US. They’re almost 20% narrower than the average condom and assure a snug fit for those in need of something more narrow. They promise to fit like a second skin with no fear of slipping off, and they're made from natural rubber latex and lubricated for increased comfort. They’re affordable despite being more niche, so they’re worth a try if your condoms tend to slip and slide, but you’re skeptical about the slimness. Seriously, no shame in getting what works. If these fit the best, they’ll feel the best and provide the most protection.
Promising review: “I know we all want to be reviewing Magnums but....I’m an average guy with average hardware. Once you realize that and come to your senses try the Iron Grip. They are smaller and no one wants to admit that but the tighter fit ensures no slip and very sensitive feel. I’ve worn these during 30-40 minute sessions and have used them for solo play as well. I’ve never had one break or slip off. Good value and great feel. I’m uncut and they accommodate because they’re at least 7 inches long. Best fitting condom I’ve used.” —Amazon Customer
What else to consider: It’s also important to note that you should not use these if they feel too tight; too tight means more likely to break. Think of the Goldilocks mantra and hold out for something that’s just right.
Best for: less girthy types who want the snuggest possible fit to ensure the condom feels great and performs correctly .
You can buy a 12-pack of Caution Wear Iron Grip Snugger Fit Condoms from Amazon for around $5.
Jems is a new gender-inclusive condom company with a mission to make effective condoms free from certain ingredients found in other condoms either now or in the past, such as parabens, paraffin, or benzocaine. (Benzocaine is a topical numbing cream sometimes used to help delay ejaculation.) Instead, they’re made with natural latex and 100% silicone lubricant. That’s it.
The branding also has a modern, fun vibe in case you’re looking for condoms that match your aesthetic. Plus, they make cute little cases that make it easy to carry your condoms and access them at a moment’s notice.
What else to consider: As of now, they only come in one standard size, though they should fit most people and they’re ultra-thin for maximum sensation.
Best for: those who can manage with a standard-sized condom and value their brand aesthetics.
You can buy a 12-pack of Jems Condoms for around $15.