In the United Kingdom, you can legally buy condoms from a pharmacy or retailer once you reach the age of 16. 16 is the same age at which you can legally have sex. However, some retailers may require you to be over 18 to purchase condoms - more on retailers later.

If you need clarification on the policy at your local store, it's always best to ask before making a purchase. We realise asking questions in a chemist or supermarket can be super embarrassing, so either check the information on the shelf above or below the condoms or, for absolute ease, buy your condoms from our collection online.

Table of Contents:

The UK has no legal age limit for buying condoms

In the UK, the legal age for buying condoms is non-existent, meaning anyone can purchase them regardless of how old they are. Public Health England put this measure in place to ensure that everyone has easy access to precise and reliable information about protecting themselves during sexual activity.

No age restriction barriers also allow younger generations to have open access to contraceptives, allowing them to practice safe sex. However, some retailers may have minimum age limits because they might sell other age-restricted products.

If you're 16 or under, condoms are free

While it is essential to obtain protection against unwanted pregnancies and the spread of STIs, many pharmacies have policies that state that they will not sell condoms to anyone under 16 years old.

The reason some chemists or pharmacies will not automatically allow those under 16's to buy condoms is because of the legal age of consent. Although it's worth repeating, there is no legal age limit to buying condoms.

As such, if you are under this age, you should take advantage of free condoms available at any sexual health clinic. Not only is this an effective way to ensure your safety now and in the future, but it is also much more cost-effective than purchasing them elsewhere.

The NHS state that free condoms to 16s and under are available from the following places:

  • Contraception clinics and sexual health departments in hospitals
  • GP surgeries
  • Young people's advice services

Each county council throughout the UK will have lists of these services on their websites. If you're 16 and under and require more specific advice, the following link to Umbrella Health from Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust might be helpful for young people.

Why condoms protect against STIs and unwanted pregnancies

Condoms offer the “barrier” technique of contraception. Condoms are intended to prevent pregnancy by preventing the sperm from contacting the egg. Condoms are constructed of thin latex (rubber), polyurethane, or polyisoprene. When used appropriately during oral, anal, and vaginal intercourse, they can help guard against STIs.

Condoms provide a layer of protection you will not find with other forms of birth control such as birth control pills. Condoms are a highly effective emergency contraception and help to prevent transmission of STIs but if in doubt, it is always better to have an STI test after sexual contact.

Anyone using a condom should ensure they buy one in the appropriate size. For more information on buying the right size condom, click the link to read more on this topic.

Choosing the right condom

You should ensure that you buy the correct type of condom for your needs. With various available options, knowing what will work best can be challenging. You may prefer male condoms or female condoms, for example. Or you may want extra thin condoms for more sensation.

Nonetheless, making an effort to choose the correct type of condom is essential for safe sexual activity. If you need some help choosing, read our sexual education blog, which gives clear advice on what condom is best for which sexual activity or for maximum pleasure.

Why instructions for condom use are important

Condoms are a reliable way to practice safe sex, but it is vital to ensure you are using them correctly. Apart from the proper application of your condom, it's best to check that the condoms you're using are in date and have not expired.

Reading the instructions is a good idea for anything, not just condoms. The reason condoms have instructions is that having sex is serious and should be treated as such.

How to tell if your condom has expired

How can you know whether a condom is beyond its prime? On the box of most condoms, there are expiration dates printed. It would be best if you don't use a condom after its expiration date since it will begin to degrade and lose effectiveness in preventing STIs and pregnancy.

You can also tell if a condom has passed its sell-buy date because it will be dry and not easy to use. You could do a sniff test, and if the unused condom smells sour or vinegary, it's not safe to use. You can read more about how long a condom lasts in our blog.

Checking the expiration date is probably only necessary if you have found a box or packet of condoms lying around your home, as retailers will ensure that they only sell condoms that have not expired. If you are wondering what happens if you use an expired condom, we have all the answers for you.

Buying condoms from vending machines may feel less embarrassing but there is a greater chance that they could be expired or close to expiring, as they may have been in the vending machine for some time.

How to store your condoms for best use

It's essential to understand where to keep your condoms. It is preferable to keep them somewhere at a constant room temperature because they need to be protected from severe heat or cold.

Keeping your condoms out of direct sunlight in a place where they won't need to be moved about too frequently and won't be crushed or bent is the best idea.

Don't keep your condoms in your wallet or back pocket where coins, keys, or sharp items can easily pierce them. It's also not a good idea to keep them in your bathroom, as the humidity can interfere with ideal storage conditions.

The best place to store condoms is in a tin, bedside cabinet, sock drawer or purse designed for condom storage - anywhere at average room temperature and away from extremes.

Most importantly, the foil wrapper must be intact, untorn, and unpierced. If the foil wrapper is damaged, do not use the condom.

Why condoms and baby oil don't mix

Baby oil has a pleasant scent, is inexpensive, and will leave your skin feeling incredibly nourished.

However, it shouldn't be used as sex lubrication. Why? Baby oil shouldn't be used as a personal lubricant since it frequently includes mineral or vegetable oils made from petroleum. Additionally, because it is not water-soluble, you cannot wash it off, which may irritate your skin.

Additionally, it will cause a silicone sex toy and a latex condom to deteriorate, increasing your chance of becoming pregnant or acquiring STIs. A healthy vaginal flora and excellent sexual health depend on using a suitable personal lubricant.

Which condoms are the best for preventing STIs?

Any brand of condom is designed to prevent STIs except those made from lambskin. Lambskin condoms are porous, and while they may prevent unwanted pregnancies, they do not offer adequate protection from sexually transmitted infections.

Latex condoms are an efficient barrier against even the tiniest STD bacteria, according to laboratory research. However, condoms are not 100% effective in preventing all STDs.

Here are our favourite latex condoms…

MY.SIZE condoms are an extremely thin, sheath-shaped barrier used during sexual activity to lower the risk of becoming pregnant or developing an STD. Seven sizes, ranging from extra-small (45mm) to extra-large, are offered (72mm). The company's mission is to assist men and their partners in finding a condom that fits perfectly to minimise discomfort and the chance of a condom breaking during sexual activity.

From Durex and Pasante, we also recommend…

One of the most well-known condom brands in the UK is Pasante. Pasante is one of the several brand names Pasante Healthcare Ltd uses to identify its sexual health products. The English firm makes its goods to the finest British standards and operates from its base in West Sussex.

Like all of the condom brands we carry, all condoms and personal lubricants offered under the Pasante brand are created from the best quality raw materials and undergo stringent testing before being sold.

Here are more latex condoms we like because they are comfortable and safe…

Which condoms are considered extra safe?

Whether it's unwanted pregnancy or STIs you're trying to avoid, extra-safe condoms do what they say on the packet. Keep you safe - here are our top recommendations…

  • Mates Super Safe Condoms

Mates Condoms is a household name; the parent firm Manix has a long history of creating lifestyle goods extending back to 1905 and providing Mates condoms and lubes for the last 40 years. Manix, now the second-largest maker of condoms in the world, has come a long way since its modest origins in Australia.

What distinguishes Mates's condoms and lubricants from the competition? It must be the Mates quality charter since it has established a reputation for producing flawless items that won't disappoint you.

Regardless of your age, using condoms is always a good idea. They help protect you from STIs and unwanted pregnancies, and different types are available to choose the right one for you. Make sure to carefully read the instructions before using a condom.

Dec 15, 2022
Written by:
Victoria Walsh