Condoms are an effective and popular way to reduce the risk of pregnancy and protect men and women against sexually transmitted infections and diseases. If used correctly, condoms will be effective 98% of the time.1
However, if you do not know how to put a condom on correctly, you’re likely to experience tears, breaks, and similar issues that make the condom less effective.
In this article, we’re looking at how to put on a condom correctly. In addition, we’ll cover how to use female condoms, how to check your condom is safe to use, what a condom should look like, and so much more.
Read on for more information.
Table of Contents:
- How to Put On a Condom Without Being Awkward
- How to Put On a Condom if Not Circumcised (or With Foreskin)
- What Does A Condom Look Like When On?
- How Long Do Condoms Last?
- Final Thoughts
What Should You Consider Before Using a Condom?
If you want to avoid feeling awkward or self-conscious when putting on a condom, you need to understand how to select the right condom for you. Keep the following in mind:
Choose the correct size: Up to 40% of men require condoms that are of non-standard sizing, ie. extra small, small, large or extra large. These sizes are not routinely available off the shelf in supermarkets or pharmacies. Make sure you don’t pick the wrong size condom - even if that means forgoing the extra-large brands. A condom that is too big or small can come off during sex; properly-fitted condoms work best.2
Get plenty of practice beforehand: People feel awkward if they haven’t practised with a condom beforehand. Don’t get caught out when things heat up with your partner in the bedroom.
Make time to figure out how a condom works with your partner before you actually want to use it. This will make using the condom less awkward at the moment. If you both know how to use condoms (male or female) correctly, you are less likely to make mistakes and enjoy the benefits of safe sex. Practice removing the condom from the packaging safely. Also, try putting on or taking off the condom on your penis or a similar-sized penis-shaped object, such as a banana, cucumber, or sex toy.
Make sure you know which materials you’ll need: Condoms are usually made from latex. However, you can find condoms made from other materials as well. For example, if you have a latex allergy, you can use polyurethane and polyisoprene condoms. In addition, lambskin condoms are available in some stores, though they do not protect against sexually transmitted infections.
Get free condoms: Most towns have a healthy department or a local health clinic to get free condoms. This is a good option if you feel awkward buying condoms from a pharmacy.
Store your condoms correctly: If you want to keep your condom in good condition, do not store it in your wallet, car, or bathroom. Condoms can be affected by heat, humidity, and friction. Instead, keep them in a dry, cool location, such as a cupboard drawer.
Talk to your partner about preferences: If you are concerned about how your partner feels about condoms, have a conversation with them. Protection is an important topic and shows you consider their feelings as well. Discuss the different condom options available - they come in all sorts of textures, flavours, and sizes.
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Condom?
Another way to feel less awkward is understanding the benefits and drawbacks of using a condom.
Some benefits of using condoms:
- When using condoms consistently, people can reliably prevent pregnancy and numerous sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, HIV, and gonorrhoea.
- Condoms are only required for sexual intercourse - you do not need to prepare anything beforehand like other contraceptive measures, benefitting unplanned sex.
- Typically, people do not suffer medical side effects when using condoms unless they are unaware of any allergies.
- Condoms are available in many locations and stores.
- Condoms are available in different flavours, shapes, and sizes.
Some drawbacks of using condoms include:
- Some people find condoms can ruin the mood during sex. A good alternative is to incorporate using the condom into your foreplay routine.
- While condoms are usually durable, they can still tear or break if misused. So make sure you practice using a condom to know what you are doing when required.
- As aforementioned, some people are allergic to latex, spermicides, and plastics. However, alternative condoms are available in different materials that won’t cause any nasty reactions.
- Men need to pull out once they have ejaculated before the penis gets soft, keeping the condom in place to avoid potential pregnancies. However, this can be awkward the first few times.1
Who Can Use Condoms?
You should also know whether or not you can use condoms in the first place. Some people are not suited to condoms for various reasons. These include:
- People with latex allergies (However, there are alternative condoms available).
- People who cannot keep an erection. Condoms are only effective if the penis is erect; semen can leak out, or the condom may slip off if you do not keep your erection.1
Make Sure You Know Where to Get Condoms
Condoms are available from many different stores and clinics. For example, you can get free condoms, even if you are under the age of consent, from the following locations:
- Contraception clinics
- Sexual health clinics
- GP surgeries
- Young people's services
- GUM (genitourinary medicine)clinics
In addition, you can also purchase condoms from:
- Online stores and websites
- Vending machines in certain public toilets (such as bars and pubs)
- Petrol stations
Remember: always purchase condoms with a European CE mark and BSI kitemark. These condoms have been tested by the relevant agencies and meet required safety standards.3
How to Put On Male or Female Condoms
There are two different types of condoms available in the United Kingdom: male and female.
Sometimes, the female condom is referred to as a femidom. “Femidom” is a female condom brand name in the United Kingdom. Femidoms are different from dental dams - a synthetic barrier placed outside the vagina for oral sex.
During sexual intercourse, male condoms are pulled over the penis to prevent semen from entering the vagina or anus when the man ejaculates.
Condoms should only be placed on the penis when it is fully erect and before the penis comes into contact with your partner’s genitals or anus.
Follow these steps to put on a male condom correctly:
- Carefully open the condom's foil packaging. Make sure you do not tear or break the condom as you remove the foil.
- Take the tip of the condom between your thumb and finger to ensure you are putting it on the right way. This also ensures no air is trapped inside the condom. Trapped air may make the condom split during intercourse.
- Place the condom onto the top of your erect penis.
- Keep the tip of the condom squeezed between your fingers, then roll it down over your penis.
- Sometimes, if the condom is inside out, it may not unroll. Make sure you start again with a new condom as the condom may have sperm on it already - men produce sperm before and after ejaculation.
Ensure the condom stays in place during sexual intercourse. If the condom comes off or tears, stop what you are doing and open another one.
Once you have ejaculated, hold the condom in place with a firm grip and withdraw slowly from your partner’s body, making sure no sperm escapes while you are still inside. In addition, you should only remove the condom once there is no contact with your partner’s body.
Female condoms are an excellent way for women to take responsibility for which contraception they use when having sex with their partners. These particular condoms can be inserted into the vagina before sex. However, they must be inserted before the penis comes into contact with the genital area.
Female condoms can go inside the vagina or the anus.
Follow these steps to use a female condom correctly:
- First, remove the female condom from the packaging. Ensure you do not tear the condom when you take it out of the foil.
- Take the closed end of the condom and put it inside the vagina. Hold the inner ring with your thumb and either your middle or forefinger.
- Take your other hand, separate your labia (the folds of skin surrounding the vagina), and place the squeezed ring inside your vagina.
- Then, place your finger or fingers inside the condom until you can feel the soft inner ring and push the condom as far as it will go, taking care not to rip the condom. The outer ring should lie against the opening of the vagina.
- Make sure these condoms’ outer ring rests on the outside of your vagina throughout sexual intercourse. If you notice the outer ring has gone inside the vagina, stop what you are doing and take it out again.
- As you engage in sexual intercourse, make sure the penis enters the condom. One of the biggest issues with female condoms is that the penis sometimes slips between the condom and vagina wall.
Once you have finished having sex, twist and pull the female condom to remove it from your vagina. Again, try to avoid spilling any sperm in your vagina. If you suspect sperm has come out of the condom, speak to your pharmacist or GP about your emergency contraception options.3
How to Incorporate Lubricants With Your Condom
Condoms come with their own lubrication, making them easier to use. However, if you want to make sex more comfortable, you can always use an additional lubricant. For instance, lubricants are particularly useful for anal sex where there is a greater chance of the condom breaking.
When you use lubricant with your condom, you reduce friction and increase the sensation for yourself and your partner.
Which Type of Lube Should You Use?
If you wear latex, polyisoprene, or polyurethane condoms, you should consider using water or silicone-based lubricants only. If you use oil-based lubes like lotion, baby oil, or petroleum jelly, you may break down the condom, rendering it useless for intercourse. In addition, some lotions and baby oils may cause vaginal infections, mainly if they are not ph-balanced. If you are prone to yeast infections, stick to water and silicone-based lubricants.
You can usually buy lubricant from any store, pharmacy, or website where you buy condoms.4
What About Spermicide?
Spermicide is another useful lubricant to use with condoms. Spermicide is another type of birth control containing chemicals that prevent sperm from reaching the egg. However, spermicide does not prevent sexually transmitted infections, so you should still use a condom.
In addition, when you use a barrier alongside spermicide, you get the highest level of protection against accidental pregnancies. Apply spermicide to the outside of a male condom or the inside of a female condom. Alternatively, you can apply the spermicide into the vagina before intercourse.
Typically, spermicides have a window where they are most effective. Therefore, make sure you follow the directions on the spermicide packaging and avoid using it past the expiration date. In addition, do not insert the spermicide more than 30 minutes before you intend to have sex, as it may become less effective.3, 5, 9
What Should You Do With Your Condom When You Are Finished?
Some people may not know what to do with a condom when they are finished, which can lead to an awkward moment.
Firstly, you should make sure the condom did not break during sex. Remove the condom carefully when you are away from your partner’s genitals. Then, take the condom to the bathroom. Fill it with water from a faucet. If the condom has a tear or break, water will come through the hole. If the condom is intact, there are no holes.
Finally, tie a knot in the open end of the condom or twist it several times. Wrap the condom in toilet tissue and put it in a bin. Do not recycle a condom or flush it down the toilet - it’ll clog your plumbing.
If you suspect the condom has leaked during intercourse, speak to your local pharmacy about any post-intercourse contraception as soon as possible.3
If you are uncircumcised, you do not need to do anything different when putting on a condom. However, some people prefer to pull their foreskin back before rolling the condom down over the penis.
How to Use Condoms if You Have Phimosis
Some people suffering from phimosis may be unable to pull their foreskin back.
This condition affects males, rendering the uncircumcised foreskin to tight to be pulled back over the penis head. Typically, most males cannot retract their foreskin until they reach puberty. Phimosis sometimes occurs naturally at any point in a man’s life. However, it can also occur due to scarring from infection or forcefully pulling back the foreskin during sex and bathing. Foreskin tightness sometimes causes more pain during intercourse or makes urination difficult.
However, people with phimosis (just likely everybody else) are encouraged to practice safe sex with barrier protection to reduce their pregnancy risk and avoid getting sexually transmitted infections. When you pull your foreskin back when putting on a condom, you maximise the movement of the foreskin during intercourse, increasing the sensation; a lack of sensation is one of the main complaints of many people who use condoms).
If you cannot pull down your foreskin at all, you can roll the condom over the foreskin instead. Sometimes, adding a small amount of water-based lube inside and outside the condom can improve the sensation for both participants.
Provided you put the condom on your penis properly (squeezing the tip to remove trapped air and rolling it down the shaft towards the base of the penis), your inability to pull your foreskin back should not impede the condom’s effectiveness. For example, condoms only slip if you have issues maintaining an erection.
However, if phimosis causes pain during intercourse, leads to infection, or affects your ability to urinate, you should seek medical treatment. These treatments include carefully stretching the foreskin with a medical cream, slicing a small slit in the foreskin, or complete circumcision. If you are struggling with phimosis, speak to your GP about the available options.
Remember, talk to your partner, practice, and experiment with your safe sex options to see what works for you and your phimosis. Men do not need to wait for intercourse to practice with condoms. Test different condoms and experiment with extra lubricants inside and outside the condom, either with partial foreskin retraction or no foreskin retraction. Find out what feels most comfortable for you. Every man is different, and understanding your body is the best way to achieve better (and less awkward) sexual intercourse when the time is right. Finding the right combination of lube and condoms may take some time, but eventually, you will find a solution that helps you enjoy sex.7
When a man wears a condom correctly, it should look like this:
- Soft inner circle pulled down towards the base of penis
- No air bubbles or trapped
- Tip of the condom just above the head of the penis
- No tears or breaks
- No discolouration
- Stretched fully - no creases or ripples
A female condom is not visible once inside the vagina, aside from the open end resting just outside the vagina’s opening.
Condoms can last anywhere from one to five years, depending on the material and brand. For example, latex and polyurethane condoms last up to five years. However, condoms with spermicide or polyisoprene condoms usually expire after three years.
Don’t be caught out by faulty or expired condoms. If you know how long a condom should last or how to make sure your condoms remain intact, you reduce your chances of any accidental pregnancies.8
What Should You Look for to See If Your Condom Is Still Okay?
Keep an eye out for the following things to make sure your condom is still okay to use:
The first thing you need to check is whether the condom is in date. If a condom is past its expiration date, it is much less effective. In addition, old or improperly stored condoms eventually break down, increasing the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
Check the Integrity of the Packaging
As well as checking the expiration date, you should also make sure the packaging is wholly intact. If the packaging is torn or has other signs of damage, avoid using the condom altogether.
Check for Defects in the Condom Itself
You should also look for issues with the condom itself. For example, if the condom is sticky or brittle, throw it away and open a new one. In addition, if the condom has a strange odour, unusual texture, or noticeable discolouration, choose another one. When it comes to condoms, you are better safe than sorry.
Look for Any Signs of Friction
As aforementioned, you should not store your condom in a wallet or purse. However, this may be the only place to keep your condom on a night out. If you do keep your condom in a wallet or your pocket, look for signs of friction on the foil.
If the wrapper has lost some colour, the condom has probably been compromised, meaning it's likely to be ineffective, and you should use another condom instead.
What Should You Do if Your Condom Splits?
If you fail to notice your condom is ineffective and spot a tear, you should speak to your GP or head to your nearest genitourinary medicine clinic as soon as you can, as you’ll require emergency contraception.
Emergency pills and intrauterine devices are the most common post-intercourse to prevent pregnancies. Emergency contraception is usually free from any GP or clinic that offers contraception services, as well as Brook clinics, sexual health clinics, and GUM clinics. However, some clinics may not fit an intrauterine device.
Emergency contraceptive pills (such as Levonelle and ellaOne) can be found in most pharmacies. In addition, some pharmacies will provide the pill for free to younger people.3
Condoms are the most effective form of birth control and the easiest to acquire. In addition, they are one form of protection against sexually transmitted infections.
As well as using condoms, you may also want to pair them with other birth control methods, including hormonal birth control and spermicide, to offer extra protection again sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy.
When you know you are fully protected during sex, you may find it becomes more relaxing and enjoyable. Condoms may require some effort to master, but they lead to a more comfortable sex life over time.