Condoms come in many shapes and styles. They are available in different lengths, widths, and strengths. Condoms are made from 3 materials:
- Latex: a kind of rubber; the most common and effective type of condom to prevent pregnancy and STDs.
- Polyurethane: a type of plastic; these are good for those who are allergic to latex. Polyurethane isn't as elastic as latex, so these condoms may slip off more easily during sex.
- Natural skin: (lambskin). This type can help prevent a pregnancy, but not STDs, because these condoms have natural pores that allow bacteria and viruses (including HIV) to pass through.
2. Lubrication: Condoms can come “wet” (with lubrication) or dry (non-lubricated). Lubrication can help prevent condom breakage, and many people prefer lubricated condoms because they may make sex more comfortable. Keep in mind, only water-based or silicone-based lubrication can be used with latex condoms.
Some condoms are lubricated with the spermicide nonoxynol-9; only use these condoms if you are not allergic to nonoxynol-9. If you are, it is possible to have a reaction resulting in little sores (which can make the transmission of HIV more likely).
3. Shape: There are many styles of condoms. They may be regular shaped (with straight sides), form-fitting (indented below the head of the penis), or they may be flared (wider over the head of the penis). The differences in shape are designed to suit various personal preferences and enhance pleasure. Condoms can also have different tips, including a reservoir tip, a plain tip, a spiral tip and an over-sized tip.
4. Size: There is no standard length for condoms, but ones made from latex rubber should stretch to fit the length of a man's erect penis. Condom widths can vary; there is about a 1.5 cm difference between the smallest and largest condom. A condom that is too small and tight may tear, and one that is too big may be more likely to slip off. You may have to experiment to find one that works for you.
Smaller, ‘closer’ fit condoms are typically labeled trim or snug fit. You may find larger condoms labeled as XL, XXL or Magnum. Avanti brand condoms tend to be the largest and least tight. Just a pointer: you may find the greatest selection of condoms, in both style and size, on the Internet (rather than in stores).
5. Texture: Condoms are also available with various textures, such as ribs, bumps/studs, or a combination of both. The positioning of the ribs and/or bumps are designed to maximize pleasure for either or both partners.
6. Novelty Condoms: These are special condoms usually intended more for fun and sex play, and they do not usually offer any protection against STDs or pregnancy. These condoms should be labeled ‘FOR NOVELTY USE ONLY.’
Condoms can come in all different colors (even in multi-colors!) and flavors. Generally, flavored condoms are meant for oral sex as the flavoring may cause infection if the condom is used for intercourse. However, not all novelty condoms are created equal. Some colored, flavored, and novelty-type condoms are FDA-approved to be used a contraception. Make sure you exercise caution while buying novelty condoms. Read the label! If there is not an FDA approval, or if it says something to the effect of “novelty condom,” make sure that a FDA-approved condom is worn under the novelty one for sex. Novelty condoms are usually fine for foreplay.