Condoms, rubbers, love gloves, jimmy covers—they are the safe-sex device with more names than any other.
Condoms are a hugely important part of safe sex, and most do protect against STIs and STDs, as well as unplanned pregnancy.
But not every condom is the same, and not every condom offers a good level of protection either.
To make matters worse, a sea of choices hang out in any drug store, and condoms these days have all kinds of fancy attributes and labels.
You've found yourself standing before a massive selection at the store or on your computer and wondering:
What kind of condoms should I get?
What's the difference between ribbed and dotted condoms?
What to do if you don't like condoms?
This helpful guide will give you the lowdown on all the different types of condoms, what they're good for and what they're not, and how to pick the best condoms for a satisfyingly safe sexual experience.
Condoms sometimes come outfitted with added elements that are purely in place to give your partner a touch of added pleasure.
Playing around with the different condoms and their uses adds an extra layer of excitement to sexual encounters.
1. Lubricated Condoms
Lubricated condoms come outfitted with a heavy dose of lube already coating the exterior.
You can find just about all types of condoms (latex, polyurethane, or lambskin) that are packaged with lube.
If nothing else, lubricated condoms prevent you from having to reach for another lubricant product to use in the moment once you have slipped the condom on.
A little added lube beyond what is naturally produced by the body may be necessary with condoms because of the friction between the skin and condom material.
2. Ribbed Condoms
There's probably not a single adolescent who has not giggled at the notorious "ribbed for her pleasure" designation on the outside of a condom package. And, most modern-day curious consumers have Googled the designation.
A condom that is ribbed has incorporated ribbed along the head and shaft. These added ribs are meant to add extra sensations to the mix during intercourse.
On the flip side, some condoms are now internally ribbed for the wearer's pleasure as well.
These condoms have internal ribs around the frenulum or glans for added penile sensations, while others may have ribs both inside and out.
Ribs that go straight around the circumference of the penis are not the only texture you can find on modern condoms.
Pleasure-shaped condoms boast a winding or twisted set of ribs, for instance.
3. Dotted Condoms
Dotted, nubby, spiked—all of these condom features serve the same purpose; they are meant to induce new sensations during sex.
The raised areas naturally stroke the recipient when you move in and out.
Some condoms have very minimal dots or nubs, but it is also possible to find more novel condoms that have fairly poignant raised spots all along the shaft and head for pleasure-giving.
4. Warming Condoms
Playing around with new sensations may help prolong erections and generally make sex more interesting.
Warming condoms are laced with lubrication that has ingredients to induce a warming sensation for the wearer and the wearer's partner when they come in contact with the skin.
Most condoms with warming action are latex, so if you're not good with latex, you may not be able to find condoms that offer the heated sensations.
Most warming lube contains glycerol, which is a viscous sugar alcohol.
Perhaps you have tried condoms before and found them to be uncomfortable.
Maybe the condoms you have worn have compromised your sensitivity levels so drastically that you had a hard time even keeping an erection.
Wearing a condom to stay safe during sex is important, so it's best to look into other options.
A few options do exist for guys who do not like wearing condoms.
1. Ultrathin Condoms
Ultrathin condoms, which are also marketed as extra-sensitive condoms, are a prime choice if your qualm about wearing a condom is the fact that you are not feeling enough during sex.
You can find ultrathin condoms made out of both latex and polyurethane, but polyurethane condoms with the ultrathin attribute are most common.
Ultrathin condoms have an unfair reputation for breaking, but these condoms should break no more than any regular condom with a regular thickness.
The number-one reason condoms break is improper use, not the fact the condoms are thinner, so use these condoms with confidence.
2. XL Condoms
Most condoms are so stretchy and so long that they could easily make it over your forearm.
However, some men who are far bigger than average do feel a bit of discomfort with the standard condom.
If you don't like condoms because every one you have worn has been too tight or too short for your penis, XL condoms are something to try.
These condoms are designed for men who have more length or girth than what is standard.
Keep in mind, however, buying and using XL condoms simply for the purposes of trying to impress someone is not the best idea.
A loose condom is a surefire way to have the condom slip off during sex, which greatly compromises protection against STDs, STIs, or unplanned pregnancy.
3. Female Condoms
Female condoms do not get a lot of attention, but they are a viable alternative if you are a guy who simply cannot find a condom that you like.
These condoms are placed inside the vaginal opening, which can take a little practice to get just right.
If used properly, female condoms are about 95 percent effective at protecting against both pregnancy, STDs, and STIs
However, the female condoms have a high rate of failure because of the learning curve involved in getting them placed properly.
Some women are not comfortable with female condoms because they can be awkward to install, but many women claim the condom gives them power over making sure they have safe sex instead of leaving the idea to a male partner.
Condoms can actually enhance the sexual experience. It's just a matter of finding commons with those added benefits and features.
Modern sexual knowledge and technology have made way for some pretty tempting features in the world of male condoms.
Guys who previously may have found reasons not to wear condoms may find something among this group that might make it worth trying, whether for fun, extra safety or novelty reasons.
1. Spermicidal Condoms
Spermicide is a contraceptive gel that actually kills sperm or paralyzes it so it does not get the opportunity to move on for fertilization. Some condoms are packaged with a dose of the contraceptive.
Alone, spermicide is not all that effective at preventing pregnancy. According to the CDC, about 28 percent of women who rely solely on spermicide end up pregnant.
However, when paired with a condom, the efficacy of spermicide goes up substantially.
Keep in mind as well that spermicide does not protect against STIs or STDs on any level. Plus, there is a high incidence of allergic reactions to spermicide, so be mindful of any irritation after use.
2. Delay Condoms
Delay condoms are specifically designed to help guys who have issues with PE (premature ejaculation). The average man will only make it about seven minutes before they reach a climax point and ejaculate.
Guys with PE have even bigger issues because they may only make it about two minutes.
Delay condoms, which are also called delayed climax condoms have benzocaine inside.
The numbing agent inside of delay condoms absorbs into the skin of the penis, which reduces sensations to prolong ejaculation. Men who opt for these condoms are looking to enjoy sex longer.
Does your partner ever have issues tracking down your penis in the dark? Or, do you like seeing where your condom-covered penis is going in the dark?
If so, glow-in-the-dark novelty condoms are a surefire way to light up the night.
These condoms have an interior layer of pigmented phosphorous, which naturally looks illuminated in the dark.
Most glow-in-the-darks are green, but you can find some that are fun magenta or orange colors as well.
4. Colored Condoms
The majority of condoms produced are clear or semi-clear with an opaque sort-of appearance. However, many novelty condoms are colorful or decorative.
Red, green, fuchsia, orange, purple—playing around with different condom colors to suit the occasion is definitely fun. The colored condom gives the penis a novel look and makes interactions a bit more interesting.
These days, not only can you find colored condoms, but you can also find condoms that are embellished with interesting graphics.
For example, one brand produces tattoo condoms that have detailed, tattoo-Esque graphic imagery on each one.
5. Flavored Condoms
Wearing a condom during oral sex helps to decrease sensitivity so you can enjoy sensations for longer, but it is also a wise decision where safe sex is concerned.
Including flavored condoms in oral sex endeavors adds a little fun to the experience.
Flavored condoms are usually coated with a layer of lube that has flavor additives. A lot of flavor options exist, such as vanilla, chocolate, or fruity flavors.
As it is with flavored lubes, some actually taste really yummy, while others can be questionable.
So, playing around with different brands and flavors is the key to finding something your partner likes. For those who are prone to skin irritation, flavored condoms may not be the best idea.
You could spend hours surveying the multitude of condoms available, and it's easy to get confused with all the labels and attached attributes. When it comes down to it, however, there are basically three different types of condoms when it comes to the underlying material.
1. Latex Condoms
You really can't talk about different condoms and their uses without first mentioning latex condoms.
Latex condoms are easily the go-to condom type for a lot of guys, and it is for good reason.
Latex condoms are about 98-percent effective at preventing pregnancy and highly effective against STIs as well when they are used properly.
Standard latex condoms should be used with only water or silicone-based lube, as lubes with oil bases can cause latex to break down. If the condom causes any irritation, it could be due to a latex allergy.
2. Polyurethane Condoms
For guys who are allergic to latex and not-so-keen on the idea of lambskin condoms, other options do exist.
Polyurethane is the typical alternative, but polyisoprene is a similar condom type and also a good alternative.
Both polyurethane and polyisoprene condoms are created out of latex-free, thin rubber material.
Since the material is thinner than latex, some men find these alternatives to be more comfortable and less likely to interfere with sensitivity. Plus, both are better at conducting body heat.
Polyisoprene is slightly more flexible than polyurethane, so polyurethane condoms may break easier. Nevertheless, most condoms made of either material will rarely break as long as you follow usage directions.
3. Lambskin Condoms
If you look into the history of condoms, you'll learn that lambskin sheaths are perhaps one of the oldest forms of condoms.
These days, synthetic condoms are far more common and far less controversial.
Lambskin condoms are made out of the intestinal skin of lambs, which is a little off-putting to many men. But, the material is still preferred by some because it feels more natural and readily transmits body heat.
The biggest issue with lambskin condoms is that they are not effective to protect against most STIs or STDs, and they aren't all that effective to protect against pregnancy either. The skin is naturally porous, which allows microscopic elements to slip through.
You can go with traditional latex or more modern polyurethane condoms.
All condoms are made big and small to fit them all, and ultrathins for men who want the feel more like real skin are not hard to find.
Dotted, ribbed, lubed—it really doesn’t matter what you choose. Good sex is all about being safe, and with so many condoms out there to choose from, really, there’s no excuse to not to practice safe sex.
Dr. Robert J Valenzuela, MD serves as a Diplomate of the American Board of Urology and is the Director of Penile Prosthesis Surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. He specializes in male sexual dysfunctions and practices at Washington Heights Urology in New York. He founded and is President of the Northeast Mission of Hope, an organization which provides free surgical care to those in need around the globe.
Absorption Pharmaceuticals LLC (Promescent) has strict informational citing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic or research institutions, medical associations, and medical experts. We attempt to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references and only citing trustworthy sources. Each article is reviewed, written, and updated by Medical Professionals or authoritative Experts in a specific, related field of practice. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.
NHS Staff. Last Reviewed 2020 October 12. Condoms. National Health Service. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/male-condoms/#:~:text=When%20used%20correctly%20every%20time,condoms%20are%20used%20as%20contraception. Accessed 28 Jan 2022.
Planned Parenthood Staff. (n.d). Spermicide & Contraceptive Gel. Planned Parenthood. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/spermicide. Accessed 28 Jan 2022.