Your high-school health teacher can tell you all they want that a regular condom will work for everyone and anyone, but as anyone who's had condoms routinely break—or fall off—knows, that's not the reality. Finding a well-fitting condom is harder than we've all been led to believe.
"Not all condoms are created equal," says Emily Morse, sexologist for LifeStyles and SKYN Condoms, and host of the Sex With Emily podcast. "Just like a size 'medium' from one clothing brand won't fit the same as a 'medium' from another, you have to find the condom that works best for you."
Getting the right fit is important—and not just for increased pleasure, but to avoid unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. "If you're wearing a condom that's too small, not only can it feel restrictive, but you're also more likely to tear it. If you've got one that's too big, it could slip off or feel super apparent and potentially uncomfortable for both parties," says Lisa Finn, resident sex educator and sexpert at Babeland.
"While some condoms can stretch and seem to fit different sizes, it doesn't mean that they're gonna be safe, especially if they're pulled to the point of almost snapping or if they're slipping around the shaft and potentially letting pre-cum and ejaculate sneak out of the bottom."
"Once you know what your true size is, you can research what brands would fit you best," says board-certified urologic surgeon, Jamin Brahmbhatt, M.D., co-director of The PUR Clinic. "There are also specialty brands like One that help you measure your penis and choose among 60 condom sizes to get you the right fit."
There are a bunch of options out there—here's how to find the best condom for you.
Even if you don't go for the ultra-specific custom sizes a brand like One offers, there are more options out there than just "average" and "XXL SUPER MEGA GOLD" condoms, despite what you might find at your local convenience store. Condom sizes tend to come in "slim," "snug," "wide," "large," and "extra large," denoting differences in penis length and girth that are measured in millimeters, and then words like "thin" and "ultra-thin" to describe the thickness of the condom material itself. So which one's for you?
The best bet is to measure for condom size.
If you're not sure what size you should be wearing, the best first step is to measure your erect penis with a measuring tape, Brahmbhatt says. Get the right length by measuring from your pubic bone to the tip, and also measure your girth by wrapping the cloth tape measure around your penis at the thickest part. If you don't have a cloth tape measure, you can use a piece of string and measure that against a ruler.
Standard condoms usually have a length of seven inches. But condom width is also important, and most regular condoms have a width of 1.75 to two inches, says sexpert Antonia Hall, author of The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life. "A slightly smaller option is the snug fit condom, which has a tighter width of less than 1.75 inches, whereas a large-size condom length is usually a little over eight inches and accommodates over two inches' width," she says.
But if you don't feel like measuring, there are other ways to determine your best condom fit.
If you're not sure what size you wear, get a variety pack. "If you're specifically looking to upgrade your condom because you've been noticing slippage or breakage, try masturbating with a condom on, so you can gauge how it feels without running any risk should it not be the right fit," Finn suggests.
Even if a condom isn't marketed as a specialty size like "slim fit" or "extra-large," it may suit your body in a different way, depending on things like penis length, girth, and head size, so it's worth giving a few a try. Some condoms will have more room at the tip than others as well, says Finn, which may be an additional factor to consider when selecting your winner.
There's a lot of vanity in condoms and how they're packaged, like flashy marketing and larger foils to make the condom appear massive. "When it comes down to it though, your partner probably couldn't care less about the brand," Finn says. "They care more that the protection you're using actually does its job." It's always better to focus on what fits you and your body.
As long as you can roll the condom all the way until the base of your shaft is covered and you're not so girthy that the condom is uncomfortable, you're probably good with a standard size. "Don't worry about unrolling the excess," Brahmbhatt says. "Most men don't need the extra-extra-long 'make-me-feel-more-macho' size condoms, so don't get sucked up in the hype and buy condoms just so you look cooler around your friends or at the cash register."
Lube always makes condom use way better.
Lube can help cut down on the bad friction that can make a condom more apt to tear or drag on the body where it feels uncomfortable. "Putting a drop of lubricant on the inside of a condom before rolling it down the shaft and then using lube liberally on the outside of the condom can help everything feel slicker and also help transmit body heat for a closer feel," Finn says. Just make sure your lube is silicone-based or water-based, as oils and oil-based lotions and lubes can degrade and break down your condoms.
Try out different materials and styles.
"Even if you don't have a latex allergy, latex alternatives like polyurethane and polyisoprene can feel really great because of how they transmit heat for more of a 'barely there' sensation," Finn says. The scent of latex bothers some people too—and polyisoprene and polyurethane don't tend to bother them, so if your partner has a latex-sensitive nose, this could be a good compromise.
Ridges, ribs, and studs can feel great to some folks and not so much to others, so it's worth testing out. Flavored condoms may be a good choice for a blowjob, but some can find the flavoring irritating when used vaginally or anally, so have a non-flavored option around if you want to play that way.
So go forth, experiment, and find the condom that's best for you (and your partner)!
Aly Walansky is a New York-based lifestyle writer. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @alywalansky.