Sexual health

Male condoms: know the facts

There are lots of myths about male condoms. Make sure you know the facts before you use one.

Myth: You have to be 18 to buy condoms.
Truth: Condoms are available at any age and free of charge from contraception clinics, Brook centres, sexual health (GUM) clinics and young people's clinics. These services also provide confidential advice.

Find a contraception clinic near you.

Find a sexual health clinic near you.

You can also buy condoms from pharmacies and other shops whatever age you are.

Myth: It's safer if you use 2 condoms.
Truth:  Using 2 condoms is not better than 1 as they are more likely to break. It's best to only use 1 condom at a time, and put it on correctly.

Myth: Condoms break easily.
Truth: No they do not. You just need to put it on carefully. Make sure there's no air bubble at the end by squeezing the top as you roll it down. Be careful of sharp nails, jewellery or teeth.

If the condom does not roll down all the way, it's probably inside out.

Never try to turn a condom the other way round as there could already be sperm on the tip (it's sometimes released before ejaculation). Throw it away and use a new condom.

If a condom breaks and you're not using any other contraception, go to a sexual health clinic, pharmacist or GP as soon as possible and ask about emergency contraception.

You may also need to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This applies if you are having sex with a woman or a man.

Myth: Condoms are the only type of contraception I need to think about.
Truth: No they're not. Condoms can provide protection from STIs and unplanned pregnancy. But if you want to avoid an unplanned pregnancy, it's better if you and your partner use a condom along with another type of contraception.

There are lots of different types of contraception, including the implant, injection, coil or the pill. It's worth exploring all your options.

Myth: You need extra lube. Vaseline is good.
Truth: No it's not. A bit of extra lubrication is good, but you should not use anything with oil in it as it can dissolve the condom. That includes baby oil, Vaseline and hand cream. Lipstick has oil in it too.

Use a water-based lubricant. A pharmacist can give you advice on which lube to use with condoms. You can buy lube from a pharmacy or supermarket.

Myth: Condoms cut off my circulation.
Truth: No they do not. A condom should be a comfortable fit. If it's too tight it might split and if it's too loose it might leak.

There are lots of different shapes and sizes. If a condom is too small or big for you, try a different size or brand.

Myth: My girlfriend is on the pill, so we do not need condoms.
Truth: Yes you do. The pill does not protect you or your partner from STIs. Also, if your partner forgets to take a pill, does not take it correctly or is ill, the effectiveness of the pill is lower and she could still get pregnant.

Read more about being on the pill and having sickness or have diarrhoea.

Myth: If I ask to use a condom, my partner will think less of me.
Truth: Insisting that you use a condom suggests that you know how to take care of yourself and your partner.

Myth: You do not need a condom if you're having oral sex.
Truth: Yes you do. You should use a condom for oral sex because infections such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia and herpes can be passed on though oral sex. So it's important to use a condom.

Myth: I do not need a condom – I only sleep with nice people.
Truth: STIs do not know or care if you're nice or not. The way someone looks and how they act with you cannot tell you whether or not they have an STI. Lots of STIs do not have any symptoms, so you could infect each other without even knowing it.

See more about symptoms of STIs that need checking.

Myth: If it's a condom, it's safe.
Truth: Not necessarily – some condoms are not always safe, like novelty ones and ones bought from online auction sites.

Always buy condoms from a reputable source. Choose ones that have the European CE or BSI kite mark. Also check that:

  • they are within their use-by date  
  • the seal is not broken
  • they are not damaged 

Get more condom tips.

Page last reviewed: Mon Nov 2019 Next review due: Fri Nov 2022

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