Condoms: know the facts

There are lots of myths about condoms, so make sure that you are aware of the facts before you have sex.

MYTH: It’s safer if you use two condoms.
TRUTH: Whether it’s two male condoms or a male and female condom, using two condoms is not better than one as they are more likely to break. Only use one at a time.

MYTH: Condoms break easily.
TRUTH: No they don’t. To avoid a condom breaking, you need to put it on carefully and make sure there's no air bubble at the end. Be careful of sharp nails, jewellery or teeth. If the condom won’t roll down, it’s the wrong way round. Throw this condom away and start again with a new one as there could be semen on the tip of the previous condom.

If a condom breaks and you’re not using any other contraception, go to a clinic, pharmacist or doctor as soon as possible and ask about emergency contraception. You may also need to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

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 to get the best protection, it's better if you and your partner use a condom and another form of contraception. There are lots of different types of contraception, including the implant, injection, coil or the pill. It's worth exploring all options.

MYTH: You need extra lube. Vaseline is good.
TRUTH: No it’s not. A bit of extra lubrication is good but don’t 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, such as KY jelly or Durex Play from a pharmacy or supermarket.

MYTH: Condoms make me less sensitive.
TRUTH: Using a condom doesn’t have to spoil the moment. They can make some men last longer before they come, which is good news for both partners. There are lots of different sizes, shapes, colours, textures and flavours of condoms, so enjoy finding the one that suits you both best.

MYTH: Condoms cut off my circulation.
TRUTH: No they don’t. A condom can stretch to 18 inches round. There are many different shapes and sizes that you can try.

You can buy condoms at any age. You can also get them free from community contraception clinics, Brook centres and NHS sexual health clinics.

MYTH: My girlfriend is on the pill, so we don’t need condoms.
TRUTH: Yes you do. The pill does not protect you or your partner from STIs. Also, if your girlfriend forgets to take a pill, has been sick or has been using certain antibiotics, the effectiveness of the pill is lower and she could still get pregnant.

Read more about antibiotics and the pill.

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 shows that you know what you want, which can be very sexy.

MYTH: You don’t need a condom if you’re having oral sex.
TRUTH: Yes you do. You should use a condom for oral sex because gonorrhoea, chlamydia and herpes can be passed on this way.

MYTH: You have to be 18 to buy condoms.
TRUTH: No you don’t, you can buy condoms at any age. You can also get them free at any age, plus confidential advice, from community contraception clinics (formerly family planning clinics), Brook centres, sexual health (GUM) clinics, further education colleges and young people’s clinics.

MYTH: I don’t need a condom – I only sleep with nice people.
TRUTH: STIs don’t know or care if you’re nice or not. The way someone looks is no indicator of whether they have an STI. Lots of STIs don’t have any symptoms, so you could infect each other without even knowing it.

MYTH: If it’s a condom, it’s safe.

TRUTH: Not necessarily – novelty condoms aren’t always safe. Always choose condoms that carry the European CE or BSI kite mark, which is a recognised safety standard. Also check the date on the packet, because condoms don’t last forever.

More advice

You can learn more about using condoms in How to use a condom.

Learn more about sexual health and safer sex in Sex and young people.

Page last reviewed: 11/10/2014

Next review due: 11/10/2016


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