Using condoms

Using condoms correctly and consistently can help protect against HIV, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies.

Your choice of condom makes a huge difference to how good they feel and how well they work.

The right choice

Condoms come in different sizes, thicknesses and materials. Here is our guide to choosing the best condom for you.


A condom which fits not only feels better, it is also less likely to come off or break. Here are some questions to help work out if you’re using the best fit for you:

  • Do condoms feel tight or uncomfortable to put on?
  • Do they fail to cover the penis down to the base?
  • Do they break?

These are signs that a condom is too small. Try larger condom sizes such as ‘king size’, ‘extra large’ or ‘ XL’ – they are longer and some are wider.

If you find that condoms come off during sex, they could be too big. Try a ‘trim’, ’snug’ or ‘slim fit’ condom instead.


If you do not get the feeling you want from condoms you currently use, you might want to consider changing the thickness. Studies have shown that standard, natural or thin condoms are no more likely to break than thicker ones (including during anal sex). Try ‘extra-thin’ or ‘ultra-thin’ condoms  for more feeling.


Most condoms are made from latex, which some people are allergic to. If condoms make your (or your partner’s) skin irritated or itchy, then use non-latex or latex-free condoms.

Use lube

Using condoms with lubricant (lube) reduces the likelihood of it breaking or coming off. Sex will also be more comfortable.

DO USE water-based and silicone-based lubes as they won’t affect the strength of condoms. You can easily buy lube at most supermarkets, pharmacists or online shops.

DON’T USE oil-based lubes: these quickly weaken condoms, making them more likely to break.

DON’T USE lotions or oils – including Vaseline, baby oil, hand cream or cooking oils. Don’t use spit either as it dries quickly, making condoms likely to break during sex.

Cut the cost

Get free condoms and lube from:

  • sexual health clinics,
  • some doctor’s surgeries,
  • some sexual health charities.

Buying condoms and lube online is cheaper and there is a greater range to choose from.

Take our condom quiz and find out which condom is best for you.

Find out all the other ways to stop HIV.