Condoms - one size does not fit all!

Condoms - one size does not fit all!

Read about the author Samantha Evans

Even though most people are aware of the risks of unprotected sex, they still refuse to use condoms on a regular basis, both young and old. Many people feel that they are a hassle, reducing sexual sensation, smell disgusting, feel unpleasant, stop spontaneity and are just no fun.

Terrence Higgins Trust and British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) have launched their new report ‘Sexually transmitted infections in England: The State of the Nation’ which revealed worrying results. New STI diagnoses rose by 5% in 2018 from 2017, with new diagnoses of gonorrhoea and syphilis increasing by 249% and 165% respectively over the past decade.

Previous results from a survey carried out by PHE and YouGov (2017) revealed almost half of 16-24-year-olds have never used a condom with a new partner.

One in 10 of them had never even used one. Many admitted they didn’t use a condom when drunk.

Yet there were more than 141,000 chlamydia and gonorrhoea diagnoses in people aged between 15 and 24 in England in 2016. Sexually transmitted diseases (STI) can cause infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease, both of which often remain undetected until a woman tries to get pregnant. They can cause pain, swelling of the testicles, discharge and burning pain when urinating.

Many STIs remain symptomless so people continue to practice unsafe sex, unaware they are passing the diseases onto their next sexual partner. The STI message does not seem to be getting through to younger people which is why sex education needs to be updated to ensure the need to practice safer sex is conveyed.

With a growing ageing population, more older people are enjoying sex and are in new relationships yet according to the Family Planning Association, too many older people are ignorant to the need for safer sex and using a condom. A 2010 study of sexual health from Indiana University found the lowest rates of condom use were among people ages 45 and older which is worrying when STIs are increasing in the over 50’s.

Research at the University of Guelph (2016) found that most of 1,200 single adults surveyed had little or no concern of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. They found that university students are more likely to have used a condom in their last sexual encounter when compared to people who could be their parents.

Condom advertising and messaging needs to be inclusive of age and sexual orientation as it does not include older people. All condom advertising is aimed at younger people which is why many older people ignore the need to use a condom or even consider it.

Some men say that condoms impair sexual sensation and cause sexual difficulties. The reason for this may be explained by research at Indiana University by Hensel et al (2012) which found that men who said condoms impaired pleasure were generally:

  • Younger and inexperienced
  • Felt insecure about their erections
  • Had partners who complained of discomfort during sex- as to what this discomfort was caused by is unknown but often lack of lubrication can cause pain and discomfort

Participants who said that condoms did not cause loss of sexual sensation were:

  • Generally older and more sexually experienced
  • Received oral sex/performed oral sex on their partner
  • Enjoyed masturbation from parner
  • Felt confident about their erections
  • Enjoyed the duration of sexual intercourse
  • Ejaculated whilst wearing the condom

Overall, younger men who experienced sexual problems blamed their difficulties on condom use whereas older, more experienced men who explored a wide range of sexual stimulation and pleasure had no complaints.

Get measured

Anyone can post a video about how they can fit a condom over their arm, therefore no man is too big to wear a condom but getting the right fit is so important.

It is very different putting on a condom in the thoes of passion, when you feel anxious, you lose your erection, or you rip it with your nail, let alone trying to get into the packet!

Most people don’t realise that condoms come in different sizes and sizes vary from brand to brand. Men who dislike wearing condoms are often wearing the wrong size, which is why they feel uncomfortable and detract from their sexual pleasure. Although the standard size of condoms is about 7 inches it can vary up to 1 inch in length and girth, which can cause problems when trying to find a suitable product.

This is an easy way to measure for the correct size.

• Get an empty toilet roll and insert your erect penis into it.

• If there is extra room go for small sized condoms (best fit for 30-35% of men)

• If there is just enough room try standard sized condoms (50% of men require this size)

• If it is too tight use large sized condoms (15-20%of men need this size)


Explore the texture – does it feel sensual against your skin? How stretchy is it – try stretching it between your fingers. Often condoms don’t feel pleasant to wear because they don’t fit properly. Try licking it to see how it tastes, smell it and even blow it up into a balloon to test the strength of the material.

Add more lube

Most condoms are lubricated but don’t contain enough to make sexual intercourse feel pleasurable. Not being well lubricated can make sex feel painful, uncomfortable and unpleasant. Try adding your own lubricant such as YES organic water based lubricant to make sex more pleasurable or choose a condom that is lubricated with silicone such as Skins.

Avoid products that cause tingling/warming sensations as these can irritate the tissues of the vagina or anus. Also be aware of products that contain glycerin as this may cause thrush and upset the delicate balance of the vagina flora leading to bacterial vaginosis.

Any oil based products are not suitable including oil based lubricants, coconut oil and olive oil. Always ensure that you only use water based products or silicone lubricants as oil based lubricants and other storecupboard products will degrade the latex of the condom.

Be aware that if you have been using oil based lubricants during sex play, they stay in the vagina and anus for up to 14-24 hours, so any residue may damage condoms if you then have intercourse using condoms.

Vaseline and Baby Oil were never designed as sexual lubricants

If you prefer natural products, YES BUT is a water based anal lubricant, pH balanced to that of the anus which has a different pH to the vagina and condom compatible. As the anus is non lubricating, using a lubricant will make sex feel much more pleasurable.

No one needs a perfumed condom!

Many people think they are allgeric to latex but it is often the ingredients in the lubricant on the condom that causes irritation, stinging or even thrush. However many condom manufacturers do not include the lubricant ingredients on their packaging even when they have space which is so frustrating so it is worth exploring different brands if you experience any irritation.

Be aware that there are now perfumed condoms which I strongly recommend you avoid if you experience any vaginal, vulval or anal irritation, no one needs a perfumed condom. It is frustrating when I see perfumed condoms, intimate washes and wipes, lubes and vaginal moisturisers full of irritating ingredients in goody bags at womens health and medical events where we are talking about vagina/vulva/anal health.

This is why we need to keep educating people about what they are putting inside their vaginas, anus and on their vulva because many do not realise they are damaging their sexual health and pleasure

Condom Tips

Dab a little lube onto the tip of the penis before rolling it down to allow it to move against the penis during sex. Make sure you don’t overdo it as the condom may slip off. Try thinner condoms to increase sensation and even go for a larger size as condoms which are too small feel uncomfortable, can break and can cut off circulation in the penis, making him lose sensation. Again, make sure it isn’t too big that it will slip off. If a condom cannot be rolled down to the base of the shaft of the penis, it is too small.

Textured condoms feel incredibly pleasurable for women and increase sensation against the clitoris and entrance of the vagina with a lubricant.

Dental dams protect against STIs and HPV when used for oral sex. These are thin sheets of latex that you can use against the vulva, vagina and anus during oral sex. However 30 years after their innovation, awareness of and demand for them remains shockingly low, perhaps due to lack of education although sex workers and the kink and queer communities are more likely to use dental dams than those in the heterosexual community.

Although the majority of people are aware of STIs, many are not aware that the Human papillomavirus (HPV), especially HPV type 16, which is transmitted through sexual contact is a risk factor in developing head and neck cancers.

Some people cut the ring off the end of condoms and use them as an alternative to a dental dam.

Currently there have been few studies that have looked at the precise benefit of dental dams in preventing STIs, but when used properly, it’s likely that they can substantially reduce your risk.

Avoid irritants

Make sure you use a condom that has been manufactured to the quality control standards required. Stop using any condoms that cause an irritation or allergic reaction to the delicate genital area. Some people are allergic to latex condoms and the spermicidal gel they contain.

Try using a latex-free-condoms product and your own lubricants. Non-latex condoms are not just for those who have sensitivities, they are generally softer in texture, odour-free compared to latex and transfer heat and sensation better than latex condoms, making sex feel much better for both partners.

It’s not a Latex Allergy, it’s the Lube!

Many people think they have a condom allergy when it is the ingredients in the lubricant on the condom or the lubricant they are using with the condom. Many well known brands do not even list the ingredients in their lubricant on the packaging but many lubricants contain glycerin, glycols and parabens which all cause irritation and even thrush. We recommend switching to a brand such as SKINS that is lubricated with silicone lubricant or use your own skin safe lube such as YES water based lubricant or silicone lubricant instead.

Add some spice

For added stimulation you could wear a vibrating cock ring such as Je Joue Mio which offers clitoral stimulation and waves of vibrations through the penis as well. When wearing a cock ring, vibrating or non-vibrating, be aware that it will increase penis size – so ensure that the condom is a suitable size to avoid breakage and leaking.

Put it on with care

According to a study conducted by Dr Lydia Shrier from Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School (2014), the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases is increased when a condom is put on in a rush.

The data was collected from 512 men and women who sought treatment at five sexual health clinics between 2007-2011. The participants aged between 15-65 years recorded their sexual encounters in an online diary for up to 180 days. The data covered 8856 instances of vaginal sex between men and women that used condoms.

The participants reported feeling or being rushed when putting the condom on in 7% of encounters, with the condom breaking, slipping off or leaking about 5% of the time compared to 2-3% of the time when they felt they had not rushed in putting the condom on.

In addition, 22% of participants that stated they rushed putting on the condom did not use it throughout sex, compared to 14% of people who did not rush to put the condom on. This may be due to the condom breaking, coming off or leaking due to being worn incorrectly and therefore interfering with sexual activity and pleasure.

Condoms can only work to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases if applied correctly, and more emphasis on how to put on a condom needs to be made to encourage people to take time and focus on this task to avoid it coming off, breaking and leaking. Also, choosing a condom that feels comfortable, fits properly and does not detract from your sexual pleasure is vital to ensure you continue using a condom during sex.

Condoms have changed greatly over the years, so take time to explore the variety of products available, experiment with different brands to find one suited to your sexual needs and pleasure.

Skins offer a range of condoms, from natural, ultra thin, extra large, dots and ribs and latex free, making finding the right fit for you simple. Lubricated with silicone lubricant they are less likely to cause irritation as the lubricant does not contain irritating ingredients.

Therer are free condom services for young people under 25 across the UK with a range of schemes including the C-card where you can get free condoms from participating clinics and pharmacists.

Useful websites

Brook :
NHS Choices : If you type in your location into this website it will locate your nearest free condom service.
Public Health England :
Terrence Higgins Trust :
Age, Sex and You :
Age Uk :
Patient :

Written By : Samantha Evans