Styling It Out – 9 different types of condoms and the benefits of

Styling It Out – 9 different types of condoms and the benefits of

Condoms, rubbers, French letters, sheaths – they have several names. Which is funny when you think that actually, they are a very simple thing to describe. And not only are they easy to describe, they’re pretty straightforward to use as well.

In the very early days of condoms, they weren’t designed as birth control, as much as protection from what we now call STDs or STIs. In 1494 there was the first confirmed outbreak of syphilis among French troops. The disease spread like wildfire, “…pustules often covered the body from the head to the knees, caused flesh to fall from people's faces, and led to death within a few months”. Over the next few decades syphilis decimated large parts of China and the desperation for protection from the disease was palpable. The very earliest condoms were designed to fit over the glans of the penis and some bright spark had the idea of then tying this penis hat on with ribbon. Materials used over the centuries have been animal skin, lamb intestines, oiled silk paper and even – believe or not – tortoiseshell. Yes, really, it’s enough to make you shudder.

These days, condoms are an essential part of safe sex. They protect against pregnancy, STIs and STDs. Happily, the design and function of these condoms is light years away from its very early relatives. In fact, we have several sophisticated options these days, which allow for a whole range of choice, whatever you’re looking for. Condoms for anal sex, for oral sex or just for plain old vagina penetration. There are even female condoms too but these seem to get a bad press compared to condoms for the penis.

But this can lead to confusion. There is so much choice in chemists and online that it can be overwhelming with all their different names and labels. For the uninitiated it can be very daunting, not to mention worrying, but fear not, we have explained the main types and benefits below.

  • Lubricated condoms. These come with a layer of lube on the outside already. You can get these in latex, polyurethane and lambskin. It makes the whole process much easier, there’s no need to grab extra lube at the last minute. It might be used to prevent friction, or just because it feels nice.
  • Ribbed condoms. What’s the point of these, you might ask? Well, the ribbing effect is along the shaft and head of the condom and it’s designed for maximum female pleasure, and internally for the wearer too. The ribs cover the frenulum and glans. You can also find pleasure-shaped condoms with a twisted, winding set of ribs.
  • Dotted condoms. Similar to the one above, these dots are put on the condom to increase pleasure. It creates a new sensation, with the raised areas stroking the recipient. You can have large dots and small ones, depending on your fancy.
  • Warming condoms. No, these are not intended for frosty nights only, these warming condoms are an interesting feeling, create new sensations and can even prolong an erection if that’s something that you’re looking for. It works by having gel-based lubrication which warms up when in contact with the skin. Most of these are made from latex, so you may struggle to find some if latex isn’t an option for you.
  • Spermicidal condoms. It may sound like something that’s an offence, but actually these condoms come with a gel that paralyses, or even kills, the sperm and it comes as lubricant on the condom. It’s not that effective at preventing pregnancy on its own (roughly 30% success rate), but when partnered with a condom it’s success rate shoots up dramatically. If you’re using it on its own then there’s no STD/I protection at all.
  • Glow in the dark novelty condoms. These are a bit of fun if you’re having sex with the lights off. There’s an interior layer of pigmented phosphorus that you can use as a guiding light. They’re a great way to light up your night!
  • Delay condoms. These ones don’t need too much explanation, they’re designed for people who experience premature ejaculation. The average man lasts 7 minutes, someone who has premature ejaculation lasts about 2 minutes, so there’s quite a big gap there, which a delay condom might well fill. They have benzocaine inside to delay orgasm. It’s a numbing agent which is absorbed into the skin of the penis and allows for longer lasting sex.

Don’t like wearing condoms? Does it reduce feeling and sensitivity for you? Or – horror of horrors – does it make you unable to keep an erection? In that case, why not try ‘Ultrathin’ ones (also marketed as ‘extra sensitive’). If you’re worried about these breaking, be reassured that they are no more likely to than a condom with normal thickness. Same function – thinner layer of material.

Size isn’t really something important with a condom because they are made to fit a vast range of sizes, in fact most could stretch over your forearm. But, it has to be said, that if you are far bigger than average then they can feel uncomfortable, may break and might just slip off. ‘Extra large’ condoms are manufactured with this in mind, they have been specifically designed for men with a large girth or length. But don’t buy these purely to impress, because that’s a guaranteed way to compromise your protection.

There! Now you have a neat outline of the type of condoms that are available. Some can be bought from a chemist, others you might have to go online for. If you’re shopping for condoms online you’ll find the biggest range available so if you’re after something in particular it might be an idea to check out

Stuart Brown

Stuart Brown

I'm Stuart, senior Editor at British Condoms. I am an expert in all areas of sexual health and have a passion to drive knowledge to youth in the UK. Any questions for me or media enquiries, please feel free to tweet me @britishcondoms. Always open to engagement.

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