Condoms 101: Guide to Choosing Sizes, Styles, Proper Use & Common Mistakes

It’s the sex ed you didn’t get in school.



Condoms 101: Guide to Choosing Sizes, Styles, Proper Use & Common Mistakes

Condoms are currently the only temporary male contraceptive that is widely available and easy to access. They are non-invasive, easy to buy, and the preferred contraceptive option for many people in Hong Kong. However, Hong Kong’s sex education often only promotes condom use in general without providing guidance on how to choose the right size or explaining the differences between various brands, materials, thicknesses and scents. Whether you are new to using condoms or a seasoned adult who is switching contraceptive methods, this article will answer all of your most pressing questions about condoms!

Note: “Condoms” typically refers to male condoms, as female condoms tend to be more expensive, complicated, and less effective.

Despite not being the most effective contraceptive, condoms remain one of the most popular options. Here’s why:

1. Condoms are the only temporary male contraceptive

Condoms are the only temporary contraceptive for men. The two options for men are condoms or vasectomy. Since vasectomy is permanent, condoms allow men to take contraceptive responsibility without sterilization.

2. Condoms have minimal side effects

Condoms have minimal side effects. They are non-invasive and don’t affect hormones, unlike contraceptive options like IUDs or injections. Side effects are extremely rare, except for those with latex allergy who can use latex-free condoms.

3. Effective at preventing STIs

Condoms are one of the few barrier contraceptives that prevent contact between partners’ bodily fluids, effectively shielding against STIs and HIV.

4. Enhance sexual pleasure

Condoms come in various materials, textures, and thicknesses to enhance stimulation. Most are pre-lubricated for smoother intercourse. They can also reduce male sensitivity, helping to avoid premature ejaculation and prolonging intimate sessions.

5. Affordable and easily accessible

You can find condoms sold in supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies at a low cost. Unlike IUDs which require a clinic visit, condoms can be purchased without arrangements.

How effective are condoms for contraception?

  • When used perfectly every time, condoms are about 98% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • But with typical use, condoms are approximately 85% effective.

This lower rate accounts for human errors like inconsistent usage, improper fitting, slippage, or breakage that can reduce effectiveness in real-world conditions.

To get maximum reliability from condoms, it is important to learn proper application and usage techniques, use condoms correctly every time, and take precautions like additional spermicide. With consistent and careful use, condoms can provide high contraceptive efficacy.

(Source: Planned Parenthood)

Choosing the right condom size

Using the wrong condom size is a common reason condoms slip off or break, greatly reducing their effectiveness.

Condoms come in different sizes, and you need the right fit for full protection.

Follow these steps to measure and find your ideal size:

  1. Get a soft measuring tape
  2. When erect, wrap the tape around the base of the penis
  3. Measure the circumference
  4. Divide the circumference by 2 to get the condom width
  5. Subtract 1-2 mm from the width for the best fit

The width refers to how wide the condom is when unrolled. Subtracting 1-2 mm accounts for latex stretchiness.

Common condom widths:

  1. Small: Width 44-48 mm
  2. Medium: Width 50-54 mm
  3. Large: Width 56-58 mm
  4. XL: Width 60-66 mm

In Hong Kong, standard condoms are around 52 mm wide. Brands vary in sizing (Japanese smaller, Western larger), so always go by the measurements.

Getting the right fit means more comfort and better protection.

How to put on a condom properly

Follow these steps to properly put on a condom:

  1. Carefully open the condom package. Pinch one end and gently tear open the other end. Be careful not to rip the condom itself.
  2. Check that the condom is right-side out. The reservoir tip should be on the inside, and the rolled edge should face outward.
  3. Place the condom on the head of your erect penis. If uncircumcised, pull back your foreskin first.
  4. Roll the condom all the way down your penis. Make sure it goes down straight and leaves no air bubbles that could cause breakage.
  5. Pinch the reservoir tip and squeeze out any air. This leaves space for semen to collect.
  6. Smooth out the condom to remove any wrinkles.

Wear the condom from start to finish of any sexual contact. Even pre-ejaculate fluid can transmit STIs.

Putting on a condom properly takes practice. Don’t worry if you struggle at first – it’s very common. Practice alone so you feel comfortable using condoms when you need them.

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How to remove a condom properly

It’s important to remove a condom properly to avoid spilling semen and losing contraceptive protection. Follow these steps:

  1. Withdraw your penis immediately after ejaculating. Do not wait until the erection starts to subside.
  2. Grip the base of the condom as you withdraw to prevent it from slipping off.
  3. Only remove the condom completely after it is fully off the penis.
  4. Wrap the used condom in a tissue and throw it in the trash. Never flush condoms as they can clog pipes.

Remember: Never use oil-based lubricants with latex condoms. Petroleum jelly, lotions, and oils cause latex to break down.

How to choose condom materials

Condoms come in 3 main materials:

  1. Latex — Most common. Stretchy and thin for sensitivity.
  2. Polyurethane — This is for people with latex allergies. It is less stretchy than latex, so be careful with sizing. Polyurethane is often used in ultra-thin condoms labelled “0.01” or “0.02.”
  3. Polyisoprene — Feels most like latex. Softer and more skin-like. Good for latex sensitivity. Limited options currently.

If you’re new to condoms, start with classic latex options first. If you dislike the latex feel, try polyurethane or polyisoprene instead. Both provide a different texture from latex. Check condom details to identify the material before purchasing.

How to choose condom thickness

Ads tout “ultra-thin” or “extra thin” condoms, but thinner doesn’t necessarily mean better!

  • Thickness labels like “0.01” are not standardized across brands. The numbers don’t necessarily equal thickness in mm.
  • Thinner condoms often use less stretchy polyurethane instead of latex/polyisoprene. Consider the tradeoffs between thinness and stretchiness.

Popular condom brand recommendations (2024 prices):

Condom preferences are highly personal, but these are some brands that have good reputations among Hong Kong users and are more commonly available in the city.

  • Durex Invisible Extra Thin – 24 pack for $199.9 – Ultra-thin and smooth
  • Sagami S007-EX Ultrathin – 36 pack for $169 – Japanese import, thin and sensitive
  • Okamoto Crown 0.03 – 21 pack for $237 – Super thin Japanese condoms
  • SKYN Elite – 10 pack for $139 – Non-latex, feels natural
  • Trojan Bareskin – 10 pack for $138 – Classic thin latex condom

Where to buy condoms in Hong Kong

  • Major supermarkets and convenience stores
  • Online specialty stores
  • Family Planning Association clinics (for women 26+ or married <26)
  • Youth Health Centres (for single women <26)
  • Maternal and Child Health Centres (for low income residents – HK$1 condoms)

Using lube with condoms

Condoms contain some lubricant but may not be enough for comfort. Use additional water-based lubes if needed. Oil-based lubes like lotions degrade latex and reduce protection.

Is latex allergy a real thing?

Latex allergy is real – about 6% of people are allergic. Symptoms include itching, rash, and runny nose. Those who frequently use latex products are at higher risk. Reactions normally occur right after contact.
Those with mild suspected latex allergy can try latex condoms first. Stop if you experience symptoms.

Do condoms with dots and ridges increase pleasure?

Dots and ridges on condoms add texture but not necessarily more pleasure. The increased friction feels great to some but over-stimulating to others. Try them out and see if you and your partners enjoy the texture.

Do condoms expire?

Yes, latex condoms expire after around 5 years. The lubricants and spermicides (if present) start breaking down the latex. Always check expiration dates and use condoms before they expire for full protection.

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