If you want to have safe sex without worrying about STDs or pregnancy, it's essential to understand how to make using condoms as safe as possible. Condoms have become one of the most used methods of contraception—particularly for anyone who wants to protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and not just unintended pregnancy. Unfortunately, they are not the most reliable methods. The risk, however, significantly declines with proper use.

Whether you are purchasing the condom, using it, or removing it, you can make every step safer by learning some lesser-known facts.

  • Choose a condom that's the right size. Men with smaller penises should purchase condoms with a “snugger fit” to avoid condoms slipping off during intercourse. Men who are more amply endowed risk splitting a regular condom and should buy a larger size. Even store-bought brands provide size options. If you can’t find options in your area, they are easy to find online.

  • Choose the right material. Lambskin condoms have microscopic holes that, while small enough to stop the sperm, are big enough to allow viruses safe passage. These condoms, therefore, do not offer adequate protection against HIV. If you are allergic to latex (or if you simply want the safest option), consider polyurethane condoms. Although they are more expensive, they’re thinner and stronger than latex condoms, nonporous and nonpermeable to all viruses (including HIV), hypoallergenic, safe to use with oil-based products, and heat conductive, which is supposed to make them transmit sensations between partners better.

  • Don’t leave it in the wrapper. The number-one cause of condom failure is failure to use the condom at all. If you say that you use condoms as your method of birth control, you must use them every single time. It only takes one time to get pregnant or transmit an STD.

  • Don’t use an old condom. Condoms can “go bad,” especially when left in a wallet, which is subject to the heat and weight of your body. Even in the best of situations, a condom that has been around for a year is probably not a condom that you want to use.

By the way, this advice doesn’t apply only to wallets. A man has a number of places where he may keep a “safety,” including the glove compartment or trunk of his or his parents’ car, his lunch box, his tool kit, or his kilt. Whatever that place is, if it is subject to extremes of cold or heat, assume that, after a while, the condom will no longer be reliably “safe.”

  • Put it on the right way. To properly put on a condom, unroll it completely up the shaft of an erect penis. Make sure to leave a small pocket at the tip to collect the semen. Anything else can result in a split condom.

  • Use water-based lubricants. If you use a dry condom and decide to add a lubricant, make sure that the lubricant is a water-based one, like KY Jelly. Oil-based lubricants, like Vaseline, or other products made from mineral or vegetable oils (including aerosol whipped cream), can break down the latex and make the condom porous. This breakdown can happen very quickly, so don’t use any of these products with a condom.

  • Removal is tricky. When you remove the condom, make sure that one partner holds the open end of the condom as the man removes his still-erect penis. Anything else could result in spilling semen, which means the sex was not safe after all.

  • Buy some more for next time. If you rely on condoms to protect against pregnancy or STDs, you must use them all the time. A single mistake can have huge consequences.

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