American Sexual
Health Association

Condoms—Exploring the Options

Currently, condoms are the only widely available, proven method for reducing transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) during sex. Condoms work. Condoms work best when you know some basic facts and understand how to use them. The facts on this page will help you have a better idea of how to use condoms correctly and protect your (and your partner’s) health.

External Condoms

External condoms are condoms that are worn on the penis. They are inexpensive, easy to find, easy to use, and really, really effective against HIV, chlamydia and a lot of other STIs when used consistently and correctly.

How to Use an External Condom

  • First, check the expiration date and for any obvious rips or tears in the packaging. Just as old rubber bands break easily, latex condoms become less elastic and more susceptible to breaking after their expiration date.
  • Open the condom carefully, so you don’t tear it. It’s very easy to tear the condom inside, so don’t use your fingernails or teeth when opening the wrapper. If you do tear a condom while opening it, throw that condom away and get a new one.
  • Put the condom on an erect (hard) penis BEFORE there is ANY contact with a partner’s genitals (BEFORE the penis touches the vagina, mouth or anus.)
  • If you put the condom on and start to unroll it the wrong way, don’t flip it over and put it on again. Throw the condom out and start again with a new condom.
  • After sex, be sure to hold the condom in place at the base of the penis before pulling out, while the penis is still hard.
  • Use a new condom if you want to have sex again or if moving from the anus to the vagina.
A couple holding condoms

External condoms: DOs and DON’Ts


  • DO use only latex or polyurethane (plastic) condoms.
  • DO keep condoms in a cool, dry place.
  • DO check the expiration date carefully. Old condoms can be dry, brittle or weakened and can break more easily.
  • DO put the condom on an erect (hard) penis before there is any contact with a partner’s genitals.
  • DO use plenty of lubricant with latex condoms if you find vaginal sex is uncomfortable, or that condoms tend to rip or tear. Don’t use oil-based products with latex condoms (see DON’TS for more on this). Water-based lubes are condom-friendly but might increase the risks of STIs with anal sex. Consider using silicone-based lubricants for anal intercourse.
  • DO hold the condom in place at the base of the penis before withdrawing (pulling out) after sex.
  • DO throw the condom away after it’s been used.


  • DON’T unroll the condom before putting it on the erect penis.
  • DON’T leave condoms in hot places like your wallet or in your car.
  • DON’T use oil-based products, like baby or cooking oils, hand lotion or petroleum jelly (like Vaseline®) as lubricants with latex condoms. The oil quickly weakens latex and can cause condoms to break.
  • DON’T use your fingernails or teeth when opening a condom wrapper. It’s very easy to tear the condom inside. If you do tear a condom while opening the wrapper, throw that condom away and get a new one.
  • DON’T reuse a condom. Always use a new condom for each kind of sex you have.
  • DON’T regularly use lubricants with spermicide called nonoxynol-9 (“N-9”) as they may cause skin irritation or tiny abrasions that make the genital skin more susceptible to STIs.

Internal Condoms

The internal condom is a nitrile pouch that fits inside the vagina. It has a soft ring on each end. The outer, larger ring stays on the outside of the vagina and partly covers the labia (lips). The inner ring fits on the inside of the vagina, somewhat like a diaphragm, to hold the condom in place. The internal condom can also be used in the rectum for anal sex.

The female condom

The internal condom should be inserted before contact between the penis and the vagina or rectum. It can be inserted anywhere from immediately before to up to 8 hours prior to intercourse—allowing time to plan ahead. Another advantage of the internal condom—it stays in place whether or not the penis maintains an erection. Due to it’s outer ring, this type of condom also offers better protection from herpes and HPV which can be spread from skin-to-skin contact.

How to Use an Internal Condom

Vaginal sex

  • To start, add lubricant to the outside of the condom. To insert the condom, squeeze the inner ring of the condom and put the inner ring and pouch inside the vagina.
  • With your finger, push the inner ring as far into the vagina as it will go. The outer ring stays outside the vagina.
  • Guide the penis into the condom, taking care that the penis is inserted into the condom and doesn’t push the condom aside.
  • After intercourse, the condom should be removed before standing up. Twist the outside ring and pull the condom out gently, making sure not to spill the contents.
  • Condoms should not be reused, so throw away the condom (but don’t flush it!)

Anal sex

  • For anal sex, you can either leave the inner ring in or take it out, based on your preference.
  • Put the condom over the penis (it can also be used on a dildo or sex toy) or toy and slowly insert into the rectum.
  • Remove and dispose of the condom in the same way mentioned above.

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