Condoms play a crucial role in protecting against sexually transmitted infections and serving as an affordable and easily accessible form of birth control. This significance becomes even more pronounced during times of limited access to reproductive health services, such as the challenges posed by the pandemic. After an exhaustive 45-hour research endeavor, which included reviewing hundreds of user testimonials and consulting with nine experts, including a chemical engineer and two sex workers, as well as subjecting 44 volunteers to testing various condom types since 2015, we have identified the LifeStyles Skyn as the optimal choice for the average-size condom. Its composition, crafted from a sheer synthetic rubber, impressed our testers with its exceptional softness and skin-like feel, setting it apart from other options in the market. Furthermore, it exhibited a notably reduced odor compared to its natural-latex counterparts. In addition to this average-size recommendation, we’ve also delved into slim-fit and generous-fit options and advocated for considering custom-fit condoms.
Our Top Pick:
LifeStyles Skyn condoms are fabricated from polyisoprene, a synthetic rubber suitable for individuals with latex allergies. Beyond its unparalleled sensation and minimal scent, the Skyn condoms excel in transmitting heat and enhancing pleasure. Packaged elegantly and effortlessly opened, they are readily available at nearly every drugstore.
The Okamoto Zero Zero Four 004, one of the thinnest natural-latex condoms available in the US, offers a heightened level of sensitivity, with no unpleasant odor and superior lubrication quality, as noted by testers who fell between slim and average sizes. This condom suits both those with slim penises who don’t require an ultra-snug fit and individuals with penises on the narrower side of the average-size range.
Our testers endorsed the polyisoprene LifeStyles Skyn Large for the same reasons they favored the regular Skyn (our pick for average fit). A tester enthusiastically reported, “Excellent performance, remained secure even during moments of less rigidity, with no lingering taste or scent, no uncomfortable friction, and an overall delightful experience for both partners.” Even more convenient, this LifeStyles model is widely accessible in both physical drugstores and online platforms.
While custom sizing may entail measuring one’s penis and placing an online order, our testers discovered that the comfort and pleasure benefits outweighed the inconvenience. Custom-sized condoms found particular favor among testers with wider-than-average penises, with comments such as “the first condom I’ve tried that doesn’t constrict like a rubber band” and “it feels as though I’m not wearing anything at all due to the perfect fit.”
Why You Can Trust Our Expertise
We’ve dedicated ourselves to becoming authorities on the subject of condoms. Our journey involved extensive research, consultations with nine renowned experts, meticulous review analysis, and a comprehensive examination of top-rated condom models from reputable retailers like Condom Depot, Lucky Bloke, Condomania, and Amazon. Furthermore, we delved into condom guides from various sources such as Consumer Reports and Men’s Health. Our pursuit of knowledge also led us to academic studies and diverse sources discussing consumer perceptions of condoms and the reasons behind people’s preferences or aversions to them.
Our consultations encompassed a diverse group of experts, including Melissa White, the CEO of Lucky Bloke; Erin Valdes, the general manager at Condomania; sex workers Erin Black and Blake Monroe, whose livelihood depends on condom protection; Mark McGlothlin, a chemical engineer renowned for developing the first non-latex condom and serving as the President of Apex Medical Technologies; Carol Queen, the esteemed staff sexologist at Good Vibrations; Randolph Hubach, PhD, director of the Sexual Health Research Lab at Oklahoma State University; and Laura Anderson, a reputable journalist who penned an insightful long-form article on condoms for Slate in 2015.
Who Will Benefit from This Information?
If you find yourself disliking condoms, you’re not alone in your sentiments. However, there are superior options available that may change your perception. Melissa White, CEO of Lucky Bloke, emphasizes this point, stating, “People are accustomed to subpar condoms—they are unaware that they can select an enjoyable one. Many don’t even realize that condoms come in three different sizes: average, slim, and large, with some falling in between.”
The low initial investment required to experiment with various condom styles and size ranges makes it worthwhile. Even if you have a preferred brand, you may discover a product that revolutionizes your experience.
Proper condom sizing is crucial for pleasure and effectiveness. However, determining the perfect fit can be challenging, as it’s not an exact science. Everyone possesses a slightly unique shape, and condom designs and materials can also influence fit. A person may technically fall into the “average” size category but prefer a “slim” model. Additionally, individuals have varying preferences for tightness, comfort, and sensation, while condom materials come in various thicknesses with different levels of elasticity.
In essence, the most effective approach is to identify your general size and then explore different types to determine what provides the best fit and sensation for you and your partner. Even if you have a preferred brand, you may be pleasantly surprised by the differences in fit and sensation among various brands, as our testers were.
The importance of finding the right condom extends beyond sexual pleasure. It is crucial for condoms to remain in place without slipping off, rolling up, or breaking. Chemical engineer Mark McGlothlin emphasizes that consistent use is paramount, stating that “getting used consistently is more important than any other attribute.” Condoms are unique as they not only offer contraception but also act as a barrier against the majority of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, during oral, vaginal, and anal intercourse. Therefore, finding a condom that suits your preferences benefits everyone involved.
Our Selection Process and Testing
Our selection of the top condoms is based on careful consideration and thorough testing. Our panel of experts unanimously agreed that size is of paramount importance when selecting a condom, and even a small difference of 2 millimeters in size can be noticeable, as reported by users in research conducted by the British brand TheyFit. Erin Valdes of Condomania highlights the significance of a proper fit, as an ill-fitting condom may not provide complete coverage and can lead to an increased risk of breakage. Within these size parameters, there is a broad spectrum of snugness or roominess, catering to individual preferences.
Typically, condoms sold at drugstores are of average size, measuring approximately 2 inches in width when flattened and ranging from 7 to 8 inches in length. Surprisingly, Lucky Bloke reports that around 50 percent of American males fall into this category, meaning many may be using the wrong-sized condoms, compromising both pleasure and effectiveness.
Another factor to consider is the variation between penis length and girth. These dimensions do not always correlate. For instance, an individual with a longer-than-average but narrow penis may find slim-fit condoms more comfortable, while someone with a shorter-than-average but girthy penis might prefer generous-fit condoms. This is why we conducted tests across three size categories: average, slim, and generous, including some models that fell in between. For assistance in determining your condom size, refer to this informative guide from Lucky Bloke.
In addition to size, several other factors influence condom selection, such as the choice of materials, including latex alternatives, taste, odor, thickness, texture (which affects sensitivity but can impact durability), and the quantity and texture of the lubricant. We recommend supplementing all condoms with a few drops of water-based lubricant for enhanced comfort and safety.
Condoms come in various materials, with natural latex being the most common. However, you’ll also find latex-alternative options crafted from materials like polyisoprene (synthetic rubber), nitrile, polyurethane, and polyethylene resin. Latex-alternative condoms are essential for individuals with latex allergies, and surprisingly, some of them outperformed natural-latex condoms in our tests.
While not as crucial as material and performance, other factors can influence your condom choice. These include attractive packaging, vegan certification (if you’re vegan), and the manufacturer’s reputation, as some companies support global safer-sex initiatives.
Condom prices vary widely, ranging from free at public-health clinics to 25¢ for basic models and nearly $3 for premium options like Unique Pull and Trojan Naturalamb. Buying in bulk often provides better value, but it’s a good idea to start with a small pack to test before purchasing several dozen. While the 25¢ condom can do the job, a more satisfying experience is typically found in the $1 to $2 range.
We meticulously evaluated 37 condom models across four categories: average fit, slim fit, generous fit, and latex alternatives, which also included nontraditional options like the female condom. Our team of 44 testers (30 with penises and 14 with vaginas) used these condoms for insertive sex or solo masturbation (for those with penises) to assess fit and comfort before intercourse.
Testers provided ratings based on various criteria, including overall satisfaction, shared comments, and any instances of allergic reactions, slippage, or breakage. They also completed an exit survey to highlight their favorite and least-favorite models, with a minimum of three reviews from at least two testers per condom model.
Measurement and Assessment:
We conducted our measurements for condom length and flat-width, along with subjective assessments on factors such as odor, ease of package opening, lubricant quality, material feel, and ease of application.
Our Top Pick for Average Fit: LifeStyles Skyn
LifeStyles Skyn condoms stood out as our preferred choice for average fit. Featuring a skinlike sensation and excellent heat transfer, Skyn condoms are readily accessible, cost-effective, and latex-allergy safe.
The Skyn condom surpassed its competitors in terms of comfort and aesthetics. It offers a variety of styles, including ribbed and ultra-thin, while being more affordable than other options. Widely available at drugstores and online, the Skyn is crafted from polyisoprene, a synthetic rubber, and earned the highest sensitivity rating among average-size condoms we tested. Testers praised it as “the best I’ve ever tried,” with many customers echoing that sentiment.
Testers reported that Skyn’s material transmitted heat and sensation so effectively that it felt like sex without a condom. The polyisoprene synthetic rubber was preferred by testers over natural latex for its more natural and skinlike feel. Similar to latex condoms, Skyn condoms are elastic, easy to apply and remove, and stay securely in place.
Polyisoprene, being a safe alternative for those with latex allergies, received our endorsement after testing more than 30 condoms. It outperformed the majority of natural-latex options. Although slightly less elastic than latex, polyisoprene’s primary advantage lies in its texture, which feels softer, more skinlike, and surprisingly less rubbery. Some testers noted that Skyn felt thicker than certain natural-latex models, but this did not hinder its ability to transmit heat and sensation.
Average-Sized Latex Condoms:
The One Vanish, our second-favorite average-fit condom, comes right after the LifeStyles Skyn. Among all the average-size natural-latex condoms we tested, the One Vanish received the highest overall satisfaction score, standing at 4.1 out of five. Testers didn’t universally adore it as much as our top pick, but they did praise its qualities, noting that it “left no smell or taste on my partner” and “performed consistently.” One Condoms touts the Vanish as made from “softer” latex, and testers reported excellent sensitivity, with one even mentioning, “At times, I thought it had slipped off because the sensation was so good!” On the downside, one tester found it challenging to open, echoing a common issue with One brand condoms. Additionally, this tester remarked that it had a “bad taste,” was “too thick,” and diminished sensation for their partner. This highlights the subjectivity in condom experiences.
Testers also favored Okamoto Wink Closer condoms, which sport more user-friendly packaging than the One Vanish and possess a milder latex scent and taste compared to most competitors. We didn’t assess the Wink Slider, which is an extra-lubricated variation of this condom.
Lelo Hex condoms feature a design with interconnected hexagons of latex, touted by the company as providing a secure fit. In our tests, it performed comparably to other ultra-thin models and had minimal odor. Although it is pricier than the One Vanish, which our testers slightly favored, it falls in a similar price range as the Okamoto Wink Closer, which they liked equally.
Durex Invisible and LifeStyles Zero, although some of the most affordable ultra-thin latex condoms at around 56¢ and 75¢ each, respectively, didn’t impress testers as much as the more expensive options like the One Vanish, Okamoto Wink Closer, and Lelo Hex. They cited issues with smell, taste, and overall sensation. Additionally, the Durex Invisible’s packaging was noted for its flimsiness.
Sustain brand condoms emphasize their “fair trade” and “sustainably produced” latex. However, the Sustain Ultra Thin didn’t stand out for our testers, who described it as “thin but fairly average” and had minor problems with opening the package and application.
The Billy Boy Extra Thin garnered strong praise from our testers, with comments such as “the best so far,” “worked well for all my partners,” and “comfortable and felt very natural.” The primary drawback was its strong, somewhat plasticky odor.
The One Pleasure Plus features a ribbed pouch near the head for enhanced sensation. Testers raved about it, with comments like “we both really liked the pouch’s shape” and “great sensations.” Those with foreskins appreciated that it wasn’t too tight around the head. However, some noted that the latex was slightly thicker than other models, and the circular packaging was challenging to open.
Sir Richard’s Ultra Thin, although currently unavailable, didn’t particularly stand out. One tester loved it, while another found it rolled up slightly.
The L Condoms Ultra Thin received mixed reviews from testers. While one reported a perfect fit, others considered it a “run-of-the-mill” latex condom with a strong, unpleasant smell.
Maude Rise and Lola Ultra Thin condoms, available only online, didn’t distinguish themselves among the ultra-thin latex condoms we tested in 2020, except for Maude’s easy-to-open packaging.
Testers had varying opinions about the LifeStyles Thyn, ranging from “perfect and enjoyable” to “felt thick and unpleasant.”
The Glyde Ultra was one of the less popular options among average-size condoms. Testers reported issues like tightness leading to breakage, discomfort, and an unpleasant odor.
Testers weren’t enthusiastic about the Durex Extra Sensitive, despite its better consumer reviews than many drugstore options. Complaints included decreased sensation, difficulty in application, and tacky lubricant.
Generous-Fit Latex Condoms:
One The Legend was the second-favorite generous-fit condom among our testers. Made of natural latex, The Legend is generously sized, with an unstretched length of 9 inches compared to our top pick’s 8¼ inches, though both have a similar width of approximately 2¼ inches. Natural latex offers more stretch than polyisoprene, making One’s model comfortable for thicker as well as longer penises. Testers rated it 4.25 out of five for satisfaction, noting its ease of application, pleasurable wear, and appealing shape and texture. However, like other One brand condoms, testers found its packaging attractive yet frustrating. Some testers also mentioned a rubbery smell and inadequate lubrication.
The Trojan Magnum XL, with its 2.2-inch shaft width, 2.56-inch head width, and 8.07-inch length, is among the largest condoms available at drugstores. Testers found it easy to put on and liked its fit and shape but disliked its unpleasant odor.
The Trojan Magnum BareSkin, a classic drugstore “larger condom,” also suited men on the larger end of average who prefer a roomier fit. It features thinner latex than the XL but suffered from an unpleasant plastic smell.
Testers encountered an unpleasant smell, excessive lubrication, and some difficulties with the Glyde Maxi condom rolling during application. One tester disliked the head shape, describing it as tight and uncomfortable.
Sir Richard’s Extra Large (currently unavailable) had an unpleasant smell, but it was easy to apply.
Made from polyisoprene, the Durex Real Feel Avanti Bare condom closely resembles the LifeStyles Skyn, our top pick for average fit. Testers reported excellent sensitivity but noted an unpleasant smell. Notably, this version differs from the original Avanti condom, which Durex produced from polyurethane.
The Unique Pull is ideal for those with thicker penises. It lacks elasticity and clings to the penis like plastic wrap, offering a thinner and more plasticky texture compared to latex. Application involves pull tabs, and it comes in a pack of three in a credit card-shaped case. Testers found it easy to put on, but some experienced slippage. Some testers also found the band too tight, while others reported it breaking during sex.
The Trojan Supra, made of polyurethane, boasts a very thin material that transmits heat and sensation well. However, it lacks elasticity, making it sometimes snug and challenging to apply and remove.
These are the top-rated options among the numerous condoms available. Here are some other options we considered but didn’t include in testing:
Impulse Bare Pleasure (discontinued): While it received accolades as a “best condom” winner from Condom Depot, some users found its ribbed and studded texture irritating.
ex Extra Large: Despite being wider and longer, some reviewers complained that it felt thick and was prone to breaking.
LifeStyles Ultra Sensitive: Although recommended by an expert, we opted for the LifeStyles Thyn instead.
Durex Performax and Performax Intense: These textured condoms are coated with a numbing lube to prevent premature ejaculation. However, some reviewers found the numbing effect too intense or the ribs irritating to the receptive partner.
Trojan Ultra Thin: Once a Consumer Reports pick in 2010, reviewers found it overrated and occasionally prone to breaking, with little actual sensation difference.
Trojan Naturalamb: Expensive and with concerns about STI prevention effectiveness, some couples using condoms solely for contraception prefer it despite its unusual smell.
LifeStyles Non-Lubricated: Recommended for covering sex toys and oral sex but not as ideal for vaginal and anal intercourse.
LifeStyles Extra Strength: Durable for anal sex but thicker than other options, potentially providing less sensation.
LifeStyles Kyng: Budget-priced generous-size condom favored by some users over the Trojan Magnum but not included in our testing due to overall better reviews for other models.