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You can legally buy condoms at any age. And if you’re curious about how to get condoms, what to expect when using them, and how to make using them better — here’s everything you need to know.
You can buy condoms in many places. They’re sold at most drugstores, community health centers, supermarkets, and convenience stores. They’re also sold in vending machines on college campuses, and sometimes at gas stations.
It will cost you about $2 to $6 for a package of three condoms, depending on the brand.
They’re also sold online.
Sex is a subject many people take personally. It’s completely normal if you feel a little weird going out in public and buying condoms.
If you’re nervous about buying a pack, here are some tips to make you feel more comfortable.
Buy before you need them
Buy your condoms before you think you need to use them. They last for a while. If you’ve met someone you’d like to have sex with, it’s good to be prepared. This way you won’t be scrambling to buy condoms when the moment is right.
Check the expiration date
It’s also important to know that condoms have expiration dates and using an expired condom reduces its effectiveness. So it’s a good idea to routinely check the expiration dates on your condoms and restock when they’re past their prime.
If you get carded
Know that you should not be carded or questioned about your age when buying condoms. A cashier cannot legally refuse to sell you condoms if you don’t show them your ID.
If the cashier does ask your age, there’s no need for you to answer. If you do want to say something, you can remind them that there is no age restriction on buying condoms. Or, if you feel uncomfortable, simply leave and buy condoms elsewhere.
Learn what you need
Know which condoms you want to buy before you go into a shop. The type of condom you need mostly depends on what size and shape you need, and then if you want extras such as lubrication or spermicide.
You should also be aware if you or your partner has a latex allergy, as you should avoid using condoms made from this common material. Condoms come in different materials, such as polyisoprene and lambskin, as well.
Check out Healthline’s condom size chart to learn more about how to determine what size condom you or your partner needs and which brands are available for that size.
At the store
Some shops keep condoms behind the front counter or in a locked case ,so you might not be able take a look at the box up close before you buy it. You’ll also need to ask a store clerk to get it for you. In this case, it helps to know what brand and type of condom you want in advance.
Know that it’s normal
Realize that buying condoms is a normal part of having a responsible sex life. You may feel a little embarrassed to go up to a counter to buy condoms. But chances are the cashier and other people in line won’t notice or care about the fact you’re buying condoms.
And let’s be honest: you’re being safe about sex — and that’s a good thing!
Don’t let the cost of condoms prevent you from using them. You can also get condoms for free (or at a reduced cost) from many contraception and health clinics, your doctor, as well as college and university health offices. All you have to do is walk in and ask.
You can visit condomfinder.org to find the nearest place offering free or low-cost condoms.
For some people, it doesn’t get any less awkward over time to go and buy condoms. And maybe you feel that between school, family, and your social life, you have little time to go out and buy or ask for free condoms. Know that you can get condoms online as well.
There are many websites where you can buy condoms, many times at a reduced price. And they’ll deliver your condoms in a discrete package to your door, so your post person, family, and neighborhood won’t have any idea you’ve ordered a boxful of condoms. All you’ll need is a credit card or PayPal account.
Some popular websites for buying condoms include:
When stocking up on condoms, you may wonder how many condoms you’ll actually need. Generally it makes sense to have at least three to six on hand for each sexual experience.
This covers things like having sex multiple times in an experience, accidentally putting a condom on upside down, or otherwise needing more than one.
Here are some guidelines to help you make a choice that’s right for you:
- Use a new condom every time you have sex, even if it’s with the same partner.
- Change a condom after 30 minutes of sex, because going longer than that raises the risk that the condom will break or fail.
- Use only one condom at a time, and do not use along with a female internal condom, because friction can make them less effective.
It’s also good to have a few spare condoms in case those you’ve bought break when being put on or are defective.
Do not use any condom that:
- has a wrapper that’s torn, discolored, or leaks lubricant
- has small holes or tears in it
- feels dry, stiff, or sticky
- has an unpleasant odor
Condoms are a good type of contraception to use because they prevent both unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you use a non-expired condom the right way, it’s 98 percent effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy.
If you want to stick to well-known manufacturers, shop for these brands:
- Lifestyle or Lifestyle’s Skyn line
Condoms are one of the most popular types of contraception out there, but they’re far from the only option. Here’s what you need to know about other kinds of contraception.
Contraception that’s simple to get
The following types of birth control are freely accessible, without age restrictions or a doctor’s prescription or in-office procedure, across the United States:
- contraceptive sponge
- diaphragm or cervical cap
- female (internal) condoms
- fertility awareness-based contraception
- male condoms
Contraception you need a prescription to get
If you’re sexually active, you should start seeing a gynecologist (women) or urologist (men). They will be able to make sure you stay healthy while having sex and can prescribe contraception such as birth control pills or IUDs.
Whether or not you’re able to get these kinds of contraception depends on the type of health insurance your parents have (or don’t have), which also usually covers you.
Here are some methods of birth control that require a prescription from a doctor:
- combined oral contraceptives (called “the pill”), which contain estrogen and progestin
- progestin-only pill (called “the mini-pill”), which contains only progestin
- copper T intrauterine device (IUD), which can stay in your uterus for up to 10 years
- levonorgestrel intrauterine device (LNG IUD), which can stay in your uterus for up to five years
- hormonal implant, which lasts in your skin for three years
- hormonal vaginal ring, which is worn inside your vagina and releases hormones progestin and estrogen for three weeks at a time
- injection, which is necessary every three months and administered by your doctor
- patch, which is worn once a week for three weeks at a time
Emergency contraception should never be used as a regular method of birth control. Seek emergency contraception pills if you have not used contraception during sex or if the contraception you used failed (for example, if a condom broke).
In most states, these pills are available for purchase over the counter, with no questions asked.
Still have questions about male condoms? We’ve got you covered:
Are all condoms the same size?
No: Condoms come in many shapes and sizes. Not wearing the right-sized condom can make sex uncomfortable. It could also lead to a condom failure leading to diseases transmission and a risk of pregnancy.
To find the right-sized condom for you or your partner, check out Healthline’s condom size chart.
How should a condom fit to work best?
In short, don’t buy condoms that are too tight or too loose. Tight condoms are prone to breaking and tearing, while loose condoms may simply slip off.
What’s more, a condom that doesn’t fit correctly can make your sexual experience much less pleasurable. You need a condom that fits comfortably.
Does wearing two condoms make sex safer?
No: Never wear two condoms at the same time. That goes for two male condoms or a male condom and a female condom. Wearing two condoms at once causes friction, discomfort, and increases the risk that the condoms will tear or slip off.
How do I wear a condom?
Here are directions on how to put on a condom for a male partner about to have sex:
- Carefully open the condom wrapper with your fingers. Do not use your teeth as you might accidentally tear the condom inside. Also, it usually doesn’t taste good.
- Put the condom on the head of your penis when it’s hard and erect. If you’re uncircumcised, pull back your foreskin first.
- Pinch the air out of the top of the condom.
- Unroll the condom down your entire penis.
When finished with sex, but before pulling out:
- Hold the condom by its base.
- Pull out while holding the condom in place.
- Carefully remove the condom and throw it away in the trash.
What can I use as lubricant?
Lubricant (lube) can enhance your sexual experience, especially if things are a bit dry to start with. Lube is always recommend if you’re having anal sex.
Avoid using oil-based products with condoms, such as body lotions, moisturizer, massage or body oil, lipstick, petroleum jelly, or Vaseline. Oil-based products can weaken several types of condoms, making them more prone to splitting open and leaving you unprotected.
Personal lubricants are also something you can buy online.
What if I’m allergic to latex?
If you have a latex allergy, you can still use condoms. While many condoms are made from latex, it’s only one type of condom material available. If you’re allergic to latex, you can wear polyurethane, polyisoprene, or lambskin condoms.
Why should I wear a condom?
Some benefits of using male condoms during sex include:
- reliable prevention of unwanted pregnancy
- reliable prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV
- ease of use