Let’s Talk Condoms

Yes, I know, it’s a topic that has been discussed a lot. So I won’t bore you with the effectiveness stats and proper use and whatnot. What I want to look at today is the difference in material, thickness and size that you can find.

This is a conversation that came up during one of the last open relationship discussions groups I attended and it seems that there is a lot of confusion. So let’s exchange some of that for information. I will restrict said information to male condoms. Yes, there are female condoms. And no, I don’t have experience with them, so I don’t want to just repeat what I am reading somewhere else on the net. If there is interest, I will go and actually do some research and then write about it.


At the moment there are 4 more or less common materials on the market.


The most common material for condoms. Since the invention of latex, it has been used to make condoms and the first latex condom hit the US markets in the 1920s.

  • stretches up to 8 times its size
  • can go as thin as 0.036 millimeters (0.0014 inches), which is world record


  • derived from natural rubber and contains proteins that can cause allergies
  • can only be used with water or silicone based lubricants

The most common non-latex condoms are made from polyurethane and have been sold since the 1990s.

  • safe to use with any lubricantNatural rubber (cis-1,4-polyisoprene), chemical structure. Used to manufacture surgeons' gloves, condoms, boots, car tires, etc. Multiple representations.
  • thinnest available condoms are made from polyurethane (down to 0.018mm or 0.0007 inches), check out the review
  • completely odorless
  • conducts body heat more efficiently than latex
  • hypoallergenic


  • less stretchy than latex and polyisoprene
  • harder to unroll
  • need to be bought closer to size
  • much more expensive than latex condoms

Polyisoprene is basically synthetic latex. It was FDA approved in 2008 but currently only Lifestyles uses the material to make condoms.

  • hypoallergenic
  • conducts body heat more efficiently than latex
  • more stretchy than polyurethane


  • usually thicker than latex
  • slightly more expensive than latex but cheaper than polyurethane



  1. M J

    The article says this, but not hard enough — I didn’t understand for years: that compression feeling, like someone’s constantly squeezing? It means the condom’s too small around. And that 1/10 of an inch matters a lot.

    Don’t bother trying to measure, you won’t be accurate enough with the tape to tell the difference between 1.99″ and 2.13″. Just buy a couple of different sizes. Slips off, too big; hug of death, too small.

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