If you’re thinking of having sex and are planning to use a condom, that’s a great first step to keeping you and your partner safe. But let’s be honest: a condom is one purchase you probably don’t want to ask your parents to pick up for you from the store.

But can you buy them yourself? And how old do you have to be to buy condoms? Here’s how and where to get condoms so you can be prepared in advance.

First, Why Use Condoms?

If finding and buying condoms seems too embarrassing or difficult, consider how important using condoms is in the first place.

Condoms are the only form of protection that can protect against both unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Though condoms do sometimes fail, like if they break or slip, they are a relatively effective and easy way to stay safe during intercourse.

When it comes to pregnancy, for example, male condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy when used properly every time.

And because pregnancy can occur any time after ovulation starts, using contraception like condoms is essential.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Buy Condoms?

Now that you know why condoms are important in preventing pregnancy and in staying healthy, you may still be wondering about the minimum age to buy condoms.

There are some “adult” products, such as alcohol, that have age restrictions to purchase them in the United States and Canada. However, condoms are not one of them. There is no minimum age required to buy condoms from stores.

You also don’t need to show any ID to buy condoms. This means that anyone, including teens, can buy condoms any time they wish.

Cashiers should never ask your age or refuse to sell you condoms. Legally, you have the right to buy condoms without showing any identification or answering any personal questions.

Where to Buy Condoms

Condoms are easy to find in many different shops and stores. You can find condoms in drugstores, supermarkets, and even some small grocery stores.

They are also typically stocked in gas stations and convenience stores too. Sometimes, there are even condom-dispensing vending machines, such as on school campuses, that make buying condoms quick and relatively private.

In most stores, condoms are stocked near menstrual products with other sexual health products. In rare cases, you may find condoms located behind a counter or locked up. In this case, you’ll need to ask for help from a staff member.

Expect to pay around $2 to $6 for three condoms, or a little less per condom if you purchase a larger pack.

How to Get Free Condoms

Good news: Not only is there no age restriction to buying condoms—there’s no age restriction in receiving free condoms, too.

If you want to save yourself a few dollars, visit a public or community health center. They often give away condoms, especially to teens and young adults.

Your local Planned Parenthood in the USA or community health outlets in Canada (Toronto, for example) also offer free condoms. You can typically pick up a dozen condoms during each visit to a Planned Parenthood health center.

Tips for Buying Condoms

Going to the store to buy condoms for the first time can feel a little awkward. But the more you prepare yourself, the less awkward it’ll be.

If you feel nervous about being seen buying condoms, consider visiting a store that offers self-checkout so you can make your purchase discreetly.

For extra privacy, you can even buy condoms online, as long as you have your own debit or credit card.

Remember, though, that there is no need to feel nervous or embarrassed. You’re being responsible, and there’s nothing shameful about that!

When selecting condoms, you may feel overwhelmed by some of the options available. At first, try experimenting with different brands, styles, and even sizes to get the right fit and type for you. If you or your partner has a latex allergy, be sure to grab a latex-free condom brand.

While not as popular, there are also female condoms, also called internal condoms. These work a bit differently, so if you do choose female condoms, be sure to research first to know how to use them.

What to Know Before Using Condoms

Once you buy your condoms (or pick them up for free!), there are still a few things you need to know before actually using them. First, inspect the condom wrapper to ensure there are no holes or tears.

Also, check the expiration date, and never use a condom that has already expired.

Only open the wrapper when you’re ready to use the condom, and always tear carefully to avoid tearing the condom itself.

Some condoms come pre-lubricated. But if you didn’t choose this type of condom, you may want to also grab a bottle of lube (it can be found in the same store aisle as condoms). This can help prevent irritation, as well as help to keep the condom from breaking from friction.

With these tips and pointers in mind, you can feel comfortable buying and using a condom, even if it’s your first time!

No Age Restriction on Staying Safe and Healthy

Condoms are an effective way to stay protected during sex. But how old do you have to be to buy condoms? Thankfully, there is no age restriction on buying condoms, making safe sex an option for everyone.

Still, there is no need to rush into hooking up. Wait until you and your partner are ready and comfortable. Until then, stock up on condoms so that you’re ready when the moment comes.

Read more about preparing for big events and first times in our Life Milestones articles!