Curated from: Sexual Wellness Blog - Jenny Keane
Everything You Need To Know About Sex Toy Materials Before You Buy
The last thing I want to do is put the fear of god into someone before they buy a sex toy however, it’s important to know, the sex toy industry is almost entirely unregulated. This means that there is no government or industry body which is responsible for ensuring that sex toys are safe. By printing ‘Novelty Item – not for use on the body’ on the packaging some companies sidestep stricter regulations. This means that there are sex toys out there that are made from potentially unsafe or even toxic materials. When engaging in Self Pleasure or Partner Pleasure the intention is to treat the body well, knowing about body-safe materials are integral to that. It can be an absolute mind field trying to navigate that terrain so I have put together what you can consider a cheat sheet to help you be a little more sure that the sex toy you want is body safe?
What Does Body Safe Mean?
We can break body safety down into three parts:
Porosity: Whether the material it is made from can harbour bacteria and fungus. Some of the materials used to make sex toys are porous. They have microscopic holes where bacteria can hide and reproduce – even if you clean the surface of the toy. Porous sex toys cannot be sterilised and can cause yeast infections, bacterial vaginosmis and transmit diseases.
Chemical Composition: Whether the chemicals in the toys are safe to use on or in the body. Some sex toys have been found to include chemicals which have caused itching, burning and even tissue damage. For example, phthalates are a common plasticizer which are used to make plastics softer. They are also a likely carcinogen and may cause neurological and reproductive issues. Another common example is the use of glycerin in lubricant – which can cause yeast infections.
Safe Design – Whether the shape and features of a sex toy are safe to use. For example, any toy designed for anal use needs to have a wide flared base to ensure it can’t get lost or stuck.
Luckily there are more and more sex toy manufacturers who have listened to customer demand and are making high quality, body safe sex toys.
Body Safe Materials
The easiest way to make sure that the sex toy you are buying is body safe is to check what it is made from. There are lots of materials which are non-porous and chemically safe to use for sex toys. These include:
Silicone is one of the best body safe sex toy materials. It is non-porous and non-toxic and can be made in all sorts of different densities and textures. This means you can have super firm or soft and squishy silicone – depending on what you are looking for. It can be coloured all the colours of the rainbow (literally) and can be made metallic, glittery and even glow in the dark!
Silicone Sex toys are compatible with almost all lubricants. Despite what you might have heard, in general you can use silicone lube with silicone toys. There are a few exceptions so we recommend doing a small patch test to check. Just dab a small amount of silicone lube on the toy and leave for a few minutes. If it gets tacky or starts to deform don’t use that lube on that toy.
ABS Plastic (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene for those who want to get specific) is a very stable hard plastic that is commonly used in vibrators. It is a great, versatile material that is often cheaper than silicone and can be a great chose for people who are watching their budget.
If it can be used to make a hip replacement you can use it to make a dildo! High quality, stable metals such as stainless steel, titanium and aluminium as well as precious metals like gold and silver are safe and exciting options for sex toys. Toys made from metal will be super firm and heavy and great for temperature play. If you have any allergies just keep an eye out for cheaper metal toys which might contain nickel.
Glass sex toys are in general very safe and can be absolutely beautiful. Reputable companies will use borosilicate glass which is the stuff that cookware is made from. It is very hard and extremely difficult to chip or shatter.
It is important however to ensure that you only buy them from reputable sources as there are some horror stories out there. The design of a glass sex toy is very important. Avoid anything with thin or narrow sections which could, if they are not made well, be breaking points.
Wooden sex toys can absolutely be body safe and have the most wonderful alive texture. However they must have a body safe finish or coating. Check to see what has been used to varnish the toy. Avoid anything that is un-coated or just finished with oil as this may not last forever.
Stone & Ceramic
Natural stone sex toys are both beautiful and safe. It generally cannot be sealed but can be polished smooth. Similarly ceramic sex toys can be safe but must be glazed and kiln dried. Similar to glass they are strong and unlikely shatter but do check for chips and cracks before using.
Some stockists just to stock products made from TPE or TPR which stands for Thermoplastic Elastomer/Rubber. TPE/TPR is a soft plastic material which is commonly used in strokers and masturbation sleeves. It is porous and as such cannot be fully sterilised. Sometimes people choose to sell specific TPE/TPE products because it is very challenging to find non-porous products at an affordable price, masturbation sleeves for example. I would only recommend using TPE/TPR products which are non-insertable and you should absolutely be aware of the risks.
TPE/TPR toys should not be shared between partners as they can harbour bacteria and fungus and care to should be taken to ensure they are cleaned and dried thoroughly. These toys will not last in the way that silicone does and should be replaced at the first sign of wear, dark spots or if it starts to feel greasy. This may be a result of the material starting to break down and leak oil which will happen over time.
A word of caution: As the sex toy industry is unregulated sometimes the claims on the box may not be true or are misleading. There have been cases of companies claiming their products are ‘silicone rubber’, ‘ silicone-blend’ or ‘SEBS Silicone’ and other phrases to make it appear that their products are body safe when they are not. If you are unsure – check out the manufacturer and the retailer to see if they are reliable.
Materials to Avoid
Jelly sex toys may be cheap but they are porous and can harbour bacteria, fungus and smells.
There are some materials which we would definitely recommend avoiding if you want to ensure your sex toy is body safe. While they are often cheaper than silicone or other body safe toys they come with risks. As well as the possibility of including actively toxic chemicals or harbouring bacteria and fungus, these materials tend to break down faster, can leak oils and hold on to smells. Particularly if they are for internal use, such as vibrators, dildos or anal toys we recommend avoiding sex toys made from:
Some companies also come up with trademarked names for their materials such as Sil-a-Gel or Cyberskin. These are often variations of TPE/TPR or other plastics. We suggest avoiding them, or at least doing more research in to what the material actually is.
Remember, this isn’t about scaring anyone but learning how to be kind and loving to your body…and what you might be putting inside it. Finding reputable stores online that are aware and care for your body and the products you are using is a great start. Find some of those stores below….
For those of you who like to jump down the rabbit hole of researching like I do, here are some pretty good sites you can do more research on