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A guide to sex toy materials: why you should be picky

A guide to sex toy materials: why you should be picky

Read our guide to learn all about different sex toy materials - which ones to be wary of and which are the safest for your body.

By: Arielle Aquino

In a world where we are becoming increasingly aware of the toxic materials in our water bottles, detergents, skincare, cosmetics, fabrics, tampons, food and children’s toys; sex products aren’t getting as much attention. But they should - after all, the membranes of the vagina and anus are the most absorbent in your body.

Unfortunately, the reality is that there aren’t mandatory government regulations for these products; and sex toys and condoms often contain harmful materials unbeknownst to its consumers. 

It’s a scary thought but we’re here to shed some light on the dangers of certain materials and ingredients, and give options for safer choices for your body. 

Rest assured that The Sensualist only carries body-safe, non-porous and toxin-free materials and ingredients (see how we define that here). As always, feel free to email us with any questions or concerns and we’ll be happy to answer them!

Materials to avoid

Jelly/rubber/gel-like products; materials that feel like skin or are very flexible and rubbery: These materials are porous and can grow bacteria. Worst of all, they cannot be boiled (because they’ll melt) and therefore cannot be completely sterilized. Bacteria or fungus can get inside the product, grow and cause infections and STDs can easily be transferred from partner to partner if you’re sharing these toys. 

These materials also often contain phthalates which are chemicals added to plastics to make them softer and more flexible. 

A brief point on phthalates: Phthalates are endocrine disruptors meaning they affect the hormones in your body. They have been linked to diabetes, breast cancer, obesity, metabolic disorders and compromised immune function and respiratory function. Phthalates have been banned in children’s toys and yet because the sex toy industry is not regulated, they are often still present in sex toys!

Synthetic oils are often added to products containing phthalates. The material of these products is often chemically unstable meaning the synthetic oil can leach out over time or when exposed to heat - I.e. when you’re using it inside your body.

PVC: highly porous material that contains chlorine. Chlorine is a known skin irritant and can cause burning, itching and pain. 

TPR/TPE/elastomers: These are thermoplastics and are highly porous. Avoid toys that list any of these in the name; for the porous material means it cannot be sterilized and therefore can house and breed bacteria. 

Body-safe materials

* While these materials are considered body-safe in that they are non-porous and do not contain harmful chemicals, synthetic oils or phthalates, you cannot always guarantee that a product is what it says it is. Again, since the sex toy industry is not regulated, manufacturers can essentially label their product with whatever material they want, even if it’s made of something entirely different. In this case, it’s best to order from reputable and trusted brands like the ones we sell on The Sensualist. And if there are any brands or products we don’t sell which you’re wondering about, send us an email and we will look into it for you!

ABS Plastic or bio-based plastic (made from things like corn starch): hard ABS plastic is generally non-porous plastic. It’s a good, less expensive alternative to other body-safe materials. ABS-plastic can also be used with any type of lubricant. 

Glass: often people are nervous about glass for fear of it breaking inside of you. Glass won’t break unless you drop it on a hard surface. Look for “annealed” glass, which is a process that reduces points of stress in the glass. As always, run your hands over it before use to check for any chips or cracks. Glass is non-porous and non-toxic and can be used with any lubricant. 

Ceramic: ceramic is surprisingly durable. It is non-porous (because it has been sealed with a glaze) and can be used with any type of lubricant! As with any sex toy, run your hand over it before use to check for any chips or cracks. 

Steel/metal: Completely non-porous and non-toxic; this is one of the safest materials you can use. Make sure you select something nickel-free and of high-quality aluminum or stainless steel.

Crystal/stone: Beautiful natural crystals are starting to emerge in the sex space (we carry the original crystal sex toy - Chakrubs) which are a safe and natural option for material. Like glass or ceramic, stones are durable and safe to insert - just make sure to run your hand over the crystal before using each time to check for nicks. 

There’s some difference of opinion about whether or not crystals are porous. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) states that amethyst, clear and rose quartz are non-porous. Other stones may be porous - but only the top surface layers are porous meaning any bacteria can be safely washed away. 

Silicone: unfortunately products can be labeled as silicone without being 100% silicone and this is more common than you would expect. Never purchase a product labeled as “silicone-blend” or “contains silicone”. True 100% silicone is non-porous and can be sterilized by boiling. Silicone is one of the safest materials because it does not contain phthalates or harmful chemicals. 

Photo by Isabella Bejarano