Bedroom Insider

A blog about relationships, intimacy and sex toys.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Why You Should Care About Sex Toy Materials

Many pink female vibrators, with red shoes on a white background

Let's establish a few things. Sex toys aren't regulated by an organization such as the FDA. Without regulations, sex toy makers can make less-than-true statements about their products, including what they're made of and how body-friendly those toys are.

Some sex toy makers care more about profit than your health. Companies have sold millions of toys, the quality of which is as low as the price. There are no ramifications if they mislead the customer. And every time you replace a cheap toy, the company pads their pockets even more.

Sadly, it's up to you, the consumer, to know what your sex toys are actually made from and why it matters.

It gives you an idea what using it will feel like

Glass, metal, wood and ceramic are all rigid. Textures feel more pronounced on these toys than softer materials. Silicone can be nearly rigid or soft enough to bend in half. It can also have a slick, shiny texture or a velvety feeling that's more “grabby.”

Glass and metal are especially receptive to temperature change. You can dip them in warm or cool water to change how they feel.

You could have a reaction to your toys

Checking the package allows you to avoid both materials that are known to cause discomfort to others and those materials that you personally have issues with. Say you have a known latex allergy. Any toy made from latex would be on the no-go list. Although latex toys are increasingly less common, some dildos and even strap-on harnesses are made from it. Unknown allergens could also be haunting sex toys.

Sil-A-Gel, for example, is an additive in some Doc Johnson toys. It might sound like it's made from silicone, but those toys contain PVC and often phthalates (the plastic softeners that cause that shower curtain smell). It is advertised as antibacterial, but many people have had reactions. Some even have chemical burns from dildos made with Sil-A-Gel.

Heads up: if you want to test any toy that's labeled as pure silicone, you can do a silicone test. Pure silicone may develop a dark smudge, but it won't melt or burn.

Or they could give you infections

Some sex toy materials have tiny holes known as pores – just like your skin. Porous materials such as jelly, PVC/rubber, latex, TPR and a majority of the skin-like materials can harbor bacteria even after washing. Your sex toys look clean, but are they really?

This matters if you're swapping toys, especially if one partner has an STI, or if you're using toys both anally and vaginally. You could be introducing bacteria into the vagina that leads to an infection known as bacterial vaginosis. Antibiotics can clear it up, but wouldn't you rather avoid that, to begin with?

If you're looking for nonporous toys, stick to glass, steel, silicone, plastic, ceramic and treated wood.

Not all lubes play nice

Let's move away from the potential negatives that can happen to your body. Did you know if you use the wrong lube with your favorite sex toy, you could potentially ruin it?

The main thing you want to avoid is using low-quality silicone lubes with softer silicone. Those toys already use something similar to silicone lube to add the realistic softness. While they're nonporous, a reaction with cheap silicone lubes can leave them tacky or gummy – and porous.

Oil-based lubes are also problematic when it comes to jelly, PVC, latex, TPR and similar porous materials. The mix will cause the toy to break down. It might leach a disgusting oil, and who wants that near their genitals?

Water-based lubricants are compatible with all sex toys, but you can successfully use silicone with many toys if you prefer it.

You'll know how to care for them

Most sex toys can be cleaned with soap and water. But nonporous sex toys, including those made from metal, glass and silicone, can be wiped with a 10% bleach solution or put in the dishwasher or boiled if they don't have a motor in them.

Toys made of skin-like material such as Cyberskin shouldn't be washed with soap and water unless you absolutely need to. Soap will cause the toy to break down over time. You can rinse them with water and wring them out before letting them air dry. You can buy cleanser and powder specifically made by those brands, but adusting with cornstarch is enough to keep the softness.

One thing to keep in mind is that porous toys shouldn't be stored next to each other. As chemicals leach out of them over time, they can become misshapen or discolored, especially if they sit in the sun. Leached oils can also stain and potentially damage the toy's surroundings. If you can't bear to part with your favorite jelly vibrator, store it in a plastic zipper bag.

Nonporous toys can sit next to each other and even touch. Silicone is a known lint magnet, however. Occasionally, softer silicone toys will “sweat” a substance like silicone lube, but this is harmless.

You can save money

Now, this might not seem to be the case. Quality sex toys often cost a little (or a lot) more than those made from sketchy materials. But the price you pay gives you a toy that won't give you an infection and is unlikely to cause a reaction. Plus, it'll last a lot longer, which means you're paying far less because you don't have to replace your sex toy periodically.

Another benefit of premium sex toys is that many of them come with guarantees. So if your vibrator dies, you might be able to get a replacement!

You might discover your new favorite sex toy company after doing some research. Smaller, niche companies (some of which are based right here in the United States if that's something you're into) often take a more hands-on approach. They don't just make sex toys; they craft them.

At the end of the day, giving money to any company is a vote of confidence and support, so you should avoid buying from companies that make dangerous toys or lie to their customers if you don't feel comfortable promoting them.

If you're worried about the food you eat, medications you take or chemicals that touch your skin, it only makes sense for you to care about what your sex toys are made up. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to determine what's in a sex toy, but more companies are being transparent about materials.

By: Adriana Ravenlust
Follow on Twitter @adriana_r