There’s a lot of talk in the industry lately about toxic toys. The problem is that the sex toy industry is currently completely unregulated. Because many places consider adult toys to be a novelty, they don’t use the same sort of medical ranking system befitting things you will be sticking into your body. They just kind of say, “Oh, whatever, this feels good!” and aren’t held to any legal ramifications for what they list as the actual ingredients.
It is also difficult to tell you exactly which toys to buy from which places because some manufacturers may have a line of toys that are safe right on the shelves next to toys which aren’t safe. So we’ve come up with a little guide to help you figured out, even before you bring it home from the store or order it online, what toys and materials are best for you.
For vibrators and dildos, silicone is the key word. One of our most popular silicone vibrators is the Couture Collection Rhythm. It’s fairly soft, not irritating on the skin, non-porous (which means you can share it between partners without having to worry about bacteria), and the best silicone products can even be used with silicone lubricants, ideal for anal play. If your product comes labeled as silicone, you can make sure you’re getting the right thing by looking at these factors:
- Is it clear or opaque? Silicone is not see-through, no matter what color it is. It is opaque, although it can be dyed. Here are some examples:
- Does it melt, become hot, or otherwise react when it touches silicone toys or silicone lube? Pure silicone should not react at all when it’s paired with other silicone. That quality comes from impurities in the silicone. If you’re nervous, take a dab of silicone lube and place somewhere unnoticable on your favorite toy– like near the handle. Leave it for a couple minutes. If something changes, you’re not dealing with real, 100% silicone. If nothing changes, lube up the rest of your toy and celebrate having spent your money well!
- Does it melt or otherwise react when it’s exposed to heat? Medical-grade silicone is safe in temperatures up to temperatures of 300 degrees C or 572 degrees F. They can be left out in the sun or even boiled to stay clean. If your toy says that it is made of silicone but can’t take the heat, it’s not 100% silicone.
- Was it cheap? If you’re like me, you’re always looking for the best deal, but you could potentially be compromising your health. I realize that cost is relative depending on where you bought the toy from and what type of toy it is. But if you compare your toy to others of the same sort, you’ll find that the ones made of 100% silicone are far more expensive than the ones made cheaply. That is because making toys safe can come at a hefty cost to the manufacturer, where as just throwing together some a bunch of ingredients that are potentially toxic is not such a big deal. Now, just because you got a toy for cheap doesn’t mean that it isn’t safe. There are some cheap, but still safe alternatives to silicone which we will get to below.
If you thought your toy was made of silicone but it doesn’t hold up to one or more of these tests, here’s what you may have instead:
These so-called jelly products are a big problem in the toy industry because it’s hard to tell what they’re made of. Jelly toys sent away to labs to be tested for their ingredients have come up all over the charts. Sometimes they’re part latex, part silicone, part whatever else was lying around at the time.
Apart from their potential toxicity, these toys are impossible to clean completely– they’re porous, which means that bacteria can actually get inside of the toy. And they are often made with phthalates, which are toxic. Boiling them will destroy the toy. If you do happen to have a jelly toy of some sort, many places recommend using it with a condom, if you don’t want to just throw it out.
TPR stands for thermoplastic rubber. It is a type of hypoallergenic rubber that is less porous than CyberSkin, non-toxic and phlanthete-free. While this sounds awesome, it’s not quite up to the same quality standards as silicone. It’s still porous and it doesn’t tend to last nearly as long as silicone toys, although they are a much cheaper option. But, if you’re going to share it with a partner, a condom is a good idea– like I mentioned, it’s still porous.
Gina Lynn’s Pink Harness With Stud is a popular toy we sell that is made of high-quality TPR.
Latex is a common ingredient in the adult industry. Not only is it found in condoms, but it can also be found in sex toys. In fact, many male masturbators are made entirely of latex. You can usually tell when something is made of latex by the way it smells. If you’re unfamiliar, the next time you have a latex condom handy, give it a good sniff. That smell is damn near impossible to get off your hands after putting a condom on. If your toy smells like that, it’s made of latex. Which isn’t such a bad thing, although latex can be porous and difficult to clean.
If you’ve had previous reactions to latex gloves or condoms, latex toys are, of course, something to stay away from. But if this isn’t a problem, you can keep your toy clean by using a condom, like our favorites, Crown Skinless Skin.
Gina Lynn’s Bendable Wireless Harness is a big seller in the latex toy category.
Elastomers look similar to jelly, but they are much safer. They don’t contain phthalates, are non-toxic, and resemble jelly toys. You can tell the difference between elastomers and jelly by giving your toy the good old sniff– if there’s a bad, or chemical smell, it’s probably an unsafe jelly toy.
The good news is elastomer doesn’t really smell like much of anything. It’s also hypoallergenic and can be used with both silicone and water-based lubes. The bad news is that they are porous– so again, if you are going to be sharing them with a partner, use a condom.
You can tell if your toy is made of elastomers if it is transparent, but harder than your typical jelly toy, and odorless. They also tend to run cheaper than silicone but more expensive than TPR toys.
Our best-selling elastomer vibrator is the Elastomer Rabbit Habit!
An alternative to latex, CyberSkin is most often found in realistic vagina toys and male masturbators. It is softer than latex and easier to clean, but it is still porous and should not be shared with a partner unless a condom is used. CyberSkin in particular should not be used with oil-based or silicone-based lubricants, as these lubes can melt the material. Water is always the best option when it comes to CyberSkin.
CyberSkin is a form of elastomer, so it’s safe and FDA-approved, although it can sometimes come as a mixture of other things. If you have a bad reaction, stop using it. Sometimes, too, CyberSkin will start to breakdown if it goes unused for too long. A light dusting of cornstarch will stop that.
Many male adult toys, like Jenna Haze’s Vibrating Vagina, are made of CyberSkin.
Glass or Steel
Luckily, it’s pretty easy to tell when your toy is made of glass and steel. These toys are among the safest to use– they aren’t porous, they’re usually hypoallergenic (unless you have a metal allergy), plus they’re easy to clean and can withstand some serious temperatures. Sometimes, companies might use fillers when making glass toys. You can tell if they’re real, medical-grade glass by once again, looking at the price. The more expensive they are, the better quality.
For a steel toy, you can’t beat the reviews on our nJoy Pure Wand!
You won’t find a toy that’s made entirely out of phthalates, but they are often an ingredient in some of those mixed toys, like the fake-silicone ones. Phthalates are a chemical used to soften PVC vinyls, another common material used in toys like the jellies. They are present in a lot of things– from sandwich bags to nail polish to tub caulking. In fact, we’re exposed to phthalates constantly in our daily lives.
The problem comes with inserting them into your body. People who have sensitive skin may feel a bad burning when they use a toy with phthalates. Even those who don’t feel the burn can have negative effects. The long-term use of adult toys with phthalates has not been studied, but it’s never a good idea to put something so toxic into your body.
If you’re worried your toy may have phthalates, the best thing you can do is give it a thorough sniffing. Phthalates carry a strong chemical smell– the more it smells, the worse off it is. Again, you can also tell based off of how cheap it is as using phthalates to soften PVC is cheaper than using silicone or other approved products.