Shopping for sex toys is a bag load of fun, and so is using your goodies when you finally get them in your hands. If you’ve given it a bit of thought, you’ll have hopefully picked something that turns you on and finishes you off in whatever way works best for you. But, while you were busy choosing the shape, size, colour, and style of your toy, there’s a question you may have forgotten to ask yourself. I know I didn’t know to ask it back when I first started buying sex toys. That question? Is my sex toy body safe? Check out this handy quick guide to sex toy materials to find out.
When you see talk of body safe sex toys you might wonder what the hell folks are on about. I mean, if they’re for sale they must be suitable for their intended use, right? In a perfect world that would definitely be the case but, unfortunately, it’s not so in our world. Sex toys are still largely – mistakenly – considered to be novelty items, so the regulations on safety issues are pretty slack.
When we talk about body safe toys, what do we actually mean? Well, it’s all about the materials. What the toy is made of. Some are perfectly safe for insertion into the body, but others are not. Those ‘one to avoid’ materials are often porous. They often contain phthalates, leach gases, or are covered in an oily feeling layer of chemicals, none of which is good for your body.
Are you looking at the dildo in your shopping basket and wondering if it’s going to cause you a mischief? If it’s cyberskin, TPR, TPE, vinyl, PVC, rubber, or jelly, the answer is probably. First off, all of these materials are porous to some extent. They might look smooth but they’re not. They have micro-holes in them, too small for our eyes to see but plenty big enough to make comfy homes for mould, mildew, and colonies of bacteria.
You can wash these spongy materials with antibacterial sprays and soaps all day long but all you’ll be doing is cleaning the surface. The holes are too small for cleaners to penetrate properly so whatever is growing in them is just going to multiply over time. Body orifices are wet, dark, and warm. They’re ideal breeding grounds for bacteria, which is something that will stick around if you invite it in by inserting an unsterile sex toy. This means that you could potentially be, exacerbating existing infections, giving yourself new ones, or even passing them on if you share your toys with others.
Porosity isn’t the only issue with the afore mentioned materials. The other is phthalates. Used to soften plastics, phthalates make sex toys toxic. These are the toys that’ll feel clammy to the touch, even when brand new. They arrive stinking and stay stinky no matter how many times you wash them, and leave oily stains on drawer bases. If you have a couple stored together, you might even find that they’ve started to melt. This is because the phthalates in them have destabilised them and caused them to break down.
If you’re putting a toy like that inside of you those chemicals and gases are very likely to cause you problems. Chemical burns around the genitals and anus are super common. So are allergic reactions. Trust me, I’ve personally experienced both in the past. The worst was the full body rash and stonking headache that I got after putting a Doc Johnson Untraskyn dildo in my mouth.
As scary as all that sounds don’t despair, because there’s a very bright light at the end of the tunnel. Many manufacturers care about their customers as much as, if not more than, their profit margins. Body safe toys abound these days, and the materials you’re looking for are right here…
- Silicone: no matter what kind of sex toy you want you’re almost guaranteed to find it (or something similar) in silicone. It can be super firm or super soft, depending on what you’re looking for. Some argue that silicone is porous and they’re right to a certain degree. But the holes in it are far too small for nasties to penetrate, and unlike TPE and rubber, silicone is completely sterilisable. Non-motored silicone toys can be boiled or bleached for extra peace of mind. That’s ideal for those who either share their toys with others or who use them both vaginally and anally.
- Glass: there are loads of sex toys available that are made from borosilicate (Pyrex) glass. Temperature tolerant and easily sterilisable by boiling, glass is a fantastic body safe option for those who like their toys super firm. However not all glass toys are created equally. China often floods the market with glass that hasn’t been properly treated and this is obviously a potential hazard. Be sure to buy your glass from reputable brands and trusted retailers, and take extra care when cleaning, transporting, and storing.
- Metal: Stainless steel and aluminium are the most common metals you’ll find in your favourite sex shop, both of which are easy to sterilise. Depending on your budget you can even find beautifully coloured titanium, and even gold or silver. Just be aware that not all manufacturers practice honesty and sometimes stainless steel can be nothing more than a plated base metal. You don’t want those because if you scratch them you’ll render them potentially porous.
- ABS Plastic: Smooth, shiny, and hard, ABS is present in loads of toys either as a skeleton beneath silicone or as the finished surface itself. It’s non-porous, non-toxic, and easy to keep hygienically clean.
- Wood, Stone, & Ceramic: less readily available than the above materials, wood, stone, and ceramic sex toys are fantastic. Reputable manufacturers of wood and ceramic use body safe dyes/paints/varnishes/glazes to make their materials non-porous, and they’re naturally phthalate free. Stone can be a bit trickier as some of them – Jade for example – are porous. Granite, however, is a non-permeable stone so is a great option.
They key to choosing a good, body safe sex toy is to get to know your brands. Find out which manufacturers are reputable, and which are trash. Don’t be afraid to ask your chosen store questions if you’re not sure, or maybe get in touch with your favourite sex blogger. Any of them who won’t give you an answer (or who can’t answer and won’t direct you to someone who can) aren’t worth your time or your money.