Why You Have To Buy Sex Toys Made With Body Safe Materials
Non-Toxic. Non-Porous. Body-Safe. These are important buzzwords in regards to sex toys, but what exactly do they mean, and why are they important? You’re about to find out why it’s critical that you only buy sex toys made with body safe materials.
If sex toys were classified as medical devices, they would subject to manufacturing regulations enforced by the FDA and put through rigorous testing to ensure they are safe for use prior to being marketed and sold to the public.
Since they are classified as novelty items, the sex toy manufacturing industry is free to use labels like non-toxic and body-safe without those claims having been proven accurate.
Expert critics at Sex Toy Collective explain the importance of this distinction, saying “A novelty means that it is intended to be for visual and aesthetic purposes. By selling toys as novelties stores can get away with selling dildos made of cheap and dangerous materials.”
Sex Toys Are An Unregulated Industry
Sarah Sloat at Inverse warns that you are responsible for ensuring that sex toy you are purchasing is safe for use: “This $15 billion industry has some of the most unregulated safety standards in the country, at both the state and federal level. When it comes to buying sex toys, the burden of determining whether companies are honest about toxic materials, harmful design flaws, and misleading packaging falls solely on the consumer.”
Because there are no regulations governing the production of sex toys, it’s left to the consumer to be sure they are purchasing safe toys from reputable companies that do not use toxic materials in the manufacturing of their products. “When you purchase a chair, you can presume that the commission has rigorously tested its utility, meaning you probably won’t fall as soon as you sit on it. But when you buy a vibrating dildo, you can only hope that it’ll screw you in the way that you want,” says Sarah Sloat.
What are Phthalates?
Also known as plasticizers, phthalates are chemical additives used to make plastics more flexible and less likely to break. Phthalates are commonly found in numerous products, including personal care products (shampoo, nail polish, etc), rain coats, plastic automotive parts, detergents, lubricating oils, and until 2018 in the United States, plastic children’s toys. In regards to exposure to these dangerous chemicals, “The risk is relatively low, since the phthalates come in lower concentrations,” explains professional critic Mia Hart from Blissful Cherry. “They do not make much contact with your body.”
Why should you care?
You may not have to worry about intimate bodily contact with those raincoats and automotive parts, but sex toys are another story. Since most are designed to be inserted in your anus, vagina, or mouth for prolonged periods of time, your exposure risk is much higher than with other every-day items. This is bad news for your nether regions, not only because they are more sensitive, but also because the amount of phthalates used in cheap, poor quality sex toys. “Sex toys that utilize phthalates use them in very high quantity,” says Mia Hart from Blissful Cherry. “It requires a lot more phthalates to get a thick dildo to be bendy and flexible compared to a thin shower curtain.”
Consequences Of Using Toxic Sex Toys.
Allergic reactions causing burning, stinging, or itching could be the least of your problems. Yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and serious conditions including cancer and infertility could result from using a sex toy made from porous or unsafe materials.
Professional critic Felicity of Phallophile Reviews warns of the dangers of using toxic sex toys: “Toxic toys leach harmful byproducts into your body, including unknown chemical additives6 and phthalates. Phthalates are a special cause for concern because these plasticizers (additives that make PVC and other rubbers softer and more flexible) have been associated with—but not directly linked to—cancer and numerous other health problems.”
Sex Toy Testing
Not sure if your toy is safe? There are a few DIY ways to test for sex toy safety at home.
“Flame testing” is a test used on silicone toys to determine if the toy marketed as 100% silicone really is 100% silicone. A quick and easy test, all you need is your supposedly silicone toy and a lighter. Hold the orange part of the flame to the toy to see how it burns. Dangerous Lilly offers advice on determining the results of your flame test, saying, “One thing that a pure silicone will NOT do, no matter what type it is, is burn like an oil lamp.” She says to look for certain results indicating a pure silicone product, including “pale-to-medium gray ash which is easily removed; a small amount of material damage and “flaking”, leaving behind a sticky patch; no change; black, sooty mark that rubs off easily; black, sooty mark that doesn’t rub off 100%.” If your sex toy is not pure silicone, you will wind up with a flaming and/or melted toy – so be sure to keep some water nearby when doing this test.
Lick it! Sounds weird, right? This test may not be ideal for all people, as some may find this method to be, well, gross. If you lick your toy and your tongue goes numb, that indicates a dangerous chemical that you do not want any (more) exposure to. If licking your toy to determine if it’s toxic doesn’t appeal to you, the experts at Sex Toy Collective propose an alternative method using one of your other five senses: “As an alternative to this I just smell it and if it smells chemically I know it has phthalates – this takes more experience though.”
This method involves a tool used by jewelers and geologists called a polariscope to determine if glass has been properly annealed. The Sex Toy Collective recommends ordering one from Amazon for around $30. “It will reveal the flow of the glass and show you how it cooled. If the toy shows rainbow colors it is weaker and more fragile than a clear toy.” A weak or fragile glass toy is not a toy that would be considered body-safe, and it poses a significant health risk by being more likely to break or chip.
Glass toys can also be tested for lead at home with a simple lead testing kit. “Lead can appear in glass toys with a varnish coating on them,” explains Sex Toy Collective. Lead poisoning can lead to serious health complications, and in severe cases can be fatal.
Avoid These Sex Toys
There are some sex toys on the market that should not be sold. Without any regulation, it’s important to do your research. Sex Toy Collective warns “It’s still the wild wild west for sex toys and regulations are almost non-existent. Chinese factories can get away with putting toxic chemicals into rubber toys.” You’ll want to avoid toys made from these materials:
Because Jelly toys are among the cheapest to produce, they are generally made with large amounts of phthalates and other toxic chemicals. Samantha Evans at Jo Divine also explains that they are impossible to sanitize, saying “jelly products are porous and therefore difficult to keep clean. The material used to make them is more prone to breaking down and degrading over time, making the product unhygienic to use.”
Although body-safe silicone is also known as “silicone rubber,” don’t be fooled by manufacturers that market their “rubber” products as body-safe. Felicity of Phallophile Reviews advises, “This is another porous material that often contains phthalates; there’s no way to tell for sure what’s in it without chemical analysis.”
This skin-soft material is highly porous, can’t be sanitized, and can be toxic. Dangerous Lily warns, “If it’s not pure silicone, and it looks super realistic (and it’s not Fleshlight) then avoid it.”
Vinyl and PVC.
Cheap to produce, therefore likely to be high in phthalates, vinyl and PVC toys should be avoided. Miss Ruby Reviews recommends you avoid any toy made with vinyl and PVC, saying, “PVC, by nature, is a very hard substance, so if you have a soft squishy PVC toy, it’s likely that it’s been softened with toxic phthalates. This is a very common sex toy material because it’s cheap to produce. This is a very porous material.”
TPE, TPR, Elastomer, and Other Silicone-Blends.
Although it is possible to find sex toys made from these materials that are non-toxic, they will still be porous, so it’s best to put them on your “avoid” list. Miss Ruby Reviews explains, “TPE sex toys have been known to retain things like HPV, so definitely no sharing. The vast majority of TPE on the market is porous, so I personally avoid it.”
Sex Toys To Use With Caution
These are toys that fall into a gray area, as they are non-toxic but not necessarily body-safe. Toys in this category would not be considered shareable between partners, as they cannot be properly sanitized.
Porous toys are toys that can never be properly sanitized. They are not safe to be shared between partners, and you should exercise caution if you ever use the toy when you have any kind of infection, as you could reinfect yourself. Dangerous Lilly cautions that, “Bacteria, mildew, fungus etc can enter the pores of these materials and make a home. The more porous the material is, the easier this will happen.”
Unannealed Glass Toys.
“Annealing is a delicate process that takes a lot of skill, resources, and proper machinery. An annealed dildo is strong and won’t break as easily as other glass dildos,” explains Sex Toy Collective. Use caution when purchasing glass toys, and always buy from a reputable company. You’ll also want to avoid glass toys with any sort of coating or varnish.
Unflared Anal Toys.
Sometimes it’s not just the materials the sex toy is made from, it’s the design, too. Unflared anal toys are at risk for getting stuck in your rectum, requiring a trip to the ER. Sex Toy Collective recommends you pay attention to manufactures, noting that, “Chinese manufacturers will market a toy on amazon as an anal toy, when it should only be a dildo. Only use toys anally if they are flared enough that they won’t get stuck inside you.”
Sex Toys That Are Known To Be Safe
There are plenty of non-toxic, non-porous, body-safe sex toys made by reputable manufacturers available on the market.
100% Pure Silicone.
“This is the quintessential material used in designer sex toys. If a sex toy uses silicone, you can rest assured knowing you are getting a high-quality product,” explains Mia Hart from Blissful Cherry. Silicone is non-porous and easy to clean, so it can be shared and properly sanitized.
Make sure your wood toys are properly sealed with a medical grade finish for safety and longevity. Felicity of Phallophile Reviews says, “Wood toys are safe if they’re coated in multiple layers of body-safe varnish, like Nobessence toys are.”
Medical-Grade Stainless Steel.
Medical grade stainless steel toys are non-toxic, non-porous, and easy to clean. Dangerous Lilly highly recommends Njoy as the premier brand for stainless steel toys.
“Glass is non-porous, phthalate-free, hypoallergenic, and difficult to destroy,” explains Miss Ruby Reviews. Properly annealed glass is easily sanitized, non-porous, and non-toxic, making it a very safe sex toy material.
As long as it’s ABS plastic, you’re fine.
Educating yourself on the difference between safe and unsafe materials used in the manufacturing of sex toys is an important part of being a responsible sex toy owner. “For now, the onus is on consumers to figure out what’s safe. The easy accessibility of the Amazon and eBay sex toy market has made that more difficult in recent years, and not just because it’s harder to verify what goes into international products,” explains Sarah Sloan from Inverse. Until the time comes when sex toys are recognized as more than “novelty items” and manufacturers are required to prove that their products are safe and non-toxic, consumers will have to be vigilant about their own health and safety.
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