Updated: Jan 3
Sex toy shopping can become very stressful and confusing once you realize how many kinds of toys there are. Then you find out they’re made from different materials, too. How are you supposed to know which material is the best? Are there any you should specifically look for? And, more importantly, which ones should you actively avoid? The V For Vibes sex toy materials guide is here to provide a few tips and pointers when it comes to finding a comfortable and body-safe sex toy you can enjoy.
A major problem with the sex toy industry is that it’s relatively unregulated. This means that manufacturers can make adult products out of essentially any material, and not worry about them being checked for quality or safety. Cheap sex toys may seem like a lot of fun, and a good value for the money– but the packaging often states "for novelty use only". As you can tell, it’s very important to know what your toy is made out of before purchasing it and putting it in your body.
Porous versus Non-Porous
We can’t talk about materials without also talking about what they mean to your body. Porous versus non porous is very important when purchasing a toy. Just like we have pores in our skin which allow it to breathe, sweat and the like, so do some materials. Porous materials have small holes penetrating the material. This means that any sexual fluids and lubricants can penetrate the material of the sex toy. Despite how much you may clean it afterwards and how clean it may look, there may still be bacteria being harbored inside. This leads to the sex toy being unhygienic and even dangerous to use in the future. There’s also an increased risk of irritation and infection – things you don’t want anywhere in or on your body.
Non porous sex toys do not have these pores present as part of the nature of the material. This means that bodily fluids, lubes and other additions which could microscopically enter porous material and present dangers, cannot penetrate the material. There are no pores for them to seep into and any fluids or lubricants will remain on the surface, ready to be washed away. The sex toy remains hygienic and safe to use.
What are Phthalates?
You’ve most likely come across the word ‘phthalates’. Phthalates are chemicals added to materials to make them more flexible. These are especially found in plastics, which would otherwise be too hard for use. Unfortunately, phthalates are classified as toxins -so sex toys which are made of these materials with phthalates should be avoided if you prioritize body-safety.
Materials with phthalates usually end up making some of the most flexible sex toys around, but they tend to be porous, and potentially toxic. You may have negative reactions after using phthalate-laden sex toys, which can include irritation and burning sensations. As you can see, it’s better to opt for phthalate-free sex toys.
Sex Toy Materials Guide
Non-Porous Sex Toy Materials
Silicone Sex Toys
More and more sex toys are being made with silicone, especially when flexibility (as well as body-safety and non-porosity) is preferred. It warms to your body temperature quickly, can be used to make a wide spectrum of sex toy styles and you can use water based lubes with them. It’s a good idea to avoid silicone lubes to prevent degradation of the materials.
Plastic Sex Toys
Some sex toys are made with hard plastic, which is non-porous, is cold during use and slow to warm up. These sex toys are often cheaper than silicone sex toys. You can use any kind of lubricant with plastic sex toys. Watch out for cheaply priced plastic toys, as they may have exposed seams that could create micro tears, and poorly finished battery compartment areas. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
Metal Sex Toys
These cold, inflexible materials can be shaped with contours or smoothly to provide a different type of penetrative experience. You can use whatever lubricant you like with metal sex toys. They are often heavier toys, so be careful when using them in places you may drop them. You can warm up or cool down metal sex toys before use by placing the toy into cold or warm water.
Some metals that your sex toy may be made of include stainless steel, aluminium or even luxurious metals such as titanium, silver and gold. Cheaper, low quality metal sex toys can be made with alloys; mixtures of tin, nickel and others. Some people are sensitive to these so make sure you know what your metal sex toy is made from before you purchase it to avoid reactions.
Glass Sex Toys
Glass sex toys are often extremely beautiful. You can use any kind of lube with glass sex toys, the material won’t be affected no matter which one you use. You can also cool down or warm up glass sex toys before use for temperature play options.
A lot of people have misconceptions about the safety of glass sex toys - but no need to worry. They’re solid, they won’t break or shatter, and they’re not sharp. They’re made with borosilicate glass, which is also used for cooking items. Some glass sex toys are smooth, others are rippled, dotted or contoured for stimulation options.
Ceramic Sex Toys
Ceramic sex toys are a little different from the other inflexible non-porous sex toy materials because they may be entirely solid or they may be hollow. Despite being safe to use both externally and internally, ceramic sex toys will fracture or shatter if dropped from a height on to a hard floor, so you need to be careful where and how you use them. You also need to be mindful if you drop them that they are likely unsafe to use.
Finished with a body-safe glaze, ceramic sex toys are non-porous and body safe –they can be used with any kind of lubricant.
Porous Sex Toy Materials
PVC Sex Toys
Now for the porous sex toy materials. The PVC (polyvinyl chloride) element of PVC sex toys is a type of plastic. PVC sex toys are both porous and toxic, due to the addition of those plasticizers. Using PVC sex toys, whether internally or externally, can lead to irritation and burning sensations for some people. Oil based lubes can corrode the material of PVC sex toys, so we recommend water-based and silicone lubes. Remember that this is a porous sex toy material, so they are not safe to use multiple times.
Rubber & Latex Sex Toys
Rubber and latex sex toys are also porous and can potentially contain phthalates. Some people also have a latex allergy, so make sure your sex toy purchase doesn’t have any trace of it if you’re allergic, or if you’re not sure whether you’re allergic or not.
Some rubber sex toys have other names for the material, but it boils down to rubber in the end. Sex toys described as being made of ‘UR3 material’ are typically rubber as well. Like with PVC sex toys, you could use water and silicone-based sex lubes with rubber and latex sex toys, but not oil-based lubes.
TPR/TPE Sex Toys
TPR and TPE are extremely common sex toy materials in the lower priced end of the sex toy market. These sex toys are very, very flexible and may be described as ‘realistic feeling’ or ‘real feel’. The acronyms stand for thermoplastic rubber and thermoplastic elastomer. Many of these toys, though not all, also contain phthalates. These materials are already porous when you first buy them, but deteriorate and degrade further through use.
Jelly Sex Toys
Jelly sex toys are a blend of PVC and rubber, leading to an often translucent and attractive (at first glance) sex toy, which is flexible. They’re also usually very cheap. Jelly toys are not only porous but toxic too, thanks to the inclusion of PVC.
When it comes down to it, jelly sex toys should be completely avoided at all times. Don’t be suckered in by the cheap price. Also, as with PVC, TPR and TPE materials, oil-based lubes can break the material down even quicker. Jelly sex toys often have a weird smell.
As you can tell, there’s plenty of options when it comes to sex toy materials – and what materials your sex toy is made from matters a great deal. If you value your health, spend a little more to have a quality toy. Research what your sex toy is made from before spending your hard earned money. If the product page doesn’t tell you, contact the company and ask.
Using only sex toys made from body-safe materials will mean you choose to value your health and wellness over saving a couple of dollars. V For Vibes chooses to make all of our toys from body safe materials, and we always list the materials openly on the website.