Perhaps you are tired of ads and labels trying to tell you that their product is the best, made of safe, organic, responsible, good-for-you, touched-by-a-magical-fairy materials. Everything nowadays is USDA organic, everything is the purest. Or maybe you are simply tired of marketing trying to scare you. Being told that you’re going eventually have cancer, or get whatever disease, or experience this and that negative effect if you keep eating, buying or using what you’ve been having so far isn’t everybody’s favorite topic. First, because we think that whoever is saying that their product is good, healthy or safe is lying. And second, because we don’t want to be scared, finding out that what we’ve been using until today has actually been really bad for us. I can understand why this topic can be tricky and why people are pushing back from the hippy-dippy wave. I totally get the: “If I hear the phrase locally-grown heirloom tomatoes once more I am gonna scream into a pillow”.
Well, I am a sex educator. And as such, I want to make sure that you’re not gonna make the same decisions I made a couple of years ago, due to lack of knowledge and enough information. What am I talking about? Yes, I too used to have a lot of cheap sex toys. I too thought that I could save some money and that I didn’t need silicone, for instance. I too ended up spending actually more, because of trying to be cheap, than what I would’ve spent if I knew better. I am going to soon write an article about how to get inexpensive and affordable sex toys, which are still body-safe, non-porous and good for you, but let’s start with A-B-C and find out why do you in fact need to buy toys made of one of the following materials.
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Ahhh, the silicone. How could I not start the list with it? Silicone is the emperor of body-safe materials. It has a certain amount of flexibility and is a great material for anything you can think of: dildos, vibrators, cock rings, butt plugs. These days more and more companies are offering silicone sex toys. You can have it in all imaginable colors and different finishes. It can be glossy and shiny, or matte, more squishy, or really hard (most vibes or toys that have some mechanics in them have barely any to absolutely no give or flexibility, even if they’re covered with silicone). You can boil it, or use a 10% bleach solution for sanitizing it. If you are not sharing it with other partners, simply washing with a toy cleaner or soap after using it is enough. But even if you can’t wash it right away, it’s not gonna harbor any bacteria. No need to store it separately in a bag or a pouch. It doesn’t get too cold, it usually has a very comfortable temperature. And it’s not too heavy. What more to ask for? Its only downside is that used anally it can keep some remaining smell, which will take time for you to get rid of (a post about that coming soon too). Think of silicone ice trays: if you put coffee in them, they’re gonna smell of coffee.
Trusted brands: for dildos: Tantus (US based), G-silicone aka Godemiche (UK based), Vixen Creations, Vamp Silicone, FunkIt Toys, Frisky Beast, Bad Dragon. Stores like Good Vibrations, Lovehoney, and The Pleasure Chest have their own lines of silicone toys as well. For vibrators and anal toys: Lelo, We-Vibe, Fun Factory, Je Joue, JimmyJane, Jopen, OhMiBod, Leaf, PicoBong, L’Amourose, B-vibe, Nexus, Aneros
Amazing high-end material, that’s going to outlive you. These toys are just insertables, they don’t have motors. There are the dildos and the double ended toys, and of course, the butt plugs. A lot of BDSM gear is made of steel: cages, some parts of restraint and bondage systems, even penis plugs. It’s a heavy material, which makes your toy not the most travel-friendly. On the other hand, it’s great for temperature play. You can run some warm water and have your toys slightly hotter than your body temperature. It feels mind-blowing and is great for arousal and blood circulation. It’s amazingly easy to clean and it doesn’t hold any smells.
Aluminum has similar qualities to steel, but is lighter and in general cheaper.
Trusted brands: Crowned Jewels, Tantus Alumina series
Glass toys are pretty awesome for temperature play too. You can’t put them in boiling water for sanitizing purposes, but you can use them for temperature play: use warm running water, or a bowl. Or leave them in the fridge. They can look really beautiful and usually have cool designs. The good brands offer really strong glass that is most likely not going to break even if you drop it. Avoid cheap glass toys under $50. Don’t buy glass butt plugs with loops at the end and handles. They can break even while using them. If you want a glass toy but are not able to afford a high-end one, stick to clear glass (avoid colorful glass toys, because in cheap toys the color is usually achieved with some questionable polish or finish that starts chipping off; it’s not an actual colored glass). All glass toys are quite heavy and generally fragile, making them poor travel companions.
If you take good care of your wooden sex toys, they’re gonna last you a lifetime. They’re light and environmentally friendly. What makes quality wooden toys expensive is that they’re hand-made and the finish that’s used on them is medical grade. Anything else will start cracking or the wood will swell after washing several times.
Trusted brand: NobEssence
It’s rare these days to find toys entirely made of ABS plastic. Usually bullet vibes, such as the We-Vibe Tango, are made of plastic. What’s most common is that the handle and the controls of silicone vibes are made of plastic. Vibrators by Lelo are a good example of that. Plastic is absolutely hard and usually shiny.
Crystals and stone
These days there are more and more dildos, anal plugs and vaginal eggs made of granite, onyx, jade and other stones or crystals. They’re widely used in Tantra practices. Toys made of these materials are really heavy and are usually expensive.
On the other hand
Toys made of the above materials are not just body-safe, but they’re non-porous as well. Which means that they will not harbor bacteria that lead to infections. No amount of washing, cleaning, disinfecting, or soaking in bleach solution will remove what’s stuck on your toys if they’re porous. A lot of porous toys contain phthalates and plasticizers that are highly toxic. They can cause irritation, toxic-shock syndrome, chemical burn, and bacterial vaginosis. Even if you’re not experiencing these symptoms or anything unusual, your toys will start deforming and smelling really foul. It’s highly recommended that you toss them away after a year, and that you use condoms with them. So really, if you do the math (even just the cost of condoms), it’s really not worth it in the long run. Not to mention the medical issues associated with nasty infections.
All of the above brands have at least 1 year warranty. With rubber and jelly toys you never get that because they usually fall apart much faster.
What to avoid
Avoid toys made of: TPR, TPE (thermoplastic Elastomer), rubber, jelly, elastomers.
The emotional side
Cheaper and low-quality toys can mess with your head and emotions too. They often come in repulsive and superficial packaging that can make you feel dirty (not in a good way), and even put you off sex or off buying a sex toy for a while. Why would you get something that makes you feel disgusted by yourself?
How to get it right every time
Okay, I get it. A lot of people don’t really care what their toys are made of. Reading one more label: no way! So I am going to make it really simple for you. One way of making sure that a toy is body-safe is to consider the manufacturer and/or retailer. If a toy is made by a trusted and reputable brand, that’s been known for making body-safe premium toys, you aren’t gonna get it wrong. But many of these brands have their cheap replicas and counterfeits in places like eBay, AliBaba or AliExpress. Amazon is flooded with crappy fakes too. Another way to make sure you are getting the real deal is by always shopping from the manufacturer or a good sex shop. Take a look at my directory of reputable retailers. Most of these stores will not even carry jelly and rubber toys. Or will be very clear about it. Unfortunately, Lovehoney still has a ton of non body-friendly materials. But at least they will never call “silicone” something that is not.
What about men?
Unfortunately, most “male” sex toys, such as masturbators, strokers, masturbation and stamina sleeves are made of TPE or some kind of elastomers. I would recommend sticking to brands such as Tenga or Fleshlight, taking good care of your toys and getting rid of them after one year of use. Luckily, Bad Dragon is offering penetrable toys made of silicone. One thing about them is that they design fantasy toys; so don’t expect the realism you will get from Fleshlight. I personally think it’s less creepy to go with a fantasy toy or with some of the futuristic Tenga designs, than with a weird looking sleeve that has a mouth, a vulva or an anus at the end, but that’s just my own preference, as a non-penis owner. Just as I don’t really like “female” sex toys that are too realistic and resemble a penis too much. Inexpensive body-safe masturbators I can recommend are the Tenga Eggs. Quick tip about sleeves and masturbators: soak them in warm water before use. You don’t want to put your penis in something even slightly cooler than body temperature.
I certainly understand the appeal of cheap toys and feeling that you are getting so much for so little. Everyone loves a bargain. Being able to grab several things and still have your total under $100 is a call I couldn’t resist for a while too. Until I was able to compare quality sex toys made by Lelo and some cheap jelly deals that I’d bought in the lonely nights of a long-distance relationship. When the toxic toys started smelling weird, getting sticky and melting next to each other I had to throw them all away, not long after purchasing them. If I had to put together all the weird crap that I’ve “invested” in, now I can easily see that I ended up spending what could’ve gotten me several good quality toys. What you put next to or inside your private parts is really, really important. As important as what you eat. Don’t overlook what you’re using for your pleasure, and don’t be missing out on the pleasure you can have. Good companies invest in research, innovation and design. And the products that you’re buying from them will bring you much more satisfaction. Believe me! You deserve it.
If you ever have questions or doubts about particular toys, don’t hesitate to ask me. If I don’t know the answer, I will research the brand and the manufacturer, and will give you guidelines on how to be able to tell what’s what.
Note: A great resource on safe materials is Lilly’s blog.
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