By Angela Kempf
Sex toys aren’t regulated, so it’s easy to accidentally buy something toxic. Without FDA regulation to help ensure that the products you purchase are safe, you are on your own when shopping for sex toys.
If you don’t know the difference between body-safe sex toys and toxic sex toys, you’re not alone. Since our culture unfortunately shies away from topics of sexual pleasure, it’s not something you’re likely to hear about on the news or even during your nightly ritual of doomscrolling through the headlines.
Body-safe sex toys are essential because the only reaction you want from your toy is a pleasurable one. A little bit of information can go a long way toward keeping your sex toy selection safe and fun. So, how do you choose a sex toy made from body-safe materials without first getting a degree in chemistry? Follow these simple tips.
Stick to Body-Safe Materials in Sex Toys
Medical-grade silicone, stainless steel, and borosilicate glass are all excellent, body-safe, non-toxic sex toy materials to look for. They are non-porous, which means you can clean off any dirt they come into contact with, and they typically don’t produce adverse reactions. If you choose a silicone product, make sure it’s medical-grade silicone, which is the only type that has undergone safety tests for internal use.
Avoid Phthalates and BPA
Phthalates are a group of toxic chemicals that you’ll need to avoid when picking out a sex toy. Though the effects of phthalates are still being studied, scientists are so sure that these chemicals pose a health risk that they’ve banned them in children’s toys. If you like reading lengthy government documents, just check out Section 108 of the Consumer Product Safety Act of 2008.
Phthalates are banned in children's toys because toys are inserted into their mouths and make a lot of contact with children’s skin. Sex toys also happen to be inserted and in constant contact with skin, so it makes sense that you wouldn’t want phthalates in those, either. Even vibrators, which you might not choose to insert, will still be in close contact with your skin.
Cosmetics also limit phthalates because of their health risks. Phthalates are dangerous because they may cause cancer and disrupt your endocrine system. But just because these known-to-be-dangerous chemical compounds have been limited or banned in other products doesn’t mean they are banned in general. Phthalates are commonly used in sex toys to make the plastic materials feel softer.
You’ll need to watch out for BPA, too. Products that contain BPA are cause for concern, as BPA has been linked to brain and prostate gland changes. And while BPA-free products for children abound, this toxic substance is still easy to find in sex toys.
Fortunately, avoiding harmful toxins doesn’t mean your sex toy has to be hard or uncomfortable. Medical-grade silicone can be silky soft.
Steer Clear of Porous Materials
Porous materials make for dangerous sex toys. They retain microbes, yeast, and other unwelcome guests—even after a thorough cleaning. If you use a porous toy on a partner and then yourself, you could transmit an STI. And even if you use a sex toy cleaner on these products, they might absorb and retain the cleaning substance as well as the germs. Bacteria don’t survive as well on non-porous toys.
Porous toys include anything made from:
- Rubber (including jelly rubber)
Skip Third-Party Sellers That You Can’t Trust
Shopping roulette with third-party sellers may be a game you’re willing to play with other necessities, but it’s not a good idea for sex toys. I’m looking at you, Amazon. Too many horror stories already exist where someone buys something and the expectation is very different from the disappointing reality. You can easily end up with a toxic counterfeit rather than a quality sex toy.
Porous products are often cheaper to make, so counterfeits are highly likely to be made of materials that can preserve bacteria and even transmit infections between people. Worse yet, some toys may arrive at your door already used. Yikes. I think we can all agree that nothing is worth compromising your health.
Keep Lube in Mind
Once you have selected the non-toxic sex products of your dreams, you have to use the correct type of lube to ensure the toys stay body-safe. And speaking of lube, you’ll have to make sure the lube you buy is safe and free from harmful chemicals, as well. Here are some good rules to remember:
- Never mix silicone lube with silicone toys—the materials can create a reaction that breaks down the exterior of your toy
- Oil-based lubes won’t play well with condoms—the latex will become damaged, and the condom won’t be as effective
- Water-based lube works with just about everything
If you want to never think about it, you should try a water-based lube. That way, you won’t be trying to remember which lube pairs best with which activity in the heat of the moment.
Shop at Stores Committed to Selling Exclusively Body-Safe Sex Toys
Responsible, independent sex toy stores are your best bet for finding non-toxic sex toys. Shop with them, and you won’t have to keep a list of body-safe sex toy materials on hand. MMURE sells only body-safe sex products that are phthalate-free and rechargeable, so we’ve done all the research for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angela Kempf is a Denver-based writer whose sex education and travel writings have been published on a number of notable online publications. She can most often be found with her nose in a book, eating tacos, or writing feminist erotica.