The Appeal of Silicone Sex Toys
Silicone, also known as silicone rubber or food or medical-grade silicone, is a popular material for consumer, healthcare, and industrial products. Its safety on the skin, flexibility, durability, and soft touch make it a preferred choice. Silicone is particularly suitable for sex toys, given its health-friendly nature, which is why most of our products are made from it.
Quality, platinum-cured silicone is non-toxic and non-porous. Platinum-cured silicone is chemically stable, making it ideal for body-safe sex toys. This type of silicone is often referred to as platinum silicone in the sex toy industry.
The non-porous nature of silicone is advantageous as it prevents the harboring of bacteria, mold, fungi, and other undesirable elements within the material after use. Silicone can mimic velvety skin on the outside while remaining firm and flexible on the inside, making it perfect for dildos. Silicone is safe for use with water-based and oil-based lubricants.
Misinformation Regarding Silicone Sex Toys
The internet is rife with misinformation about sex toys, often propagated by self-proclaimed sex experts who neglect fact-checking. With the proliferation of online platforms, anyone can present themselves as an expert. However, your sexual health and well-being are paramount, so it's crucial to rely on accurate and trustworthy information. For a more comprehensive understanding of this issue, we recommend our guide, Fear-based Sex Toy Marketing Hype Guide.
A Common Myth About Silicone Sex Toys
Some health-focused sites claim that if a sex toy label does not specifically state it is made from medical-grade silicone, it is safe to assume that it is toxic. This is categorically untrue. The safety of a sex toy depends on various factors, including the materials used, manufacturing processes, and quality control measures.
Medical-grade silicone is not the only body-safe silicone; food-grade silicone for sex toys is also non-toxic and safe, among others. Most manufacturers do not specify the type of silicone used in their sex toys on their packaging. When they do, they typically refer to the curing process of the silicone, not how the silicone was tested.
It is crucial to understand that medical-grade silicone is not a type of silicone; rather, it is a form of how silicone is tested. This is why many silicone sex toys are referred to as platinum silicone, which simply means it was cured using platinum, as the manufacturing process impacts its purity.
As previously mentioned, platinum-cured silicone is the most stable process of curing silicone. It includes high tear strength and can withstand intense stretching (tensile strength). It also has very low shrinkage and is nonporous and firm.
Moreover, even if you only felt that nonporous sex toys were safe, there are also safe sex toy materials made out of properly annealed glass, 316-grade stainless steel, ABS plastic, and more.
Those who lack a solid understanding of chemistry can create many fear-based messages out of ignorance. They casually use words like organic, natural, toxins, and synthetic, but they often don't fully understand what they are talking about, thereby unnecessarily scaring and misleading people. Silicone is a perfect example of this as it is synthetic but can be one of the health iest sex toy materials available.
Chemistry allows us to control the good and the bad of substances. Just because something is natural does not mean it is better, let alone safe. Many plants can cause severe allergic reactions and even death.
This is not to say that synthetic ingredients are always better, but understanding the chemistry of something, whether natural or synthetic, allows us to make healthier choices for ourselves. You have a right to know the truth from a science-based approach rather than fear-based hype and deceptive marketing.
The Importance of Reliable Information Sources
It is remarkable how many celebrities, politicians, and self-proclaimed experts comment on fields of study that they are entirely ignorant about, and people believe them because they are likable.
We have repeatedly seen this even with people who are quite bright and educated in other fields of study but have no sex toy knowledge. It is like going to your mechanic and asking them about your health concerns; not a good source for that particular information.
Sex toy education is our specialty, and because we care about you, we want you to have accurate educational resources and a safe place to shop for your sexual health and pleasure.
Get Ready for a Deep Dive!
Some people like to research everything they can about various subjects, and for those interested, we have put together a great deal of information about silicone sex toys in this guide. However, if you don't want to delve into the wealth of scientific information we provide below, just know that we only select the healthiest sex toys available.
We work with ISO 17025 accredited and FDA-registered labs, along with chemists and physicians, to provide you with fact-based educational resources and sex toys that are body-safe.
If you are still interested in knowing more, then let's keep going!
The Controversy Surrounding Medical Grade Silicone
With so many uneducated sex toy enthusiasts online spreading a lot of hype about what is safe on their blogs and YouTube channels, there is a serious problem of misinformation about medical grade silicone as seen in LSR (liquid silicone rubber).
Unfortunately, consumers are listening to people who have no fundamental understanding of the chemistry of sex toys, let alone the legal loopholes and manufacturing challenges sex toy makers face.
Challenges in Labeling Medical Grade Silicone
Many well-meaning people on the internet think they are leading some kind of health crusade, insisting that consumers only buy sex toys labeled 'medical-grade silicone' on their packaging. However, good luck finding that because sex toy manufacturers typically do not list silicone sex toys as medical grade. If you see a sex toy manufacturer claiming they are selling medical-grade silicone and it has color (pigmentation), it is highly unlikely that is true.
It is doubtful that most sex toys people buy have been tested as medical-grade silicone. As mentioned, medical grade silicone is not a type of silicone; rather, it is an FDA classification of silicone based on a costly, extensive testing process that takes a very long time to complete.
You may be wondering why you will not find medical-grade silicone on sex toy labels, so let's explore some of the reasons. One reason is that certification for medical-grade materials involves rigorous testing to ensure their safety and suitability for medical applications.
Any alteration to the material may affect its performance, biocompatibility, or other critical factors, which would make it ineligible for medical-grade certification. So, what alterations could change that?
Let's say you want to make a safe silicone sex toy. You could start with using silicone that was certified as medical-grade, but as soon as you add any kind of additive or pigmentation (color) to that dildo, you have now made the silicone no longer able to be legally labeled as medical grade. This brings us to the world of color pigments used in silicone sex toys.
Are all color pigments safe? No. Are color pigments used in body-safe sex toys? Yes, and they may be the safest you can get, but if that pigment does not have a medical-grade certification, you can no longer call the silicone you just made with that color medical grade even though it was when you started.
Is the dildo less safe? Not at all; if you are working with a reputable manufacturer, the silicone dildo is absolutely safe, non-toxic, and hypoallergenic, but you will not see that listed as medical grade on a manufacturer's website or packaging.
Because adding a non-medical-grade pigment will void the classification of medical-grade silicone, no manufacturer will start with silicone that was tested and certified as medical grade as that would become a moot point.
It should be noted that some pigments are medical-grade, so on rare occasions, a sex toy can have both medical-grade silicone and a medical-grade pigment. However, in most cases, sex toys are not medical-grade, but, it is not uncommon to find sex toy sellers claiming their products are medical-grade silicone when they are not, which is false advertising.
Softening & Texturing Agents
Let's say you have silicone that was certified as medical-grade, but you want to make a softer silicone that is a bit more pliable and more realistic, and you add a body-safe, nontoxic softening or texturing agent to it. Can you call it medical-grade silicone anymore? No, you cannot.
You have now taken a material that was tested and certified as medical grade and altered it, and even if what you used to modify it was completely safe, you can no longer call it medical grade. This means that it is very unlikely a manufacturer will start with a silicone that is tested and certified as medical-grade and soften it, as that would defy logic.
Medical Grade Silicone Is Not The Only Safe Silicone
There are other factors to consider with silicone sex toys such as body-safe, food-grade silicone or curing processes such as platinum curing. Silicone production is more complicated than whether it is tested as medical grade or is toxic.
Many silicones are body-safe, non-toxic, and hypoallergenic, which is why uneducated people on the internet telling consumers only to buy sex toys labeled as medical-grade is ludicrous. Honestly, you will most likely not find a reputable sex toy manufacturer putting a medical grade label on any silicone they sell for the reasons stated above.
Issues with FDA Medical Grade Certification
If a sex toy manufacturer were required to label their products for sexual use, made health claims, and had to label their products as medical-grade, there would not be any affordable sex toys on the market for consumers to buy.
This is not because they cannot use safe materials because many do; it is because of the exorbitant amount of money it would cost to get FDA certification and approval. Therein lies a serious conflict.
Consumers have been told by uneducated, righteous bloggers and writers that they should only buy sex toys labeled as medical-grade. However, in most cases, sex toy manufacturers cannot label their products like this because it is unnecessary for safety, and promoting them as such would make them at risk of being sued or violating legal definitions.
Decoding the Silicone Type in Your Purchase
Identifying the type of silicone used in a sex toy can be challenging unless you're dealing with a reputable retailer. Many sellers, especially those retailing these products, may not understand the distinctions among medical-grade, food-grade, and low-grade silicones, let alone porous elastomers such as TPR and TPE. Please refer to our Elastomers & Porous Sex Toys Guide for a more comprehensive understanding of these materials.
Given that even luxury sex toys seldom indicate the materials used, both consumers and resellers often remain uninformed. While manufacturers might specify their silicone sex toys as platinum silicone, it only explains how the silicone was cured, not the type of silicone tests conducted to ascertain whether it is of medical grade, food grade, etc.
Additionally, other considerations such as pigments and additives can complicate matters further. One might feel the need for a chemistry degree and lab testing to decipher the composition of these products. To ease this burden, we collaborate with chemists and labs to ensure the safety, non-toxicity of our products and provide necessary education to consumers.
Dissecting Medical Grade and Food Grade Silicone
Both food-grade and medical-grade silicone undergo testing, which could involve the same or different types of silicone. The testing verifies the safety level of using these materials within the body.
Worth repeating, medical-grade silicone is not a distinct type of silicone but a category that has undergone testing for medical use. Similarly, food-grade silicone is not a distinct type; instead, it signifies a silicone that has passed safety tests for ingestion.
Silicone FDA Testing Differences
Food Grade Silicone Testing
Food grade silicone is tested by submerging it in water, ethyl alcohol, oil, and acetone. If it leaches impurities, it does not comply with FDA standards. This thorough testing guarantees consumer safety, ensuring the material is safe enough for ingestion and pass through the body without harm. Hence its use in kitchen utensils and other food-related products.
Medical Grade Silicone Testing
Medical-grade silicones, often referred to as medical-healthcare grade, class VI silicone, undergo biocompatibility testing. Both medical-healthcare grade, Class VI, and medical-long term implantable silicones are considered safe for food contact. These grades are typically processed as liquid silicone rubber (LSR), which is injection molded. Due to their purity, they are typically too costly for food-grade applications.
Medical-grade silicones are categorized into three groups: non-implantable, short-term, and long-term implantable. The testing of medical-grade silicone materials for sex toys typically involves long-duration implantation and human trials for approval.
Once approved, medical-grade silicone receives a certificate of analysis and a batch and lot number. The testing process does not enhance the silicone; instead, it verifies its safety for medical implantation.
If a sex toy manufacturer modifies a sex toy made from medical grade silicone (e.g., additives, pigmentation), the altered product must undergo re-testing to be considered medical grade.
The Safety of Food Grade Silicone
Food grade silicone is usually less expensive because the testing is less costly, making it a viable material for affordable sex toys tested to FDA standards for food safety.
As food-grade silicone is designed to make contact with the mucous membrane of the mouth, which closely resembles that of the vagina or rectum, it is safe for these uses.
Additionally, because it is not permanently implanted, temporary contact with the body through sex toys made from food-grade silicone is considered safe.
The Threat of Fake Silicone
Some sex toys falsely claim to be made of silicone in a practice often referred to as selling 'fake silicone.'.
The sex toy industry lacks regulatory standards for material labeling consistency, enabling some manufacturers to mislead consumers by labeling their products as silicone when they consist of different materials.
Other materials used in sex toys include elastomers like TPR and TPE, natural latex rubber, and vinyl (PVC). Unfortunately, many products marketed as silicone sex toys actually contain little to no silicone, such as TPR silicone, a porous elastomer.
The Significance of Fake Silicone
If you're unaware of the material your sex toy is made from, it could chemically melt from improper lubricant use, cleaning method, or storage. Worse, you could unknowingly be exposed to toxic materials or harmful bacteria.
Many cases have been reported where individuals experiencing health issues believed they had a sexually transmitted disease or another illness when in fact, a toxic sex toy was the culprit.
Symptoms such as headaches, pain during sex, numbing, rashes, blistering, nausea, cramps, or vaginal or rectal burning can all be attributed to toxic sex toys. For more details, please refer to our Toxic Sex Toys Guide.
Clarifying Silicone Vs. Silicon
When understanding sex toy materials, people often confuse silicone with silicon. They are substantially different: silicone is a rubbery, nonporous material, while silicon is naturally found in stones like mica and quartz and can be used to make glass.
Silicon is commonly used in computer chips, thus the term Silicon Valley. Conversely, silicone is a synthetically created elastomeric rubber, while silicon is a natural chemical element.
Here's where it can get a bit confusing. The base component of silicone sex toys is silica, a combination of oxygen and silicon. This is also the main ingredient in glass, making it inert and impermeable. Hence, silicon is part of silicone, but they are far from being the same or similar.
While it may be confusing, if a sex toy retailer consistently refers to a silicone dildo as silicon, it's recommended to avoid purchasing a sex toy from them. A responsible sex toy retailer should understand sex toy materials, their safety, and be equipped to educate you on their care. This is impossible if they fail to grasp even the most basic information on sex toy materials.
Exploring the Chemical Composition of Silicone
Silicone is a synthetic rubber, specifically a type of polymer known as polysiloxanes. Its characteristic flexibility and stretchability are derived from its elastomeric properties. The essential divergence between synthetic rubber and silicone lies in their bonding structures; rubber features carbon-to-carbon bonds, whereas silicone comprises bonds between silicon and oxygen.
The Elastomeric Nature of Silicone
When discussing silicone sex toys, a common source of confusion stems from the distinction between silicone and porous elastomers like Thermoplastic Rubber (TPR) and Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE). Porous elastomers like TPR and TPE often face criticism due to their absorbent nature, potential to harbor bacteria, and potential inclusion of harmful phthalates.
However, it's important to note that several TPR and TPE elastomers are devoid of phthalates and are non-toxic. Certain TPE blends are even medical-grade and nonporous. Proper usage, cleaning, and storage are essential for these safe materials to remain bacteria and mold-free.
Given that the term 'elastomer' is often associated with TPR and TPE, it can be easy to presume that all elastomers are porous. However, silicone is also a type of elastomer due to its elastic properties. An elastomer is a term that describes a material possessing elastic properties and is not indicative of a specific type of material. Various types of silicone possess elastomeric properties, with polysiloxanes (polysiloxane platinum silicone) being the scientific name most commonly associated with high-quality sex toys.
Production of Silicone from Raw Material
The production of silicone begins with raw material that has the consistency of clay. This material is mixed with a catalyst to facilitate various molding processes. Different ratios and formulations of raw silicones are blended to create the desired characteristics of a specific silicone sex toy.
Measuring the Firmness of Silicone: The Durometer Scale
Material firmness in sex toys is measured using a durometer, which classifies material on the Shore scale. Invented by Albert Shore in the 1920s, this scale categorizes materials based on their hardness. The durometer employs three different gauges: 00, A, and D. Each gauge uses a unique spring-loaded steel rod that presses into the surface of the material under examination. The extent to which the rod can penetrate the material determines its measure on the gauge.
- Shore 00 Scale: This scale is used to measure the softest materials such as gels and rubbers, with comparable consistency to that of a gummy bear. Certain TPE and TPR sex toys can be measured on this durometer scale.
- Shore A Scale: This scale is used to measure a variety of materials including silicone, PVC, and semi-rigid plastics. Most TPR, TPE, PVC, and silicone sex toys are measured on this scale.
Shore D Scale: This scale measures the firmest rubber and materials with minimal flexibility. Sex toys made of hard plastics such as SBS are measured on this scale.
Raw silicone, from which dildos are made, has a base hardness ranging from 0 to 80 on the Shore A durometer scale. To provide context, a rubber band measures around 20A , whereas plastic typically scores about 95A or higher. A firm yet flexible dildo would measure around 20A, while a softer, more flexible dildo scores about 10A. Dual-density dildos use a firmer inner core (40A) and a softer outer core (20A).
Properties of Soft Silicones
The softer a silicone is, the more porous it becomes. Hence, it is safer to use firmer silicone. Custom silicone dildos that measure 10A on the durometer scale may be harder to clean and maintain hygienic standards compared to those that measure 20A.
In its natural state, silicone exhibits a clear but slightly frosted white color. When light passes through it, an amber hue may be visible against a white backdrop. To create colored sex toys, pigments, typically made of safe and non-toxic materials, are added to the raw silicone.
Lifespan of Silicone
Silicone products have a minimum shelf life of 10-20 years when stored in temperature-controlled conditions. With proper care, cleaning, and maintenance, they can last a lifetime. Care procedures such as regular cleaning, gentle handling, and avoiding exposure to extreme temperatures, direct sunlight, sharp objects, and harsh chemicals can significantly enhance the lifespan of silicone products.
The Characteristics of Dual Density Dildos
Dual density dildos are designed with a firm inner core and a soft, squishy outer core, providing a realistic feel similar to human skin. These popular products are typically made from silicone. For those interested in the specifics, the firmer inner core usually measures around 40A on the durometer scale, with a softer outer core of 20A. It's worth noting that 'dual density' is not exclusive to silicone; dildos made from other materials can also fall under this category.
Dissecting the Differences Between TPE, TPR & Silicone
Elastomer sex toys that exhibit stretchiness and porosity are typically made from TPR (derived from SBS) or TPE (derived from SEBS). These squishy, soft, and skin-like materials are types of thermoplastic elastomers. Popular brand names associated with these elastomers include CyberSkin, Futurotic, LoveClone RX, PassionSkin, PleasureSkin, Private Touch, SoftSkins, SoftTouch, SuperSkin, Techno-Skin, and TrueSkin.
Some companies categorize these materials as 'soft plastic' or 'realistic' without specifically stating the type of material used. Despite their popular appeal, these products can present challenges. While many on the market are phthalate-free and non-toxic, TPR and TPE elastomers can be highly porous, with the exception of materials such as medical-grade TPE.
Understanding the Impact of Porosity in Sex Toys
A highly porous sex toy, much like a micro-sponge, has the potential to absorb bodily fluids, lubricants, and moisture. Such absorption can create a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, fungi, and even viruses. The use of a sex toy cleaner and thorough air drying can aid in disinfecting TPE or TPR elastomer sex toys. However, complete disinfection may not be possible due to the microscopic nature of these pores. Unlike a regular sponge that can be disinfected in a dishwasher or microwave, T PE or TPR elastomer sex toys cannot be exposed to heat as they will melt, making methods like boiling ineffective.
Given this, some sex toy reviewers label TPE or TPR elastomer sex toys as potentially toxic. While these toys may not be inherently toxic when new, they can harbor bacteria, mold, fungi, and viruses, even after thorough cleaning.
The Role of Plasticizers & Other Chemicals
Some thermoplastic elastomers, such as TPE and TPR, used in the sex toy market incorporate plasticizers to increase their softness. Toxic plasticizers like phthalates can be easily released into the body when used internally and can disrupt endocrine function. TPE sex toys should also be free from other potentially harmful chemicals, such as Bisphenol A and latex.
However, not all plasticizers are considered dangerous. Citrates, adipates, and bio-based plasticizers are designed to be less toxic and more environmentally friendly. The toxicity of a sex toy depends on the specific chemical compound of a plasticizer, its concentration, duration of exposure, and how it is used.
Alternative Uses of TPE Elastomer
Safe TPE elastomers are often found in products like dental guards, catheters, bottle cap liners, and soft spoons for babies. They can provide excellent protection against oxygen exposure for drinks and food. Certified TPEs are also safe when used in healthcare applications, typically as medical-grade, nonporous TPE.
While TPEs can be sterilized using autoclaves, gamma irradiation, or ethylene oxide, this fact becomes less relevant for the majority of consumers who lack access to these disinfection methods for their TPE sex toys.
The Implications of TPE & TPR Elastomers: A Re-evaluation
We advocate for TPE and TPR elastomer sex toys, provided they are free from potentially harmful chemicals like phthalates. We advise against their internal use or proximity to the urethra to mitigate the risk of absorbing bacteria, mold, fungi, or viruses residing in microscopic pores, which might develop over time, especially if not cleaned thoroughly.
Specifically, we dissuade from the internal use of TPE or TPR elastomer sex toys for those with compromised immunity, those susceptible to yeast or bacterial infections, or those with autoimmune issues or other health conditions that are sensitive to such exposure.
Given the porous nature of TPE or TPR elastomer sex toys, meticulous cleaning is a must. Please refer to our guide on 'How To Clean Sex Toys' for more information.
The Role of Oils in TPE and TPR Elastomers
TPE or TPR elastomers contain synthetic oils, the health effects of which, upon vaginal and rectal insertion, remain uncertain. Some bloggers mislabel these oils as petroleum, which is not accurate.
TPR and TPE typically contain specific oils to increase flexibility. These oils might sometimes be derived from petroleum, particularly in the form of mineral oil. However, it's pivotal to note that these are not always mineral oil.
A broad spectrum of oils could be used, hinging on the specific formulation of the material. It's also key to understand that not all mineral oil is harmful. While mineral oil is petroleum-derived, it does not imply it's synonymous with petroleum, or that it's unhealthy or toxic.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) posits that mineral oils, when untreated or slightly treated, might be carcinogenic in humans. Conversely, highly refined mineral oils have not shown such an effect. Hence, the carcinogenic potential of mineral oil depends on the extent of its refinement.
Highly refined mineral oils, which are non-carcinogenic, are used in numerous cosmetic products, including baby oil. Additionally, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommends mineral oil as a vaginal lubricant to improve conception odds.
The safety of sex toy materials relies not just on the individual ingredients but also on their combination, how the material is processed, and how it is utilized.
Consequently, while some TPR and TPE are body-safe, others are not. Thus, deeming all of them toxic is not only uninformed but also irresponsible as it misleads people.
The Curing Process of Silicone
Silicone creation requires a chemical process called curing, where the material transforms from a liquid or gel state into a solid. This transformation generally occurs once the material is exposed to oxygen, but there are methods to speed up the curing process.
At room temperature, LSR may take days, and HCR can take weeks to cure. However, both cure quite rapidly when exposed to high heat (350F +). Common curing methods include platinum, peroxide, and tin.
Understanding Tin Silicone
Tin-cured silicones, as the name suggests, are silicones cured with tin. Despite the small quantities of tin found in soil and food, tin-cured silicones are not recommended for sex toys due to residual tin after curing.
Although small amounts of tin exposure have not been linked to health concerns, large amounts can cause anemia, stomachaches, and liver and kidney problems. Tin is typically used in temporary molds (negatives) or sealants, not in permanent casts of dildos (positives). Nevertheless, some sex toy manufacturers still use tin to cure their silicone, making platinum-cured or peroxide-cured silicones a better choice.
While cost-effective, tin silicone becomes brittle over time, losing elasticity and deforming, rendering its use in manufacturing dildos and other sex toys unwise. During the curing process, tin silicones release a potent odor as they produce toxic byproducts such as alcohols or acids, which off-gas. Due to their unsuitability for sex toys, reputable sex toy manufacturers do not use tin silicone.
Demystifying Peroxide Silicone
Peroxide-cured silicone, also known as vulcanization, cures silicone using peroxide. With a lower curing temperature and a longer shelf life than platinum-cured silicone, it is an economical method for manufacturing silicone sex toys.
Although not as clear as platinum-cured silicone, peroxide-cured silicone can be body-safe if produced by a reliable manufacturer. Independent lab testing conducted by such manufacturers has shown no known carcinogens.
Peroxide silicone manufacturing requires a powder or liner to prevent sticking, especially when produced in sheets covering mechanical vibrators. Despite its lesser tensile and tear strength compared to platinum silicone, both peroxide and platinum curing systems yield quality silicone materials when manufactured under high standards and specifications.
Many HCR silicone sex toys are cured using peroxide due to its lower cost. However, it must be post-baked to remove volatile compounds or elements, which can be an expensive and time-consuming step that is sometimes skipped. If omitted, the volatiles can remain in the silicone, emphasizing the importance of purchasing from reputable sellers.
Getting to Know Platinum Silicone
Platinum-cured silicone is a more expensive option used for permanent dildo casts. Remaining flexible and firm without losing elasticity, it is commonly used in the food, beverage, and medical sectors.
When curing with platinum, no toxic byproducts are released, and the bonds formed are stable and non-reactive. Platinum silicones necessitate the use of pigments free of toxic additives like cadmium, lead, aluminum, or mercury.
Many sex toys are labeled as platinum silicone, but this term merely refers to the curing process, not a particular type or trademarked material of silicone.
The Process of Liquid Injection Molding (LIM) with Silicone
Liquid Injection Molding (LIM) is often misinterpreted as a type of silicone. However, LIM actually refers to a method for shaping silicone. It involves injecting silicone into a mold to form the desired shape of the sex toy, unlike the traditional process of pouring silicone into an open mold.
Applications of this molding process extend to the production of medical and sterile devices, kitchen appliances, and infant care products. Notably, LIM is used to encapsulate the motors of vibrators with a thin layer of silicone, a technique that ensures safety and stability.
Pigmentation in Silicone Sex Toys
The pigments employed in silicone sex toys might not seem significant, but they can potentially pose health risks and accumulate within the body over time.
Some pigments to be cautious of include mica, glow-in-the-dark pigments, and thermal color-changing pigments. These may not be entirely safe for use on the body.
Additives and Coating in Silicone
Certain manufacturers apply a coating of SST, a type of liquid silicone, over their silicone products to impart a soft, skin-like texture to the material. SST is typically safe for the body and is a characteristic of high-end sex toy brands.
Identifying Silicone in Sex Toys
Consumers often rely on the information provided by their sellers. Therefore, it's essential to patronize retailers who prioritize sex toy safety, provide educational resources about their products, and adhere to stringent guidelines on the types of sex toys they offer — standards that we uphold.
The Touch Test for Silicone
Distinguishing silicone in sex toys through touch can be challenging for consumers compared to those accustomed to handling these products. Despite its limitations, it's worth examining some key differences to consider.
High-quality silicone typically feels slightly firmer when bent, while elastomers such as TPR and TPE tend to exhibit higher flexibility. Brand new TPR or TPE sex toys usually have an oily residue and a very soft, squishy texture on their surfaces.
Upon washing, these types of elastomer sex toys often exhibit a sticky or tacky feel. Conversely, a silicone sex toy will possess an oil-free surface, exhibiting either a slick or firm velvet touch, and washing will not alter its texture.
White Discoloration or 'Blooming' in Silicone
When silicone products are flexed or bent, those with a higher additive content may exhibit white discoloration, commonly known as 'silicone bloom' or 'blooming.' This is a typical characteristic of silicone materials.
However, blooming does not necessarily signify the presence of harmful substances. Some additives can enhance the properties of silicone without compromising safety. Hence, blooming is not a reliable indicator of whether a sex toy is body-safe.
Smell Test for Silicone
An apparent chemical odor emanating from a supposed silicone sex toy may indicate that it contains only a fraction of actual silicone, as 100% platinum-cured silicone toys are typically odorless.
Nevertheless, this method is not entirely foolproof. A sex toy with a chemical smell does not necessarily imply it lacks silicone composition; the odor could be a result of residues from manufacturing or packaging processes.
Similarly to tofu, silicone is generally scentless but can absorb surrounding odors. For instance, a silicone sex toy packaged in plastic may temporarily acquire the smell of the packaging. Washing it with soap and water and letting it air out for 24-48 hours should effectively mitigate this.
The Debate Surrounding the Silicone Flame Test
The market today is rife with dubious sex toys, a fact that has led to the widespread internet conjecture that a flame test can validate whether a sex toy is made of 100% silicone.
This theory postulates that if the object burns, it implies a lack of silicone, whereas if it remains unscathed, it confirms the presence of silicone. However, this flame test lacks scientific credibility as an accurate method for silicone detection.
Numerous sex toy retailers, bloggers, and YouTube personalities claim to reveal dishonest sex toy companies by resorting to flame tests. Granted, certain companies do market substandard products as pure silicone. Nonetheless, the flame test is not a foolproof tool for discerning this deception.
Some bloggers delve into meticulous examination of ash and burn marks during their silicone sex toy testing. Yet, these methods too fall short of providing definitive answers. The crux of the problem with such testing is that silicone can indeed burn. Therefore, let's delve deeper into why flame tests are not only ineffective but could potentially endanger your health.
What Leads Many Sex Toy Bloggers Astray?
One might question why numerous sex toy bloggers advocate such flawed testing methods. The primary reason is a deficit of accurate knowledge, which is often accompanied by confirmation bias, inadequate testing, over-simplification, and sensationalism.
Many individuals lean on basic scientific principles to make sense of things. Though certain deductions might appear logical, they often end up being erroneous due to the intricate nature of chemical interactions, leading to misguided conclusions. Put simply, they're unaware of what they don't know.
There are also those who merely echo what they've read online, assuming that if these claims proliferate across different websites, they must be valid. Consequently, they regurgitate this information on their own blogs or websites, representing it as fact without fully understanding the underpinning concepts.
The Viral Conspiracy of the Flammable Snow Ball Test
Several years ago, the silicone flame test was a widely accepted standard among sex toy purists. The spectacle of sex toys bursting into flames appeared to substantiate the fear-mongering narrative that consumers were being hoodwinked into purchasing hazardous sex toys.
Yet, these silicone flame tests bear a striking resemblance to the debunked viral phenomenon of the snowball flame test. This internet sensation, involving the torching of snowballs, spawned myriad conspiracy theories, primarily regarding the paradoxical scorching and lack of melting.
Fueling Conspiracy Theories
The creators of these videos frequently insisted that the snowballs themselves were combustible due to the alleged presence of metals or other chemicals. These unsupported claims often served to reinforce their personal beliefs or values, with confirmation bias playing a significant role.
Their arguments seemingly gained weight as the videos undeniably showed the black scorch marks, and the snowball remained intact. The videos weren't doctored. But was this phenomenon truly indicative of flammable snowballs?
Unraveling the Truth
The realization eluding most people was that the fire and scorch marks on the snowballs were a direct result of the lighter or match's fuel (butane, lighter fluid, or solid fuel). As the flame made contact with the snow, the fuel disseminated, leaving a residue of soot on the snow's surface and creating a dark film. Contrary to popular belief, the scorching was not attributable to any substance within the snowball itself but to the fuel used to ignite it.
Moreover, the absence of visible melting was due to the predominantly airy composition of the snowball, providing ample room for absorption. The snowball functioned much like a sponge, with the melting water absorbed internally, out of sight.
If you were to place a snowball on a hot pan, the melting water would not instantly spill into the pan. Instead, it would be absorbed by the snowball. Only when the snowball is sufficiently melted, leaving no more room for absorption, would water become visible in the pan.
The Connection with the Silicone Flame Test
The misunderstanding surrounding the viral snowball narrative echoes the misconceptions in the silicone flame test, with people struggling to comprehend the intricacies of chemical interactions and the conditions required for credible scientific testing on silicone.
The Crucial Role of Laboratory Conditions
In order to test silicone under heat accurately, certain prerequisites must be fulfilled for the evidence to be reliable. Factors such as the lighter's fuel sources mixing with the chemicals in a sex toy can affect how the material reacts.
Furthermore, elements like controlled oxygen levels, dust particles, and other variables can compromise the precision of laboratory testing. Therefore, while certain scientific experiments can be carried out at home, testing silicone's resistance to heat and flame does not lend itself to yielding accurate results in such settings.
Variability in Silicone Products
Those advocating for the purity of sex toys often confined their testing to a specific type of silicone used in solid dildos. However, as manufacturers began incorporating thin layers of silicone over mechanical vibrators, utilizing alternative silicone forms such as spray-on silicone to simulate skin-like textures, and incorporating non-toxic additives and pigments, the flame test's predictive capacity was significantly diminished.
These advances in silicone sex toy manufacturing rendered the flame test increasingly irrelevant, initially alarming many sex toy purists who feared the toys were hazardous.
Upon further scrutiny, however, when these toys were subjected to independent testing at reputable labs, it was ascertained that the sex toys under consideration were indeed comprised of non-toxic, body-safe silicone, nullifying any cause for concern.
Health Implications of the Silicone Flame Test
Beyond erroneous material identification, an alarming concern lies in the potential health risks associated with at-home silicone flame tests. Individuals conducting these experiments could be exposing themselves to harmful toxins produced when certain chemicals are burned. A lighter or match ignited in isolation, or a sex toy without added heat, may pose little harm. However, burning them in conjunction with silicone pigmentations and additives could be hazardous. Hence, the paradoxical situation arises where individuals, intending to avoid health risks, expose themselves to danger due to inadequate knowledge of chemistry.
Understanding Silicone Testing Methodologies
A typical at-home testing scenario involves applying a flame to a thoroughly cleaned and dried silicone sex toy for approximately 5 - 8 seconds. Pure silicone typically begins to melt only when subjected to extreme temperatures, between 752-932 degrees Fahrenheit (400–500 degrees Celsius).
The temperature of a lighter's flame largely depends on the fuel type it uses. Disposable butane lighters can produce flames reaching up to 4,074 degrees F, although most burn at around 3,578 degrees F. Consequently, flame tests often yield false results as the lighter's temperature is excessively high, regardless of the flame portion utilized.
While silicone generally retains its physical properties even at very high temperatures, it's often suggested to apply the flame's yellow and orange sections, as the bottom blue and white part is excessively hot. However, in many cases, even the yellow and orange parts may be too hot.
Silicone, though resistant to ignition, can burn. Exposure to a flame often renders it shiny and pliable, or the outer layer might burn off to non-conducting silica ash. However, it's also possible for silicone to catch fire.
Some speculated that dimethicone, a silicone type widely used in consumer products for its lubricating properties and water resistance, was responsible for burning. Yet, dimethicone, or polydimethylsiloxane, is not a standalone component that can be isolated and burned. Instead, when exposed to extreme heat, this silicone type could also burn, forming silica ash.
In the flame test, a flame is typically applied to the base of a sex toy for 5-8 seconds, followed by a cool-down period, and then inspection of the results.
If the silicone product originates from Liquid Injection Molding (LIM) or is a thin silicone piece like those found in vibrators, it often results in a scorch mark, while other silicone types might produce pale ash.
The prevailing theory suggested that if a sex toy didn't produce ash and began to hold a flame, it might be comprised of a different material like TPR or TPE. However, the test results were often too inconsistent to yield definitive conclusions, leading to cases where genuine silicone could be erroneously classified as counterfeit.
Guidelines for At-Home Silicone Flame Testing
Below are the expectations held by many sex toy activists regarding the potential results of at-home silicone flame testing:
Anticipated Flame Test Results For Silicone Sex Toys
- No discernible changes to the sex toy.
- Formation of black soot, which may or may not be removable.
- Production of light gray ash, which can be cleaned off.
- Induction of stickiness or fl aking off of the silicone material.
Anticipated Flame Test Results For Non-Silicone Sex Toys
- Rapid ignition.
- Formation of a charred black surface and melting.
- Deformation of the material, rendering it pliable when warm.
However, some flame tests conducted on independently lab-verified silicone sex toys resulted in them catching on fire, contradicting the activists' assumptions.
Following such unexpected results, some activists began to abandon flame testing. However, substantial misinformation regarding this topic continues to circulate online.
Fear-Mongering or a Misguided Attempt to Educate?
Often, the individuals conducting these flame tests are well-intentioned, seeking to educate consumers. However, their lack of extensive knowledge often leads to premature conclusions.
Despite the existence of many manufacturers producing body-safe sex toys, some companies falsely claim their products are made from silicone.
Further confusion arises when companies refer to their products as SEBS Silicone, TPR Silicone, or other misleading names, implying that the product is a porous elastomer rather than a more nonporous silicone.
Whether a sex toy material is inherently toxic depends entirely on the specific material used. For instance, medical-grade TPE is nonporous and undoubtedly body-safe, while some TPEs contain harmful plasticizers.
Misinformation: An Undermining Factor
Online writers who disseminate incorrect information risk damaging the credibility of reputable sex toy manufacturers. Even when their errors are recognized, they seldom issue public apologies or rectify their content.
If corrections are made, they might appear in a separate blog post, leaving the original article unmodified or merely including a small, easily overlooked link. This practice allows the continued propagation of inaccurate information.
Once inaccurate information has been shared, the harm may already be irreparable, as many consumers might have read the misinformation, and other bloggers could be repeating the fallacies.
There has been a common belief that silicone cannot achieve clarity; however, it can be formulated to be semi-transparent or opaque. In the context of sex toys, silicone does not possess the same optical clarity as materials like glass.
Silicone sex toys may exhibit a slight cloudiness resembling frosted glass, in contrast to TPE/TPR elastomer sex toys, which may have a more transparent appearance. TPE or TPR sex toys can also have a frosted look, but silicone sex toys are not translucent. The following example demonstrates the clarity levels of frosted and translucent TPE or TPR sex toys.
When a clear silicone sex toy is illuminated by a flashlight against a white background, the transmitted light may exhibit an amber hue, especially in thicker parts of the toy. In contrast, a TPE or TPR sex toy will emit white light. The comparison below showcases the clarity levels between silicone and translucent TPR/TPE elastomer sex toys.
Clear silicone sex toys are relatively rare and are typically found only in specialty sex toy stores. They are usually more expensive, so if you come across a product claiming to be silicone priced under $50, it is advisable to question its authenticity.
Safe Sex Toy Testing
Reputable manufacturers of sex toys undergo various channels to certify the safety of their products. These certifications are obtained through organizations such as REACH, which stands for the European Community Regulation on chemicals and their safe use, and RoHS, which focuses on reducing hazardous materials in electric components. Sex toys that meet these regulations are affixed with the CE mark.
UL Certified labels, known as Enhanced Mark Labels, allow consumers to scan the label and access information about the various safety standards for which the product has been tested and certified. Another method of certifying sex toy safety is through International Standards Organization (ISO) certification, which provides a third-party seal of approval.
In September 2021, the International Standards Organization (ISO) approved the development of new safety standards (ISO 3533:2021) for the quality of sex toys. Many reputable manufacturers have already adopted these standards or met their requirements.
Some sex toys receive medical device certification from the FDA. However, this process is typically costly and can take over two years per product. The estimated cost of clinical trials to support FDA approval ranges from $1 to $10 million.
In addition, some sex toy manufacturers utilize independent labs to test their products. Some even subject their sex toy prototypes to testing before manufacturing and repeat the testing process after production, ensuring a double-tiered evaluation.
Buy From A Reputable Retailer
Purchasing from a reputable sex toy retailer is one of the best ways to ensure that the products you buy are accurately labeled and not cheap knock-offs. As an informed consumer, you have the right to know the composition of your sex toy and how to properly care for it to ensure your sexual health. For more information, refer to our guide on this blog.
A Brief History Of Silicone Sex Toys
In 1971, Gosnell Duncan, a disabled Caribbean immigrant, attended a disability conference in Indianapolis. During this conference, a session on sex and disability took place, where participants discussed the challenges of experiencing sexual pleasure with a disability.
Unfortunately, Duncan discovered that there were limited helpful options available. One of the challenges was finding a dildo or other sex toy made from a quality material that was safe to use, retained body heat, and was nonporous, allowing for proper cleaning.
At that time, dildos were typically made with very low-quality materials, partly due to the Comstock Law, a century-old federal anti-obscenity law that prohibited sending sex devices through the mail. To circumvent the federal obscenity laws enforced by most states, many companies rebranded these products as marital aids.
During the 1970s, General Electric was producing silicone, and Duncan began collaborating with a chemist there. After nine months of work, they developed a formula for creating a silicone dildo. The initial silicone dildos were produced under the brand name Paramount Therapeutic Products, which later became the defunct company Scorpio Products.
While it took several decades for Duncan's invention to become mainstream, it represents an often overlooked chapter in the history of sex toys, providing sexually empowering options for consumers.
After absorbing all this information, you may feel overwhelmed when deciding which silicone adult toy brand to buy and whom to trust. Rest assured, many adult product retailers offer high-quality toys, and numerous brands on the market are manufactured by factories with safety qualifications like DINGFOO. Therefore, you can generally shop with confidence, as all products manufactured by DINGFOO meet the highest quality standards.
If you have any questions or need assistance in choosing the right adult toy supplier or manufacturer, please feel free to contact us. We are more than happy to help you.