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Silicone Sex Toys: Is Yours Real & Safe?

Dr. Lisa Lawless

Dr. Lisa Lawless, CEO of Holistic Wisdom
Clinical Psychotherapist: Relationship & Sexual Health Expert

Silicone Dildos: Is Yours Real?

Why Silicone Sex Toys Are So Desirable

Silicone, also known as silicone rubber or as food or medical-grade silicone, is a popular material for consumers, healthcare, and industrial products because it’s safe on the skin, flexible, durable, and soft to the touch. Silicone is a wonderful material for sex toys as it is one of the healthiest to use and is why the majority of our products are made with it.

Quality, platinum cured silicone is nontoxic and nonporous. Platinum-cured silicone is the most chemically stable silicone, which is why it is ideal for body safe sex toys. Many in the sex toy industry just refer to it as platinum silicone.

The nonporous aspect of silicone is beneficial because it will not harbor bacteria, mold, fungi, and other undesirable things within the material once used. It can be made to feel like velvety skin on the outside while firm and flexible on the inside, making it ideal for dildos. Silicone can safely be used with water-based and oil-based lubricants.

Silicone Sex Toy Misinformation

There is a lot of misinformation on the internet about sex toys by self-appointed sex experts who neglect fact-checking. With so many online platforms, anyone can present themselves as an expert. However, your sexual health and well-being are important, so it's crucial to ensure the information you rely on is accurate and trustworthy. For a more comprehensive understanding of this issue, we recommend exploring 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 claim to be medical-grade silicone, it is safe to assume that it is toxic. This is absolutely not true. The safety of a sex toy depends on various factors, including the materials used, manufacturing processes, and quality control measures. 

The Reality

Medical-grade silicone is not the only body-safe silicone; food-grade silicone for sex toys is also non-toxic and safe along with a few others. Most manufacturers do not indicate the type of silicone in their sex toys on their packaging, and when they do, they typically refer to the way the silicone was made (cured), not how the silicone was tested.

It is essential to understand that medical grade silicone is not a type of silicone; rather, it is one form of how silicone is tested. This is why you see many silicone sex toys referred to as platinum silicone which simply means it was cured using platinum because how it is made impacts how pure it is.

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.

Furthermore, 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.

Fear Based Marketing

Those who do not understand 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 while unnecessarily scaring and misleading people. Silicone is a perfect example of this as it is synthetic but can be one of the healthiest 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 Significance Of 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 To Delve Deep!

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!

Silicone Sex toys in drawer of bedstand

The Medical Grade Silicone Controversy

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.

Obstacles For Medical Grade Silicone Labeling

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?

Silicone Pigments

Let's say you want to make a safe silicone sex toy. You, of course, 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 gets us into 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.

FDA Medical Grade Certification Problems

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.

silicone sex toys

What Type Of Silicone You Are Buying?

Unless you are dealing with a reputable retailer, you most likely will not know what type of silicone your sex toy is made from, let alone if it is nontoxic. Many sex toy retailers who are selling these products don't know the differences between medical-grade, food-grade, and low-grade silicones, let alone porous elastomers, such as TPR and TPE, etc. See our Elastomers & Porous Sex Toys Guide for more information on those materials.

Due to the fact that even high-end sex toys do not typically label their materials used, consumers and resellers are often in the dark. Even when manufacturers list their silicone sex toys as platinum silicone, this only tells you how the silicone was cured and does not indicate what type of silicone testing has been done to determine if it is medical grade, food grade, etc.

Furthermore, as mentioned, there are other factors to consider, such as pigments and additives. It begins to feel like you need a chemistry degree and lab testing to know what you are dealing with, which is why we work with chemists and labs to ensure that what we sell is body-safe, nontoxic, and that we provide proper education to consumers.

Medical Grade Vs. Food Grade

The silicone submitted for testing food-grade silicone and medical-grade silicone can be different or the same type of silicone. The testing verifies how safe it can be to use in the body.

As it bares repeating, medical-grade silicone is not a type of silicone but a category that has been tested for medical use. Food-grade silicone is not a type of silicone; rather, it is a silicone that has been tested for safety with regard to its being able to be ingested safely.

Silicone FDA Testing Differences

Testing Food Grade Silicone

To test it, food grade silicone is submerged in water, ethyl alcohol, oil, and acetone. If it leaches out anything impure, it does not pass FDA standards. The testing is thorough and ensures the safety of consumers. It must be safe enough to eat and pass through your body without causing harm. That is why it is used in kitchen utensils and other food-related products.

Testing Medical Grade Silicone

Medical-grade silicones are technically referred to as medical-healthcare grade, class VI silicone which has been tested for biocompatibility. Both medical-healthcare grade, Class VI, and medical-long term implantable silicones are also considered safe for food contact. Both silicone grades are almost always regarded as liquid silicone rubber (LSR), which is injection molded. Due to its purity, it’s generally too expensive for food-grade applications.

Medical-grade silicones are grouped into three main categories: non-implantable, short-term, and long-term implantable. Testing medical-grade silicone materials for sex toys typically means it has to be implanted for a long duration, and it must go through human trials to pass.

Once approved, medical-grade silicone will receive a certificate of analysis and be assigned a batch and lot number. The testing itself does not make the silicone better; instead, it is silicone that has passed testing and has been verified to be safe for medical implantation.

If a sex toy manufacturer makes a sex toy using medical grade silicone, if they change it in any way (additives, pigmentation), they must have it re-tested in its final form to be considered medical grade. 

Food Grade Silicone Is Body-Safe

Food grade silicone is typically less expensive because the testing is less expensive, so it is an excellent material for affordable sex toys and is tested to FDA standards for food safety.

Because food-grade silicone is designed to make contact with the mucous membrane of your mouth, which is nearly identical to that of the vagina or rectum, it is a body-safe silicone for this use.

In addition, because it is not being permanently implanted, using food-grade silicone is acceptable for a sex toy that is just making temporary contact with the body. 

Silicone Sex toys

Fake Silicone?

Some sex toys are falsely marketed as being made of silicone. This deceptive practice is commonly referred to as selling 'fake silicone.'

The sex toy industry lacks regulation regarding consistency in labeling materials, leading some manufacturers to mislead consumers by labeling their products as silicone-made when they are composed of different materials.

Other sex toy materials include elastomers like TPR and TPE, natural latex rubber, and vinyl (PVC). Sadly, many sex toys are being sold as silicone when they are constructed with little to no silicone in them such as TPR silicone which is a porous elastomer.

Why Is Fake Silicone A Big Deal?

If you do not know what your sex toy is made of, you could chemically melt it by using the wrong lubricant, cleaning method or storing it improperly. Furthermore, you may be exposed to toxic materials or harmful bacteria without realizing it.

There have been many instances where people experience health issues and think they have a sexually transmitted disease or other illness. In reality, it may be their toxic sex toy making them sick.

Symptoms like headaches, pain during sex, numbing, rashes, blistering, nausea, cramps, or vaginal or rectal burning can all be connected to toxic sex toys. See our Toxic Sex Toys Guide for more information. 

Silicone Vs. Silicon

In understanding sex toy materials, some people make the mistake of confusing silicone and silicon. They are dramatically different materials in that silicone is a rubbery, nonporous material, and silicon is naturally found in stone such as mica and quartz and can be made into glass.

Silicon is commonly used in computer chips; hence the term Silicon Valley. Silicone is a synthetically made elastomeric rubber while silicon is a natural chemical element.

Here is where it gets a bit confusing for people. The base component of what makes silicone sex toys is silica, which is composed of oxygen and silicon. This combination is also the main ingredient of glass and makes it inert and impermeable. Thus, silicon is in silicone, but they are not anywhere close to being the same or even similar.

While it can be confusing, if you see a sex toy retailer consistently referring to a silicone dildo as silicon, you probably should not purchase a sex toy from them. A sex toy retailer should know about sex toy materials, if it is safe and be able to educate you on how to care for them. They cannot do this if they do not understand even the most fundamental information on sex toy materials.

The Chemistry Of Silicone

Chemically, silicone is a type of polymer (polysiloxanes) and is a form of synthetic rubber. It has elastomer properties because it can flex and stretch. The critical difference between synthetic rubber and silicone is that rubber contains carbon to carbon bonds. In contrast, silicone contains silicon and oxygen.

Silicone Is An Elastomer

One of the confusing things you will read about silicone sex toys is the difference between silicone and porous elastomers like TPR and TPE. Many sex toy purists condemn TPR and TPE because they are typically highly absorbent and easily harbor bacteria because they are porous and may even contain harmful phthalates.

However, many TPR and TPE elastomers are phthalate-free and non-toxic. Furthermore, some blends of TPE are nonporous and medical grade. Even if you use safe materials like these, they do require proper usage, cleaning, and storage to stay free of bacteria, mold, etc.

When referencing them, people often call TPR and TPE elastomers, and it is easy to think that all elastomers are porous. The truth is that silicone is a type of elastomer because it has elastic properties.

An elastomer is any natural or synthetic polymer material with elastic properties and is a description of a material, not an actual type of material. The scientific name for silicone most often used in quality sex toys is polysiloxanes (polysiloxane platinum silicone). There are many different types of silicone that all tend to be elastomer and rubber-like.

Raw Silicone

Silicone starts with the consistency of clay and then is mixed together with a catalyst which assists in different molding processes. Different base raw silicones are mixed in different ratios and formulas to create a specific silicone sex toy.

Silicone Hardness / Durometer

When measuring the firmness of sex toys, you use a scale called a durometer that tells you where the material falls on the Shore scale. The Shore scale was invented by Albert Shore in the 1920s and was used to categorize how soft or hard material was.

A durometer is a gauge that comes in three different gauges: 00, A, and D. Each gauge has a different spring-loaded steel rod that presses into the surface of the material one is measuring. How much the rod can squeeze into the material determines where it measures on the gauge.

  • Shore 00 Scale:
    This measures materials that are the softest such as gels and rubbers. Materials that are similar in consistency would be on the level of a gummy bear. Some TPE and TPR sex toys can be measured on this durometer scale.
  • Shore A Scale:
    This durometer scale is used for various materials such as silicone, PVC, and semi-rigid plastics. This scale measures most sex toys made of TPR, TPE, PVC, and silicone.
  • Shore D Scale:
    This durometer scale is used to measure the firmest of rubber and materials with little to no flexibility. Sex toys made of hard plastics such as SBS are measured on this scale.

Durometer Tester For Sex ToysSilicone dildos can be made with varying firmness. Raw silicone comes in a base hardness of 0 to 80 shore A durometer. So, for example, a rubber band is only a 20A, whereas plastic is about 95A or higher.

A firm but flexible dildo would be around a 20A, whereas 10A has a comparable squeeze to erectile tissue but is much more flexible and soft. Some dildos use a firmer inner core (40A) with a softer outer core (20A) which they often call dual-density.

Shore Hardness Scale For Sex Toys Soft Silicones

The softer the silicone, the more porous it is. That is why it is safer to use firmer silicone. Many custom silicone dildos come in 10A, which would not be as easily cleaned or hygienic as a 20A durometer.

Silicone Color (Pigment)

Without color, silicone has a clear but slightly frosted white color. When you shine light through it, you can often see an amber hue on a white background. Pigments are added to raw silicone to make any color sex toy you desire. These pigments are typically made of safe and non-toxic materials specifically designed for use with silicone.

Silicone Lifespan

Silicone has a minimum shelf life of 10-20 years in temperature-controlled conditions, and it can last a lifetime if properly cared for, and cleaned.

Proper care and maintenance can significantly extend the lifespan of silicone products. Regular cleaning and gentle handling are important to prevent damage or degradation. Avoid exposing silicone to extreme temperatures, direct sunlight, sharp objects, and harsh chemicals, as these can accelerate the deterioration process.

Dual Density Dildos

Dual density dildos have a firm inner core to provide the rigidity of a natural penis but a soft, squishy outer core that gives it a more realistic skin-like feeling. They are quite popular for a realistic feel and are available in silicone.

For those wanting specifics on the silicone durometer levels, the firmer inner core is typically around a (40A) with a softer outer core of (20A). It should be noted that dildos made from other materials are also called dual density, so it is not specific to silicone. However, we only sell silicone dual density dildos.

TPE, TPR & Silicone Differences

Stretchy, porous elastomer sex toys are typically TPR (modified from an SBS base material) or TPE (modified from a SEBS base material), which are thermoplastic elastomers. What makes these types of elastomers a common material for sex toys is that they are squishy, stretchy, and soft, feeling very similar to skin.

You may have heard of stretchy elastomers made of TPE and TPR under brand names like CyberSkin, Futurotic, LoveClone RX, PassionSkin, PleasureSkin, Private Touch, SoftSkins, SoftTouch, SuperSkin, Techno-Skin, and TrueSkin.

Some companies simply categorize them by calling them soft plastic or realistic and do not tell you specifically what material they are using. They feel amazing, and consumers love them, but they are not without issues. While many on the market are phthalate-free and nontoxic, TPR and TPE elastomers are often highly porous, with the exception of materials such as medical grade TPE.

Why Are Pores In Sex Toys A Concern?

If a sex toy has a lot of deep pores in it, then it acts much like a micro-sponge. Similar to a sponge you use for cleaning, TPR and TPE elastomers can soak up bodily fluids, lubricants, and moisture. When you have tiny little pores that can hold moisture, you have a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, fungi, and even viruses.

Using a sex toy cleaner can help to disinfect your TPE or TPR elastomer sex toy, as does air drying it completely after cleaning. However, it may never thoroughly be disinfected because those pores are too microscopic to get clean. Unlike a sponge that can be put in a dishwasher or microwave, TPE or TPR elastomer sex toys cannot be exposed to heat, or they will melt. Thus, there is no way to completely disinfect them using cleaning methods like boiling.

Because of the porosity, many sex toy bloggers will label TPE or TPR elastomer sex toys as toxic. The truth is that they may not be inherently toxic when they are new, but they can harbor bacteria, mold, fungi, and even viruses after using them even if you clean them properly.

Plasticizers & Chemicals Of Concern

Some thermoplastic elastomers such as TPE and TPR on the sex toy market use plasticizers to soften them. An example of a toxic plasticizer is phthalates. The problem with these plasticizers is that they are easily released into the body when used internally and are toxic endocrine disrupters. TPE sex toys should also be free from other chemicals of concern, such as Bisphenol A and latex.

While some plasticizers have been found to have toxic effects, not all plasticizers are considered harmful. Citrates, adipates, and bio-based plasticizers are designed to be less toxic and more environmentally friendly. Whether or not a sex toy is toxic depends on the specific chemical compound of a plasticizer, its concentration, duration of exposure, and how it is used.

Other TPE Elastomer Uses

Where you might see safe TPE elastomers are in dental guards, catheters, bottle cap liners, and soft spoons for babies. TPE liners provide excellent protection against oxygen exposure for drinks and food. Certified TPEs are also safe when used for healthcare applications. This is typically medical grade, nonporous TPE. 

TPEs can be sterilized using autoclaves, gamma irradiation, or ethylene oxide, but it is a moot point in most cases because most people do not have these means to disinfect TPE sex toys completely.

Should You Avoid TPE & TPR Elastomers?

We only recommend using TPE and TPR elastomer sex toys that do not contain chemicals of concern, such as phthalates. You might also consider refraining from using them internally or near the urethra. This can help avoid potential absorption of bacteria, mold, fungi, or viruses that could reside in microscopic pores, which may form over time, particularly if they are not adequately cleaned.

We especially do not recommend the internal use of TPE or TPR elastomer sex toys for people who have compromised immune systems, who are prone to yeast or bacterial infections, or who have autoimmune issues or other health conditions that would be sensitive to such exposure.

Furthermore, because TPE or TPR elastomer sex toys are porous, you must be diligent in cleaning them properly. See our How To Clean Sex Toys Guide for more information.

Oils In TPE and TPR Elastomers

Another concern is that TPE or TPR elastomers contain synthetic oils that may not be healthy for vaginal and rectal insertion. Some sex toy bloggers refer to these oils as petroleum, but this is not correct.

TPR and TPE frequently have special oils in them to make them more flexible. These oils can sometimes come from petroleum in the form of mineral oil. However, it's crucial to understand that these aren't always mineral oil.

There's a large range of different oils that could be used, depending on the specific recipe for the material. It's also important to remember that not all mineral oil is harmful. Furthermore, while mineral oil is derived from petroleum, that does not mean it is petroleum or that it is unhealthy or toxic.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) suggests that mineral oils that are untreated or only slightly treated might cause cancer in humans. On the other hand, highly refined mineral oils have not. Thus, whether or not mineral oil can cause cancer may be determined by how much it's been refined.

Highly refined mineral oils are not carcinogenic and are found in many cosmetic ingredients, such as baby oil. In addition, The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommends using mineral oil as a vaginal lubricant to increase the chances of conceiving.

The safety of a material used in sex toys depends not only on the individual ingredients, but also on how they're combined, how the material is processed, and how it is used.

Thus, some TPR and TPE are body-safe, and others are not, and making blanket statements about all of them as being toxic is not only ignorant, it is irresponsible as it is misinforming people.

PVC & Phthalates

PVC has faced criticism from numerous sex toy bloggers, primarily due to its historical association with phthalates and stabilizers, which can leach out and pose health risks. However, many reputable sex toy manufacturers no longer have phthalates in their sex toys and have more body-safe options.

For example, medical grade PVC is sometimes used medically in catheters, which undergoes stricter manufacturing processes to reduce the leaching of harmful substances. If you do decide to use PVC sex toys, at the minimum, make sure they are labeled as phthalate-free and meet relevant safety standards and regulations. Also, ensure to avoid excessive heat or prolonged exposure to sunlight, as these can accelerate the breakdown of the material.

Furthermore, it is essential to understand that even if a sex toy is marketed as phthalate-free, it can still contain other additives, stabilizers, or plasticizers that might raise concerns about potential health risks. This is why consumer education is important and why buying reputable sex toy brands is so vital. 

silicone sex toys

Finding Pure Silicone

If you do not know what material your sex toy is made out of, it means that you will not know how to store or clean it properly, let alone if it could be made with materials that are detrimental to your health. There are a lot of sex toys that have been labeled as silicone that are not, which can be quite misleading to customers.

If you want a pure silicone sex toy, make sure to look for products that say 100% platinum cured silicone and avoid things like silicone blends such as TPR silicone, SEBS silicone, and other variations.

There has been a myth that SEBS is an acronym for Silicone Elastomer Blend, but that is untrue; rather, it stands for Styrene-ethylene-butylene-styrene and is thermoplastic elastomer (TPE).

What Is Silicone Rubber?

Some people worry that silicone rubber is not silicone. When manufacturers use the material description of silicone rubber, they typically mean that it is silicone and only mention rubber because it is an interchangeable term (silicone = silicone rubber). This is because silicone is a type of synthetic rubber. As mentioned, silicone is a polymer with flexible features (stretchy and elastic), making it elastomeric.

When people hear the term rubber, it can be confusing because they often think of natural rubber made out of latex. But silicone is a synthetic rubber that contains no latex in it. While they are both elastomer materials, meaning they stretch and are flexible, but they are not the same.

Textures Of Silicone

There are different silicone textures; some are more skin-like and matte, while others are more slick and polished. The matte silicones are more realistic feeling but typically require more lubricant as they create increased drag and friction as they move inside the vagina or rectum. They are all body-safe to use if they are made with 100% silicone and are properly cured using platinum or peroxide. 

FDA Approval

While sex toy manufacturers can use FDA-approved grades of silicones and pigments to make their products, it does not make sex toys FDA approved. Sex toys are most often categorized as adult novelties. For more information about this, see our Sex Toys Are Adult Novelties Guide.

silicone sex toys

Two Types Of Silicones In Sex Toys

There are two types of silicones used in sex toys: Liquid Silicone Rubber (LSR) and High Consistency Rubber (HCR):

LSR is designed for injection molding and is usually medical grade. It is pumped directly from the container into the molding machine with minimal means to alter the material, which is why it is used in medical products.

HCR has a texture similar to clay, which is the base of silicone. It too can be medical-grade or food-grade. Then, depending on what features of softness and colors you want, a catalyst and fillers/additives are added to it. HCR can be platinum, peroxide, or tin cured.

Curing Silicone

To create silicone, it must be cured, which is a chemical process in which the material turns from a liquid or gel into a solid. This typically occurs once the material is exposed to oxygen; however, there are various ways to accelerate the curing process.

LSR can take days, and HCR can take weeks to cure when left at room temperature. However, they will cure quite rapidly when exposed to high heat (350F +). There are three common ways to cure silicone using platinum, peroxide, or tin.

Tin Silicone

Tin cured silicones are precisely what they sound like, silicones that are cured with tin. Some companies refer to them simply as tin silicone. Curing silicone using tin is not recommended for sex toys because some traces of the tin (Sn) remains in the silicone after it is cured.

In small amounts of exposure, tin has not been found to cause health concerns, but there are reports of anemia, stomachaches, and liver and kidney problems when consumed in large amounts. While tin is naturally found in soils and in small quantities in food, it is best not to use it to cure silicone sex toys.

Tin is typically used as temporary molds (negatives) or sealants, not as permanent casts of dildos (positives). However, they are not ideal for health, and there are some sex toy manufacturers that use tin to cure their silicone. That is why looking for silicones that have been labeled as platinum-cured (platinum silicone) or peroxide cured is preferred over tin.

Tin silicone is used because it is inexpensive, but it becomes brittle over time, eventually losing its elasticity and deforming, which is why reputable sex toy manufacturers would be foolish to use it for making dildos and other sex toys.

While curing, tin silicones release a strong odor as they create toxic byproducts as alcohols or acids, which off-gas. Because they are unsafe to use as sex toys, reputable sex toy manufacturers do not use tin silicone.

Peroxide Silicone

Peroxide-cured silicone is the process of curing silicone using peroxide and is also called vulcanization. Using peroxide requires a lower temperature to cure the silicone, and it has a very long shelf life which is longer than platinum cured silicone. Thus, it can be stored and used for many years.

It is generally a cheaper way to manufacture silicone sex toys, allowing for lower prices. It is considered an industry standard, and while it is not as clear in color as platinum cured silicone, it can be body-safe if made by a reputable manufacturer.

Those reputable manufacturers that make this type of silicone and who conduct testing through independent labs after production have results showing no known carcinogens.

During manufacturing, peroxide silicone requires a powder or liner to prevent it from sticking to itself, especially when produced in sheets that go over mechanical vibrators.

It does not have as strong a tensile and tear strength as platinum silicone. However, both peroxide and platinum curing systems produce quality silicone materials if they are manufactured using high standards and specifications.

Many HCR silicone sex toys are cured using peroxide because it is less expensive. However, it must be baked afterward (post-baked) to remove any volatile chemical compounds or elements (volatiles).

This can be expensive and time-consuming, which is why it may be a step that is skipped. The volatiles can remain in the silicone if this step is omitted. Again, another reason to only buy from reputable sellers. 

Platinum Silicone

Platinum (Pt) cured silicone is a more expensive cured silicone used for permanent casts of dildos and will stay flexible, firm, and will not lose elasticity. It is typically used in the food, beverage, and medical sectors and is the most expensive way to cure silicone.

When curing with platinum, it does not release any toxic byproducts. The bonds that are formed once cured are non-reactive and stable. Platinum silicones require pigments that are free of toxic additives like cadmium, lead, aluminum, or mercury, so you can rest assured none of those will be in them.

It has become a sex toy industry-standard to label sex toys as platinum silicone. Again, many people assume that it is a type of silicone or even a trademarked material, but as mentioned, it simply refers to how the silicone was cured.

LIM Silicone (Liquid Injection Molding)

Some people erroneously think that Liquid Injection Molding (LIM) is a type of silicone. Rather, it is how the silicone is molded. LIM means that silicone was injected into a mold to create the shape of the sex toy rather than poured into an open mold.

This molding process makes medical and sterile devices, kitchen goods, and infant care products. It is also generally used to wrap silicone around motors of vibrators because it can be made into a thinner silicone, but it is safe and stable.

silicone sex toys

Silicone Pigments

Pigments in silicone sex toys are a bigger deal than many might think, as some can be harmful to one's health, and they can bioaccumulate in your body.

Pigments that you may want to avoid are mica, glow in the dark, and thermal color-changing pigments as some of these may not be body-safe.

Silicone Additives & Coating

Some manufacturers use a coating over their silicone called SST; a liquid silicone used to create a soft skin-like feel to the material. It is typically body-safe and used by upscale sex toy brands.

Silicone Sex Toys

How Do You Know If Your Sex Toy Is Silicone?

Consumers often have to simply trust who they are buying from to provide them with the correct information. This is part of why it is so important to buy from sex toy retailers that value sex toy safety, provide education about sex toys, and have strict rules about which sex toys they will sell. That perfectly describes us!

Silicone Feel Test

Feeling a sex toy to test if it is silicone will be harder for the average consumer than for someone who works with sex toys regularly. It may not be the best way for you to determine if your sex toy is silicone, but let's review the common yet subtle differences.

Quality silicone typically has a slightly firmer feel in how the toy bends, whereas elastomers like TPR and TPE tend to be much more flexible. When new, the surface of an TPR or TPE sex toy will have an oily residue with a very soft, squishy texture.

When they are washed, these types of elastomer sex toys will often feel sticky or tacky. In contrast, a silicone sex toy will have an oil-free surface with either a slick or firm velvet feel, and washing it will not change the surface feel.

White Discoloration Or Blooming

The more additives silicone has, the more a white discoloration appears when you bend it where it is flexing. This is often called "silicone bloom" or "blooming," and it's commonly seen in silicone materials. 

Blooming does not necessarily indicate the presence of toxic or harmful substances as some additives can help improve the silicone's properties and don't necessarily make the material unsafe, so it is not a good indicator to determine if your sex toy is body-safe.

Silicone Smell Test

One way to tell if a sex toy that says it's silicone but is only partly silicone is if it emits a strong chemical smell because 100% platinum cured silicone toys will typically not have a scent.

However, this is not foolproof. Just because a sex toy has a chemical scent doesn't necessarily mean it's not made of silicone. It could be due to residues from manufacturing or packaging.

Silicone is a little like tofu in that it does not have a scent, but it can absorb scents around it. For example, if a silicone sex toy is packaged in plastic packaging, it may temporarily take on the scent of that packaging. Washing it with soap and water and letting it air out for 24-48 hours should remedy this. 

Silicone Sex Toy Flame Test

The Controversial Silicone Flame Test

Because there are many questionable sex toys on the market, there has been a long-time rumor on the internet that if you want to check if your sex toy is made with 100% silicone, you can do a flame test on it and verify if it is indeed silicone.

The theory is that if it burns, it is supposed to indicate it is not silicone, and if it does not burn, it is supposed to show it is silicone. The flame test is not an accurate way to test for silicone. 

Many sex toy retailers, bloggers, and YouTubers have been claiming to expose sex toy companies by doing flame tests. While it is true that there are sex toy companies selling inferior products and marketing them as pure silicone when they are not, the flame test to prove this is quite flawed.

Some bloggers who test silicone sex toys may go into detailed ash and burn mark testing, but even those will not tell you what you need to know. The problem with this form of testing is that it is simply not accurate because silicone can and does burn. So, let's explore why doing a flame test is a waste of your time and could be harmful to your health.

Why Have So Many Sex Toy Bloggers Been Wrong?

You may be wondering, why so many sex toy bloggers promote inaccurate testing. Primarily it is a lack of knowledge, but it can also be a form of confirmation bias, insufficient testing, oversimplification, and sensationalism.

People often apply basic scientific principles to understand things. Some things may seem logical to conclude but may not be accurate because of the complexities of chemical interactions, leading to false conclusions. Simply put, they don't know what they don't know.

Other people parrot what they read on the internet. They figure if people are making these claims on other websites, it must be valid. They regurgitate the information on their blog or website as a fact without really understanding what they are writing.

The Flammable Snow Ball Test Conspiracy

Years ago, when silicone flame tests were a go-to test for many sex toy purists, it was quite compelling to see sex toys light on fire and believe the fear-based hype that consumers were being duped into buying toxic sex toys.

However, silicone flame tests are similar to the viral snowball flame test that was circulated on the internet and proven false. With all these viral videos of people lighting a snowball on fire came all kinds of conspiracy theories about why they were being scorched and not melting.

Starting Conspiracy Theories

The people making these videos often insisted that the snowballs themselves were flammable from containing metals or other chemicals. They, in turn, would follow up false claims based on confirmation bias to support their own beliefs or values.

The proof was in the pudding after all; the videos did indeed show the black scorch marks, and the snowball did not melt. The videos were not faked... but was it because the snowballs were really flammable?

What Was The Truth?

What people did not realize was that the fire and scorch marks were coming from the fuel from within their lighter or match (butane, lighter fluid, or solid fuel). The fuel within the lighter or match they used spread through the flame as it touched the snow and left a residue of soot which accumulated on the snow's surface, creating a dark film. The truth was that it was not igniting or scorching due to any material within the snowball, but due to the fuel used to light it.

Furthermore, the snowball was not melting because snow is mostly air and has plenty of room to absorb. The snowball acts as a sponge, and the water that melts absorbs inside the snowball where it is not visible.

If you take a snowball and put it in a hot pan, the water does not start melting into the pan; instead, the water gets absorbed by the snowball. Once the snow has melted off enough and there is nowhere left for the water to go, then it will begin to show in the pan. 

How It Relates To The Silicone Flame Test

This viral snowball myth is similar to the silicone flame test because people do not understand the complexities of chemical interactions, let alone the lab conditions that allow scientific testing on silicone.

The Importance Of Lab Conditions

When properly testing silicone under heat, certain conditions must be met for conclusive evidence to be trusted. Variables such as lighter fuel sources mixing in with chemicals in a sex toy will influence how a sex toy material will react.

Other aspects such as controlled oxygen levels, dust particles, and other variables interfere with accurate lab testing. So while some scientific experiments can be done at home, testing silicone for heat and flame resistance is not ideal for accurate results.

Other Silicone Variables

Sex toy purists were also often only testing silicone of a specific type with solid dildos. However, as sex toy manufacturers started using thin layers of silicone over mechanical vibrators along with perfectly healthy silicone variations such as spray-on silicone to create skin-like textures and other non-toxic additives and pigmentations, it changed the flame test to make it much less predictive.

These advancements in silicone sex toy production made the flame test even more obsolete, and at first, many sex toy purists were alarmed that the toys were toxic.

However, after they were sent to reputable labs and independently tested them, it was determined that many of the adult toys in question were indeed non-toxic, body-safe silicone, and there was no cause to worry.

Health Risks Of The Silicone Flame Test

Even more worrisome than false sex toy material results is that people were possibly causing damage to their lungs and overall health by burning chemicals that become toxic when burned. While the sex toy itself may not be toxic and simply lighting a lighter or match may not be harmful, lighting them together along with silicone pigmentations and additives may be. So there you have the problem with people who do not understand chemistry doing at-home testing. They were putting their health at risk, all in the name of trying to avoid things that would put their health at risk.

How Were Silicone Tests Done?

Those who tested silicone sex toys at home to see if it was 100% silicone would typically hold a flame to it for about 5 - 8 seconds after washing and drying it off. Pure silicone will typically only begin to melt at 752-932 degrees Fahrenheit (400–500 degrees Celsius).

The temperature of a lighter's flame depends on what type of fuel the lighter uses. Disposable butane lighters (Bic lighter) can produce flames as hot as 4,074 degrees F; however, most burn at 3,578 degrees F. You can see why the flame test is going to fail often because the lighter will be too hot regardless of what part of the flame you are using. 

Even when heated to very high temperatures, silicone will not typically lose its physical properties (melt); however, applying the yellow and orange parts of the flame was usually recommended because the bottom blue and white part is too hot but in many cases the yellow and orange parts will also be too hot.

Silicone is typically challenging to ignite but it will burn. When it does have a flame put to it, it will often get shiny and pliable or may have the outer layer burn off to non-conducting silica ash. However, it can also catch on fire. 

Some bloggers thought this was the dimethicone in the silicone burning; however, dimethicone (polydimethylsiloxane) is a type of silicone used in many consumer products, like skincare items, due to its lubricating properties and resistance to water. It's not a component of silicone that would be isolated and burned; rather, it's a type of silicone that, if subjected to extreme heat, could also burn to form silica ash.

Those that use the flame test on silicone sex toys typically apply the flame for about 5-8 seconds to a portion of the toy as close to the base as possible if it is a toy they would want to continue using. They let it cool off a few seconds and then viewed the results.

If the silicone product is derived from LIM (Liquid Injection Molding) or is a thin piece of silicone such as those found around vibrators, it would often cause damage in the form of a scorch mark to the silicone, while other silicone might leave pale ash.

The theory was that if your sex toy did not produce ash and started holding a flame, it may not be silicone and instead be another material such as TPR (modified from an SBS base material), TPE (modified from a SEBS base material). However, the results are often too varied to know. You could ignite silicone and erroneously think it is fake silicone when it is not.

Do-It-Yourself Silicone Flame Test Guidelines

Below are the results that many sex toy activists erroneously claimed would determine if something was silicone. These are what they expected the results to show:

Expected Flame Test Results For Silicone Sex Toys

  • Does not make any changes to the sex toy.
  • Creates black soot that may or may not come off.
  • Creates light gray ash, which can be removed.
  • It creates some stickiness or flaking off of the silicone material.

Expected Flame Test Results For Non-Silicone Sex Toys

  • It will quickly catch on fire.
  • It develops a charred black surface and melts.
  • It deforms the material and is pliable when warm.

However, what started happening, was that some flame tests performed on verified independently lab-tested silicone sex toys resulted in them catching on fire. This was contrary to everything that the sex toy activists said would not happen if the silicone sex toy was real.

After seeing results like this on lab-verified silicone sex toys, some sex toy activists started to move away from doing flame tests, but there is still a lot of misinformation about it on the internet.

Was The Silicone Flame Test A Fear-Based Scam?

The sex toy activists doing these flame tests are usually good people just trying to help educate consumers. The problem is that they are not educated enough to be teaching some of these things and are often too quick to draw erroneous conclusions.

Despite there being many safe manufacturers producing body-safe sex toys, sadly, there are still many sex toy companies that will tell you that their products are silicone when they are not.

Some may also tell consumers that their products are SEBS Silicone, TPR Silicone, or other misleading names, which may mean that it is a porous elastomer material rather than a more nonporous silicone which can be quite confusing to customers.

Sex toy materials may or may not be inherently toxic, but it completely depends on the type of material that the sex toy material is made out of, after all, medical grade TPE can be nonporous and is most definitely body safe, while there are some TPEs that contain toxic plasticizers.

The Problem With Misinformation

An issue with misinformed online writers is that they can potentially damage the credibility of respected sex toy manufacturers. Even when they realize they are incorrect, these writers don't necessarily issue public apologies or change their content.

If they do make corrections, it may be in a separate blog post, leaving the initial article unaltered or with a small link that can be easily overlooked and leaving consumers still reading inaccurate information.

Of course, even if they do remove the inaccurate information, the damage may already be done with many sex toy consumers already having read the misinformation and other bloggers who are repeating the 'fake news'.

Clear Silicone

It has been thought that silicone cannot be clear; however, it can be formulated to be semi-transparent or opaque. In sex toys, it doesn't have the same optical clarity as materials like glass.

Silicone sex toys may look a bit more cloudy like frosted glass than a TPE/TPR elastomer sex toy which may have a more transparent look. TPE or TPR sex toys can also have a frosted look, but silicone sex toys will not be translucent. An example of clarity levels of a frosted and translucent TPE or TPR sex toy is shown below.

 Clear Sex Toys Made Of Elastomer Chart

When you shine a flashlight through a clear silicone sex toy, the light that shines through it, when shown against a white background, may have an amber hue, particularly in thicker parts of the sex toy. In contrast, a TPE or TPR sex toy will have a white light. An example of clarity levels of silicone versus translucent TPR/TPE elastomer sex toys is shown below.

Clear Sex Toys Made Of Silicone & Elastomer Chart

Clear silicone sex toys are rare and are typically only found in specialty sex toy stores. They are typically more expensive, so if you see one claiming to be silicone under $50, you should question whether it is really silicone.

Safe Sex Toy Testing

Depending on the types of sex toys they sell, reputable manufacturers go through various channels to certify their sex toys as safe. They do so through organizations such as REACH, the European Community Regulation on chemicals and their safe use, and RoHS and electronics standards reduce hazardous materials found in electric components. Sex toys that pass these regulations affix the CE mark on their products. 

There are also UL Certified labels (Enhanced Mark Labels) that allow consumers to scan the label to look up the various safety standards for which the product has been tested and certified. International Standards Organization (ISO) certification is another way to certify sex toy safety 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, and many reputable manufacturers have adopted these standards or already met them. 

Some sex toys have medical device certification by the FDA. This is typically quite costly and can take over two years to get per product. The estimated cost of clinical trials to support approval by the FDA ranges from $1 to $10 million.

In addition, some sex toy manufacturers use independent labs to test their sex toys. Some go as far as having the sex toy prototype tested before manufacturing and again after the product has been produced in double-tiered testing. 

Buy From A Reputable Retailer

Buying from a reputable sex toy retailer is one of the best ways to ensure that your sex toys are what they say they are because there are many retailers selling sex toys that are not accurately labeled or are cheap knock-off sex toys.

An educated consumer is an empowered consumer, and you have the right to know what your sex toy is made from and how to properly care for it to ensure your sexual health. See our Sex Toy Store Scams guide for more information.

SIlicone Sex Toys In Drawer

A Brief History Of Silicone Sex Toys

Gosnell Duncan, a disabled Caribbean immigrant, traveled to an Indianapolis disability conference in 1971. At this conference, there was a sex and disability session where discussions regarding the challenges of sexual pleasure with a disability occurred.

Unfortunately, Duncan found that there were not many helpful options. One of those challenges was finding a dildo or other sex toy made of a quality material that was safe to use, held body heat, and was nonporous, allowing it to be properly cleaned.

Dildos at that time were typically made with very low-quality materials partly because they were illegal under the Comstock Law, a century-old federal anti-obscenity law that barred sending sex devices through the mail. Thus, many companies renamed them marital aids to avoid the federal obscenity laws that nearly every state had varieties of regarding the products.

General Electric was making silicone during the 70s, and Duncan began working with a chemist there who, after nine months, developed a formula for making a dildo. These first silicone dildos were produced under the brand name Paramount Therapeutic Products, which later became the defunct company Scorpio Products.

While it took decades for his invention to become mainstream, it is often an overlooked part of sex toy history that has offered sexually empowering options to consumers. 

In Closing

After all of this information, it may feel overwhelming to figure out what brand of silicone sex toy to buy and who to trust. However, rest assured we only carry reputable brands of sex toys so you can shop with the peace of mind that everything on our site is of the highest quality.

Should you have questions or need help choosing the right sex toy for you, please feel free to contact us as we are happy to assist you.  

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