Materials Guide 101

By on February 9, 2016

Adult Pleasure Product comes in all shapes and sizes, however in recent times, also in a plethora of, materials and we are becoming increasingly aware of products being labelled ‘body safe’, ‘phthalate free’, ‘non-porous’, ‘medical grade’ – to name a few, so what it’s all about?

Generally speaking, the manufacturing and the materials used in pleasure products are currently not tightly regulated. On the packaging you will find, ‘Sold as a novelty item only’ and predominantly adult pleasure product/sex toys (not just bachelorette and gag items), are referred to in the US, as, ‘Adult Novelties’. This is an important legal disclaimer for the manufacturer which refers mainly to potential liability claims resulting from usage, but it also defines the level of reporting required regarding the chemicals and materials used in the manufacturing of the item.

Manufacturers are aware of the implications of non-body safe materials, they are motivated and have rigorously and rapidly improved materials and blends. You will find silicones and silicon blends, TPE and ‘phthalate free’ and ‘body safe’ logos and badges on most products today. Despite being non-mandatory, manufacturers test materials in accredited labs as a best practice and investment in their brand and future. Perfect Fit Brand tested their two material inventions, PF Blend™ and SilaSkin™, both which meet EN-71-3 European Toy Safety Standards.

On a side note, personal lubricants have recently come under regulation in the US. In order for a personal lubricant to be sold and marketed in the United States, the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) has in more recent times required all lubricants to have a Class II Medical Device 510(k) clearance. A 510(k) is a premarket submission made to the FDA. 510(k) clearance means that a company has done its due diligence with testing the product according to FDA guidelines and it has been cleared for sale in the US. In Australia, personal lubricants are classed as therapeutic goods (it represents itself as modifying a bodily process or preventing, diagnosing, curing or alleviating a disease, ailment, defect or injury, or influencing, inhibiting or modifying a physiological process in persons or animals), and as such must be registered with the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration), and must be manufactured in licensed premises.

Believe it or not, some products are made from chemicals that may not be safe for insertion into the body. Phthalates are chemical plasticizers that are added in order to increase the flexibility and softness of the product. Phthalates have been denounced as ‘possible human carcinogens,’ and have been linked to neurological and reproductive issues. There is a raging debate on phthalates and they are banned in certain regions. Products containing phthalates as an additive can have a strong chemical odour and over time you may see ’weeping’ on the surface of the product which occurs naturally over time as the chemicals degrade.

Porosity refers to how absorbent a material is. The least absorbent or non-porous the better, as these products have smooth, dense surfaces, and don’t retain or provide a surface for bacteria to thrive. Stainless steel, borosilicate glass and medical grade silicone are non-porous materials and may be boiled or placed in the dishwasher. You may recall that Tantus stands out as a company that has always highlighted these points in their promotional and training materials.

ABS Plastic
Hard, hygienic and stable, rigid Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene plastic (ABS) is used in vibrating bullets, slimline vibrators and massagers. The hard plastic transfers vibrations extremely well and allows clear, direct transferred stimulation. It’s also compatible with all lubricants and easy to clean. ABS may sometimes ‘grab’ the skin, so ABS may be given a smooth rubber-based or polyurethane coating, and then called ‘Velvet Touch’ or similar.

Products made from acrylic are very rigid and very hard and somewhat brittle. Kegel exercisers and prostate-stimulating toys/clear anal probes may be made from acrylic. They can be boiled and used with any type of lubricant. Easy to clean, rather non-porous.

Borosilicate glass is used for beautiful rigid glass dildos. It’s very safe, non-toxic, withstands extreme temperatures (Pyrex is known for glass oven/bakeware) and shouldn’t break or chip even when dropped. Glass is classically non-porous and the sales pitch often states, “can also be warmed or chilled before use”. These toys may be boiled. Dishwasher safe. Use with any type of lubricant. Easy to clean, long shelf life – basically for eternity.

Latex is a form of rubber, often used in inflatable sex toys and also of course in the manufacture of latex rubber clothing/fetish wear and even condoms. Latex has a smooth finish that can be polished with silicone lubricant or latex shiner and doesn’t always have to be black. Renewer powder helps the latex stay soft, supple and flexible. There are no phthalates in latex. You must keep away from latex, if you have a latex allergy. Latex rubber dildos can be firm and not totally flexible like a softer jelly or a silicon blend and should be quite inexpensive. They are quite porous and require good care and cleaning.

PVC Plastic & Vinyl
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is a white, brittle solid. This rigid form of PVC is used to manufacture PVC pipes but also for your credit cards. PVC plastic is made softer and more flexible by the addition of plasticizers, the most widely used being phthalates. Pleasure product made with phthalates as a softener are usually basic, low price point, simple products that may well have a somewhat, off- putting aroma. The more ‘vinyl plastic’ odour you smell, the lower the grade and the more phthalates used. Beware- health risk.

Silicone is a more expensive raw material in manufacturing and this is reflected in the cost of the product. It’s relatively soft and makes wonderful realistic dildos. 100% silicon/medical grade silicon is hypo-allergenic. It is non-porous and is easy to clean with soap and water and may also be boiled. Silicone can be sterilized in temperatures up to 300 °C. Phthalate free. General rule of thumb- don’t use with silicone lubricant. Additional suppleness and stretch may be achieved by blending silicone with TPR e.g. SilaSkin (Perfect Fit Brand). Additionally, the silicon surface on a product may ‘grab’ the skin, thus sometimes a smooth coat is applied to a product after moulding to give that ‘smooth gliding feel’.

Stainless Steel
Sex toys made of chrome alloy and stainless steel are non-porous, will last forever and will take on the temperature of their immediate environment. Strong, durable, safe. Can be placed, like your stainless steel cutlery, in your dishwasher. Compatible with all lubricants and very easy to clean. Aluminium is similar, it’s a metal, yet lighter in weight, somewhat less durable.

Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE)
Technically TPR and TPE are the same category, and both TPE and TPR can be used to describe a product made of either. TPE is similar to Thermoplastic Rubber (TPR) jelly in softness, yet the elastomer is a lesser health risk and better quality as the elastomer compound does not include phthalates. Elastomers, as the name suggests, start out soft and have product added, to make them harder. This product is then removed by suction so there are no residual hardeners. No solvents are used in this process and there is no latex. This type of material is ideal for manufacturing a variety of textures. CyberSkin (Topco), is a soft elastomer material intended to be as close to human skin as possible- warm and soft to the touch, yet with a firm underlying texture. SoftTouch, Fanta Flesh (Pipedream) and UR3 (Doc Johnson) are similar materials. PF Blend™ and SilaSkin™ (Perfect Fit Brand), are Silicone/TPE blends offering more stretch and a softer feel than Silicone or TPE on their own. These have no odour and the silicone additive helps reduce the porosity. Use only water-based lubricants. Cyberskin/Fanta Flesh and friends also benefit from a light dusting of corn-starch or renewer powder.

Thermoplastic Rubber (TPR)
Jelly vibrators and jelly dildos are made from a mixture of PVC and rubber, resulting in a soft jelly-like texture and feel. ‘Jelly rubber’ is one of the cheapest materials for manufacturing personal products and can be shaped and coloured to almost any form. Jelly often looks translucent and sometimes has an odour due to its porous character. Phthalate softeners are added to the PVC to make the ‘jelly’ more flexible. Studies have shown that phthalates can be a health risk and products made with phthalates are banned in certain regions. Keep an eye out for ‘phthalate-free jelly’ or Skin-Safe Rubber – now often used as a substitute for jelly rubber, with similar properties but without the phthalate softeners. Skin-safe rubber is also free of latex.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login