Sexploratorium is committed to selling quality sexuality products made with body-safe materials. In the more than two decades that we have been in the business of selling sexual health and fantasy products, we have curated our product mix to exclude any materials believed to cause harmful side effects. Of course, research and development are constant in our industry (as with others) and chemicals that are thought to be healthy or at least harmless today could turn out to cause side effects that we are not aware of now after future research. For that reason, we attempt to educate our staff and customers with news, research and resources on our blog and social networks. For example, in the 1980s spermicides were recommended for safer sex, but in the 1990s it was discovered that spermicides can increase susceptibility to STI ‘s (sexually transmitted infections).
To this day, most countries of the world have little or no governing health or quality control regulations regarding the manufacture of sexuality products. It was not until more recent years that manufacturers of mainstream sexual aids have begun to self regulate thanks to consumer education provided by health conscious manufacturers and retailers.
We count ourselves among the pioneering generation of retailers who are committed to providing only the safest, healthiest, most effective products. With that in mind, we have created a consumer guide to potentially harmful or allergenic ingredients in sex toys.
Soft materials provide lifelike flexibility. However, many of these rubbery products come with the inherent disadvantage of rubber: traction! Soft rubbery toys are likely to absorb all of your body’s natural lubricant plus much of what you can possibly add to it from a bottle. So finding a compatible lubricant is almost always a necessity when using soft toys.
Silicone is an inert synthetic compound that is hypoallergenic and will not absorb into the body. Many of the longest-lasting and highest quality toys are made with silicone rubber, which is easier to clean than many other soft materials because it is denser and less porous (and therefore generally requires less lubricant use than other soft materials). Silicone is boil-able, can be sterilized and transmits vibration more intensely than other more porous materials. Silicone lubricants can ruin silicone toys. Tantus claims that ID millennium can be used with their toys, but if you intend to combine any silicone toys with silicone lubricant, patch test a small part of the toy as the bonding caused by silicone lube voids all warranties on silicone toys. We recommend water-based or oil-based lubricant with silicone toys.
Latex is a natural, eco friendly rubber that is currently mostly used to make inflatable sexuality products for penetration. Through over-exposure, many people develop will an allergy; meaning that if you are not allegic to latex, you could become allergic, so it is a great idea to use non-latex barriers (condoms, dams, etc) with latex toys or for general use (birth control, barrier method for safer sex). Latex products (especially condoms and other barriers) will break down when exposed to oils, for this reason we recommend water and silicone based lubricants for latex sexual aids.
Spongy “skin” materials are usually latex-free and non allergenic. All soft-material insertable dildos sold at Sexploratorium are made of non-allergenic silicone rubber, however even our favorite 100% silicone VixSkin products are pourous (requiring extra scrubbing to clean) and often require talc or cornstarch for care, neither of which are body-friendly. Cornstarch is a starch that becomes sugar and can cause yeast overgrowth in the anus, vagina or mouth and talc has been linked to cervical cancer in women who have had repeated vaginal exposure to talc. We recommend water-based lubricants and use of condoms on lifelike spongy silicone to protect your body from potentially reactive and harmful powders.
Elastomer is a general term for plastics and medical grade PVC that are phthalate-free (phthalates are plastic-softners that are banned in many children’s toys worldwide but were commonly found in sexual aids until recently). Beacuase Elastomer toys start off as soft and are hardened with wax, there is less probability of chemical instability and seepage from softeners. Some companies refer to their specific Elastomer mixes as TPE (thermoplastic Elastomer) and TPR (thermoplastic rubber). Sexploratorium carries a limited selection of external elastomer toys such as cock rings and strokers.
Jelly & other plastics: Follow your nose! If a product has a strong smell (like a “new car” odor) when it comes out of the packaging, it could be outgassing, a sign that it is chemically unstable. In most cases, exposing the product to the air will stabilize the gasses that can be trapped or created by chemical reactions in packaging, sealing and manufacturing sexuality products. Sexploratorium will not sell product that contains pthalates (see above) or that stinks coming out of the package, although we have discovered that sometimes even quality, hypoallergenic products come packaged in retail materials that are neither eco-friendly nor pleasant on the nose, so give your product a day free from captivity and then pay an olfactory revisit before becoming alarmed.
Leather is a natural, though certainly not vegan material sometimes used to create dildos and harnesses, etc. Many of humankind’s first dildos were made of leather. Leather is a skin and is very difficult to properly disinfect, so we recommend condom use with leather dildos for ease of cleaning and especially for use on multiple partners. Also, because leather is cared for with oils and conditioners, we recommend the use of non-latex condoms as a barrier on leather toys..
Nitrile is a synthetic rubber used in penis-rings, exam gloves and other products. It is non-allergenic though relatively porous and is not as stretchy as other materials.
Borosilicate and other types of glass, stainless steel and other types of metals, hard acrylics and hardwoods finished with food-grade varnish are all materials used to create sexual aids that are firm, non-porous (requiring less lube) easy to clean (even dishwasher safe) and often eco-friendly (comparatively). These materials work with virtually any type of lubricant, which will last longer than the would on softer toys due to their non-porous nature. Hard materials have little or no known side effects. The main care precaution is to avoid scratching or chipping of these hard surfaces by protecting these products from other hard materials.
Glass sexual aids are crafted by artisans in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Borosilicate is a high-quality heat resistant glass that is famously used for Pyrex cookware. Toys can be heated or chilled and will hold temperature for additional sensations during sex (note: avoid the “tounge to the pole” effect by chlling toys on ice and not in your freezer! Sexploratorium works with a glass artist that can repair and alter glass toys- just wash yours off and get it to us with instructions and we will give you a price quote.
Acrylic and other hard plastics provide a less temperature-intense sensation while maintaining the smooth firmness that a glass or metal toy provides, often at a lower pricel. Dishwasher safe and great with less lubricant… Because acrylic lasts longer than many soft materials and does not require frequent replacement Acrylic wands and dildos are considered more eco-friendly than more “disposable” items. But other acrylic items such as plastic speculums are not created to last as long. ABS is a non reactive hard plastic used to create medical products and medically developed toys like prostate massagers.
Stainless steel and other metal products have the same advantages of glass- easy to clean, firm, temperature conducting (note: do not heat in a microwave!). One added advantage of metal is electro-conductivity, which allows metal toys to connect to e-stim massage and therapy devices.
Aluminum is lighter than steel and is recyclable and electro-conductive (some research has shown that ingesting aluminum as an additive in food might be linked to Alzheimer’s disease).
Hardwood dildos are beautifully artistic, natural and sealed with food-grade varnishes that make them dishwasher safe and smooth as silk. Wood toys sold at Sexploratorium are crafted sustainably from scrap or fallen woods.
Other potential allergens/ irritants: Animal products and the products used to care for animal products. Remember that fur, feathers and other animal products can cause allergies, especially in sensitive erogenous zones. It is always best to try similar materials against your sensitive skin (the neck is a good place) before buying.
For potential allergenic ingredients in lubricants or massage formulas, see our lubricant guide.
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