If you've ventured into the world of sex toys, you've probably seen the term body-safe all over the place. It's everywhere because it's important - but safe is also interpreted in a variety of ways by different brands. The sex toy industry isn't FDA regulated, which puts many of the so-called body-safe materials commonly used in sex toys on shaky ground.
Reputable brands like Dame, Lelo, Maude, and Minna (that's us!) have the goal of manufacturing and selling toys that make people happy and healthy by using only non-toxic, safe sex toy materials. We view masturbation as part of a holistically healthy life, so selling body-safe sex toys is non-negotiable.
Even so, it's best to be informed as a consumer, so that the various body-safe claims from sex toy brands have context and you can decipher what you feel most comfortable with and what supposedly 'safe' sex toys give you pause.
Activist and sex educator Sarah Brynn Holliday said it best, telling Vice, "Without comprehensive education about the materials that are going on or inside our bodies, we can't make informed decisions about our sexual lives."
Know what to avoid.
Phthalates are toxic.
Phthalates, a hard-to-pronounce group of chemicals, help soften and increase flexibility in materials and can be found in low concentration in many everyday items like shower curtains or Crocs.
Low-quality sex toys, however, tend to use them in very high quantities and probably unlike shower curtains or Crocs, they get very up close and personal to your nether regions.
Phthalates are bad news in sex toys: they've been marked by the EPA as "possible human carcinogens" (aka: toxic). What's more, phthalates can leak from toys, throwing off your hormone balance, potentially causing cancer or negatively impacting your reproductive functionality.
When shopping for sex toys, look out for the term "Phthalate-Free". If the term is missing from packaging or a product page, you should ask the brand directly but it's probably safe to say if they're not mentioning it on their product page or FAQ, they're avoiding the question because they've got phthalates in their toy.
Jelly toys: just say no.
Don't buy jelly sex toys. Porous materials are breeding grounds for bacteria.
These toys use rubber as the base (a very porous material) and add phthalates to make it flexible (double bad, because: carcinogens). These things combined aren't only harmful to your body, but they smell horrible. If you've ever bought cheaply made sneakers with a rubber sole, you'll be familiar with the sudden aroma that fills your entire room.
Jelly toys are impossible to thoroughly clean because of their tiny pores that trap bacteria. The grippy, sticky, or tacky surface means that they are particularly prone to pick up dirt, lint, crumbs, or whatever else could be lying around, in addition to things your eyes can't even see.
It's tempting for non-reputable companies to create sex toys from this material because it's cheap and you can manipulate it into all kinds of fun shapes, sizes, and colors, leading to the big potential for profit (and compromised health, for the eventual users of these porous toys).
Low-credibility companies may sell sex toys with the protective label, "sold for novelty use only", which means they're intended for visual and aesthetic purposes. Selling a sex toy as a novelty allows these sellers to get away with selling toys that are made of cheap and dangerous materials.
You'll see this label especially with single-use cock rings or single-use bullet vibrators, which are mostly made from jelly rubber or polyvinyl chloride. Be wary.
"Food-grade" doesn't mean much when it comes to silicone sex toys.
Unless you somehow plan on using your sex toys to cook something, silicone labeled as "food grade" doesn't mean much in relation to a sex toy's safety. Food-grade silicone is used for kitchen items like silicone baking trays or spatulas, ensuring that they don't transfer chemicals when you put hot or cooled food on them.
Sex-toys, however, should ideally be medical-grade silicone, meaning they're safe to put in or very near your body, with the same standards of any tool used in a hospital.
What sex toy materials are body-safe?
While there are many comprehensive material guides out there for detailed reference, the safest and most common sex toy materials are non-porous: silicone, stainless steel, and glass.
These toys are not only the safest option but are very pleasing to the touch - soft, with a bit of bounce to it, not too unlike a soft human touch.
It's poreless, leaving nowhere for harmful bacteria to tuck in and hide, and tends to be odorless and long-lasting. Completely body-safe.
You will probably find that silicone sex toys are typically on the more expensive side than other sex toys but is well worth the price.
Stainless Steel and Glass (Borosilicate):
These materials are similar in that they both look nice and are easy to clean since they aren't porous and are dishwasher-safe (on the top rack). They're largely appealing options for those interested in experimenting with temperature play since glass can be easily heated or cooled and steel runs naturally cool.
Unlike silicone toys, glass or steel sex toys can be used with any sort of lubricant without causing any long term damage to the toy.
Lisa Hochberger of mindbodygreen has a handy trick for quickly getting a sense if a sex toy is body-safe or not: smell it.
If it has a strong smell, that's a good indicator that cheap and unsafe materials were used to make it. That said, you should still always check labels and/or product pages to confirm a toy is body-safe and when in doubt, you can always use a condom over it.