I do quite a bit of reading and researching about everything sex, especially sex toys. I read reviews from highly-respected reviewers as well as consumer reviews. I read articles in consumer and trade magazines. I even check out academic journals.
After getting my hands on a range of silicone sex toys to review over these past several months, I started wondering about the validity of what makes some types of silicone better than others. I’ve been finding that there are some relatively inexpensive silicone sex toys that feel really nice while a couple of higher priced silicone sex toys that don’t feel quite impressive. I started feeling as if I had been falling into a lot of marketing hype when writing about silicone sex toys.
As a blogger-reviewer, I don’t have access to a lab to assess the actual quality of sex toy materials. However, I was able to bend the ear of Paul McCreary, a project manager for a silicone medical device manufacturer about the real truths of silicone sex toys. Although he does not work with silicone sex toys, he knows of a competitor that does and is familiar with its processes and the differences between varying types of silicone.
“All silicone is body-safe,” Paul says. “Silicone gel is a non-carcinogenic material. Silicone is an inert material; it does not react to the body. No matter what the product is, it’s essentially the same thing. It’s a repeating chain of silicone (gel), rubber, polymer, oxygen, silicon (processed sand and minerals) and a methyl group.”
But there is that select group of products that tout being made of medical grade silicone. A lot of sex toy brands use that designation as a selling point. So I had to ask Paul, “What exactly is medical grade silicone?”
“The two main companies that make medical grade silicone are Dow and NuSil,” Paul says. “The differences between medical grade and other silicone is how much they’re willing to back them with their legal team.”
In other words, there’s no formal classification of what constitutes as medical grade silicone.
Paul says the differences in price between medical grade silicone and other silicone gels is relatively minor — $8 a pound vs. $6 a pound. However, price differences have a lot to do with the manufacturing processes.
“The differences in how stiff a silicone product is a matter of silcon versus silicone bonding materials,” Paul says. “The higher level of silcon, the stiffer it is.
“Softer silicone is more expensive to manufacture. Softer silicone is harder to get out of the mold. It takes a long time to solidify. The molding machines are very expensive and you need an operator to sit there while it cures. There’s a higher number of rejects. If you remove it too quickly or apply too much pressure, it will create a bulb or an air bubble.
“Overall, silicone is a cheap part. Most of the cost of a silicone sex toy goes toward the marketing team, manufacturing and outsourcing.”
I like seeing silicone vibrators, dongs, kegel balls, butt plugs, clitoral and nipple stimulators and cock rings in a wide range of price points. They aren’t restricted to just the luxury lines anymore. There are even many inexpensive ones that are soft, flexible and work with, and not against, the body. Ultimately, differences in price often have a lot more to do with design, motors and technology than the marketing quality perceptions in silicone. Aside from being body-safe and feeling nice against and in the body, silicone is a winner because it’s non-porous so bacteria won’t leach in and easy to clean and keep clean.
This post is brought to you by Little Shop of O’s. Information and opinions about this topic are purely my own.