Materials of sexual aids – silicone, TPE, TPR, PVC, leather, liquid silicone, etc. Description of characteristic properties, qualities and disadvantages.
Share of Insertion Materials Market (estimate)
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in different grades 50%
silicone 10% (3% liquid premium platinium silicone)
the rest latex, glass and metal
Chemical character and substance properties
Silicone belongs to the group of elastomers, i.e. substances with high flexibility, formed by polymers (large molecules) based on silicon, oxygen and hydrocarbons, commonly called rubber. It is produced by vulcanization, i.e. a process where the original liquid material acquires viscosity (coherence) while partially preserving the elasticity of the original liquid substance by creating a network of bridges between polymers at higher temperatures (130-160 °C) and pressures and using other additives and accelerators. This places it in the group of thermoset elastomers (a term introduced to tie in with the TPE information above). Material without toxins, allergens and pores with the lowest risk of settling dirt or infection. Silicone toys in the true sense of the word (i.e. with a high proportion of silicone) make up a relatively small percentage, even within their product category, estimated at 10%. Sometimes TPE erotic aids (a mix of silicone and PVC) are misleadingly labeled as silicone, but there is not much you can do about this, as even medical silicone (tested for biocompatibility) does not have clear criteria regarding the percentage of silicone. Quality silicone has less odor compared to normal PVC or TPR, a full to charming color with a low degree of gloss (black is really black, purple, full purple, etc.). The silicone has an unexpectedly smooth rubbery surface to the touch. Unlike PVC, apparently due to its non-porous nature, it hardly pulls on the skin. Silicone tools without electrical components are possible sterilize by boiling.
Medical, medical silicone (classic old silicone) since 2000
Medical silicone is the classic hard silicone that has been on the market for several decades. It is a high-quality silicone suitable for skin and mucous membranes. But he is very hard - 60-70HC and is only used for plastic frame vibrators - vibrating eggs, massage heads and smaller size vibrators.
Liquid silicone and Platinium / Premium silicone since 2017
Soft silicone with hardness approx 7-30HC for which the designation is most often used Liquid silicone or Platinum silicone whose Premium silicone. In the Extasica sexshop, we call it Liquid silicone and we reserve Premium or Platinium Silicone to denote the highest quality liquid silicones, i.e. the smoothest silicones with ideal hardness 4-12HC. It has been on the market since 2017 and is used for dildos and realistic vibrators. It is smoother and harder than TPE realistic skin, but less smooth and much softer than medical grade silicone. Unlike medical silicone, all lubricating gels can be used on it. That is, not only water- and oil-based, but also silicone-based. Liquid silicone is about 2x to 3x more expensive than TPE. The mechanical properties, i.e. softness and elasticity, are the same as TPE, but the material retains them for a long time (both TPE and PVC harden). This is the best material for making implantable sex toys, if we are not looking at money. Other benefits are in the general Silicone section above.
Liquid silicone usually has one layer, sometimes even 2 (hard inner layer and outer soft layer). The human penis also has a similar 2-layer structure - internal hard spongy tissue covered with soft skin. But if the liquid silicone is soft enough (5-10HC or up to 20 HC for smaller gadgets), the second layer is not necessary at all and can rather have a negative impact on the consistency and durability of the sex tool.
Attention: There is no consensus on the liquid, premium, platinum silicone markings described below, and manufacturers may confuse them in various ways. The classification shown by us is intuitive and valid in our store.
Liquid silicone (basic)
Basic liquid silicone also pulls on the skin and shines, but less so than PVC. It is fundamentally different from PVC and TPE by the complete absence of any odor. It is used, for example, by the manufacturer Faak. Hardness 12-16HC.
This silicone forms the mainstream of liquid silicone toys. E.g. known mr. Hankey Toys or a manufacturer offered by us DreamSex or our dildo Ecstasy design and most global (ie Chinese) producers. These dildos usually have a basic hardness of approx 5-20HC. In terms of touch (smoothness, pulling on the skin), they are at the level of high-quality TPE realistic leather, but completely odorless.
Platinium silicone is a liquid silicone product whose surface is smoothed with oil, according to our information. But no avenue remains on the surface. The product labeled platinum silicone is completely smooth like skin. It doesn't tug at the skin at all. It consists of only about 5-10 % liquid silicone products. These products are supplied, for example, by the manufacturer Mrimin for dildos, pins and vibrators and erection rings.
Since 2019, liquid platinium silicone has been used rather exceptionally for small vibrators and vibrating eggs. These are unlike classic silicone vibrators. They do not have ABS plastic reinforcement like the original silicone vibrators and liquid platinium premium silicone directly covers the electronics and battery. Vibrators made of this material in 2019 make up only about 1% market.
Platinium silicone is actually a double oil-polished soft liquid silicone. It is truly exceptional in China that you will meet a manufacturer that smoothes 3x. According to our information, this technology does not exist in the West. According to our unverified information from the supplier, it is smoothed with oil, but the resulting dildo does not bear the slightest trace of oil. It is soft, very smooth and very non-porous. It cannot be compared with any other material. Perhaps the closest is human skin.
Attention: Sometimes manufacturers also refer to hard medical silicone with hardness as liquid silicone 20 HC and more. This is the hardness of soft and medium-soft plastics, and the adjective "liquid" loses a bit of meaning here. These are mainly dildos produced in several colors, including black, magenta or purple. My silicone dildo of this hardness (20–40 HC) we refer to as simple (medical) silicone.
TPE, (realistic leather, cyberskin, realskin, softskin, trueskin, UR3, etc.)
TPE - Thermoplastic elastomers are a mixture of plastics (made from petroleum) and thermoset elastomers (see silicone) and other substances. Flexibility is achieved by repeatedly melting and cooling them. This more modern method of producing elastomers has been used since the 1950s. In contrast to vulcanized elastomers (see silicone for more information), in addition to significantly higher flexibility, they are easier to shape, color, and allow reuse (melting). This means cost savings during production by using scraps and easier recycling after the service life. TPE compared to PVC, they do not pull on the skin (less porous) and are also less shiny, rather completely shiny and, compared to PVC, almost or completely odorless. Does not contain toxins (phthalates) and allergens. TPE is less porous than PVC and more porous than silicone. Some PVC (and TPE) etch each other if they are in contact for a long time (several hours or more). Therefore, separate storage is recommended.
Beyond the above, the material is not more precisely defined, for example in terms of the proportion of plastics and other substances, or in terms of elasticity and softness. Nor does it have to be possible to stretch them at least twice their length. Hardness The TPE of sexual aids usually ranges from 0 to 30HC. Unfortunately, even the manufacturers of aids themselves know nothing about the composition. They take the material as a finished product or in the form of a semi-finished product - 2 different materials, which they heat up and mix before casting. Prices are relatively high - in Europe about 8 Euros per kg when taken in hundreds of kg, but in China much less.
Realistic leather (CyberSkin, RealSkin, SoftSkin, TrueSkin, UR3, etc.)
Soft TPE to hardness 10 HC used for soft dildos, vibrators and sex dolls.
Caution: Don't be fooled by the smoothness of powdered TPE realistic skins (eg UltraSkin, UR3 by Doc Johnson). As new products, they are sometimes powdered. And very hungry to the touch. However, the powder disappears after the first wash, and then they already pull on the skin like regular TPE toys (better than PVC and TPR, but worse than silicone).
TPR, TPR gel, Silagel
Relatively cheap sex toys made of a mix of PVC and silicone. They pull less on the skin than PVC and usually have a lower odor, roughly like children's toys. Harder than TPE. Contains no allergens or toxins (phthalates).
Public sources and quality manufacturers often use the interchangeable name thermoplastic rubber-TPR for TPE. Sometimes TPR is taken as a superset of TPE and other synthetic rubbers, and sometimes as a slightly inferior material to TPE. In practice, it is also often used by suppliers-wholesale companies and final sellers for products with properties characteristic of PVC. From 2022, we do not offer these erotic aids in our store.
These aids must be stored separately from other PVC or TPE aids, otherwise they will stick to each other.
PVC - Polyvinyl chloride
Character and disadvantages: Higher porosity of PVC means higher risk of dirt and bacteria settling and also pulls more by the skin. In practice, this also means higher susceptibility to stool coloring and stool odor settling. Other disadvantages are the risk of allergic reactions and phthalates (toxins). In 2006, the Greenpeace study identified phthalates in 7 PVC sex toys from 8. The topic is currently very lively rather artificially in terms of marketing, but in older stores in sales we still commonly see things as old as 15 years. A certain indication of toxins may be plastic odor in combination with perfuming or burning of the mucosa during use. PVC tools are harder (30-50HC). Our offer does not allow eg dildos made of stiff plastic (over hardness 40 HC). Some PVC (and TPE) etch each other if they are in contact for a long time (several hours or more). Therefore, separate storage is recommended. Silicone does not suffer from this. Practically all PVC sex toys smell like plastic and shine compared to other materials.
Advantages: Price, durability, inexpensive maintenance, freedom in the use of gels. E.g. large anal plugs and dildos are, with some exceptions, made of PVC.
In the products, there are significant differences from gels in hard anal beads and pins that can even cut, through inferior smelly rigid dildos. Exceptionally, it is possible to come across very pleasant, odorless, visually and emotionally relatively high-quality realistic bibs with a slight odor. We are already placing them in the TPR. PVC is used by everyone from Chinese sex toy manufacturers to the formerly very reputable manufacturer Doc Johnson. In view of this, the effort of approximately 50% sellers to somehow differentiate themselves in this broad category is understandable, e.g. by renaming PVC to vinyl, which is the same thing. At Extasica, we do not offer PVC sex toys from the end of 2022.
Maintenance: Water and silicone based gel. After testing a few tens of minutes and accepting the possible risk of stool staining, oil-based gels or deer tallow are basically possible. But then it hardens over time.
Synthetic imitation leather (ears) of PVC or polyurethane. Artificial leather includes so-called eco leather or PU leather. We clean them with a damp cloth or soapy water.
Bonded leather or reconstitued leather.
It is a combination of the reverse thin layer of residual natural fibers with a suede structure glued to polyurethane (face) with an artificial structure simulating the appearance of leather. These hides are of the lowest quality, worse than quality artificial hides, usually hard, covered with PVC and we call them as basic artificial hides. Some stores pointlessly call them genuine leather.
PU leather, eco leather, faux leather: These artificial polyurethane skins are softer and more comfortable than the blended PVC skins above.
more separate article How to identify real skin
Natural (vegetable) or synthetic low cost rubber. Latex is very porous and therefore easily retains bacteria. He pulls slightly less on the skin than PVC. It has a relatively low odor at the level of better PVC. A condom is recommended for use. It may also be allergenic, even partially, ie not to your skin (eg the penis), but only to your mucosa (vagina, rectum, gum). Even some kind of latex can cause problems for a particular person. Latex intimate toys (for introduction) are rather rare and the material is used rather for condoms, SM clothing or even medical gloves. It allows gels based on both water and silicone (not oil-based; deer tallow is also unsuitable).
ABS plastic and toys with electrical engineering
Hard plastic mostly used for small vibrators or as reinforcement for silicone vibrators. Does not contain phthalates and allergens. After use, rinse (except for skin and parts with cables and electronics) with warm water and soap, dry.
Most often ordinary steel in zinc or chrome (possibly nickel, which, however, due to its toxicity must not be used in objects intended for long-term contact with the skin, i.e. especially jewelry and clothing). It is not suitable for dildos or handcuffs due to its hardness. It is used as connectors in leather toys and separately for various clinics (gynecological mirrors) or urethral toys (these are mostly stainless steel), of course for electrosex. Sometimes they suffer from insufficient processing and cut the tissue. Allows sterilization and heating or cooling. Free of toxins and allergens with easy maintenance and the possibility of using all kinds of gels.
Large gynecological mirror Sakurai Speculum XO, XL Gynamed160,78€ – 247,25€
Hegar dilator set 8PC 3-18mm51,99€
Elastane is a flexible synthetic fiber made of polyester and polyurethane. In America, the name is spandex. Sometimes we also come across the rather generalized term Lycra, which is a branded type of elastane from DuPont. It is also used in sportswear or swimwear. Sexy, shiny material, but quite garish, with a cheap impression. Hand wash in lukewarm water. Our black clothing has a soft rubber coating and shines in the photo just like leather. It must be handled very carefully.
Allows sterilization and heating or cooling. Free of toxins and allergens with easy maintenance and the possibility of using all kinds of gels. However, the strength of the material is not very suitable for vaginal or anal sex games. It may crack on impact, but should not shatter. If a crack is discovered, stop using. According to our observations, these are the most common lagers in sex shops.