Materials of sexual aids - silicone, TPE, TPR, PVC, leather, liquid silicone, etc. Description of characteristic features, qualities and disadvantages.
Market share of materials in the market for insertion devices (estimate)
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in various grades 50%
10% silicone (3% liquid premium platinum silicone)
the rest latex, glass and metal
Chemical nature and properties of the substance
Silicone belongs to the group of elastomers, i.e. highly elastic substances made up of polymers (large molecules) based on silicon, oxygen and hydrocarbons, commonly called rubber. They are produced by vulcanisation, i.e. the process by which the original liquid material acquires viscosity (cohesion) while partially retaining the elasticity of the original liquid substance, by forming a network of bridges between the polymers at higher temperatures (130-160 °C) and pressures and by the use of additional additives and accelerators. This puts it in the thermoset elastomer group (a term mentioned for consistency with the TPE information above). A material free of toxins, allergens and pores with the lowest risk of dirt build-up or infection. Silicone toys in the true sense of the word (i.e. high silicone content) make up a relatively small percentage, even within their product category, estimated at 10%. TPE erotic toys (a mix of silicone and PVC) are sometimes misleadingly labelled as silicone, which is not much to go on, as even medical grade silicone (biocompatibility tested) does not have clear criteria regarding the percentage of silicone. High quality silicone has less odor compared to normal PVC or TPR, full to mesmerizing color with a low degree of shine (black is really black purple full purple etc). Silicone has an unexpectedly smooth rubbery surface to the touch. Unlike PVC, apparently due to its non-porosity it hardly pulls on the skin. Silicone aids without electrical components can be sterilise by boiling.
Medical, medical silicone (classic old silicone) since 2000
Medical grade silicone is the classic hard silicone that's been on the market for a couple of decades. It is a high quality silicone suitable for skin and mucous membranes. But it's very hard - 60-70HC and is only used on vibrators with a plastic skeleton - vibrating eggs, massage heads and vibrators of smaller sizes.
Liquid silicone and Platinum / Premium silicone from 2017
Soft silicone with a hardness of approx. 7-30HC for which the term is most often used Liquid silicone or Platinum silicone or Premium silicone. In the Extasica sex shop we call it Liquid Silicone and we reserve Premium or Platinum Silicone to refer to the higher 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 leather, but less smooth and much softer than developmentally older medical grade silicone. Unlike medical grade silicone, all lubricating gels can be used on it. So not only water and oil based, but also silicone based. Liquid silicone is about 2 to 3 times 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). It is the best material for making misleading 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 2 (a hard inner layer and a soft outer layer). The human penis has a similar 2-layer structure - an inner hard spongy tissue surrounded by soft skin. But if the liquid silicone is soft enough (5-10HC or up to 20 HC for smaller devices), the second layer is not needed at all and rather can negatively impact the consistency and durability of the sexual aid.
Attention: There is no consistency in the labelling of liquid, premium, platinum silicone and manufacturers may confuse it in various ways. Our classification is intuitive and valid in our shop.
Liquid silicone (basic)
Basic liquid silicone also pulls on the skin and glosses, but less than PVC. It is fundamentally different from PVC and TPE due to the complete absence of any odour. It is used, for example, by the manufacturer Faak (hardness 12-23HC) or Xmen (hardness 27HC).
This silicone forms the mainstream of liquid silicone toys. For example, the well-known Mr. Hankey Toys or the manufacturer we offer DreamSex or our dildos Extasica design and most of the world's (i.e. Chinese) producers. These dildos come in a basic hardness of about 5-20HC. Tactilely (smoothness, pulling on the leather) they are on the level of quality TPE realistic leather, but completely odorless.
Platinium silicone is a liquid silicone product whose surface is smoothed with oil according to our information. However, no oil remains on the surface. The product marked platinum silicone is completely smooth like leather. It does not pull on the skin at all. It only makes up about 5-10 % of liquid silicone products. These products are supplied by a very small percentage of manufacturers, e.g. Mrimin for dildos, pins and vibrators and erection rings. Many manufacturers falsely or unknowingly use the Platinium silicone label for regular liquid silicone.
As of 2019, liquid platinum silicone is also used rather exceptionally for small vibrators and vibrating eggs. These are soft in contrast to the classic silicone vibrator. They do not have a reinforcement made of ABS plastic like the original silicone vibrators, and liquid platinum premium silicone directly encases the electronics and battery. Vibrators made of this material only make up about 1% of the market in 2019. We only know of a Chinese brand Mrimin. However, there was not much interest in these slightly more expensive vibrators.
Platinium silicone is actually a double oil-smoothed soft liquid silicone. It's really rare to find a manufacturer in China that smooths 3 times. In the west, this technology is not available to our knowledge. It is smoothed with oil according to our unverified information from the supplier, but the resulting dildo does not carry even the slightest trace of oil. It's soft, very smooth and very non-porous. It cannot be compared to any other material. Perhaps the closest is human skin.
Attention: Sometimes manufacturers also refer to dildos made of hard medical grade silicone with a hardness of 20 HC and more. This is the hardness of soft and medium soft plastics and the "liquid" attribute becomes a bit meaningless here. These are mainly dildos made in multiple colours including black, purple or violet. We silicone dildos of this hardness (20-40 HC) is referred to as plain (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 repeated melting and cooling. This more modern method of producing elastomers has been used since the 1950s. Unlike vulcanised elastomers (see silicone for more), they are easier to shape, colour and reuse (melt), in addition to being significantly more flexible. This means cost savings in production by using trimmings and easier recycling after use. TPE compared to PVC they do not pull the skin (less porous) and are also less shiny, rather completely without shine and almost or completely odourless compared to PVC. It is free of toxins (phthalates) and allergens. TPE is less porous than PVC and more porous than silicone. Some PVCs (and TPEs) stick to each other when touched for a long time (several hours or more). Therefore, separate storage is recommended.
The material is not further defined beyond the above, e.g. in terms of the proportion of plastics and other substances, or in terms of flexibility and softness. Nor does it apply that it must be possible to stretch them to at least twice their length. Hardness The TPE of sex aids generally ranges from 0 to 30HC. Unfortunately, even the manufacturers of the aids themselves do not know anything about the composition. They take the material as a finished product or in the form of a semi-finished product - 2 different materials that are heated and mixed before casting. The prices are quite high - in Europe about 8 Euros per kg when buying 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: do not be fooled by the smoothness of powdered TPE realistic skins (e.g. UltraSkin, UR3 by Doc Johnson). Like new products, they are sometimes powdered. And very smooth to the touch. But the powder disappears after the first wash and then they pull on the skin like regular TPE toys (better than PVC and TPR, but worse than silicone).
Dildo FAT 24*6,8cm26,94€
Product on saleDildo B009 30*5,5cm soft cyberskin13,06€ – 30,29€
Small realskin dildo 18*3cm QS-B0316,66€
Dildo realskin 21,5*3,5cm QS-B0328,66€
TPR, TPR gel, Silagel
Relatively cheap sex toys made from a mix of PVC and silicone. They are less skin-pulling than PVC and usually have a lower odor roughly like children's toys. Harder than TPE. Free of allergens or toxins (phthalates).
Public sources and quality manufacturers often use the interchangeable name thermoplastic rubber, thermoplastic rubber-TPR, for TPE. Sometimes TPR is seen 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-wholesalers and final sellers for products with properties characteristic of PVC. We do not offer these erotic aids in our shop as of 2022.
These tools must be stored separately from other PVC or TPE tools, otherwise they will stick to each other.
PVC - Polyvinyl chloride
Character and disadvantages: The higher porosity of PVC means a higher risk of dirt and bacteria build-up and also pulls more on the skin. In practice, this also means a higher susceptibility to stool staining and stool odour. Other disadvantages include the risk of allergic reactions and phthalates (toxins). In 2006, a Greenpeace study identified phthalates in 7 PVC sex toys out of 8. Following the 2006 EU REACH ban, manufacturers and sellers have gradually adapted to this. The issue is now very much alive rather artificially from a marketing point of view, but in older shops we still commonly see things as old as 15 years on sale. A certain indication of toxins may be the plastic smell combined with perfuming or burning of the mucous membranes when used. PVC aids are harder (30-50HC). We do not offer dildos made of harder plastics (above Hardness 40 HC). Some PVCs (and TPEs) will stick to each other if touched for a long time (several hours or more). Therefore, separate storage is recommended. Silicone does not suffer from this. Virtually all PVC erotic aids smell and shine compared to other plastic materials.
Benefits: Price, durability, low maintenance, freedom in the use of gels. For example, large anal plugs and dildos are made of PVC with few exceptions.
There is considerable variation in the products from gels in hard anal beads and pins that can even cut, through to lower quality smelly rigid dildos. Exceptionally one can come across very pleasant odorless, visually and sensationally relatively high quality realistic diddles with a slight odor. These are already classified as TPR. PVC is used by everyone from Chinese sex toy manufacturers to the formerly very reputable manufacturer Doc Johnson. Given this, it is understandable that 50% or so retailers are trying to differentiate themselves in this broad category by e.g. renaming PVC to vinyl, but that is the same thing. At Extasica PVC sex toys will not be offered from the end of 2022.
Maintenance: Gel based on water and silicone. After testing for a few tens of minutes and accepting the possible risk of stool staining, oil-based gels or deer tallow can also be used in principle. But then it hardens after a while.
Synthetic imitation leather (ear) made of PVC or polyurethane. Artificial leathers include so-called eco-leather or PU leather. Clean them with a damp cloth or soapy water.
Bonded leather or reconstituted leather.
It is a combination of a reverse thin layer of residual natural fibres with a suede structure glued on polyurethane (face) with an artificial structure simulating the appearance of leather. These leathers tend to be of the lowest quality, inferior to high quality synthetic leathers, usually hard, covered with PVC and are referred to by us as basic synthetic leather. Some shops nonsensically refer to them as genuine leather.
PU leather, eco leather, faux leather: These faux polyurethane leathers are softer and more comfortable than the mixed PVC leathers above.
more separate article How to recognise genuine leather
Natural (vegetable) or synthetic low cost rubber. Latex is very porous and therefore easily retains bacteria. It pulls slightly less than PVC. It has a relatively low odour on a par with higher quality PVC. A condom is recommended for use. It can also be allergenic, even if only partially, i.e. not to your skin (e.g. penis) but only to your mucous membranes (vagina, anus, pelvis). Even just a certain type of latex can cause problems for a particular person. Latex intimate toys (for insertion) are rather rare anymore and the material is used more for condoms, SM clothing or even medical gloves. It allows both water and silicone based gels (not oil based, deer tallow is also unsuitable).
ABS plastic and toys with electrical engineering
A hard plastic mostly used for small vibrators or as a reinforcement for silicone vibrators. Phthalate and allergen free. After use, rinse (except for skin and parts with cables and electrics) with warm water and soap, dry.
Most often ordinary steel in zinc or chrome (possibly nickel, but due to its toxicity it must not be used in items intended for long-term contact with the skin, i.e. especially jewellery and clothing). It is not suitable for dildos or handcuffs due to its hardness. It is used as a clutch in leather toys and separately for various clinics (gynaecological mirrors) or urethral play (where it is mostly stainless steel), of course for electrosex. Sometimes they suffer from lack of machining and cut the tissue. It allows sterilization and heating or cooling. Free of toxins and allergens with easy maintenance and the possibility of using all kinds of gels.
Product on saleLarge gynaecological mirror Sakurai Speculum XO, XL Gynamed162,73€ – 200,20€
Hegar dilator set 8PC 3-18mm52,62€
Elastane is a flexible synthetic fibre made of polyester and polyurethane. In America, the name spandex is used. Sometimes we also see the rather generalised term Lycra, which is a branded type of elastane from DuPont. It is also used in sportswear or swimwear. It is a sexy, shiny material, but rather gaudy, even cheap-looking. Hand wash in lukewarm water. Our clothes in black have a fine rubberization and in the photo they shine like leather. It needs to 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 firmness of the material is not very suitable for vaginal or anal sex play. It may crack on impact but should not shatter. Discontinue use if a crack is discovered. According to our observations, these are the most common lagers in sex shops.