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How To Shop For Body-Safe Sex Toys And Essentials

Posted by Emily Blackwood on

In the heat of the moment, you're just worried about whether you even have a condom—not what's in it. But the ingredients in your favorite condom, lube or emotional support vibrator matter more than you think.

The skin is the largest organ in the human body, and it absorbs everything that it comes into contact with. While there are no cases of anyone dying from a toxic dildo, phthalates (which are super harmful to the body) are heavily present in a lot of conventional sex toys. Wipes, lube, and condoms can also contain chemicals that may irritate your hoo-ha or cause an allergic reaction. And nothing kills the mood faster than a condom-induced rash.

Shopping for body-safe products (click here to learn what that fun term really means) can be a minefield. But it's important to be an informed consumer even when you're stocking your bedside drawer essentials

The only person who can truly advocate for your sexual health and pleasure is…well...you. So use this guide to help navigate your next sexy shopping spree so you can get down to business worry-free.

Why Body-Safe Products Matter

When we think of safety and sex, our minds usually jump to STIs and pregnancy prevention. And while those are both (very) valid concerns, what products you use before, during and even after the deed is just as important.

The world is starting to catch up to the non-toxic movement, but the sexual wellness industry is still lagging behind. That means a lot of products on the market are made with harmful chemicals and materials that can screw with your hormones, cause irritation and even lead to long-term health problems.

So what is a healthy or body-safe product? It's free of chemicals like phthalates, parabens, fragrances, and other irritating nasties. When something is marketed as body-safe, that should mean it won’t leach toxins into your system, and it won’t screw with your delicate pH balance.

While body-safe products are great for everyone, they're especially important for people with vulvas. The vagina is a self-cleaning machine, but that doesn't mean it's indestructible. In fact, it's pretty sensitive and can be easily irritated by harsh chemicals found in most conventional lubes and sex toys.

These chemicals can throw off your vaginal pH, which can lead to infections like bacterial vaginosis (BV) and yeast infections. They can also cause all sorts of irritation, from burning and itching to redness and swelling. In short: using non-body-safe products down there is a recipe for disaster.

How To Decode Ingredients Lists & Find Body-Safe Pleasure

Unfortunately, being body-safe isn't as simple as looking for products that describe themselves as such. The general rule of thumb when shopping for things that are good for us is to trust the ingredient list over the label.  

The thing is, anyone can put "body-safe" on their product—even if it's not. So it's important to know what ingredients to look for (and which ones to avoid) when perusing your favorite sex shop IRL or virtually. Below, we break down how to decipher the back of the box on most kinds of adult purchases you can make.


Grabbing a rubber from the gas station around the corner may be convenient in a time of need, but many popular brands are still using harmful chemicals in their condoms.

Flavoring may sound like a fun way to spice it up, but the artificial ingredients used (and often not disclosed) in flavors can cause irritation and even infection if your body has a reaction to them. The same rule goes for flavored lube, some of which are actually not safe to swallow. So before you start experimenting with the power of taste, read the ingredient list.

Another ingredient to watch out for is spermicide. Many condoms are made with spermicide to give their rubbers an extra punch of pregnancy prevention power. While it's generally safe for most people, it can cause vaginal irritation and even increase your risk for STDs and HIV if used too often. condoms that are completely free of parabens, fragrances, and spermicide—everything you need, nothing you don't.

While nitrosamines have been getting a bad rap for being linked to cancer, you'll still find them in even the most body-safe condoms as they're needed to help keep the elasticity of the latex. Fortunately, research has found that the levels of this chemical in condoms are so incredibly low that you're not really putting yourself at risk for cancer.

Vegans should also beware of casein, a dairy protein commonly used in condom manufacturing. There are plenty of options that don't use animal products, so do some research to find ones that fit your ethical standards as well as your body.

What to look for:

- FDA 510(k) cleared

- Spermicide free

- Latex-free (if you have a latex allergy)

- Paraben-free

- Fragrance-free

- Dye-free

- No artificial flavors

- Gluten-free

- No detectable nitrosamines

What to avoid:

- Parabens

- Gluten

- PEG's

- Benzocaine

- Artificial flavors

- Spermicide

- Detectable nitrosamines

Toys & Vibrators

Whether you're playing with a partner or taking a solo journey to Pleasure Town, sex toys can take your encounters to new and thrilling heights. The last thing you want is for your fun to be cut short or sidelined by an allergic reaction or infection. 

You know those jelly-like vibrators from your local sex shop? The ones that are super cheap and come in every color of the rainbow? Yeah, those are usually made with an endocrine-disrupting compound called Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). Not only is this material porous (aka a bacteria magnet), but it also often contains harmful additives like phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA). In other words, it's the furthest thing from being body-safe.

Instead of opting for the cheapest thing on the shelf, look for vibrators made from 100% percent medical-grade silicone or medical-grade polystyrene. This material is non-porous, hypoallergenic, and can be easily cleaned with soap and water (or sex toy cleaner). It's also compatible with all types of lube, so you can experiment to your heart's content. Borosilicate glass, medical-grade stainless steel, and even polished natural stone (looking at you, crystal girlies) are other great body-safe materials for sex toys.

When it comes to winning the award for the most natural, body-safe sex toy on the market, the WaterSlyde takes the cake. This patented pleasure device eliminates the need for uncomfy bathtub yoga and diverts a hypnotic stream of water right where it counts - hello, water orgasm! Because water is the only ingredient touching your sensitive skin, the WaterSlyde is the reigning king of body-safe products. Bathtub masturbation has never been easier or more pleasurable.

What to look for:

- 100% medical-grade silicone or polystyrene

- 100% Borosilicate glass

- 100% medical-grade stainless steel

- 100% polished natural stone

What to avoid:

- Toys that are not 100% of one of the above single materials

- Toys that have a strong chemical smell (silicone has no odor)

- Toys that aren’t glass or medical-grade polystyrene that are still see-through (silicone is always cloudy)

- Toys that leave behind a residue when touched (silicone would NEVER)

Personal Lubricants

Lube has the power to make or break your night. You want something that's going to enhance your experience without causing any unwanted irritation. But unfortunately, many of the handy lubes you'd find at the store are loaded with stuff that can seriously mess with your bodily chemistry.

Take parabens, for example. This group of chemicals can disrupt your endocrine system to the point of reproductive harm. I'm talking infertility, birth defects, and even increasing your risk for cancer. Parabens are everywhere and luckily companies across the cosmetic and body care industry are starting to remove them. But lubricants seem to be late to the game.

Propylene glycol and synthetic glycerin are two other ingredients you'll commonly find in lube that can actually damage your vaginal tissue—A.K.A., the area in which you'll be directly applying it.

You shouldn't have to expose yourself to toxic chemicals just to get things wet and wild. Choose a personal lubricant that is body-safe and made with ingredients that won’t disrupt your pH. And make sure it is FDA cleared as a Class II medical device. That way you will KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that you're putting something pure and good on and into your body. 

What to look for:

- Edible

- Paraben-free

- Plant-based ingredients

- FDA cleared Class II medical device

What to avoid:

- Parabens

- Fragrance

- Artificial flavors

- Siloxanes

- Silanes

- PEGs

- Propylene Glycol

- Synthetic Glycerin

- Lube that isn't edible or ingestible

Personal Wipes

And finally, it's clean-up time. Chances are, you're going to want to use some type of wipe to freshen up after your fun (seriously, is there anything better than a soothing, moisturizing after-sex towelette?). But beware—many popular cleansing wipes contain chemicals that can actually do more harm than good.

Fragrances, PEGs, PET, parabens, silicones, and silanes are not just bad for your body; they're bad for the environment too. PET (or Polyethylene Terephthalate) is the same material used to make Coke bottles and can take forever to decompose. So when you're done with your post-playtime wipe, it'll just sit in a landfill for years to come.

If you want a wipe that is gentle to both your body and the earth, make sure it has plant-based ingredients. While they’re technically flushable, do Mother Nature a solid and don’t throw them in the toilet.

What to look for:

- Plant-based ingredients

- Flushable and compostable

- pH-balanced

- Paraben-free

- Non-GMO

- Fragrance-free

What to avoid:

- Parabens

- Phthalates

- Sulfates

- Fragrances

- Perfumes

- Alcohol

- Gluten

- Synthetic Glycerin


- PEGs

- Silicones

- Silanes

Shop With Confidence

You should feel confident and safe when exploring your sexuality. So don't let toxic ingredients get in the way of a good time. When shopping for sex toys and essentials, keep this guide handy to make sure you're getting the best (and safest) products for your body.

About The Author

Emily Blackwood is a freelance journalist committed to answering the plaguing question of what makes us truly happy. Turns out, it's a lot. Her work has been published in SELF, HuffPost, and YourTango. You can learn more here.


Medical Disclaimer: The information provided here is intended for educational and informative purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical or professional advice. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.

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