Beginner’s Guide to Sex Toy Materials

Suga Stick vibe with candy

For many of us, our first toy was very inexpensive, an impulse buy, or both. Perhaps a friend gifted you with one. You popped in the batteries and took it for a test drive.

Boom. Mind blown. Am I right?

Who knew a small (or not so small) item could feel so freaking amazing? Dipping your toes into the world of sex toys is exciting…and overwhelming. 

After several–ahem–hundred orgasms under your belt, you’re ready to upgrade. But what should you look for when searching for the perfect sex toy?

There are so many options, especially when it comes to the materials that comprise the vibrator. Not to mention we all have personal preferences on how different types of materials feel on our bodies.

Wonder no more. We’ve put together a quick guide to explain the various types of sex toy materials and why you may or may not a toy made from it.

Common terms used to describe sex toys

First, let’s explain some common terms you’ll see when shopping for a sex toy.

  • Phthalates: these are chemicals that make plastic soft and more flexible. They can leak from toys and throw off your hormone balance, which has the potential to cause cancer. They used to be common in sex toy materials but have almost all be elimated now that we know it’s toxic. You’ll find these in lower quality or inexpensive sex toys. 
  • Body-safe: unlike the term organic, body-safe has no set FDA definition. When toy companies use this in the product description, they usually mean that the product has no phthalates. (see above)
  • Medical grade silicone: while every reputable manufacturer has their own proprietary blend of silicone, this description means it is of very high quality, with the same product safety standards of hospital tools

Quick Guide to Sex Toy Materials

Evolved Four Play Vibe Kit

Hard Plastic

Also known as ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), this plastic is a common material for bullets, traditional vibrators, and plastic buttons/decoration on toys. It can be shiny or matte and smooth (sometimes called velvet coating).

ABS plastic transfers vibration well and can warm up quickly next to the body. It’s sturdy and lightweight.

  • Recommended lubricant: both water-based and silicone lubricants work well with ABS plastic.
  • Pros: Contains no phthalates or latex. Non-porous and easy to clean. Transfers vibration well.
  • Cons: May be too rigid for some

Try CalExotics MyPod Vibe with UV Sanitizing Case or Evolved Four Play Bullet Kit

Butterfly Kiss Vibe Blue

Soft Plastic

Mostly commonly known as TPE or TPR, this is a blend of plastic and rubber. TPR can look more like a gel and feels rubbery while TPE doesn’t discolor over time. 

Both types are inexpensive materials so a great way to try a new-to-you toy design before investing in a higher quality one.

  • Recommended lubricant: water-based lube is best for this material.
  • Pros: Contains no phthalates or latex. Soft against the body. Transfer vibration well.
  • Cons: Porous so maybe hard to clean. May have a smell due to the manufacturing process.

Try Butterfly Kiss Vibe or Double Trouble Enhancer Ring

Evolved Grand Slam thrusting vibrator


When they first became available, silicone toys were very pricey. Now they’re more common, and you can find a wide range for most budgets. Silicone is considered the highest quality material available for sex toys.

Silicone is smooth and silky against skin with a small bit of “squish” depending on the toy’s design. It’s heavier than ABS and TPE/TPR but not uncomfortably so. 

This material allows more flexibility in toys and it can be molded with different textures. Those with sensitive skin find this material more comfortable than TPE/TPR. Look for “medical-grade” silicone for highest quality.

  • Recommended lubricant: water-based lube is best for this material. Not all silicone toys are compatible with hybrid or 100% silicone lubricants. Check with manufacturers if you’re unsure
  • Pros: Hypoallergenic. Contains no phthalates or latex. Non-porous and easy to clean.
  • Cons: More expensive than ABS and TPE/TPR

Try Kama Sutra Chari Vibe or Evolved Grand Slam

Evolved Pen Pal Stainless Steel Vibe

Stainless steel

Yes, you read that right. Stainless steel is more commonly found in non-vibrating toys such as nipple clamps or anal plugs. Many users find them aesthetically pleasing. Metal absorbs body heat well and will warm up quickly when used. 

Stainless steel can feel weighty, which is a pro or con depending on what you like. It also transmits vibration extremely well.

  • Recommended lubricant: works well with all lubricants, including water-based, silicone, and oil-based (like coconut oil)
  • Pros: Hypoallergenic. Contains no phthalates or latex. Non-porous and easy to clean.
  • Cons: Pricey and rigid

Try Evolved Pen Pal Vibe

Glas Chili Pepper Dildo


Before you panic, glass toys are safe to use! Dildos are made of borosilicate glass which, like Pyrex, goes through an extreme heat process that makes it shatterproof. Obviously, if you drop it from a high place, it will break but in chunks.

When used with lube, glass toys feel very smooth and silky against the skin. It’s firm enough for those who want/need more pressure when stimulating the g-spot or perineum. Glass can also be great for temperature play. Place it in a bowl of cold or warm water before playing.

Some people collect glass toys because there are so many beautiful colors and designs available. They’re available in a wide price range so it’s great for beginners and collectors.

  • Recommended lubricant: works well with all lubricants, including water-based, silicone, and oil-based (like coconut oil)
  • Pros: Hypoallergenic. Contains no phthalates or latex. Non-porous and easy to clean.
  • Cons:  May be too rigid for some. Can chip or break if dropped (really hard)

Try Chili Pepper Glass Dildo or Mr. Swirly Textured Glass Dildo

Not recommended: Jelly or PVC

While these materials are still available on the market, they are not recommended. Yes, they can be very inexpensive, but if you’re on a budget stick with ABS or TPE/TPR.

Jelly or jelly rubber is made from PVC, a material that requires plasticizers to make it soft. Which means they contain phthalates. They are also hard clean as the material is porous.

While the price tag on toys made of jelly or PVC are tempting, this material has a very short lifespan and can “melt” into other toys if stored together.

Bottom line: avoid jelly toys!

Keep Experimenting

Now that you’ve learned about the most common sex toy materials, it’ll be easy to find your perfect sex toy. Remember, every body is different so the best way to know is by experimenting. 

Don’t forget, playing with yourself is fun! Enjoy the journey.

Looking for a sexy surprise each month? Check out our Bawdy Quickie Boxes.

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