What is TPE?

I feel as though this post is a service to myself almost as much as it may be a service to the reader. I attempt to make a point of mentioning the risks with each review for a toy that is made out of TPE. However, there is no need to repeat the same thing over and over when you can just state it boldly.

Thermoplastic Elastomer, or TPE, is a substance made by mixing plastic and rubber to create a soft, moldable material. TPE is fantastic for it’s ability to be stretched before returning back to it’s original form.

Now, there is a lot of controversy over the question as to whether or not TPE is body safe. TPE, as a substance, is not harmful to the human body by contact. In fact, TPE is often used as a soft material in medical catheters. However, TPE is also a very porous material. This means that at a microscopic level the material surface is covered in many little holes, or pores, that bacteria and other microbes can hide and grow in. Even if you do apply a cleaning agent to the product, the bacteria and other microbes can continue to hide and reproduce.

Typically, when you see a TPE product, you will also see a label that says Phthalate-Free. What exactly is a phthalate though? Phthalates are chemical additives that have been used in the past to increase transparency, durability, flexibility and the overall feel of a product. Phthalates are known to be toxic to the human body and you should never use a product that doesn’t express being phthalate-free. You should also never use a product from a non-reputable company. Be wary of ordering products from overseas as the country of origin may not have the same oversight as some companies in more established nations. It is also suspected that there is a chance for phthalates to move through condoms. It is always in your best interest to take the steps and precautions to avoid any product that may have phthalates. That being said, one of the reasons you will find TPE based products is because they do not require phthalates to create soft textures that are flexible and durable. This has been the main driving force for the surge in TPE popularity making it one of the go-to materials for creating sex toys.

Why are TPE toys prevalent if they are porous and hazardous? There is a lack of regulation and oversight in the adult market. Adult companies do not manufacture and package in clean environments. Open a new toy and you’ll notice that the packaging is not sterile, it is not air-tight.

So, if they are dangerous, why do you use them? How dangerous are they? Lets divide adult toys into two categories, the products that you penetrate and the products that penetrate you or your partner. It is often assumed that a new adult product will present with some form of microbial life as it is brand new and right out of the package. The male penis is covered and protected with skin and can withstand a small amount of microbial presence. However, the mucous membranes of the vagina, anus or mouth are a lot less protected and could fall prey to even the small amount that comes with a new toy. So, the general idea is that, for those who penetrate, you’re good to use a new toy out of the box. However, for those who are penetrated by a product, it’s best to just purchase silicone products. Silicone is not porous and is also easily cleaned thoroughly. To be perfectly clear, DO NOT use a TPE dildo, vibrator or butt plug.

Many receptive TPE products come with refreshing powder, care instructions and cleaning substances. The idea is that with proper care, the product may be reusable. I stress to you that the pores offer a fantastic hiding place for microbes such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. For receptive products, it is always best to use them once. It’s also advisable to use a condom with the product. Remember, I am not a physician and it is ALWAYS a good idea to do your own research before utilizing a sex toy. It is your own body, it is your own risk.

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