SILICONE ALLERGY: Is that a thing? | Metis Black

Recently I’ve been hearing claims of “silicone allergies” from sex toy consumers. Wondering if the industry as a whole is seeing this as well, I reached out to a silicone expert.

The expert I reached out to is a PhD in Toxicology as well as being a DABT, a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology. Part of their job is biocompatibility testing and working with the FDA on 510K (medical device) submissions.

Personally, I’ve only met one person with a silicone “allergy” which was really a heightened immune response. She’d undergone a medical procedure for a silicone implant (not breast) and her auto immune system saw the implant as a foreign invader and had become extremely sensitive to silicone. Now I’m hearing stories from consumers who get rashes and irritations from being in contact with silicone (ie using silicone dildos).

When I asked about allergies to silicone, I also added:

Because of my industry, where labeling is sometimes misleading, I don’t know if these reactions are to other materials, mislabeled as silicone; to other materials believed to be silicone; to lesser grades of silicone; or exposure such as happened with latex.

The expert replied:

The basic platinum-catalyzed silicone rubbers – RTVs, LSRs, and HCRs – have not shown any allergenicity when we’ve tested them and I am unaware of any reports of allergic responses to these materials from customers, workers, or consumers.  Similarly, I have not seen any reports of allergic responses to polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) fluids.

From time to time I have heard (or read) of people claiming “allergic” rashes from lingerie coated with silicone textile treatments to enhance gripping (like the textile coatings on the tops of thigh-high stockings to keep them in place).  Rather than allergic responses, these have been irritation rashes, resulting from heat and moisture under the silicone band.  Irritation responses are different from allergic responses.

It is possible that there could be additives in some silicones that might trigger an allergic reaction. Similarly, some functionalized silicones or silanes might also have allergenic potential but I could not name any silicone substances or products used in medical devices, cosmetics, or consumer applications that have been identified as allergens under conditions of use.  Biological reactions and effects from deliberate mis-use of products, of course, could be a whole different story – and these stories show up in the news with sad and alarming regularity.

They also added,

I have become aware that some of the newer biocompatibility tests for sensitization (allergenicity), conducted as a part of no- or reduced-animal testing program, may not be suitable methods for testing the sensitization potential of silicone-based products.  Some of these tests give false positive results demonstrated when the test results are compared against results from standard Guinea pig or human patch testing results.

Conclusion:  I’m not sure what is causing skin reactions, but it doesn't seem to be silicone.


© Tantus, Inc. 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Metis Black is a Pleasure Revolutionary: the Founder and President of Tantus, Inc. The realization of her sex toy manufacturing company in 1997 helped to change the profile of sexuality products by mainstreaming silicone products and educating the industry on material safety and sexuality.

Metis' success has brought her accolades inside and outside of her industry. Her articles on material safety standards in sexual products and the chemistry of personal products such as lubricants have been widely published. Some of her publishing credits include American Journal of Sexuality Education, Good Vibrations Online Magazine, On Our Backs, Adult Novelty Business, XBiz, and The Free Speech Coalition. In 2015, she was also elected onto the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance's Board of Directors.

Over the last decade and a half, Metis has proven to be a champion for sex educators and a mentor to other small business owners. 



  • Brenterent

    It does seem like silicone allergy claims are unsubstantiated and even self-diagnosed.

    Just out of curiosity, though I have no doubts about the legitimacy of this article, why is the name of the expert not listed? Did they prefer to stay anonymous? Sometimes I’m just a bit of a stickler for details. :)

  • Dani

    My friend is a double amputee. To keep the legs in place, this friend uses silicone medical grade sleeves -grasping the thigh then adding a cotton “sock” and has experienced issues. It could be as the article stated agitation from walking, the skin releasing sweat, but whatever it is -it’s gnarly.

    The friend calls it an allergy to the silicone, but there’s no real alternative for the sleeves. Perhaps there is a minute portion of the population that is allergic to silicone while the majority of complaints are documenting agitation from an unknown factor.

    I could ask the friend what materials this silicone is made of?

  • Strophoria

    I wonder if it could be some kind of mould-release agent or packaging residue that people are reacting to, if not the actual silicone…

  • Linda Randall

    About a decade ago when silicone was becoming popular in the higher end toy manufacturing, some less scrupulous manufacturers were labelling their products as silicone even though they were not, or were blends with some silicone content. I had some bad skin reactions to these toys. It took a few years to educate the market place before sellers and consumers learned how to purchase pure silicone. Also labelling has gotten so much better over the years. I’m surprised to still hear of issues with ‘silicone’. I wish labelling laws would take care of these problems.

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