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. 



  • Rachel

    So as long as we refuse to acknowledge that it might be possible to have a silicon allergy-as long as researchers and doctors claim it isn’t possible- the only way to diagnose a silicon allergy would be to self diagnose it— right? I can tell you I have an allergy to foam. Doctors don’t acknowledge that it’s possible until I explain that foam contains formaldehyde and flame retardants and loads of other chemicals. Instead of telling people with horrible asthma and contact dermatitis that they are imagining it that it is all in their heads- it would be neat if researchers and doctors behaved like the scientists they purportedly are- were intellectually curious and ran some studies. Run some studies before you tell people who are already suffering that they are making it up, or can’t read labels, or are conflating their issues with being sweaty or having a waste band rub. We are all familiar with being sweaty and getting a friction rash- this is not the same thing. Although it may be inconvenient to acknowledge that the new wonder chemical is just a bit toxic- it would also be helpful if we acknowledged the possibility. Let’s try to be scientific about science instead of being close minded, pedantic know it alls

  • Jarden

    I get a rash from silicone bracelets and fitbits. My ears get irritated and painful from silicone-tipped earbuds. I used a medical grade silicon menstrual cup for two years because I thought it would help my gynecological problems; it didn’t – I developed unbearable pain down there then put two and two together; when I stopped using silicone, my “chronic” problems disappeared over night. When I stopped using silicone-based lubricant and pre-lubricated condoms, sex stopped hurting. You can argue all day long whether I have a “real” allergy but I got my life and my body back when I got rid of all the silicone.

  • 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…

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