Sil-a-gel Seems to be Causing Chemical Burns. Dear Doc: STOP IT.

Today we're talking about Doc Johnson sil-a-gel sex toys, and why they're causing chemical burns on genitalsOn the days that I wonder if I’m still relevant, if I’ve done enough of worth1 to make this blog helpful, I have to remember situations like this email. My heart absolutely sunk as I read it. I was grateful that I wrote about Doc Johnson sil-a-gel additive and all of its problems so that this reader could get the truth on what could be happening to her, but I am so angry that this is happening. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING, DOC JOHNSON??? Why do you insist on trying to polish the turd that is heavily-softened PVC by boasting about some mysterious “anti-bacterial” chemical that you add to your porous materials? A chemical that is clearly NOT rainbows and puppies judging by the number of people who have told me that their Doc Johnson sil-a-gel containing sex toy caused rashes, redness, small blisters and extreme pain.

Because I am not a doctor, and some parts of this email concern me even more, I’m sharing this with you, dear readers, to see if anybody can chime in. I’m also sharing this story because I want to know how many complaints like this will it take for Doc Johnson to ditch the sil-a-gel?

Although I have been very sexually active from a very young age I have always had an aversion to sex toys and never tried them. An accidental pregnancy put my libido into extreme overdrive while at the same time isolating me from my husband due to stress and tension, so I emotionally braced myself and decided to join ranks with all of the other women I know by masturbating with a Doc Johnson double ended dildo I received at my roller derby team’s white elephant christmas party. 

I have been suffering from repeat bouts of what I first thought was a yeast infection or BV, because of extreme itching and burning on my inner labia, but I haven’t had any discharge or foul odors. It literally feels like a chemical burn and often causes my clitoris to swell and the skin to peel. 

My list of drug allergies is like a mile long, including benzocaine, lidocaine, and micronazole and I get contact dermatitis from most soaps and anything that contains fragrances so I have always been very careful about what I put on my skin. My midwife suggested that it must be an allergic reaction to my husband’s body soap, the pH of his semen, or just my sensitivity to the pH and hormonal changes caused by my pregnancy. The only thing that seems to “calm” it is an ice pack followed by a thick layer of vaseline. 

As weeks went by, I realized my husband was intentionally avoiding sex with me and I suspected he might be having an affair, so then I worried that all of it could be an STD. I accused/confronted him but all my tests came back normal and he explained that he too had experienced a rash on his penis after having sex with me and didn’t want to get it again. We tried condoms (non latex) but it happened again AND I have also been suffering from an irritable uterus which means I get pre-labor contractions that force me to lie down and relax, so he pretty much decided we should just abstain from intercourse while I’m pregnant.

So out of sexual frustration I began using that dildo even more regularly, but really I am tired of it and it doesn’t provide the intimacy that I am craving. Desperate to figure out how to end this vaginal irritation, it dawned on me that the combination of petroleum and the rubber dildo might be a problem since I know you aren’t supposed to use vaseline as a lube with condoms so I began researching it and stumbled across your piece about Doc Johnson Sil-a-Gel.

So now I feel like “Eureka!” that’s got to be the root of my problems, but what are the full consequences? Obviously I am ditching that dildo and being such an awful first experience I doubt I will ever try a different sex toy, but how long will it take for me to heal?  And more importantly are there any documents or studies concerning phthalate toxicity during pregnancy??? I know this is a super long email and that you are not a doctor, but I am pretty freaked out and would appreciate any guidance, information, or direction you can give me.

So let’s delve into a few things first. Dear reader, please don’t let Doc Johnson sil-a-gel ruin you for sex toys. There are thousands of true, body-safe sex toys out there that won’t cause reaction – silicone, aluminum, stainless steel, glass, wood, and hard plastic to start with. Because I can’t recommend a dildo without knowing much more information, I’m reserving that for future conversations with the reader. Secondly, I’m not a fan of Vaseline in the vagina or on the vulva, so let me suggest some organic, non-refined coconut oil to help protect and moisturize the irritated skin without affecting your pH – only if you know you aren’t allergic to that. A small percentage of people are.

For those willing to make educated guesses and suggestions here, I do want to note I’ve already discussed lube with the reader, and know that it isn’t the cause of her problems.

As I researched the Doc Johnson “Ask The Doc” archives for some more info on their sil-a-gel products, I briefly pondered submitting my question about why people are experiencing chemical burns from using a Doc Johnson sil-a-gel containing sex toy. But then I came across so many flippant AND WRONG answers from whomever is in charge of this page that I am just absolutely stunned. Completely gobsmacked. I can only assume that Doc Johnson is never going to admit that there’s a chance that something about sil-a-gel is caustic and stop using it in their sex toys. They repeatedly advise their customers that it’s safe to use oil/oil-based lubes on their PVC dildos. Um, no, no it’s not. How about we look at this jar, which began with one large chunk of PVC as part of the dry mix and quickly degraded from the oils put out by other sex toys in the jar? Then they tell their customers that it’s safe to put their dildos in the dishwasher. Subjected to heat. A: this won’t do any goddamn good for getting it “clean”, because it’s porous and 2: ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? I don’t believe for a minute that softened PVC will withstand the heat of a dishwasher.

Customer asks: Can I use silicone lube with silagel? Doc Rep answers: "Yo...So Sil-a-gel is an antibacterial compound that we add to our "Made in America" products. It is not a coating or a separate material. It is added into our material in the raw mixing phase so that the antibacterial agents are actually engrained into the product and will not wash away with use. Although you should always wash your products with mild soap and water, Sil-a-Gel is our way of going the extra mile to make sure that your products are as safe and clean as they can be"

Customer asks: Does platinum silicone have platinum in it and is it 100% silicone". Doc Rep answers: "Just silicone....the Platinum is like... when you get a Platinum credit card it's not platinum. At least mine isn't"

*facepalm* Yes, actually, there are trace amounts of platinum left behind and they can be detected in lab tests. It’s called platinum silicone because platinum, the mineral, is used as a curing agent. Not because it’s like a “platinum credit card”. For fucks sake, really?

Customer asks: What grade is your platinum silicone toys (ex: food or medical grade)? Doc Rep says: "that would be health grade"

Um….can you show me what “health grade” is, by definition? Can you tell me it’s even a thing? Because I can’t find that.

Customer asks if coconut oil is safe on PVC, Doc Rep says "we don't test coconut oil on our items. But as far as I know PVC is a very hardy material and if you wash right after use it should be fine"

So here we have one of many answers that the person/people behind this section of the website should really just answer with a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE:

Customer notices that they see answers here saying that PVC can be used with "any lube we like" which they assume to also include oil-based lubes, but every other website says that PVC degrades from oil (which, it does). They ask what lube they SHOULD use. Doc rep says "R5 (PVC) can be used with water based, silicone, or hybrid lubes".

Here they kinda get vague, by not really answering the question directly. And yes, every other website DOES say PVC degrades from oil, because it’s true. So while they won’t outright admit they’re giving wrong info, they vaguely say that it can be used with “water based, silicone or hybrid lubes” and they don’t say “Hey sure! It should be fine with oil!” like they do in all these other answers. “Should” be! SMH.

Customer asking if oil-based lubes can be used with Doc Johnson products, particularly the crystal jellies. Doc rep says: "Our UR3 pleasure items can only be used with water based lubes. All of our items made of PVC can be used with just about any lube you want". Way to dodge the actual question!

Customer asks: "will oil based lube degrade phthalate-free PVC toys? I'm not talking about if it's safe for humans, but only if it negatively affects the toy itself (resistance, durability). The Doc Rep answers with a mere: "Should be just fine". SHOULD BE.

Oh and yeah. Dishwasher safe. They never tell you to turn off the heat drying. I’ve always been under the assumption that heat is bad for these unstable materials. Given that the rep(s) don’t even acknowledge that oil is bad for their non-silicone materials, I don’t trust these recommendations, either, and neither should anyone else.

Customer asks: Is the crystal jellies classic dongs dishwasher safe? and Doc Rep says: "Oh yes. you can put them in the dishwasher but use the top rack".

customer asks: How do I clean / disinfect a Softee dont? (PVC) and Doc rep says: " warm water and liquid soap work great. You can even try the top rack of you dishwasher" (typo theirs) (and yes, they say "try" without giving any qualifiers on avoiding heat)

You know, I really liked the Truskyn line. I’ve assured others that Doc Johnson silicone IS silicone. I’ve said that while I don’t love their immense offerings of porous sex toys and I fucking hate their sil-a-gel bullshit, that they weren’t as bad as some of the other big companies. I don’t know, now. I just don’t know. Their responses when someone questions them are really fucking lovely: 

customer says: hello. I've been reading a lot about PVC and the safety factor of its use in sex toys. Since you supposedly do not use phthalates in the Titan men rumpy butt plug may I ask which plasticizer is used? and Doc rep replies: "All of our material that we use has been deteremind to be body safe. Oh....and we do not give out proprietary information. And...I have learned not to believe everything I read online"

Customer asks: Why do the silagel products always smell extremely abhorrent? Doc Rep repeats the same explanation about sil-a-gel as above, but says first "So...sil-a-gel isn't a material and doesn't smell" LIE!

“Sil-a-gel isn’t a material and doesn’t smell”



Please, don’t buy sil-a-gel-added products. Just don’t do it. This may mean you have to avoid Doc Johnson as a brand if you do not want to spend the money on silicone sex toys.

  1. and yes, after 8 years I still have those days

12 Responses

  1. FieryRed says:

    OH DEAR GOD. I cannot believe they’re paying some idiot to not only lie and obfuscate to their customers, but also to actively make them look bad via blatant ignorance on very basic sex-toy questions.

    Thank you for another awesome post. I’m certainly adding them to MY blacklist.

  2. Sara Testarossa says:

    My first thought was “they hired an idiot who can parrot but not directly answer questions”. I really hope some of those answers aren’t the official company stance though. Need to check the pamphlets to see (we got a bunch of “educational” pamphlets from them recently at my store). This is so fucked up.

    Also, the truskyn (at least the one dildo we started carrying) comes with a renewing powder. WHY? Silicone shouldn’t need that. My boss intends to ask a rep at an upcoming trade show. (Will check your post to see if you mentioned it but I forgot)

  3. antne says:

    EVERY Doc Johnson that was in the “collection” went out with last week’s trash, never buying any Doc Johnson product again.

  4. Shellie Martin says:

    Hi Lilly!

    I would happily send your poster a Crystal Delights dildo that is absolutely body safe, and pretty as well! Just let me know how we can make it happen!

  5. AceDenise says:

    I bought a plastic g-spot vibe from DJ’s Mood line last year, it was the type with the twist dial and a bulb on the end. I was wanting to try that style to see if I could recommend it as a cheap but decent toy. And it was teal. The weird thing was, when I opened it I saw and felt traces of a white, powdery residue in the box and on the toy, and the instructions said something about periodically dusting the toy with cornstarch?!!? This was an ABS plastic toy, maybe with some type of rubber-cote but it was still HARD PLASTIC. Why in the hell would a plastic toy ever need to be powdered? It was decently strong and i had no reactions the couple of times I used it, but I give even the “ABS plastic” Doc Johnson toys a hard side-eye after that.

  6. Ari Heino says:

    Hello. Thank you for this article. I found it while searching for care instructions for the said sil-a-gel. Have you been directly in contact with Doc Johnson? They’re a multinational corporation and I believe it would be foolish of them to leave any health risks uninvestigated. Allso I believe your comparison between swiss cheese and condoms is inaccurate. The crudest and cheapest and the most porous condom material is natural latex. Helium can be stored inside latex balloons for days. Phthalate molecules are magnitudes larger than Helium. The condom would have to itself be saturated with these nonpolar poisons before any substantial “leaking” to users body could occur.

  7. FieryRed says:

    Since the U.S. has no regulations on sex toy materials, DJ does not seem to care whether their materials harm their customers or not. As seen in their Q&A above, they clearly don’t care whether they’re giving accurate or even consistent info to their customers. As for latex condoms, oil degrades them and toys containing phthalates leach oils, which will indeed break down that condom in a way helium would not.

  8. FieryRed says:

    You know, I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner, but just the fact of putting an antibacterial agent in a sex toy can cause harm by killing some of the “good” bacteria that is supposed to be living on the vulva/in the vagina, and causing an imbalance in the microflora resulting in either a yeast infection or BV.

    I mean, there’s a reason we don’t use antibacterial soap on our genitals.

  9. Drakue says:

    I won’t trust Doc Jonson anymore. My first toy was theirs, and it was a clear-ish jelly toy… needless to say, unpleasantness ensued. I’m so glad I know more about sex toys now, because holy SHIT this company will sell anything for a profit.

  10. Ari Heino says:

    We did the experiment. Rolled the condom on right before use, after about 30min of quite intense use, no unusual irritation could be detected. Disposed of the condom right after use. Waited 24 hours. No skin problems to be found. Clearly if left on indefinitely, the rubber would have become saturated with the softening agent (phlatate) and shattered.

  11. FieryRed says:

    That is not a scientific experiment – that is an anecdote. Please google “the scientific method.”

  12. AceDenise says:

    Just because you did it once and were fine, does not mean you can generalize about everyone else’s experience. It doesn’t even mean you won’t have a bad experience in the future. It makes me wonder if you actually work for DJ.