Just Like the Real Thing

Joanne Cachapero
The plastic-fantastic plethora of devices designed for solo stimulation and/or mutual gratification are seeing a new trend toward the ultra-realistic. Consumer demand is growing for the look and feel of the real thing. Manufacturers are responding by bringing cutting-edge technology to the marketplace with flesh-like materials.

Mike Siegel, senior vice president and COO at industry giant Topco Sales, says it took more than three years of in-house research and development, in conjunction with American, Japanese and Malaysian engineers and laboratories, to come up with the formulation for Cyberskin, the company's patented ultra-realistic material.

"The consumer reaction is unbelievable," Siegel says. "As it grew in popularity, consumers started asking for it by name."

In fact, name recognition for the product is so prevalent that the term "cyberskin" is often used by retailers and consumers to refer to similar products by other manufacturers. But, explains Siegel, "even though products may be referred to as 'cyberskin,' Topco Sales' is the original."

Topco offers a variety of Cyberskin products including sex dolls, strokers, cock rings and straps, penis extenders, vibrators, oral sex enhancers and various body part simulations.

Cyber Cock dildos combine Cyberskin technology with a patented Dual Density process that creates a soft outside layer around a hardened inner core.

"Dual Density is a molding process that varies the density and thickness of the Cyberskin," describes Siegel. "So, in the right areas, the product may be extra soft or hard and rigid, which simulate real erectile tissue, bone or delicate areas of skin such as the vaginal lips. Not only does the skin feel real, the entire product feels like a real person."

Cyberskin is also utilized in the Virtual Sex Stroker Kit. The stroker has a USB plug for use with a PC and accompanying software. It allows the user to have interactive sex with a three-dimensional model programmed to respond to the user's motions.

Cyberskin and UR3 are both thermoplastic elastomers, or TPEs, a synthetic rubber that can be molded when it is heated. The material also has "memory," which allows it to be stretched and then return to its original shape.

Introduced to the automotive market in the 1960s, it replaced the use of vulcanized rubber in many automotive applications and is still used extensively (i.e. the gasket that seals your car door). Other products that contain TPEs include squeeze bottles, fiber optic cables, microwave cookware, cosmetics, garden equipment, and medical appliances.

A story in the August XBIZ Video stated that Cyberskin contains phthalates, but "Cyberskin does not contain PVC, phthalates, heavy metals, latex or plasticizers," Siegel says. "All of the ingredients are on FDA-approved lists."

A subsequent study released by Greenpeace determined that Topco CyberSkin product Cyber Pussy contains no phthalates.

"I think the direction is always going to be how close can we get something to real. How close will it operate to real? How close to real will it feel?" says Lavi Yedid, sales/product development manager for Doc Johnson.

An industry leader in anatomically correct design for nearly 30 years, Doc Johnson's exclusive patented UR3 (for "ultra-realistic") technology produces a soft, stretchable substance similar to several other artificial skin products on the market.

UR3 material resists fading and breakdown and has extreme elastic qualities that allow the material to be stretched and then return to its original shape.

Other Applications
A new product called the Tie U On cock ring, introduced at the Adult Novelty Expo held in Los Angeles in July, demonstrates an alternative application for UR3. Packaged as a 12-inch ropelike strip of the material, the Tie U On can be stretched to nearly six feet in length. Tied around various body parts, it has the advantage of quick release when the wearer wants to be unbound.

"The UR3 material is pure comfort," says Yedid. "It won't pinch your hair or skin. It's an extremely wonderful product."

Like Siegel, Yedid points out that consumers are growing increasingly aware of health issues.

"There's really a lot of concern out there," says Yedid.

Recently, Doc Johnson's classic line of rubber products was revamped with a new component called Silagel which, when added to various product materials, acts as an antibacterial agent.

Topco also produces a line of Cyber-silicone products that imitate the feel of Cyberskin and are also bacteria- resistant, non-porous and free of any cadmium or latex.

Though medical grade silicone is the gold standard for non-toxicity in rubber-like sex toys, material and production costs for silicone demand higher prices and, until recently, ultra-realistic simulations were difficult to produce in silicone- based products.

Vixen Creations, a boutique- style wholesaler/retailer based in San Francisco, launched its own line of trademarked Vixskin products a year ago.

"We're the 'Tiffany's of silicone,'" says Gina Dominguez, vice president at Vixen. "We'd been experimenting with different silicones for years and we never found exactly what we wanted. We were shocked when we actually felt Vixskin and we knew it was a winner, hands-down."

"We're handmade and 100 percent safe, and we actually have a 100 percent replacement guarantee. Nobody has that, especially for a sex toy," she adds, noting that for general maintenance, the entire product line can be boiled, put in the dishwasher or simply washed with soap and water.

Without giving exact percentages, Dominguez says an increase in sales reflects the enthusiastic reaction of the Vixen's consumer base.

"The Tex was the first one in the line, and it's actually our best seller overall," says Dominguez. It retails for $93.

Taking realism to an even higher level, Dominguez sculpts the prototypes for the products by-hand.

Manufactured only in light and dark flesh tones, the variance in size, shape and detail gives Vixskin dildos an almost prosthetic effect.