The Best Vaginal Dilators According to an Expert Pelvic Floor PT
Vaginal dilators, aka vaginal trainers, are tools to help restore or expand the pelvic floor muscles and vaginal tissues. Dilators typically come in a set of progressively larger sizes, so that stretching and desensitization can occur gently and gradually.
Vaginal dilators are made out of silicone rubber or plastic and there are many, many different types and brands out there. It can be hard to know which is best for you, especially if you're not working through vaginal dilator therapy with a pelvic floor physical therapist who can guide you in the right direction.
Having a caring PT in your corner can make a world of difference if you're managing vaginismus, so don't hesitate to reach out to us, even if it's just to ask questions. We're here for you! If you're not ready to book a visit, you can schedule a free intro call.
What are vaginal dilators used for?
Vaginal dilators are used to treat many conditions that cause pain with penetration. The pain experienced can range from chronic pain that occurs when anything of any size is inserted into the vagina or it may only be experienced occasionally. Dilators help by slowly and incrementally stretching vaginal tissue. This helps those who are struggling learn how to relax the vaginal tissue and also helps the tissue to become more flexible over time.
While vaginal pain with penetration can be caused by a plethora of factors including menopause, chest/breastfeeding, ovary removal surgery, and chemotherapy, a very common cause is vaginismus.
Vaginismus occurs when vaginal penetration triggers involuntary spasms or contractions of the vaginal muscles. This vaginal "clenching" can cause discomfort and pain that makes intercourse — or even inserting something as small as a single finger or a tampon — uncomfortable or even impossible.
They are key for treating vaginismus and can help you begin or resume vaginal penetration, whether for sexual activity, use of tampons, or tolerance of a gynecological exam. (Not sure how to use a dilator? Get detailed instructions here.)
When incorporated into vaginismus treatment, vaginal dilators are often incredibly effective. Dilators are key tools to help you begin (or resume) vaginal penetration without discomfort, whether for sexual activity, use of tampons, or tolerance of a gynecological exam. (Not sure how to use a dilator? Get detailed instructions here.)
The best overall vaginal dilators for vaginal dilator therapy (it’s a tie!)
Why we love both brands:
- Full sets of 8 progressive dilators
- Offers the ability to order smaller sets of 4 dilators or individual dilators
- Are not rigid because they are made from silicone
- Have been promoted by the APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) and pelvic floor educators for years
- Come in nice pastel colors so they don’t seem too medical or intimidating
These dilators are great for women who have:
- Dyspareunia (due to menopause, scar tissue or pain from vaginal delivery, or other reasons)
- Interstitial Cystitis (IC)
The best vaginal dilators on a budget
Our favorite vaginal dilator set on a budget is CalExotics Dr. Berman Dilator Set.
About these dilators:
- At $25, they are a fraction of the cost of silicone dilator sets.
- This set comes with only 4 sizes. The smallest size is significantly larger than the smallest sizes of the above silicone dilator sets and the jumps in sizes are larger as well.
- Comes with a handle that the dilators attach to which, in addition to the hard plastic, makes it easy to use for extra stretching.
These dilators are great for women who:
- Are on a very tight budget
- Aren't sure if dilators will work, so don't want to make a big investment
- Are planning on using their dilators to do additional stretching
These dilators are not great for women who:
- Cannot tolerate insertion of a tampon or finger vaginally since the smallest size will already be too large
How we picked these vaginal dilators
All of these dilators were chosen for this review because they were either created or endorsed by professionals in the women’s health field or are a fan favorite of our team of expert physical therapists here at Origin. Additionally, the Dr. Berman Dilator Set was chosen because they look a lot less intimidating than other plastic dilators, come with a handle (which is useful because the plastic tends to want to fall out more readily), and offer a very low price point.
How we tested the vaginal dilators
I personally tried all the dilators on myself to determine how they felt when inserted vaginally, if they were good for stretching, if they could be used handsfree, and overall performance. I used the same water-based lube for all 4 to keep it consistent. I tested the smallest size and the largest size I could personally handle of each set of dilators.
Disclaimer: I am a woman who does not currently have pelvic floor dysfunction. So it goes without saying that my experience with these dilators will certainly be different than someone who has pelvic pain. However, as a women’s health physical therapist, I tried my hardest to use my experience to describe objectively what I felt in order to help you decide which dilator set is right for you.
About OUR FAVES: Soul Source silicone dilators
Soul Source was created by a sex therapist and a gynecologist in the 90s and is a local LA company, manufacturing their dilators in the United States. Their silicone dilators come in 8 sizes ranging from their smallest (2.5 inches long x 0.5 inch diameter) to their largest size (6 inches long x 1 ⅝ inch diameter). These dilators have been promoted in the pelvic floor coursework we take as women’s health physical therapists and we have been recommending them to our patients for years.
You can purchase Soul Source dilators on their website. A full set costs $209.99 or you can also purchase individual dilators for between $17.99 and $54.99 each, or smaller sets of 4 dilators for between $78.99 and $139.99, depending on which sizes you choose.
Putting our favorite dilators to the test:
How does it feel? The silicone is nice and bendy, but feels rubbery to the touch. Inserted vaginally, the dilators feel friendly, even at the larger size.
Is it good for stretching? Neither the small nor large dilator was particularly good for extra stretching because of how bendy they are, but were great for overall expanding and desensitizing the tissues and muscles.
Can I use it handsfree? The dilators stayed in pretty well when propped up by a rolled up towel placed at the vaginal opening.
Overall: Great range in sizes, friendly color scheme, bendy, but could be a little rubbery or sticky if you don’t get enough lube on them.
About OUR FAVES: Intimate Rose silicone dilators
Intimate Rose was created by a physical therapist after she sustained an injury to her coccyx and required pelvic floor physical therapy herself. Their set of dilators is similar to those of Soul Source because they are also made of silicone and have 8 sizes. Their smallest size is 2.8 inches long x 0.45 inch diameter and their largest size is 6.5 inches long x 1.5 inch diameter. These dilators are promoted by the APTA and we recommend not only their dilators to patients, but also their vaginal weights.
Intimate Rose dilators can be purchased on their website or on Amazon. A full set costs $189.99 on their site. You can also purchase individual dilators for between $16.99 and $44.99, or smaller sets of 4 dilators for between $89.99 and $129.99 depending on which sizes you choose.
Putting our favorite dilators to the test:
How does it feel? Intimate Rose’s silicone is very soft to the touch, almost velvety. Inserted vaginally, the dilators felt similar to Soul Source in that they felt friendly, even at the larger size.
Is it good for stretching? Again, similar to Soul Source, these dilators are not great for extra stretching of the tissues because of how bendy they are.
Can I use it handsfree? These dilators stayed in place well with a rolled up towel placed at the vaginal opening.
Overall: Great range in sizes, smooth, velvety silicone, bendy, and another nice color scheme that doesn’t feel too medical.
Our Budget Fave: CalExotics Dr. Berman Dilator Set
These dilators were created by Dr. Laura Berman, a sex and relationship expert and host of several radio and TV shows. These dilators are the only ones on our list that are made of plastic because most plastic dilators on the market appear very medical and even scary-looking. These dilators come with 4 different sizes with the smallest size starting at 0.88 inch diameter and going up to 1.5 inches in diameter. The different sizes are interlocking plastic dilator sleeves that attach to the handle.
You can buy these dilators on Amazon for $25.
Putting our favorite budget dilators to the test:
How does it feel? These dilators are made of hard plastic and so feel that way when inserted vaginally. The smallest size is larger than the smaller sizes of the prior two dilator sets, so that should be taken into account.
Is it good for stretching? These hard plastic dilators are very good for extra stretching since they do not bend. Having the handle also helps.
Can I use it hands-free? Because of the handle, it is more challenging to use a rolled up towel to hold the dilator in place. It required repositioning a few times and in the end, I just decided to hold it by the handle.
Overall: These dilators start on the larger side, so they shouldn’t be used by someone who needs to start smaller. They are hard plastic, so anyone averse to the idea of inserting that vaginally should take that into account. However, they are significantly less expensive than the silicone dilators and still work in the same way to stretch and desensitize the tissues. And, they are the best for doing extra stretching to the tissues. So, for someone who needs a cheaper alternative, these are perfect.
A Few Honorable Mentions
The Mili Expandable Dilator
The Milli was created by a group of experts in the field including a pelvic floor physical therapist, two PhDs, and two MDs. It is the only expandable vaginal dilator on the market that we are aware of. As opposed to the set of progressively larger dilators, the Milli expands 1 millimeter at a time for ultimate user control and comfort. The smallest size is 0.59 inches in diameter and it can expand to 1.57 inches in diameter.
The Milli can be purchased on their website for $395, making it the priciest option of all the dilators we reviewed, but the cost may be worth it to someone who really likes the idea of a much more gradual size progression than traditional dilators.
Why the Mili deserves an honorable mention:
- Digital display and simple buttons
- Rigid, expandable cage under the silicone makes it good for stretching
- It expands in tiny increments
- Easier to store compared to a set with multiple dilators
Things to consider:
- The shape of the dilator becomes square as it gets larger which can be uncomfortable
- Dilator tapers at the top at the larger sizes
- Makes a lot of noise as it expands
Hope & Her Vaginal Insert Set
Hope & Her plastic vaginal dilators are similar to the Dr. Berman dilators as they are affordable, made of plastic, and come with a handle, but this set includes more size options. If you're looking to spend as little as possible while still starting with a very small dilator and progressing slowly, this could be a great option for you.
You can buy the set of 6 on their website for $48.
Why the Hope & Her set deserves an honorable mention:
- The smallest size is just a bit smaller than a tampon
- There are 6 dilator attachments that gradually increase in size
- Easy to clean and can be used with all types of lube (even silicone)
- The handle helps make the dilator a bit more accessible and easy to use
Things to consider:
- Plastic dilators feels stiffer on insertion compared to silicone dilators
Vuva Smooth Dilator Set
Vuva's set of 7 vaginal dilators is another affordable option. These are made of a smooth plastic and very similar to the Hope&Her dilators, but include two additional sizes, making them one of the most size-inclusive sets on the market.
You can buy them on Vuva's website for $68.
Why the Vuva set deserves an honorable mention:
- Offers the smallest dilator diameter option available
- The largest is equal to the largest Soul Source dilator
- Can be used with water-based or silicone-based lube
Things to consider:
- Because they don't have a handle, they can be a little more difficult to insert and hold
- Jump between some sizes is bigger compared to silicone dilator sets
We sent some of the most common questions we get about vaginal dilators over to Jane Silverstein, President of SoulSource, the top U.S. manufacturer vaginal dilators in the U.S. Check out her responses below.
What makes a dilator different from a dildo?
Dilators are tools that can be used to evaluate and treat conditions like vaginismus. While you could use them for pleasure, they are specially designed for therapeutic use. And, unlike some dildos, they are not made to resemble a penis.
How do vaginal dilators help with painful sex?
Vaginismus is a condition that causes involuntary muscle spasms in the pelvic floor muscles which make vaginal penetration impossible or extremely painful. You can think of it as a cycle of pain-fear-muscle spasm. Vaginal dilators are a very effective tool to reframe this mind-body connection by erasing this muscle memory.
By starting with a small dilator and then gradually increasing to larger and larger sizes, until you match the size of your partner, you can retrain your pelvic floor muscles to relax when there is something inside without the pain cycle being triggered.
When you can accommodate a penis-sized dilator without pain or muscle spasm, you should be good to go with your partner.
Do you need a pelvic floor PT or can you DIY with dilators?
Because vaginismus is a complex condition, it's is typically best diagnosed by a doctor. Your doctor can than refer you to a physical therapist with a specialty in the pelvic floor. A PT can be a great resource to help you get to the other side of this very treatable condition. You may also want to work with a mental health therapist and/or a sexual health or relationship counselor to address the emotional and relationship aspects of vaginismus.
Can you just use your fingers instead of a dilator?
Many women ask if they can use their fingers instead of dilators- yes, you can definitely start this way, however the dilators will get you to the depth and girth you will need to be pain-free during intercourse.
Do you need lubricant when using a vaginal dilator?
Yes, a good quality lubricant is an important component of dilator therapy. Make sure to use a water-based lubricant on your dilator and on your vulva to help with insertion.
How do I know if I should use a silicone or hard plastic dilator?
It depends on your specific circumstances. For most individuals with vaginal anatomy who are experiencing sexual pain with intercourse, silicone dilators are the most appropriate. That's because they are flexible while still being firm, and the silicone resembles body tissue.
That said, there are situations that call for a more rigid dilator, and that can best be assessed by a pelvic floor PT. Rigid dilators are used by radiation oncologists to break up adhesions or scar tissue after radiation therapy, and are also used by PTs for trigger point release.
How long does it take for dilator therapy to help ease the symptoms of vaginismus?
Dilator therapy is usually a very gradual process. It may take several weeks or even several months to see significant improvement. It's important to always follow the instructions of your health care provider. Be patient — enjoyable sex is on the horizon!
Still have questions about vaginal dilators?
We know it's a lot of information to wade through and can be a bit overwhelming. If you have other questions that need answering, are looking for more tips, or think you could benefit from chatting with a PT about what you're experiencing we're here for you! You can book a visit with an Origin physical therapist (in-person or virtually) or schedule a free intro call.