What are vaginal dilators?
Vaginal dilators (also known as vaginal trainers) are tools to help restore or expand the pelvic floor muscles and vaginal tissues. They help women to begin or resume vaginal penetration, whether for sexual activity, use of tampons, or tolerance of a gynecological exam.
Dilators typically come in a set of progressively larger sizes so the stretching and desensitization can occur gently and gradually. They are typically made out of silicone rubber or plastic. There are many, many different types and brands of dilators out there and it can be hard to know which would be best for you, especially if you don’t live close to a pelvic floor physical therapist who can guide you in the right direction.
The best overall vaginal dilators (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:
- They are a fraction of the cost of silicone dilator sets because they are made from plastic
- 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 budget
- 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
The Milli warrants an honorable mention because it is the only expandable dilator that we are aware of. It is the priciest option of all the dilators we reviewed at $249.99, but the price may be worth it to someone who really likes the idea of a much more gradual size progression than traditional dilators.
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. Additionally, the particular plastic dilators (Dr. Berman Dilator Set) were chosen as opposed to other plastic dilators because they looked a lot less intimidating than other plastic dilators and they came with a handle, which is useful because the plastic tends to want to fall out more readily.
How we tested the vaginal dilators
I personally tried all 4 brands of 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 without any pelvic floor dysfunction currently and have never been pregnant nor delivered a baby. 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.
Our favorite dilators (part 1): Soul Source silicone dilators
Soul Source was created by a sex therapist and a gynecologist in the 90’s 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 or on Amazon. A full set costs $209.99 or you can also purchase individual dilators or smaller sets of 4 dilators for between $78.99-$139.99 depending on which sizes you choose.
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.
Our favorite (part 2): 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 $179.99 or you can also purchase smaller sets of 4 dailtors for between $79.99-$119.99 depending on which sizes you choose.
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 favorite for the budget-conscious: 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 $19.88.
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 handsfree? 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.
Our Honorable Mention: the Milli
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 $249.99.
How does it feel? The smallest size feels similar in diameter to Intimate Rose and Soul Source, however, it is much longer than the other brands’ smallest size and therefore looked more intimidating right off the bat. As the dilator expanded, it felt pretty comfortable until a certain point. The expandable cage on the inside of the dilator is shaped like more of a square than a cylinder (see photo below) and so at a certain diameter, one of the points of the square presses directly onto the urethra. This is not comfortable for me and requires me to rotate the dilator about a quarter turn until the more flat part of the dilator is facing my urethra. I am able to tolerate it at its largest size, however the dilator is tapered so only the bottom part of the dilator is the large 1.57 inch diameter and towards the top is markedly smaller.
Is it good for stretching? At its smallest size, it is very good for stretching since it is made from a rigid expandable cage covered in silicone.
Can I use it handsfree? Well, sort of. You need your hands to press the buttons to expand it, obviously. At the smaller sizes, the dilator was able to be propped up by a rolled up towel, but as the dilator got bigger, the more and more difficult it was. I also needed to use my hands to change the positioning of the dilator at a certain point to avoid directly pressing on my urethra.
Overall: It is a great idea to have an expandable dilator and would be great for someone who is really nervous about the jumps in dilator size. However, I did not particularly like the square nature of the expanding dilator, nor the noise it made as it was expanding.