Many of us limit the number of potentially hazardous products in our lives, but our vaginas don’t always get the same consideration.
Women today have an estimated 450 periods during their lifetimes. As the average period lasts four days, females can count on approximately 1800 days of bleeding throughout their lives. That’s a lot of menstruation, and potentially a lot of menstrual products.
Tampons and sanitary napkins are big business, an industry that amounts to close to $6 billion in the United States and $35 billion worldwide. As women are handing their money over to organizations selling pads and tampons, one would hope that they would disclose their ingredients. However, unlike food and cosmetics, tampons and menstrual pads are not required to list their ingredients.
Instead, tampon companies often include suggested ingredients, stating that their product “may” contain rayon. Why, might you ask, are feminine health products held to a different standard than other items found in the shampoo aisle?
According to the NY Times, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates menstrual hygiene products as medical devices, a category that also includes dental floss and condoms. While the FDA recommends that manufacturers provide general information on the label about the material composition of the product, they do not require individual ingredients to be revealed. In other words, the “recipe” for a tampon or pad is considered proprietary.
Women’s Voices For the Earth, a nonprofit organization aimed at eliminating toxic chemical exposure says that many of today’s feminine products contain a number of harsh chemicals that may cause cancer, disrupt hormones, or cause unnecessary allergic reactions. While the toxins in tampons and pads may be small, continued exposure to the ingredients found in these products could have detrimental long-term health effects.
Related: Synchronization of Periods a Myth
Women are becoming increasingly aware of the products that they put on their skin, without realizing that the vagina contains some of the most absorbent tissue in the body. As a mucous membrane, the vagina wall is highly permeable, easily absorbing toxic chemicals such as pesticides, GMOs, and bleach.
So, what’s a woman to do?
Here are five menstrual care product alternatives for the health-conscious woman.
1. Organic Tampons and Pads
There are a handful of companies that offer organic feminine hygiene products, including tampons. One of our favorites is Lola. Lola is all about transparency, providing a list of the toxic-free ingredients in their products right on the box. Their tampons and pads are 100% organic cotton. What’s even more appealing about Lola is that they offer home-delivered subscriptions directly to your mailbox! Women can choose how many products they need for a monthly cycle and schedule their arrival.
2. Menstrual Cups
If the thought of a menstrual cup scares you, it may be time to reconsider. In addition to being incredibly cost-effective, menstrual cups produce zero waste. What’s more, menstrual cups hold three times more blood than a super absorbent tampon. One of our favorites is Ruby Cup. Made from 100% soft, medical grade silicone, Ruby Cup can be worn for up to 12 hours. The best part about buying a Ruby Cup? For every purchase, the company will donate a cup to a girl in need in countries such as East Africa, Ghana, or Nepal.
3. Reusable Cloth Pads
For a busy woman on the go, reusable cloth menstrual pads sound exhausting. However, when you consider the cost and environmental impact that go along with purchasing disposable pads, reusable pads don’t seem so bad. Disposable pads typically use plastic that blocks airflow to the vagina, increasing the risk of rashes and odor. What’s worse is that disposable pads are made to be very absorbent, including absorbing the moisture in your vagina. There are many great options on the market, including Luna Pads.
4. Period Proof Underwear
Remember those high-school days when you were always paranoid that blood would leak through and show on your pants? Period-proof underwear would have been the perfect solution. Relatively new to the market, period panties have grabbed the attention of women everywhere. Perhaps the most well-known period-proof underwear are THINX. These antimicrobial, moisture-wicking, leak-resistant, and absorbent underwear can be worn in conjunction with your current menstrual routine, or in place of panty liners on lighter flow days.
5. Menstrual sea sponges
Menstrual sponges are precisely what they sound like, sponges that are inserted into the vagina to absorb blood. Sea sponges are plant-like organisms that grow in the ocean. When harvested, they have the ability to grow back, making them renewable. They come in various shapes and sizes, and, like snowflakes, no two are ever alike. Coated with natural enzymes from the sea, the sponges discourage bacteria growth. While there are many sea sponges on the market, we love that Poseidon Sponges come equipped with a string, helping to avoid removal difficulties.