These days, there’s no health topic off limits. Once considered taboo, the chatter about tampons and other feminine hygiene products grows louder. Maybe it’s the clean beauty revolution, women finally feeling empowered to ask important questions about their bodies, or a demand for healthier options. Regardless of the reason, it’s an important conversation that’s long overdue.
Tampon manufacturers are not required by law to disclose an ingredient list. Why? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies tampons as “medical devices.” Instead, the tampon box contains a “suggested” list, which states the product “may” contain X, Y, or Z ingredients. This poses a problem for menstruating women who want to know what is going into their bodies (literally!).
What is in Tampons?
Not to scare you, but those little cotton lifesavers come with a whole host of ingredients that have no business being in your body. Each brand varies in concentration, with slightly different compositions. Think about how many tampons you use in your lifetime. Quick math: the average is about 11,000! That’s a lot of toxin exposure that’s now avoidable. We rounded up a list of the most common ingredients found in non-natural tampons.
|Non-organic cotton||Sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, increasing risk of residue in tampons.|
|Chlorine||Used for the bleaching process to make the cotton visually appealing and white.|
|Dioxin||A result of the chlorine process. A toxin classified in the “dirty dozen” of dangerous chemicals. Long-term exposure is linked to impairment of the immune system, the nervous system, the endocrine (hormones) system, and reproductive function (1).|
|Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)||VOCs are gases emitted from certain solids or liquids. Examples found in tampons include carbon disulfide (a reproductive toxin), methylene chloride (a carcinogen), heptane (a neurotoxin), and more (2)!|
|Rayon||Produced from sawdust and used to increase absorbency. This is the ingredient speculated to increase the risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome (3).|
|Fragrance||Used as an umbrella term for multiple ingredients. Similar to beauty products, manufacturers do not need to list what ingredients make up the fragrance. Making it difficult to determine the safety or toxicity of each ingredient.|
|Bisphenol A (BPA)||A result of plastic production. A known hormone-disrupting chemical (a xenoestrogen) (4).|
Transitioning to Natural Tampons
First of all, do not freak out! Like all other toxin exposures, “we can only control what we can control.” When it comes to transitioning to clean and non-toxic products, whether it’s in your kitchen, or your tampon drawer, do what’s realistic for you. We’ve got ideas on how to transition to a more natural period. Whether it’s just a safer tampon-sub, or a totally different plan all together, it’s time to take a stand.
Find a New Brand
The easiest place to start: organic tampons. Check out the many options available in stores, or online on Amazon or Thrive Market. If going through the tampon aisle and comparing manufacturers seems overwhelming, companies offer monthly subscriptions of organic tampons delivered discretely, right to your door (like Lola).
- Unscented tampons over scented options
- BPA-free or cardboard
- If possible, choose companies that have undergone third-party testing to verify ingredients
Other Natural Period Options
Ready to go the alternative route? Check out the most popular (and eco-friendly) options.
- Menstrual Cups: non-toxic alternative to tampons and a way to reduce waste (for the more environmentally conscious ladies!). These cups are placed inside of the vagina where they collect menstrual flow. Empty cups approximately every six to 12 hours. They can be reused for years with minimal maintenance. Several brands offer menstrual cups with a variety of size options for each woman. Including companies like Diva Cup, Lunette, and Saalt Co.
- Reusable Pads: reusable pads are another environmentally friendly alternative to natural tampons. Be sure to choose organic, as these generally come from cotton. Brands like GladRags and Luna Pads all offer different thickness and size options with unique washing instructions for reusing.
- Washable Undies: reusable underwear that absorbs your period. The brand THINX has the tagline, “our period-proof undies hold up to 2 tampons’ worth — yet they look and feel like regular underwear.”
Consumers and businesses have cracked the tampon world wide open. Previously mysterious and unhealthy, the demand for safety has provided really good alternatives. Maybe period undies aren’t right for you just yet, but start thinking about the ways in which baby steps can bridge you to a safer, more natural cycle.