From the time we get our periods, we tend to look at the process as a hassle. (Actually, we’re not sure we’ve ever met anyone who loves “that time of the month”). And while it does represent the glorious miracle of being fertile and creating life… it usually comes down to laying in bed in misery or running to the store to get the appropriate products because you ran out last time – and heaven forbid you branch out unsuccessfully. We’ve all been there. Beyond that, to think about how our feminine hygiene products are made just seems overload, until you realize how important it is.
A small cotton tampon, how harmful can it be? Sadly, quite a bit considering cotton is one of the most pesticide treated crops in America. It’s estimated that over a BILLION tons of pesticides and herbicides are used in the cotton industry annually, many linked to damaging the nervous system, disrupting hormone production and then of course that cancer thing. In addition to that, lets consider the bleaching of the cotton. While it’s been “chlorine-free” since somewhere in the 90’s, that certainly doesn’t deem it safe. In fact, many companies still use chlorine derivatives; they just don’t employ the chlorine gas bleaching process. After all of that you’re inserting said cotton soaked in potential chemicals for hours on end, day after day for a week, in one of the most sensitive parts of your body.
This isn’t exclusive to tampons, of course. There are pads, panty liners, and feminine wipes, many which are potentially full of the same harmful ingredients. So, what’s a gal to do? Read your labels and follow these tips:
While feminine products are considered medical devices and aren’t regulated as food and drugs, when the cotton is organic, it will say so because that is a crop. Organic crops cannot be treated with pesticides, insecticides nor use GMOs. Look for the GOTS symbol, or Global Organic Textile Standard.
If the price point of organic isn’t in your budget or you aren’t sold on their superiority, at least skip products with rayon or synthetic fibers. Dioxin, a toxic chemical, is a byproduct of rayon and has no business in your lady parts. Dioxin has been found in some 100% cotton as a byproduct of the bleaching, so check packaging for Dioxin free.
Skip it. Sounds good, better for the earth, but not a solid bet since we still don’t know where that recycled cotton came from in the first place.
Fragrance & Deodorant
In theory it’d be nice if your lady parts smelled like daisies, but they don’t, and they shouldn’t. Masking any kind of odor with potentially dangerous artificial ingredients will never eliminate the problem; in fact it might perpetuate it. The only allowable form of fragrant product should come from pure essential oils possibly in a wipe, but pads and tampons should NEVER be perfumed.
Applicators & Adhesives
If you like plastic applicators, make sure it’s BPA-free. Cardboard, look for terms like biodegradable and compostable. For liners and pads, seek out plant based adhesives.
The bulk of the cotton industry around the world uses child-labor. Seek out ethical companies who avoid these practices.
Washable cups, pads and panties normally don’t contain the chemical ingredients disposables do, they’re also better for the environment (less waste), easier on your wallet and tend to be made with more natural materials. Certainly check your labels though before purchasing. We definitely weren’t fans of the idea at first, but a few brands out there have changed our minds (see below).
All in all this is a swap that is definitely worth making, especially considering women have on average 460 periods in a lifetime. Continue to read your labels, as we know marketing claims aren’t regulated, and always ask questions. Need ideas? Of course we have our favorites listed!
After witnessing negative effects of menstruation in developing countries coupled with the substances in US feminine products, women’s rights activist Molly teamed up with Morgen, an all-around awesome guy, to create a chic way to have a fearless period. Made with 100% Organic Cotton, no nasties and with a mission to give back to rural villages and slums through thru enabling them to create their own safe hygiene products – we’re in! Now partnered with Target, but you can also have them delivered to your door.
Have 100% Organic Cotton tampons delivered to your door with the signature Kali Box. Choose from Regular, Super or Half & Half – or even upgrade to the Gift Box that comes with 10 Individually Wrapped Kali Wipettes and The Mist Rosewater Facial Toner & Spray. And from experience, it actually makes a surprisingly appreciated gift! Kali Tampons are housed in a cardboard applicator and biodegradable wrapper and expand horizontally instead of lengthwise for increased protection and comfort.
We love JOLIE ORGANIC and what they stand for. Not only do they offer superior 100% Organic Cotton feminine products, but they are trying to tackle the inaccessible nature of such products to our homeless population. Without safe products these women risk infection and unsanitary conditions, so with every box sold, a JOLIE Care Pack is sent out to women and girls in need. You can purchase one box or a monthly subscription.
Also conveniently delivered to your door is LOLA, 100% Organic Cotton tampons, 100% Biodegradable and 100% transparent in their ingredients and processes. We love the convenience and flexibility of their plans (cancel any time) along with no doubts about what we’re using.
Conscious Period has a straightforward message and model, which is probably why they've been covered in GOOP and Refinery29 - it's easy to understand. 100% Organic Cotton Tampons, BPA Free Applicators, no toxins, synthetics or dyes. Plus, they also donate to homeless women in our country with every purchase. You can buy in single, 3-month or 6-month increments.
Honest Company tampons, pads and liners get major points for absorbency and effectiveness, while still being breathable, pH compatible and 100% Organic Cotton – oh, and made without the yucky stuff. Their applicators and adhesives are also bio-based materials. You can grab them in your Honest Bundle or at Target!
THIS IS L.
THIS IS L. Tampons get an award for most fun packaging. Bright watercolor blues in a copper-lidded container, we actually don’t mind them sitting out for the world to see. However, we couldn’t find a thing about them on their website (just their condoms, which seem like a solid choice if you’re in the market!) We find these at Target and they’re a GREAT value for the amount you get, and their performance is equally so.
TrueMoon Organic Tampons are excellent products, but we’re even more “over the moon” that their founders dedicate themselves to women’s empowerment, starting with their REALgirl program that teaches from a young age that women should celebrate, not be ashamed, of their cycle. Have a young lady in the house? Their starter kit is a really great way to foster a healthy attitude for beginners.
Natracare is our favorite store grab based on performance alone (their liners are hands down some of the best). We also love that they use only organic and natural materials that meet environmental and biodegradable standards, which goes for their raw material producers as well. You can find these at Target, Whole Foods, Pharmaca and most respectable retailers.
Another solid store brand usually easy to locate is Organyc. From feminine products to baby products, their 100% Organic Cotton line helps foster a healthy period with no additives, no chemicals, nothing artificial and nothing genetically modified.
THE DIVA CUP
The OG of menstrual cups, this reusable, bell-shaped cup is worn internally and sits low in the vaginal canal, collecting rather than absorbing your menstrual flow. It's so nice not to change tampons every few hours, but can also be a tad messy if you aren't at home. We love cups as overnight options.
User-friendly, safe, reusable, and eco-logical, this alternative to pads and tampons is also made of medical grade silicon and comes in 2 sizes (and a plethora of colors). Worn up to 12 hours the cup helps you stay naturally lubricated and healthy. We find this one a little more sturdy than Diva Cup, which is good, if not a little more complicated to insert.
DR. BRONNERS BABY MILD
Cleansing your menstrual cup is crucial, but you can't use just anything or it may harm the silicon. We aren't a fan of the ones sold with the actual cups, so we use Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild Castile Soap for effective cleansing without affecting the product. A little goes a long way.
Lunapads come in organic, unbleached cotton and feature a leakproof, absorbent core that is adjustable to accommodate light, moderate, or heavy menstrual flow. You just add and replace inserts to increase absorbency and freshen your pad throughout the day.
Keeping it fresh never felt so luxurious with these lovely towelettes. Scented only with organic essential oils, these little individually wrapped wipes are perfect for cleaning your gentle parts – bonus, they work on sticky kids, yoga mats, dirty pets, overzealous makeup swatches and beyond. They’re also biodegradeable and free of parabens, phthalates and petrochemicals. You won’t be able to live without these!
*You’ll notice we didn’t mention any period panties like Thinx, Dear Kate, etc. We just haven’t had luck with them nor are many of them made with organic materials, but we’d love to hear your experience!
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