Why You Need to Care What Your Tampons Are Made Of
In the last few years, amidst the crisis of realizing I had to eat gluten-free due to my allergies, I — like the rest of the free-thinking hipster world — started looking into using non-GMO and chemical free EVERYTHING, besides my food, including lotion, deodorant (which has not gone well) and feminine hygiene products.
Before that, I had never looked at the ingredients on a tampon box other than the little banner that says “scented” or the absorbency level. I assumed that because there were shiny ads showing healthy girls using these products and that because they were made by giant corporations, that they must be safe for us to use. But since now I prided myself on eating farm-raised chicken and organic artisan coffee (and because I have a slight “rebel against society” thing about my personality), I had to know what my tampons were made of.
And once my research began, like the obsessive compulsive weirdo that I am, I found a rabbit hole of interesting (read: scary) information about them.
Among the terrifying yet informative links that popped up on my interwebs was a viral video on social media explaining that since tampons are considered “medical devices,” the feminine hygiene industry is not required to disclose their ingredients.
Most tampons are made with cotton. And a study by La Plata University in Argentina claims that 85% of cotton products contain glyphosate, which is a key ingredient in corporate giant Monsanto’s roundup herbicide — and also ruled “most likely” a carcinogen by the World Health Organization.
This also means that many other cotton products are affected, including cotton balls and gauze used to treat and heal wounds. It also means that there are probably carcinogenic properties in our clothing, underwear, pads and tampons. And as far as I can tell, there is no data regarding its effects on us. Since our skin is our largest organ, it’s hard to say how much of this crap is being absorbed into our bodies in this way, and it’s pretty disgusting to think about what could be absorbed through your vajay by using a tampon with these weird chemicals.
We’ve all been warned about toxic shock syndrome by leaving a tampon in for too long — you may have even heard about model Lauren Wasser, who had to have her leg amputated after she was diagnosed with the life-threatening infection. And if a tampon saturated with blood is a supportive place for bacterial growth, go ahead and do the math on adding some potentially cancer-causing chemicals up in there.
Plus, an added bonus to worry about for all of my worry-wart sisters: if you wear thong underwear while on your period, you have an even higher chance of getting infections which can make for even easier ways for the chemicals to get into your body (I know, mind explosion).
In an interview with Huffington Post, Dr. Jill M. Rabin says, during your period “the PH of the vagina is normally acid pH, and blood raises your pH. So when your pH goes up, that’s when bacteria has a better chance of growing.” However, this DOES NOT mean we need to all start growing our own cotton and wearing granny underwear. There are a few things you can change up to lessen your chances of infection and make sure your tampons are as healthy as possible:
Wear 100% Organic Cotton Underwear – I am going to tell you that most underwear will claim to have a “cotton crotch,” but the outside fabric is still some polyester/nylon/cotton blend, which will trap moisture. In the summer especially, when the weather is hot and your body is sweating more, it’s important to wear cotton underwear which helps to keep that area dry! There are some great companies who make 100% organic (not sprayed by pesticides) cotton underwear like the brand PACT, take a look at their styles here. There’s also the traditional brands like Fruit of the Loom and Hanes, who (contrary to former years) are catching up with some cute boyshort and hipster styles.
Use 100% Organic Cotton Tampons – Believe it or not these are actually easier to find than you think, and the companies who make them are aware of the nasty chemicals that are in some of the other more popular brands. Try the brand LOLA, which is subscription based ($10 per month!) and gets shipped right to your door! They also let you choose your absorbency and quantities of each – they make it super easy! For 100% cotton panty liners and pads, you can head to Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company website here. There’s also a great company called Veeda, which makes all the products above with hypoallergenic cotton, claims to reduce the length and pain of your period (!), and plans to donate one million tampons a year to organizations who help women! Total win-win.