Why should I stop using traditional period products?
Following in the footsteps of the agriculture, fashion, and cosmetics industries, the multi-billion-dollar menstruation industry is finally turning eco-friendly and designing sustainable period products that meet new consumer demands. Typical feminine care products generate massive amounts of plastic and medical waste and often contain harmful chemicals like phthalates and parabens. The National Geographic estimates that menstruating individuals go through up to 15,000 tampons and pads in a lifetime, most of which end up in the landfill. The Women’s Environment Network says your disposable pad or tampon of choice could be up to 90 percent plastic, mostly polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyester. Once these products end up in landfills, they break down into microplastics that pollute the world’s water supply. According to a 2019 study, a single disposable pad can take 500 to 800 years to break down. Tampons are even more concerning as their applicators and packaging creates a cornucopia of plastic. Disposable applicators made of plastic, cardboard or any alternative, can’t be recycled or composted regardless of the material since they are considered medical waste. Since menstrual products are labeled as medical waste, the waste created is not properly tracked, making it harder to research and quantify. Aside from waste concerns, another issue is that period products are made of unsafe materials and chemicals, that you then are inserting into the most sensitive part of your body. Researchers in a 2020 study frequently found endocrine-disrupting chemicals like phthalates, bisphenols, and parabens in feminine hygiene products sold in the United States. Exposure to endocrine disruptors can affect your hormones and may lead to cancerous tumors or fetal development issues. What is even scarier, is that period products are not strictly regulated and do not have to disclose all the ingredients they use to make their products. Commonly used harmful ingredients in menstrual products include Polypropylene, Polyethylene, Bisphenol A (BPA) and Bisphenol S (BPS), Fragrance chemicals, Toxic dyes, conventional cotton, Pesticides, Dioxin, Chlorine, and Rayon. SAP’s, super absorbent polymers, are also common and are concerning since they are derived from crude oil. To make things worse, the majority of these products are animal tested.
What are sustainable period products?
Luckily, sustainable period products are on the rise! The best option is to use completely reusable products. Some great options include reusable fabric pads and liners, period underwear, and menstrual cups or disks. Confused by the cups and disks? Menstrual cups fit into the vaginal canal where they sit and catch flow. The stem provides easy removal, and the rim creates suction which can be released by pinching the base. Dams are flexible disks that sit lengthwise and tuck behind the public bone. These products reduce waste altogether by eliminating single use disposability. It may seem appealing or unsanitary to reuse these products at first, but as long as you care for the product as instructed, it is extremely sanitary. The cups normally require only soap and boiling water, and underwear and reusable pads can be quickly rinsed and put into the washing machine. An added bonus is that these reusable products can often be more affordable. One menstrual cup lasts up to 10 years for as low as $20 whereas a box of disposable tampons lasts 2 months and costs around $10. Still stuck on disposable? You can look for applicator free organic cotton or bamboo tampons that can be composted. Organic pads made of organic cotton, cellulose or veggie gum glue are also compostable but it still takes 18 months for these products to break down. Eco friendly materials are an important thing to look for when shopping for sustainable period products. Examples include organic cotton, bamboo and hemp pads and tampons, cardboard, sugarcane and Mediprene applicators, wood pulp, paper, water-soluble, and compostable wrappers and reusable medical grade polymer and silicone cups and dams. Some new and exciting recycled materials are also being used like Tencel Modal, made from beech trees, and recycled nylon, made from ocean waste.
Now that we’ve gone over the waste and health concerns of traditional menstrual products and the options for a more eco-friendly period, we hope you check-out OSCEA's list below of the ten best sustainable period products.
10 Best Sustainable Period Products
“The one you can have sex with.” Intima’s Ziggy cup is the first reusable cup that can be worn during sex. It has a flat fit design and is made of petal thin silicon. This flat-fit disc can’t be felt during everyday tasks or even during sex! Reviewers said they couldn’t feel it during sex, and it was completely leak and mess free. It is also one of the most petite cup options. It holds light to heavy flows and can be used for 8 hours. The Ziggy cup is made of a leak proof double rim and 100% medical grade silicone. Their product is healthy for your body, ensuring no odors, dryness or irritation. The Ziggy cup comes with a discreet hygienic silicone case that fits easily into your bag. Intima has a line of other period cups as well. Looking for mess-free period sex? The Ziggy cup is the way to go.
The Salt Soft Cup is a new and popular sustainable period product made from ultra-soft silicone. It is designed to be gentler and more comfortable for individuals who experience sensitivity or discomfort from firmer cups. This product is BPA, latex, and toxin free, and FDA registered and compliant. It is also vegan and cruelty free. Salt cups are made in the USA from 100% medical grade silicone. It can be worn for up to 12 hours and lasts up to 10 years! This cup maintains your natural PH and is odor free. There are different sizes that hold medium to heavy flows and fun color options like seafoam green or Himalayan pink. Salt is B Corp certified and donates 3% of its proceeds to providing period care products to areas in need and initiatives in girls health education. Salt also has a line of period underwear, Salt Wear. Their sustainable underwear is made from 55% recycled water bottles and comes in 5 styles and a range of nude shades.
Diva Cup was created in 2003 and started the menstrual cup trends. It is one of the most trusted brands on the market and is B Corp certified. Diva Cups are made of 100% medical grade silicone and contain no chemicals, plastics or dyes. They recommend cleaning your cup with DivaWash or another natural fragrance free, ph balanced cleanser.
They can be worn for up to 12 hours. Diva Cup has a variety of different sizes and options. You chose your cup size based on age, flow level, and whether you’ve delivered a baby vaginally.
Thinx is one of the first big underwear brands to enter the sustainable period product market. They have a range of different styles, from hip huggers to thongs, that differ in cut and absorbency. The super absorbent styles hold up to 5 regular tampons worth. Thinx sizes range from xxs to 4x. Their patented technology uses cotton, nylon and elastane ingredients, a moisture wicking top, odor controlling treatment and an absorbent core. Thinx offers a 60 day trial and free returns. Their products are machine washable. Thinx tests all their products for harmful substances and are certified according to the Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex. Aside from their classic styles, Thinx has lines for Modal Cotton, Thinx air (cooling micromesh fabric), and apparel (period absorbent shorts, legging, and bodysuits). Aside from underwear, Thinx also created the first FDA-cleared reusable tampon applicator which they call the re.t.a. It accommodates all applicator-free tampon sizes and is made from medical grade materials.
Wuka underwear is the best rated by customers for snug fit and staying secure during exercise. Wuka is your best bet for comfort and breathability. Their sizes range from xxs-4xl and you can purchase them individually or in packs of 3 or 5. Wuka products use Better Cotton Initiative certified cotton. They conduct independent testing on all of their products to ensure there are no harmful PFA’s. Wuka is leaf proof, anti bacterial, breathable order free and can be machine washed. This eco-conscious brand uses compostable corn starch packaging! Wuka also has a line of regular underwear made from Tencel and is Carbon Neutral certified.
You don’t have to be a woman to get your period! Aisle has created a gender neutral boxer brief that makes sustainable period products more accessible to all menstruating individuals. Their underwear is 12 hour leak proof and holds up to 4 tampons of fluid. Aisle products are made from Tencel, certified organic cotton, and recycled polyester, which helps remove plastic waste from landfills. Aisle is B Corp certified and also sells pads, liners, cups, and a variety of styles of underwear. Their reusable pads are one of their best selling products and come in an assortment of fun patterns and colors.
For only 20$, you can enjoy the comfort of an applicator without all the plastic waste. Many customers, I included, prefer the gliding guidance of an applicator. Dame's applicator lasts for 12,000 uses and is easy to use and clean. Just rinse off with water and pat dry after use. Dame uses self-sanitizing Sanipolymer technology that has natural antimicrobial characteristics to keep the product hygienic. This technology effectively reduced bacteria, germs and microbes by at least 99%. It works with any size tampon and comes with 3 organic cotton tampons. Their products are designed to medical standards, BPA free, made of medical grade mediprene and lifetime guaranteed. Dame even invented a patented String Lock technology that stops strings from snagging, slipping or getting “lost.” Dame also has a range of reusable pads and organic tampons.
Applicator Free Tampons
Lola is a #1 best selling sustainable period product brand. Their non applicator tampons are made with 100% organic cotton, and contain no synthetic fibers, fragrances, chlorine bleach, chemical additives or dyes. Their products are hypoallergenic and FDA cleared. Lola also has BPA free plastic and cardboard applicator tampon versions. They sell 100% organic cotton liners and pads as well. Lola’s new natural heat therapy pads are perfect for cramps on the go. These new pads offer up to 11 hours of soothing heat release and are free of harsh chemicals. Join Lola on IGTV every Friday for their at home period support group. These events feature an expert answering reproductive health questions.
Flo is a new brand that is making periods fun and adorable. Their packaging is colorful and cute and designed to make women uplifted. Flo was founded by two best friends who donate 5% of all profits to women and girls in need. Their non-applicator tampons are made of 100% organic cotton, vegan and cruelty free, highly absorbent and 100% compostable. Flo offers applicator tampons made with 95% plant based sugarcane applicators. They also have pads and liners made from 100% organic cotton or 100% sustainable bamboo. Their cotton is sourced from Better Cotton Initiative farms. Flo recently teamed up with Netflix to release their Sex Education x Flo collaboration of period underwear.
Rael’s pads are crafted with 5 moisture wicking layers of certified organic cotton and provide breathable comfort and reliable leak protection. They come in four sizes, petite, regular, large, and overnight. They are made without PFA’s and other harsh chemicals. Their pads last for up to 120 wears and you can machine wash after use. Rael just launched their reusable cup and carrying case for 33$. They are offering the cups in 3 sizes and are guaranteed to last for up to 10 years. Rael also sells other sustainable period products like tampons, liners, period underwear and a heating patch.