What’s the downside to using the same old tampons we always have? Unfortunately, they’re rife with unhealthy chemicals and hormone disruptors.
But before you worry about what you’ll do for that time of the month, here are four options on the market that are healthier for hormones and provide more customizable options for women.
5 Hormone Disruptors Found in Tampons
The vagina absorbs things very easily, which is why it’s an effective location for certain types of progesterone and other hormone medication to be delivered. (1) But this also means that it can absorb things we don’t want it to, which is why the other ingredients in tampons need to be considered.
Sadly, it’s not as easy as checking the label on your period products. Because tampons are considered medical devices, companies that produce them aren’t required to disclose everything used in them. (2)
Toxic shock syndrome can cause fever, diarrhea, low blood pressure, and other flu-like symptoms, along with the potential for seizures. In some cases, this condition can be fatal.
So unless you choose an organic product from a company that is third-party regulated for transparency, there’s no telling what could be in your tampons. However, there are five common hormone disruptors you need to be aware of.
Designed to mask odors, phthalates aren’t harmless. While there might be natural ways to mask odors, these are synthetic chemicals that are associated with plastic and which disrupt hormones in the human body. (3)
2. Volatile Organic Compounds
Also known as VOCs, volatile organic compounds include chemicals like styrene, chloromethane, and chloroform. They have been identified as cancer-causing compounds that are also associated with reproductive toxicity. (4)
Since tampon manufacturers don’t have to be transparent about their process, it’s not clear what VOCs are doing in period products. However, the best guess is that they’re a side effect of the manufacturing process itself, or an additive of some type. (5)
Dioxins are chemicals that result from the bleaching process to make tampons bright white, and they’re also found in period pads. (6) This dangerous chemical is recognized as an environmental pollutant. Along with being associated with autoimmune reactivity and hormone disruption, dioxin is also classified as a carcinogen. (7, 8)
Cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops, especially with Roundup, a product that contains glyphosate. Unfortunately, cotton can retain these chemicals even through the manufacturing process. When you’re not using organic cotton tampons, you could be inserting a heavy dose of this toxic pesticide into your vagina. This can have endocrine-disrupting effects and cause reproductive disorders and complications. (9)
Rayon is most known for being a flowy, drapey fabric found in some clothing. However, rayon is an ingredient that is actually produced from sawdust. It’s the component of tampons most to blame for toxic shock syndrome.
This ingredient is the reason why tampons have the safety label warning that they cannot be inserted for more than eight hours. Toxic shock syndrome can cause fever, diarrhea, low blood pressure, and other flu-like symptoms, along with the potential for seizures. In some cases, this condition can be fatal. (10) Even if you play it safe and avoid toxic shock syndrome, rayon and dioxins are not considered to be safe at any exposure level. (11)
4 Safer and Healthier Alternatives
So what do you do if you can’t use the same, conventional tampons you’ve been relying on for years or even decades? Worry not, as there are four safe and effective natural alternatives that will make you wonder why you were ever using conventional tampons in the first place.
Yes, they cost more than the average box of tampons. But you’re investing in your health by preventing exposure to chemicals that stick around much longer than the eight hours that a tampon is in use.
1. Organic Tampons
These are very straightforward. Organic tampons are made with organic cotton, sans chemicals. They are typically produced by companies that are third-party tested and verified as being free from chemicals.
If you really like your period routine, then simply switching to these will upgrade your health and protect you from chemical exposure.
Options: Seventh Generation, NatraCare, Maxim, The Honest Company, Sustain, Lola
2. Reusable Pads
If you want an option that is reusable, environmentally-friendly, and surprisingly easy, then consider reusable pads. You never have to buy any again, which means you can never accidentally run out.
They’re made from cotton, so wearing them won’t necessarily feel different, although they are good for sensitive skin since they’re free from rayon and other chemicals. Like disposable pads, they come in different sizes and thicknesses. And most companies who make them provide detailed and simple instructions for cleaning them.
Options: GladRags, LunaPads, Earth Girl, Charlie Banana
3. Menstrual Cups
If you want the convenience of a tampon, but you want to stop throwing stuff away every month, consider menstrual cups. These cups are placed over your cervix to collect your menstrual flow and are emptied and replaced every six to 12 or more hours, depending on your level of flow.
There are many different sizes and brands and some women will find better fits with some brands over others. Menstrual cups seem to work best for women who’ve had children, but some companies make smaller versions that are easier to insert if you’ve never had a baby.
Options: DivaCup, Intimina, SoftDisc, Lily Cup, Blossom, EvaCup, Yuuki
4. Disposable Discs
These are the newest period product to hit the market. Instead of wearing a tampon, these are a hybrid between tampons and menstrual cups. They’re small discs, easier to insert than cups, disposable (so no need to try to figure out washing), and they conform better to women who find cups uncomfortable. Disposable discs can be worn longer than tampons and allow easy, mess-free period sex, according to the company.
Conventional tampons are filled with questionable ingredients that can cause longterm harm to your body. Unfortunately, many manufacturers aren’t transparent about their products. So, if you want to skip the toxins, try these four chemical-free, hormone-safe alternatives to tampons to find the best one for you.
(Read This Next: The Ultimate Guide to Clean Skincare)