If you’re like most of us, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what’s in our tampons. We take some time to figure out what brand works for us, or we spend time in the aisle of Target each month browsing, wanting to try something new. Have you ever noticed that the typical tampon box doesn’t tell you what tampons are made of? We’re tackling that today!
What is a tampon?
We need to start with the basics. If you’re like me, you may have never looked at a tampon let alone used one! I was in my 20s before I strayed from pads and braved the idea of a tampon. A tampon is a rolled sheet of cotton or cotton-like material such as rayon and has a string sewn in. It’s designed to expand in the vagina as it absorbs menstrual fluid.
What are tampons made of?
As we mentioned, tampons are typically constructed out of cotton or a blend with the cotton such as rayon or polyester. While tampons are an approved medical device by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the FDA does not require them to label or disclose what other things may actually be in the tampons. Some of these may not be direct ingredients, but bi-products of the harvesting, growing and production process. So the concept of the tampon is approved, the idea of an absorbent material being inserted into the vagina for menses and being removable by a string. However, not necessarily what it’s made of. Make sense? We don’t think so either.
What chemicals could be in tampons?
Pesticides. On a super basic level, if you don’t reach for an organic tampon option, you could be running the risk of pesticides remaining on the cotton from the growing process.
Fragrances. It’s your period. You typically feel gross and you’re hypersensitive to how you may smell. It’s super tempting to reach for a box of scented tampons! The term ‘fragrance’ is a tricky one here in America. The FDA allows companies to put countless chemicals under the banner of fragrance, unfortunately, without having to specifically name them.
Dioxins + furans. These are part of the bleaching process. Unbleached cotton looks much different than bleached cotton and tampons are not exempt from the bleaching process unless you specifically buy unbleached organic tampons.
What are the side effects of using a tampon?
We’ve talked about what tampons are made of and you’re probably wondering how that affects you directly. Your vagina is a muscle structure that’s super sensitive. You’ve probably heard that most anything you put on your skin (lotion, etc) is absorbed and in your bloodstream in less than a minute. Same goes for your vagina. It’s a very complex environment and the probability of toxins, bleaches and pesticides entering your body via your vagina is high. We also recently spoke about how tampons could negatively effect the vaginal flora that makes up the delicate ecosystem of your vagina. Tampons have been long linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) so we don’t really have to spend a lot of time talking about that.
What is an alternative to tampons?
Thankfully, women’s active and busy lifestyles have demanded a more reliable period protection option. Have you ever thought about a menstrual cup? A menstrual cup is a flexible egg-shaped cup typically made of medical-grade silicone. It’s folded and inserted in the vagina and left to collect period menses. Get a load of this: it can be left in the vagina (safely) for up to 12 hours! Let’s say ‘hello’ to period freedom, shall we? Because a menstrual cup is solid and doesn’t absorb, there isn’t a worry of it affecting your vaginal flora, potentially leading to infection. We haven’t even mentioned how eco-friendly a menstrual cup is and how many tampons it saves from entering landfills!
Talk to us! Ask any questions you may have about menstrual cups or leaving traditional period protection. If you’d rather watch videos, we have a full Youtube channel on questions, tutorials, and common techniques. Head over to our store to see what sizes and styles we have to fit your needs! If you’re wondering what cup is best for you, check this page out too.