Why I Don't Use Tampons Anymore

I had no intention of ever writing about this. Menstruation isn't my favorite topic, and I am a rather private person. Even after I became one of those weirdly enthusiastic menstrual cup users, I still wasn't planning to publish a post about alternatives to conventional feminine products. It was when I read the troubling report Chem Fatale by Women's Voices for the Earth about the potential health effects of toxic chemicals in feminine care products that I decided I would write a post about my experience switching to eco-friendlier menstrual products. As the report points out, "products intended for use on or in an incredibly absorbent part of a woman's body are marketed and sold with little to no data assuring the ingredients they contain are safe." That's in part because tampons and pads are considered medical devices by the FDA, and "medical devices lack any government requirement to disclose ingredients to the consumer."

Unfortunately, according to the report Chem Fatale, studies have shown that many chemicals of concern can be present in tampons and pads.

Hazardous chemicals in tampons may include:

Exposure concerns from these chemicals include cancer, reproductive harm, endocrine disruption, and allergic rash. You might be wondering why fragrance is problematic. "Fragrance" is actually a mixture of ingredients that may include any of 3,000 different chemicals (this is true for any consumer product containing fragrance). The mixture is considered a trade secret, so companies do not have to disclose the individual ingredients that make up their fragrances. As Chem Fatale reports, "according to a master list of fragrance chemicals made available by the International Fragrance Association, fragrances can include chemicals which are carcinogens, irritants, allergens, and potential endocrine disruptors" (link is mine).

Hazardous chemicals in pads may include: 

Exposure concerns associated with these hazardous ingredients include cancer, reproductive harm, and endocrine disruption. In addition, studies have linked pad use to allergic rash. The fact that pads are full of synthetic who-knows-what was vividly illustrated in this video which shows a conventional and eco-friendly pad simultaneously burning.

My Switch to Eco-friendly and Non-toxic Menstrual Products

Step 1: Abandon conventional products.

It was about a year ago when I got my period back after my third child that I decided I was going to green my menstrual products. I had figured for a while that conventional menstrual products were probably about as eco-friendly as conventional disposable diapers (that is, not eco-friendly at all). If nothing else, I knew I didn't want to keep purchasing products with bleached conventional cotton. For one thing, conventionally grown cotton uses more insecticides than any other single crop, accounting for more than 10% of total pesticide use and nearly 25% of insecticides use worldwide according to the Pesticide Action Network. I had heard all about menstrual cups but wasn’t interested in using one myself, so I first looked for greener versions of what I was already used to using (that is, disposable tampons and pads).

Step 2: Purchase disposable chlorine-free tampons and pads.

I began purchasing eco-friendly disposable products, specifically NatraCare and Seventh Generation tampons, pads, and liners. These products are chlorine-free, fragrance-free, and disclose all ingredients. I liked using these fine but boy were they expensive compared to the super sized year’s supply of tampons I used to purchase at Costco. That steep monthly cost in combination with some timely evangelical testimonials about menstrual cups by my fellow Green Phone Booth bloggers finally got me to plunk down my $30 and purchase a Diva Cup.

And then the Diva Cup sat in my bathroom drawer for 6 months. Change is hard. And changing your menstrual products? Well, that can be a little daunting. Plus, with a 6, 4 and 2yo, when did I ever have enough private time to figure the thing out?

Step 3: Try a menstrual cup.

Then one day I just felt fed up with tampons. I’m going to skip the gory details {I’m sure you can insert a few of your own non-awesome experiences here}, and decided to go for it. I tried the cup. In the middle of my cycle. It was slightly bumpy at first. I was lucky to have a small private online forum of friends where I could ask embarrassing questions (thank you, Green Phone Booth bloggers!). But by my second cycle I was sold. During those first few cycles, I never had any major snafus or problems, but there was a slight learning curve. By my third cycle I felt completely comfortable with the cup. Since the cup can be worn for 12 hours at a time, except for on my heaviest day (when I sometimes have to empty it every 8 hours), I think about my period exactly two times a day: when I shower in the morning and when I get ready for bed at night. It’s awesome. I’ve also noticed that my cramping has decreased significantly. Remember the first time you tried a tampon and thought, whoa, I am never using disposable pads again? That’s how I feel about tampons now after using the cup. I’ll never go back.

The Diva Cup is made of medical-grade silicone (no additivies) and comes in two sizes. Other popular brands of menstrual cups include Lunette, Moon Cup, and the Keeper (made of natural rubber).

Update (9 Feb 2017): A few months ago I trimmed off the stem of my Diva Cup. It was the one thing that sometimes bothered me a little when I was wearing the cup. Sometimes I had to reinsert it to get it high enough to not feel the stem. Anyway, I was worried about trimming off the stem, but it turned out to be no big deal and now I love my cup even more. It's like it's not even there. If you rely on the stem to get the cup out, then you might not want to trim it. I always ended up pinching the bottom of the cup itself to break the suction so I don't miss the stem. If the stem occasionally bothers you, trim it! 

Step 4: Switch to reusable cloth pads.

For several months I kept using disposable liners with my cup as insurance. But that seemed wasteful, especially since most of the time I didn’t even need the liner, so as I reached the end of a box of NatraCare liners, I looked for a reusable solution. After consulting with my fellow eco-friendly bloggers, I decided to try LunaPads. I really like their cloth liners and now have enough to get me through one cycle (I use one per day). They are so much more comfortable than wearing a disposable liner. I mean, there’s no adhesive, for heaven’s sake. Need I say more? Plus they feel like cloth underwear rather than paper. They are no big deal to wash. I throw them in with my cloth wipes or even just a regular load. You can soak them (I’m sure you have plenty of experience dealing with blood stains), but I don’t since I don’t’ care about staining. If you are using pads exclusively (with no cup), your washing routine will be a bit more high-maintenance. There are numerous other manufacturers of reusable pads besides LunaPads, such as GladRags and Sckoon Organic, as well as dozens of Etsy shops. For the ultimate eco-option, you can also make your own!

If you are interested in trying a reusable cloth pad, Lunapads offers first time customers 1 Lunapads Pantyliner sample for just $5 shipping & handling -- plus, you’ll receive a coupon for $5 off your next order (some conditions apply). Get your free sample here: http://lunapads.com/sample. This is how I first tried LunaPads. Note that the sample liner is the teeny size (6" long). I chose to purchase the mini size (8") for my week supply, but I still use the teeny one as well.

Will you make the switch to less toxic menstrual products?

So that’s it! I use a Diva Cup menstrual cup with LunaPad cloth liners (note that many cup users are so confident in their cups that they use only their cup with no liner). By using these products I reduce the amount of trash I send to the landfills and keep toxic chemicals away from my sensitive areas. If reusable products aren’t for you, consider switching to non-toxic menstrual products such as NatraCare tampons and pads, which are free from pesticides and dioxins. If you do continue using conventional brands, be sure to seek unscented and fragrance-free products to minimize your exposure to undisclosed and potentially harmful chemicals.

If you have questions, you can leave them below, or you can email me privately.

Check out these posts by my fellow green bloggers for additional experiences with reusable menstrual products:

Related Posts

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Disclosure: I was not given any of these products for review. All products reviewed in this post were purchased by me, and all opinions are my own. This post may contain affiliate links. Your purchase via these links helps support my blog. Thank you for your support. Read my full disclosure policy here.

1 comment:

  1. You know how I love my mestrual cup! Thanks for the great research. Will be pinning this for sure.


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