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The Truth About Feminine Care Products

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

Everywhere we go, there are toxins. We live in a toxin-filled world. Unfortunately, it's hard to determine what products contain toxins. Sometimes, toxins linger in the least expected places – for instance, feminine care products such as pads and tampons.

This article will primarily focus on sanitation pads. I never recommend tampons, even if they're toxin-free, due to the possibility of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Toxic shock syndrome is a sudden, potentially fatal condition. TSS affects menstruating women using tampons. TSS occurs when an overgrowth of bacteria (staphylococcus aureus, or staph) releases toxins suddenly. The body responds with an abrupt drop in blood pressure, depriving the organs of oxygen and potentially leading to death (1).

 

The 6 Best Pads For A Heavy Flow, According To Gynecologists

Did you see Women's Health's article The 6 Best Pads For A Heavy Flow, According To Gynecologists published in 2021? This article featured 6 menstrual pads ranked by leak-free protection and comfortability. Many of the brands mentioned have unnecessary and toxic ingredients that can be detrimental to your health. Aside from those chemicals, do you know what else is in these "best" pads? What about the dangers associated with those ingredients? We are going to take a closer look into each of these specific pads and their ingredients. Then we will take an even closer look at why these ingredients are toxic to us.

Ingredients: Polyacrylate Foam, Polypropylene, Hot Melt Adhesive, Polyethlene, Calcium Chloride, Titanium Dioxide, Petrolatum, Behenyl Alcohol, Zinc Oxide, Ditallowethyl Hydroxyethylmonium Methosulfate.


My Overall Rating: 1/10; horrible ingredients, brimming with toxins and hormone disruptors.


Ingredients: Elemental Chlorine-Free Wood Pulp, Certified Organic Cotton, Polyethylene, Polyester, Polypropylene, Super Absorbent Polymer, Thermoplastic Polymer, Silicone.


My Overall Rating: 2/10; it's organic, but it's still brimming with toxins and hormone disruptors.


Ingredients: Chlorine-Free Processed Wood Fluff Pulp, Sodium Polyacrylate, Cellulose, Polyethylene, Polypropylene, Silicone Coated Paper Adhesive.


My Overall Rating: 1/10; horrible ingredients, brimming with toxins and hormone disruptors.


Ingredients: Organic Cotton, Hanji Cotton, Polyurethane Laminate.


My Overall Rating: 5/10; the best ingredient list you'll find on this list, but polyurethane laminate is still problematic.


Ingredients: Wood Pulp, Water, Polypropylene, Polyethylene, Hydrocarbon Resin, Pigment White 6, Styrene/Isoprene Copolymer, Hydrogenated Mineral Oil, PEG-10 Castor Oil, PEG-15 Cocoate, Diethylhexyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate, Solvent Blue 104.


My Overall Rating: 1/10; horrible ingredients, brimming with toxins and hormone disruptors.


Ingredients: Ground Wood Pulp, Polypropylene, Polyethylene, Polyester, Silicone Treated Paper, Pressure Sensitive Adhesive.


My Overall Rating: 1/10; horrible ingredients, brimming with toxins and hormone disruptors.


Toxic Ingredients Found In Pads

  • Behenyl alcohol is straight-chain alcohol widely used in cosmetics and personal care products (2). There is concern regarding contact dermatitis and potential respiratory irritation. This substance also harms the non-reproductive organ system, and contact with the skin may cause drowsiness or dizziness (3). Additionally, behenyl alcohol has several side effects, including but not limited to headaches, abdominal pain, nausea, dyspepsia, and hyperbilirubinemia (4).

  • Calcium chloride is a salt made up of one part of calcium for every two parts of chlorine (5). Calcium chloride is the rock salt used for snow removal. Calcium chloride is known to cause skin irritation if your hands are moist when handling it (yet it's in menstrual pads that are typically moist for long stretches of time. Additionally, calcium chloride can chemically attack concrete (6). Somehow calcium chloride is deemed safe for one of the most sensitive parts of a woman's body.

  • Diethylhexyl sodium sulfosuccinate is an anionic surfactant with a content of 70% propylene glycol (7). Propylene glycol is a synthetic liquid used for its absorption abilities (8). Reported adverse effects from this ingredient include central nervous system (CNS) toxicity, hyperosmolarity, hemolysis, cardiac arrhythmia, seizures, agitation, and lactic acidosis. Additionally, prolonged exposure can lead to PEG toxicity (9). Yet women wear a pad for roughly 5 to 7 days per month.

  • Ditallowethyl hydroxyethylmonium methosulfate is a surfactant that enhances menstrual pads' breathability and absorbency (11). This ingredient is rated a four by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) due to heavy concerns about allergies and Immunotoxicity and low, but still, concerns regarding cancer and developmental and reproductive toxicities (12).

  • PEG, or polyethylene glycol, is a biocompatible, synthetic, hydrophilic polyether compound used as a binding and dispersing agent, as it can improve the separation of particles and prevent clumping (13). According to MADE SAFE,

The primary concern with PEG compounds is that ethylene oxide is used in their production in a process called ethoxylation. This process can cause contamination with ethylene oxide, a chemical associated with multiple kinds of cancer. Additionally, ethoxylated ingredients can also be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen (14).
  • Petrolatum or petroleum contains an increased level of xenoestrogens, which disturb the hormones and affect the body's estrogen level (15). There is also the risk of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contamination in petroleum (16). Overall, this ingredient has been linked to estrogen dominance (17). Estrogen dominance is a common condition in which sufferers have a high ratio of estrogen, with little to no progesterone to balance its effects in the body (18).

  • Polypropylene is a thermoplastic used to create a synthetic fabric to transfer moisture. Polypropylene is derived from hydrocarbon fuels and can potentially negatively impact the environment and human health. Polypropylene contains toxic byproducts that can be hazardous when inhaled due to off-gassed volatile organic compounds or VOCs (19). Potential health effects of VOCs include damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some VOCs are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans (20).

  • Sodium polyacrylate is a chemical polymer used for absorbency purposes. Sodium polyacrylate is made up of acrylate compounds (21). Acrylates are typically found in artificial nail products. Acrylates have adverse skin, eye, and throat reactions (22). Acrylates have been associated with cancer, development issues, neurological and cellular damage, organ system, and reproductive toxicity (23).

  • Titanium dioxide is typically found in paints and plastics. Titanium dioxide is extracted using a sulfate or chloride process (24). Studies show that the inhalation of Titanium Dioxide has been associated with increased lung tumors in rats (25). It's important to note that sulfates are aggressive detergents or surfactants made of sulfur-containing mineral salts. Sulfates cause varying levels of skin and eye irritation, as well as drying out the skin and leading to acne breakouts (26).

For a longer list of toxins that may be found in greenwashed products, check out my blog, The Truth About Greenwashing.

Toxin-Free Pad Alternative Recommendations

Before discussing toxin-free pad recommendations, discussing proper hygiene practices is important. Changing your pad every 3 to 4 hours is recommended to avoid the risk of bacterial infections (27). I highly recommend adopting these practices no matter what hygiene supplies you use. Additionally, some of the ingredients in mainstream options cause women to have intense menstrual cramps; if you struggle with that, I highly recommend Earthley's Ease the Ache. You may find that switching to one of the following toxin-free pad alternative recommendations may minimize or even eliminate your menstrual cramps.

10% off earthley wellness promo code
  • Bamboo Reusable Sanitary Pads feature a leak-free outer shell of the cloth sanitary napkin with the comfort of the softer Bamboo layer against your skin. The charcoal bamboo inner layers of these cloth menstrual pads are soft with a stay-dry surface. The dark color is forgiving of stains. Not only great at soaking up liquid, but smells are also neutralized. Middle layers of microfiber make this reusable sanitary napkin super absorbent and a new trend in baby cloth diapers too. Fold over and snap into place. Never feel embarrassed.

  • Rael Protective Period Panties look and feel like regular underwear but are made with 4 layers of highly absorbent and waterproof fabric that absorb up to 3 tampons’ or 1 menstrual cup’s worth. Wicks away moisture in seconds to keep you feeling dry. These panties are made from 95% pure cotton and 5% spandex for a silky-soft and breathable fit.

  • OrganiCup Menstrual Cup is made of 100% soft medical-grade silicone that doesn’t mess with your body. Organicup Period Cup can be used for any activity. It is washable and reusable, a great feminine hygiene product alternative to tampons and menstrual pads. Storage bag pouch made from organic cotton included. Safe and suitable for all women, teens, skin types, and menstrual conditions. Simple to insert and remove.

What are your go-to natural feminine care products?


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