A couple of days ago, for me it was that time of the month again. At times it can make me feel really sick and weak, which is why this post is a little bit late. And every time my lower belly starts to get a little sore, I think to myself: what is really up with what we women really put in and on our, oh so sensitive, lower regions every single month?
Let’s first think about our vaginas and the highly sensitive area that they really are. Your vagina contains a lot of small blood vessels. That, combined with the very thin skin you have down there makes it highly absorbent and super sensitive. It is definitely an area of your body you want to take good care of and that really needs some extra attention.
So let’s stop and think about it for a bit. I had heard about feminine hygiene products containing a lot of chemicals and on your pack of tampons, it says that usage comes with a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). I have stopped using tampons maybe over a year ago already, except for those times that I might go to the beach. I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to reevaluate using pads and washes as well. So I did some research to find out what exactly is used in the products we use down there every month or even every day.
I found that that task was maybe a bit of a mission impossible. The first thing that worries me greatly is that apparently companies do no have to list all the ingredients on these products. This is because tampons and pads are classified to be ‘medical devices’. To me this seems silly, even more considering where we use these products – in and on our vaginas. The vagina is an area that is highly sensitive and absorbant. Medical device or not, any device we buy should state what it is made up of, right?
Bleaching and fragrances
What I did discover is that producers bleach cotton, which is what most tampons and pads are partly made of. (Even more used is the synthetic material rayon (viscose), which comes with other risks such as drying out the vaginal walls and leaving fibers there that may increase the risk of TSS.)
They even use fragrances for a nicer smell and to prevent bad odors. Bleaching and a nice smell makes their product look more appealing and of course it’s all about money: they want to sell more products so they have to make their product look as pretty as possible.
And then another thing: like on any non-organic plant that we humans grow for any use, pesticides are used also on cotton to keep away the bugs. In fact, cotton is the number one dirtiest crop worldwide because of the heavy use of pesticides. You can guess: these pesticides will enter your body through the delicate and absorbant skin that your vagina is made up of.
I came across a video by Naturally Savvy, in which they tell us about their research concerning this matter. About three years ago, they have put up a petition, which you can still sign today. In this petition, they ask Proctor & Gamble to publicize all that they use in their feminine hygiene products. You can find the petition and the video here. In the video, they set two pads on fire. One of the pads is a natural one, made of organic cotton. Now, I’m not a scientist or a chemist, so I’m not sure what it means that the non-natural pad seemed to burn heavier, quicker and with black smoke, but to me it doesn’t seem like it’s necessarily a good thing.
Women’s Voices for the Earth’s Chem Fatale report was also released about three years ago, a bit later than the petition was put up. They have the exact same concerns as Naturally Savvy and did some research of their own. They also give more information about what is or could be used in certain ‘lady products’. The Chem Fatale report isn’t limited to pads and tampons, but also researches feminine wash, douches, wipes, deodorants and anti-itch creams.
The short version is that dangerous ingredients are used that might cause disease like cancer, reproductive harm, hormone imbalances, allergic rashes, bacterial growth and even asthma. Use of vaginal douches are even linked to cervical cancer, HIV transmission, STD’s and serious fertility, pregnancy and birth problems. Either studies link these issues to the use of these products or there are serious concerns that they do.
From the website:
Tampons: Hazardous ingredients may include dioxins and furans (from the chlorine bleaching process), pesticide residues and unknown fragrance chemicals. Exposure concerns include cancer, reproductive harm, endocrine disruption, and allergic rash.
Pads: Hazardous ingredients may include dioxins and furans, pesticide residues, unknown fragrance chemicals, and adhesive chemicals such as methyldibromo glutaronitrile. Exposure concerns include cancer, reproductive harm, and endocrine disruption. Studies link pad use to allergic rash.
Feminine Wipes: Hazardous ingredients may include methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, parabens, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, Triclosan and unknown fragrance chemicals. Exposure concerns include cancer and endocrine disruption. Studies link wipe use to allergic rash.
Feminine Wash: Hazardous ingredients may include unknown fragrance chemicals, parabens, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, DMDM hydantoin, D&C Red No.33, Ext D&C Violet #2, and FD&C Yellow #5. Exposure concerns include endocrine disruption, allergic rash, and asthma.
Douche: Hazardous ingredients may include unknown fragrance chemicals and the spermicide octoxynol-9. Studies link douche use to bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical cancer, low-birth weight, preterm birth, HIV transmission, sexually transmitted diseases, ectopic pregnancy, chronic yeast infections, and infertility.
Feminine Deodorant (sprays , powders and suppositories): Hazardous ingredients may include unknown fragrance chemicals, parabens, and benzethonium chloride. Exposure concerns include reproductive harm, endocrine disruption and allergic rash.
Feminine Anti-Itch Creams: Hazardous ingredients may include unknown fragrance chemicals, parabens, methylisothiazolinone and an active ingredient, benzocaine, a mild anesthetic. Exposure concerns include endocrine disruption, allergic rash, and unresolved itch.
So what should I use?
My advice? Use 100% organic cotton pads and tampons, and please, never ever use douches. Also because you might wash away all the good things that are naturally supposed to be in a woman’s vagina. Personally, I have never heard about deodorants and anti-itch creams for your lady parts, but I can’t imagine that any of that can do any good down there.
Are there other options?
Are you cencerned about the environmental impact pads and tampons have? I found an article on WellnessMama.com that speaks about that and more. They also give you alternatives to tampons and pads for either environmental or physical reasons. They talk about menstrual cups (I might actually try it sooner or later), organic/natural pads and tampons, reusable cloth pads and sea sponges(?). Seriously something to think about.
Have you made any changes to your monthly routine? Share your tips and ideas in the comments below!