Tampons, Pads, Menstrual Cups…Oh My! Are There Toxic Chemicals in Your Feminine Products?

Tampons Pads & Menstrual Cups

You might not have given much thought to what your feminine care products are made of. A tampon is just an applicator and cotton, right? Well, there’s more to it than that. And sadly most conventional pads and tampons contain some really harmful chemicals. Keep reading to find out what, and safer alternatives to use instead! 🙅

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The Problem with Conventional Tampons, Pads, & Pantiliners

The average woman uses about 11,500 tampons in her life. That’s a lot! Your skin “down under” is more sensitive and absorbent than other areas of your body, so using products down there that contain toxins is even more dangerous. Especially for long periods of time (pun intended). Menstrual pain can actually be made worse by these ingredients, too. So here’s what is found in conventional pads, tampons, and pantiliners:

Synthetic Rayon

Most conventional pads and tampons contain rayon instead of cotton. Rayon is a synthetic fiber that is used instead of cotton because it is cheaper. It is made of bleached cellulose fibers derived from wood pulp. Rayon is more absorbent than cotton, which is not a good thing. The synthetic fibers increase your risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) because they pull more moisture or can leave fibers behind and increase bacteria growth.

Non-Organic Cotton

Cotton is one of the world’s dirtiest crops, meaning it is heavily sprayed with synthetic pesticides and herbicides. It is also likely that the cotton is genetically modified. There was a study done recently that found 85% of tampons to be contaminated with glyphosate, which is a dangerous herbicide linked to cancer.

Harmful Fragrances

Many products are fragranced as well. Fragrances are NOT regulated and can contain a combination of about 3,000 different chemicals, including carcinogens, phthalates, irritants, and neurotoxins. They are extremely harmful and are endocrine disruptors, which means they can mess with your hormones. You might think you need scented products during your period to mask smells. Well actually, the reason there are “smells” down there is likely because of all the chemicals in your products. According to Rael:

The strong odor derives from the disposables blocking the airway to your genitals and also from the chemicals mixing with the blood.

Bleached with Chlorine or Dyed

In order to make your tampons and pads sparkly white, they are likely bleached with chlorine dioxide. The byproduct of this is dioxins, which have been linked with cancer and reproductive issues like endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease (source). Some products might even contain dyes, too.


Yes, there is probably plastic in your feminine products! And I’m not just talking about the applicator. Plastics, BPA, and phthalates can be found in tampons. According to Mercola:

Synthetics and plastic also restrict the free flow of air and can trap heat and dampness, potentially promoting the growth of yeast and bacteria in your vaginal area.

Not good at all! 😩 Not to mention that this is bad for the environment because plastics do not totally break down or biodegrade. Think of those 11,500 tampons again, ending up in a landfill! Read more about plastic and why you should avoid it.

Pad Exposure Concerns
Image from Rael

Natural Feminine Care Products to Try Instead

So all that being said, here are some safer, non-toxic options for feminine care products:

Organic Cotton Tampons, Pads, & Pantiliners

There are a lot of brands popping up that make organic cotton feminine care products! 👍 Here are a few that I like.

Natracare is a pretty standard brand for organic feminine products and can be found at most health food stores. They have cardboard applicators instead of plastic which is awesome (also come without applicators). They have a wide variety of sizes too. A box of 16 regular tampons is usually around [$9] but if you order from Thrive Market you can stock up and buy for only [$4.95] a box!

Rael makes organic pads, tampons, pantiliners, cups, and period products. You can get their tampons in multiple absorbencies and they’re available in cardboard applicators or BPA-free plastic applicators. They don’t use any chlorine bleaching, pesticides, or fragrances.

Related post: “5 Natural & Holistic Remedies for Period Cramps, Pain, and Bloating That I Swear By!

Organic Cotton REUSABLE Pads & Pantiliners

Another option that is great for the environment would be organic cotton reusable pads and pantiliners. I use the pantiliners and it is SO nice to not have to buy disposable pantiliners all the time and much better for the environment. The thought of reusable pads or pantiliners might gross you out but it’s actually very hygienic and they are more breathable and comfortable. Here’s a brand that has a lot of options for sizes, called Rael. Made with 100% organic cotton and no synthetic coloring, chemicals, bleaches, etc.

Hesta Organic Reusable Pads

Menstrual Cups

Before you write this off as an option because you think it’s too weird, hear me out! I used to think these were weird too, but now, I am a total convert. I use the Poppins Period Menstrual Cup (code ORGANICALLYBECCA for discount), but there are TONS of brands out there that make cups. If properly cared for, cups last about 10 years. What’s great is that they create zero waste, rarely leak, you can wear them for 12 hours at a time, and you don’t have to worry about TSS. Some people even say their cramps and better and their periods are shorter when using it 🩸

Read my other blog post about menstrual cups for more info on how to use and clean them, FAQ, as well as more reasons why you might want to make the switch!

Bloody Buddy Menstrual Cups

You can also buy menstrual cups, reusable liners, and organic cotton tampons from EarthHero.

Absorbent Period Undies

Again, don’t write these off! I used to think these sounded gross but I gave them a try anyway because I have heard so many women rave about them. Consider me a convert! Depending on the style, these hold up to 5-10 tampons worth of liquid. I mainly use these as a backup to my menstrual cup, or on my lighter days.

Surprisingly, I actually feel cleaner using these vs. disposables. It honestly just feels like you are wearing underwear. They are slightly padded in the crotch and up the back and have an absorbent lining. Game changer! 🔴

I wear Modibodi period undies! You can learn more about menstrual underwear and two popular PFAS-free brands in this blog post.

Have a Happier, Holistic Period!

Ready to switch to safer feminine products yet?!? I know it’s scary to hear what’s in conventional products, but I just want you to be informed! Whether it’s applicator tampons, non-applicator, cloth pads, regular pads, or menstrual cups, find what works best for YOU! Just make sure it’s non-toxic!

P.S. you can find menstrual cups, reusable pads, and organic pads/tampons on Thrive Market at a discounted price. Seriously, check it out if you want to stock up and not have to go to the store!

Let me know in the comments your lady product of choice, or if you have any questions 👇

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Written by: Becca

Becca is a blogger, wife, and dog mom living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Having seen firsthand the benefits of switching to a natural lifestyle herself, she's passionate about helping women make the switch to clean beauty products, organic skincare, and a holistic way of life (without the stress of being perfect about it!).

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