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Feminine Hygiene, Our Priority

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

For women, children, and teenagers, feminine hygiene should always be at the top of the list of our priorities. Although oftentimes it can be nerve-wracking to talk to a parent, doctor, or even a friend about any concerns you might have about your own body, it's always important to ask questions and educate yourself on what to avoid, what you should know to safely care for yourself, and what products are safe to use.


{1} What They Don't Want You to Know

Unfortunately, many of the feminine care products we use today are riddled with harsh chemicals that are not safe to come into direct contact with sensitive vaginal tissue. What's even more of a concern, according to the FDA, tampons, and pads are considered medical devices, a device intended to be used only for medical purposes, and are not required to list their ingredients. It is common for a girl to start her menstrual cycle as early as 8 years old, to as mature as 16 years old. A woman's menstrual cycle will continue until they begin menopause, which can range from her early 40s to late 50s. Menopause may vary depending on age, ethnicity, and healthy life choices. A woman can spend anywhere between 30 to 50 years absorbing unsafe chemicals, and due to this prolonged time period, certain health risks can arise such as cancers, hormone disruption, endometriosis, irritation, and itching, reproductive harm, or toxic shock syndrome. Let's talk about some of these commonly used chemicals and their effects.

Rayon

This is a highly absorbent synthetic material that is in most tampon brands we see today, such as Tampax, an unsafe tampon and pad brand, which was recently involved in a lawsuit involving substances called PFAS. Rayon is directly linked with Dioxin, "which is the byproduct of the process from converting wood pulp into a synthetic fiber"{2}. Dioxins are organic pollutants, extraordinarily harmful and carcinogenic, and beyond toxic to the body's reproductive system, immune system, and hormonal activity, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Non-Organic Cotton

Cotton itself is considered to be the "dirtiest crop" for the reason that it is exposed to many different pesticides and herbicides that are poisonous to humans and wildlife. Research by The University of Texas at Austin {3} suggests that non-organic cotton in tampons can contain trace amounts of the pesticide glyphosate which might be carcinogenic. To make your pads and tampons look more aesthetically appealing, the cotton used to make these products is usually heavily bleached with chlorine. However, the FDA states that tampons are no longer bleached using elemental chlorine.

Fragrance

Most people tend to lean towards sweet or even savory scented products to enhance their usage, however, using scented feminine products is very far away from being hygienic. Using scented feminine products does not clean your vagina any better than using an unscented product, and is just a myth. In fact, fragrances can upset your pH, which measures the acidity of your vagina, and cause an imbalance of good and bad bacteria. Although most cases are mild, they either go away on their own, or require antibiotics, bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, urinary tract infections, rashes, and irritation can occur. "The vagina is a self-sufficient organ that is constantly washing away its own naturally renewing cells and microorganisms, even during menstruation" states the Cleveland Clinic {4}, meaning that a specific feminine product is not always necessary to keep yourself clean. Avoiding added chemicals, in pads, tampons, special washes, wipes, creams, etc... is always the safest option to avoid any side effects.

Parabens

According to the FDA, parabens are commonly used preservatives in cosmetics, foods, and many other industries, and are used to prevent the growth of microbes, fungi, or yeast. If your feminine products contain ethylparaben, methylparaben, isobutyl paraben, butylparaben, or polyparaben, among many others, your product contains preservatives. Parabens are generally safe in small amounts, or in one singular product, however, the concern becomes significant the more paraben-filled products you use. Parabens are endocrine disruptors, a chemical that interferes with the normal functioning of the endocrine, and reproductive system, as well as biological processes. According to Breast Cancer Prevention Partners {5}, "Several studies have shown that parabens can affect the mechanisms of normal breast cells and potentially influence their abnormal growth, leading to increased risk of breast cancer." Vitro studies have shown that the chance of metastasis, the development of secondary malignant growths, is increased in cells that have been exposed to parabens for over 20 weeks{6}. Parabens have also been known to cause allergic hypersensitivity{7} as well as the disruption of thyroid levels {8}.


So What Products Are Safe to Use?

Typically, it's quite hard to find safe and effective menstruation products, and you should always do your own research before purchasing any sort of generic brand. The best products should be 100% organic, and you should be 100% confident with what you put in or on your body. Let's go over some of the best brands from which to purchase any washes, creams, pads, tampons, etc...


The Honey Pot Company uses 100% Organic Unbleached Cotton, is dermatologist tested, and is hypoallergenic. It is gynecologist approved and is paraben, sulfate, and dioxide-free!



Lola uses 100% Organic Cotton, is hypoallergenic, and gynecologist approved. This brand is free from fragrances, bleaching, parabens, sulfates, alcohol, and dioxins!






Seventh Generation is made with 100% Certified Organic Cotton that is whitened without the use of bleach. This brand does not use any fragrances, dyes, deodorants, or rayon!





Sustain, partnered with Grove Collaborative, uses 100% Certified Organic Cotton, with no chlorine bleach, rayon, dyes, fragrances, or synthetic super-absorbent!




Other alternatives to tampons and pads are reusable menstrual cups and organic cotton reusable pads. Saalt reusable diva cups are made with 100% medical-grade silicone and are completely organic, vegan, and fair trade. They are non-toxic, and odor free. Saalt also carries menstrual underwear that is leakproof, with natural cotton, and no harsh chemicals or parabens.





At Youth4r3, we believe that empowering women is a huge aspect of adequate healthcare, and providing the right resources is a huge step toward educating the next, and current generation about our bodies, and what we put in them. A reminder that every woman's body is different and unique, meaning everyone's bodies have different reactions to products than others! Choose what works best for you! Remember to stay safe, positive, and to make safe and healthy life choices, especially when it comes to feminine hygiene!





Citations

1. “Five Chemicals You Won’t Find in Our Reusable.” Award Winning Reusable Nappies | TotsBots, 1 Feb. 2019, www.totsbots.com/blog/blog-post/five-chemicals-you-wont-find-in-our-reusable-sanitary-pads. Accessed 6 July 2023.

‌2. “Tampon Safety | National Center for Health Research.” National Center for Health Research, 24 Jan. 2017, www.center4research.org/tampon-safety/.

3. McGuire, Madison. “The Feminine Cotton Controversy | Think Twice.” Sites.utexas.edu, 21 Feb. 2020, sites.utexas.edu/think-twice/2020/02/21/the-feminine-cotton-controversy/. Accessed 6 July 2023.

4. hollowc2. “Are Scented Tampons and Pads Bad for You?” Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, 5 June 2019, health.clevelandclinic.org/are-scented-tampons-and-pads-bad-for-you/.

5. “Parabens.” Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP), www.bcpp.org/resource/parabens/#:~:text=The%20authors%20found%20that%20the. Accessed 6 July 2023.

6. Darbre, Philippa D, and Philip W Harvey. “Parabens can enable hallmarks and characteristics of cancer in human breast epithelial cells: a review of the literature with reference to new exposure data and regulatory status.” Journal of Applied Toxicology 34, 9 (2014): 925-38. doi:10.1002/jat.3027.

7. Ngan, Vanessa. “Parabens Contact Allergy | DermNet.” Dermnetnz.org, 2002, dermnetnz.org/topics/allergy-to-parabens#:~:text=Paraben%20mix%20sensitivity%20produces%20classic. Accessed 6 July 2023.

8. Koeppe ES et al. “Relationship between urinary triclosan and paraben concentrations and serum thyroid measures in NHANES 2007-2008.” The Science of the Total Environment 445-446 (2013): 299-305. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.12.052.







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Elena Askew
Elena Askew
22 jul 2023

Wow, this is the most interesting article I've read in a long time, and I will most definitely reconsider my feminine hygiene haha 😊

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