The Slightly Terrifying Truth About Tampons
Periods are not pleasant—that's valid (and obvious). But are we really still evading the subject now, in 2016? Isn't it kind of sad that we've been conditioned this much to not talk about something that happens to half of the world's population on a monthly basis for a large chunk of our lifetimes?
It's not about being open just for the sake of being open. Our health is at stake, and the proof is in this question: Do you even know what is in your tampons? Probably not, because the FDA does not require tampon companies to list ingredients on their boxes, meaning we've been putting god knows what inside of our bodies for years without a second thought. Even with the knowledge that tampons can cause death in rare cases (by way of toxic shock syndrome), we're expected to be okay with not knowing what chemicals are in a very invasive toiletry. How does this make sense?
"We give thought to what’s in our food and beauty products, so why not our tampons, which we use in one of the most absorbent parts of our bodies?" ask Jordana Kier and Alex Friedman, who founded LOLA, a 100% cotton tampon subscription service, after pondering this very question. "The big brands do the bare minimum and rarely disclose the ratio of ingredients in their tampons, which is typically a blend of the artificial fibers rayon and polyester, among others." "Others" is a fittingly vague term: When the pair was developing their product and sent a variety of brand-name tampons to a lab for testing, they still couldn't identify some of the chemicals and compounds they contained. Between artificial fragrances and synthetic absorbents, there's just a lot of "stuff" in there—and frankly, that's outrageous.
But since that monthly gift just loves to keep on giving whether you feel like boycotting tampons or not, alternatives are in order. And fortunately, there are a few:
The fact that they're 100% natural and sustainable is just one of the things that makes Lola so great—in fact, founders Kier and Friedman just initially aimed to create a monthly tampon subscription service. When they began doing production research and realized that there were all sorts of unregulated chemicals in the average tampon, the pair then committed to creating a completely safe and transparent outlier. The proof that they're filling a huge hole in the market is right in the company's runaway success: Since launching last July, Lola has sold more than a million tampons and has received major financial backing from Karlie Kloss and the founders of Warby Parker, among others.
For $18 a month, you get two boxes with an assortment of light, regular, and super tampons, which you get to mix and match according to your cycle. (And you can opt for just one box at $10 a month, and new customers get their first two boxes for just $9.) Again, the tampons are 100% cotton and biodegradable with no synthetics to speak of, and they get delivered right to your doorstep every single month. (Bonus points for the discreet packaging.)
The idea of reusing something on your period is tough to swallow, but the assumption that menstrual cups are messy or gross is far and away the biggest myth about them. "They are actually way less messy than tampons, as the user does not need to handle her own blood," says Vili Petrova, founder of Lena, a cup made of completely recycled materials. "It's all contained, and you can wear it for 12 hours before needing to empty it."
In addition to being an eco-friendly option, they're totally comfortable and exercise-proof, too, and unlike tampons, TSS isn't a risk with a menstrual cup—meaning you can sleep with it in at night. (See you never, pads.)
Thinx Period Panties ($34)
Chances are you've seen Thinx on your Facebook feed, and chances are equally great that you've gaped in silent disbelief. Underwear that does the work of a tampon, doesn't leak, and doesn't feel heavy or diaper-like? And they're cute? Nuh-uh.
Believe it, sister. Even after a thorough explanation of how and why they work (thin layers of hyper-absorbent, Spanx-like fabric that holds up to two tampons' worth of fluid but keep you dry and leak-free at the same time), we're still fairly convinced that these undies are the work of unicorns and J.K. Rowling. But they're real! They work! (And again, so cute!)
Did you know tampons were so unregulated? Would you ever consider switching to one of these alternatives, or do you have any experience with any of them already? Tell us about it in the comments below!