Lala Investigates: What Are Tampons Really Made Of?

We all met our monthly friend at different ages, but whether you were 10 or 16, we’ve all become very familiar with the “feminine hygiene” aisle of every Target, Walgreens, and CVS in the area.

But these aisles have been undergoing a slow facelift over the last decade as more and more organic companies are making their way onto the shelves.

With the dozens of options and the most recent push for these new, all natural products underway, a girl can be stuck wondering: What’s really in my tampon and why does any of it matter?

I think it’s important that every girl chooses her own priorities; balances risk, convenience, and cost; and knows what is best for her. With that in mind, let’s break down the most controversial components of conventional menstrual products.

Your average tampon is a combination of cotton and additional synthetic fibers, most infamously “rayon” fibers. Mainstream cotton producers use pesticides to help regulate their fields and yield the biggest and most consistent crops. Although this is very standard practice in the agriculture business, the thought of any of those pesticides making their way into the products we put in our bodies is a large concern for many.

The second issue with the materials making up modern tampons is the use of those rayon fibers. Rayon is a synthetic fiber that is used to supplement the cotton that makes up most of your tampon. These fibers are very short and straight, and because of this, they can break off quite easily and stay where they fell even after you remove the product.

Toxic Shock Syndrome is something tampon-wearing girls are always warned about, and the reason why we only wear them for a few hours at a time, but with these broken off rayon fibers, women are at risk for TSS even after removing the tampon. They hold all the toxins to the walls of your vagina and threaten to make you sick if they don’t dislodge. This isn’t a super frequent issue, but is something to be aware of when using tampons.

The cotton also undergoes a bleaching process to make sure your tampon has that pearly white shade. Some products on the shelf are subject to a specific bleaching process called chlorine bleaching.

Environmentalists have pointed out how detrimental this process can be to the environment, producing a toxin called dioxin. Aside from dioxin’s nature-based negative effects, chlorine bleached cotton has the potential to introduce dioxins in you, and no one likes toxins chilling in their body.

Eco-friendly females have also taken issue with the contents of the standard pad. The majority of pads found in stores today are made of up to 90% plastic. This creates enormous amounts of waste compared to alternative organic products.

Organic companies are popping up left and right to offer more choice for the health conscious, environmentally aware woman. Some of the bigger names on the market are Natracare, Corman Organyc, and Seventh Generation.

These companies are combatting problematic aspects of popular brands by creating pads and tampons made from 100% cotton, grown without pesticides, and bleached with a unique oxygenation process. So get to investigating your options, especially if these issues are concerning to you, and always know what you’re putting in your body.


Shelby Hoffman

Editorial Contributor, Shelby Hoffman Major: International Studies and Political Science Her heart belongs to: cookie dough, antiquing adventures with friends, and Harry Potter You can find her: investigating a new part of Chicago to discover this weekend

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