Well, it’s not really a secret. It’s something that all
women experience, usually from somewhere between the ages of 11 and 14 years
till somewhere around the late 40’s to early 50’s. Yes, we’re talking
Throughout history, women have dealt with the issue of
menstrual bleeding in varying and interesting ways.
The mention of menstrual pads goes back very early. In the
10th century, it was recorded in the Suda (a Byzantine encyclopedia)
that Hypatia (a Greek mathematician and philosopher who lived in Egypt in the 4th
century) threw one of her used menstrual cloths at an admirer in an attempt
to discourage his unwanted attentions. She sounds formidable! Can you imagine doing that today?
As well as rags, in early centuries, women also fashioned
early forms of tampons. Apparently the ancient Egyptians invented the first
disposable tampons, which were made from softened papyrus, and the ancient
Greeks invented tampons made from lint wrapped around a small piece of wood.
More Modern Times
The first commercial sanitary pads, made by Johnson &
Johnson, went on sale in 1896 and were called Lister’s Towels. These pads
initially failed to sell because women didn’t want to declare to the public
they were menstruating by being seen buying them.
During the early 1900’s, women still preferred rags and
cotton cloths similar to baby nappies. These were used by women during their
period, washed and then re-used.
However, over time, menstrual protection progressed from the
use of rags designed merely to protect clothing from leaks to products designed
for absorption. It is thought that the first sanitary pads came about when
French nurses in the First World War realised that Curad bandages were a lot
more absorbent than homemade menstrual rags and they started using them as pads.
The first commercial applicator tampon with a cord for easy
removal was invented 1929 by Dr Earle Haas. Tampax was the brand name chosen and
the tampons were on the market by 1936.
Reusable menstrual cups were invented in the 1930’s but many
women viewed these as a backward step in menstrual products and so they weren't particularly popular. Cups have periodically resurged throughout the decades (ok, yes,
pun intended!) We saw them in the 1950’s and again in the 1970’s but they have
never managed to gain the popularity of tampons and pads.
Tampons were quite popular by the 1950’s and, in 1966, Kotex began
individually wrapping pads for better hygiene & convenience while
The Groovy 70’s
Adhesive backing became popular in the 1970’s, putting an end
to the need for belts, pins and similar fasteners. Around this time, the first
winged pads also made an appearance on the market.
In 1978 Proctor & Gamble created an extra absorbent
tampon from material that expanded to create a cup shape. However, in the early 1980’s, health professionals realised that this material contributed to hundreds of
cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome, leading to several deaths and prompting
stricter regulation of hygiene products.
1980’s – Let’s Get Physical (that tune is now stuck in my
The 1980’s saw a shift in feminine hygiene product
advertising to focus on women being active during their period.
1990’s – Let’s Get Comfortable
Since the 1990’s, most of the changes to feminine hygiene
products has revolved around shape, comfort and making pads thinner and more
So now we come to the present day.
What’s in your typical pad today? Well, conventional
sanitary pads can be made up of 90% plastic materials. Plastic does not break
down for a very, very long time so these plastic materials pollute our
environment. Plastic waste ends up in landfill sites and oceans, affecting
marine life and the food chain. Sanitary waste is sometimes incinerated,
releasing harmful gases and toxic waste, or sent to landfill. And just think,
over 45 billion sanitary pads are disposed of each year!
In addition, materials like plastic and latex can cause
irritation, skin allergies and itching.
Many popular brand sanitary pads and tampons are made from
non-organic cotton. Non-organic cotton can be contaminated with potentially
harmful pesticide residues, phthalates, azo-dyes and dioxins. Ask yourself - do you really
want those types of chemicals in or near such a sensitive and absorptive part
of your body?
Like many paper products, non-organic cotton is also usually
chlorine bleached. Chlorine bleaching is a process that creates a carcinogenic
by-product called dioxin. Again, why would you want dioxins in your feminine hygiene
Most commercial brand tampons made from a mix of rayon and non-organic
cotton. Some have a plastic wrap or have been dyed a different colour. Rayon is used
because it is highly absorbent but not only does it absorb blood, it can dry
out the natural protective mucous lining of the vagina.
Another potential problem with conventional tampons is fibre loss. The image above demonstrates fibres coming off a conventional tampon, compared to a Natracare tampon. This is because tampons normally contain a mix of rayon and pesticide-sprayed cotton. The short and straight nature of rayon fibres means they can easily slide apart from each other, shedding into the vagina. This can have hygiene implications, as well as implications for bacterial colonisation which can contribute to vaginal infections. Rayon in tampons has also been associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome. After initially denying the fibre loss issue, some manufacturers made the decision to place a polypropylene (synthetic plastic) overwrap around their tampons which reduced some of the fibre loss but did not entirely eliminate the problem. The fibre in 100% organic cotton has a wavy construction that easily interlocks and is not prone to shedding.
Do you know what’s in your tampon? Take a look at the
following video to find out:
Time for a Natural Alternative
Now that you know what's potentially in your feminine hygiene products, you may be ready for an option that's better for both you and the environment.
Natracare pads are made from a combination of certified
organic 100% cotton and sustainably-sourced natural, plant-based materials.
Cotton fibres are 70% crystalline and 30% amorphous whereas fluff pulp derived
from pine wood is 70% amorphous and 30% crystalline. This makes wood pulp a lot
more absorbent and is one reason why Natracare chooses to use
ecologically-certified cellulose pulp in the core of their pads. The
effectiveness of these ingredients in locking away fluid and the absence of
synthetic materials means your skin is able to breathe and stay dry.
Natracare tampons contain 100% organic cotton. Those with applicator tubes are made from cardboard, not plastic.
All Natracare products are biodegradable and compostable. They are free from chlorine, rayon, plastics, dyes and perfumes.
At Naturally Safe Cosmetics, we
believe that, whatever your preference when it comes to feminine hygiene, the
products you use should be free from toxic ingredients. For this reason,
Naturally Safe Cosmetics recommends and stocks the Natracare range of
menstrual products. In fact, women have been choosing Natracare’s range of high
quality, organic and natural feminine hygiene products since 1989. Natracare’s
use of natural materials makes their products soft and gentle on your skin and
the fact that they are biodegradable makes them gentle on our planet too! And guess what, they really do work! Natural, organic, gentle and toxin free - what's not to love?
Natracare’s founder, Susie Hewson, is a vegetarian and
supporter of PETA so, of course, all Natracare products are:
free from animal testing
free from animal ingredients or raw materials
processed with animal products
suitable for use by vegans and vegetarians
helping to protect wildlife in the fields where
cotton is grown by avoiding the use of pesticides
*Information sourced from online research and Natracare