We’re seeing a momentous shift in the way women are living. We’re holding predators accountable, fighting for equality in the workplace, and advocating for our bodies, including the products we deem acceptable for use during our menstrual cycles.
There was a time when tampons and pads treated with bleach and chemicals were the only options women had. These not only clog up our landfills and continue to promote excess waste, but they also cause a host of side-effects, including Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), hormone disruptions, allergic reactions, bacterial overgrowth, and more.
Dr. Joseph Mercola shared his thoughts in a Huffington Post piece that revealed a darker side of the commercial feminine hygiene industry. “Anything coming in constant contact with your skin will land in your bloodstream for distribution throughout your body,” he warns.
“In my opinion, feminine hygiene products can be likened to a ‘ticking time bomb’ due to years of exposure. The average American woman uses 16,800 tampons in her lifetime -- or up to 24,360 if she's on estrogen replacement therapy.”
The secretive nature of big brands is kept that way in part because of industry regulations allowing tampon and pad manufacturers to keep their ingredients and materials undisclosed under the category of “medical devices.”
Long story short, Dr. Mercola has pointed out the ominous nature of commercial tampons and pads, including the ingredients that do the most harm. Shockingly, “conventional sanitary pads can contain the equivalent of about four plastic bags,” and this doesn’t include the other chemicals like BPA, BPS, phthalates, and toxic dioxin created by the bleaching process.
A Brand New Cycle
Women need alternatives to traditional tampons and pads, and the independent side of the feminine hygiene industry has answered.
There are many opportunities to now purchase completely organic, bleach-free tampons and pads, but they don't reduce waste as well as menstrual cups since they aren't recyclable after coming into contact with bodily fluids.
Meika Hollender, the co-founder of Sustain Natural, a leader in creating clean, vaginal-friendly products for women, is an advocate for the use of menstrual alternatives and just recently launched a period cup as part of the Sustain Natural collection.
Hollender shares some of her favorite advantages to making the switch to menstrual cups. They're “eco-friendly and wallet-friendly,” explains Hollender. “Sustain’s period cup costs $39 and can last up to 3 years. That means less waste in landfills and less money over time.”
She also notes that, although period cups can't be recycled once they've been used, they still produce far less waste over the lifetime of the product's use. According to Hollender, menstrual cups also help with vaginal dryness and produce less odor. Plus, we think they're super convenient--no more late night trips to the store to stock up on tampons!
Period cups are also capable of handling heavy flows and are typically offered in more than one size for women who have and have not given birth vaginally.
Menstrual Cup Options
The menstrual cup market is growing more robust by the day, so we've handpicked a few of our favorites based on manufacturing practices, reputation, inclusivity, and the options made available to the women wearing them. I’ve also personally used all three of these brands and include my experiences below.
1. Sustain Natural Period Cup
The Sustain Natural Period Cup ($39) is one of the most innovative options on the market. It’s made of soft, flexible, biocompatible, medical grade silicone, holds up to three tampons worth of blood, and is available in two sizes to accommodate a light/normal and heavy flow, the latter of which is recommended for women who have given birth vaginally.
It also comes with a carrying case that doubles as a cleaning device. In fact, it’s the “only cup in the US market with a microwave-safe case used to carry, clean and disinfect the cup,” making this a great option for women on the go.
I had the opportunity to try this menstrual cup and it is by far one of my favorites. The cup has the softest, most flexible, and, for me, the most comfortable material I’ve had the pleasure of using. It was very easy to insert and remove, and I never experienced any major leaks.
2. Peachlife Menstrual Cup
In addition to being sustainable and manufactured from FDA-approved medical-grade silicone, we like the Peachlife Menstrual Cup ($21.99) because it offers women a variety of firmness options, something we haven’t seen widely available from competitors.
Peachlife has a medium soft cup, a medium firm cup, and a medium extra firm cup. Each design comes with a ring stem for easy removal and can be worn for up to 12 hours.
I tried the medium soft cup. My experience was that it is very comfortable and pliable, which I enjoy for stress-free insertion. The ring stem is convenient for removal but doesn’t allow for adjustment like other cups do.
If you have a lower-sitting cervix (like me), then you rely on being able to trim the stems that are attached to the menstrual cups. However, if this isn’t an issue, then I think you’ll really enjoy the Peachlife brand.
3. The DivaCup
One of the most widely recognized and trusted brands on the market, The DivaCup ($34.99) has a reputation for helping women kick tampons to the curb while making their cycles a little more tolerable.
It comes in three different sizes--one for young girls and teens who are first experiencing menstruation, one for women between the ages of 19 and 30 and have not given birth, and one for women who are either over 30 or who have given birth vaginally or via cesarean.
The DivaCup promotes 12-hour leak-free protection and is made from 100 percent healthcare-grade silicone, making it latex, BPA, plastic, dye, and chemical free.
My experience with the cup (post-childbirth size) was good, but I think it would best serve women who prefer a firmer cup. I encountered some leakage on heavier days, so did occasionally wear a panty liner to compensate. I really liked the cloth storage bag it came with because it allowed me to air dry my cup after cleaning.
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