I got my first period when I was 14. Many women get theirs even earlier than that.
Since we spend over half of our lives with a menstrual cycle (don’t forget to track your periods!), we should be careful about what we use to take care of it. Part of that includes learning more about what goes into period products and choosing to use organic pads and tampons when possible.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I could be compensated if you decide to make a purchase. You can read my full disclosure here.
We’ve found a range of organic pads that you can try out the next time you get a visit from Aunt Flow (at the end of this post), but first, let’s talk about what to look for in organic pads (and why you should avoid non-organic ones).
Are Non-Organic Pads Safe?
No. Non-organic pads are not as safe as organic ones, partially because we often have no idea what they’re made of. Since we use them in an area that is highly-sensitive and absorptive, we need to be careful about what’s inside.
Unfortunately, the FDA doesn’t require companies to list the ingredients in their pads and tampons because they’re not considered medical devices (this is very similar to the predicament that we have with diapers). This is a red flag for me, so I wanted to do more research to find out what could be hiding in these products that we use so often.
Dangerous Chemicals Hiding in Your Menstrual Products
Pesticide Residues. Conventional cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops on the planet. I talked about it quite a bit in my article about organic cotton pajamas if you want to learn more. If your pads are made with conventional cotton (instead of synthetic materials like rayon or, of course, organic cotton), pesticide residues can usually make their way into your body. Pesticides may cause cancer and a number of other debilitating health issues.
Chlorine & Dioxins. Pads are often a bright white color, which makes them look clean and sanitary. That clean look is made from a chlorine bleaching process though, and chlorine can emit dioxins. Though dioxins are in many unavoidable areas of our day-to-day lives, we should try to limit our exposure where we can. Dioxins collect in our fatty tissues and can lead to issues with the immune system, endocrine system disruption, and cancer.
Fragrance. I talk about fragrance a lot because it’s often one of the worst offenders. Those smell-good fragrances can hide a variety of toxic chemicals, including propylene glycol (which can cause skin irritation and damage to the liver and kidneys) and phthalates (described in more detail below).
VOCs. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) is an umbrella term for a wide range of different harmful chemicals that you can find in many products throughout your home. Different VOCs can do different things, but a study in Reproductive Toxicology found VOCs in pads that can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, and kidney and central nervous system damage. Some were also known carcinogens.
Phthalates. The same study that I talked about above also found phthalates in every product sample that they tested. Specifically, the phthalates that they found are known to cause harm to the reproductive system and can hinder fetal development. I know many women choose to use pads when they’re pregnant in order to absorb the additional moisture that our bodies create. If you’re one of those women, please make sure to find pads that are phthalate-free!
Are Organic Pads Better?
Yes! Organic pads are better than conventional pads.
We use period products for about a week per month for decades of our lives. This long-term exposure can be detrimental to our bodies, depending on what’s in the products we’re using. Switching to organic and non-toxic period products will be healthier for your body and will also be healthier for the environment.
Why You Should Switch to Organic Pads & Period Products
Our skin is very thin, and anything that we place on our skin can be absorbed into our bloodstream and then distributed throughout our bodies. The skin around our genitals is even more sensitive and absorptive. In fact, some pharmaceuticals are supposed to be taken vaginally because more of the medication will be absorbed at a quicker rate than when taken orally.
Using organic pads will give you peace of mind knowing that you’re not placing any harmful chemicals into your body.
What to Look For When You’re Shopping for Organic Menstrual Products:
Certifications. If a product is made with organic cotton, the global standard to look for is the GOTS certification. GOTS certifies that the cotton is at least 95% organic. Some products also carry a MADE SAFE certification, which is even more difficult to receive.
Chlorine-Free. As explained above, the chlorine bleaching process can be quite harmful to our bodies, so look for pads that are unbleached and chlorine-free.
Unscented. Your period products don’t need a fragrance that can be loaded with harmful chemicals! Look for pads that are unscented and fragrance-free.
Ingredients. Most companies do not list the ingredients that they use in their pads. If you can, find a brand that willingly discloses every ingredient so you can be sure they’re 100% safe to use. If you don’t recognize an ingredient, look it up.
Are Organic Pads More Eco-Friendly?
Yes! Organic pads are more eco-friendly than conventional pads. Since organic cotton is grown without the use of pesticides, there is less damage to the surrounding environment and farmlands. Additionally, most organic products take less energy to produce.
These brands often pay special attention to their packaging as well, limiting their use of plastic and other non-renewable resources that can harm our planet. Many organic pads are also compostable, biodegradable, and/or recyclable.
Do Organic Pads Work As Well As Conventional Pads?
Yes! Organic pads can work just as well as the pads you’ve always used. That being said, they’re usually free of certain ingredients that increase absorption, so you may have to change them a little more often.
The Best Organic Pads
One of only two brands on our list with the MADE SAFE label, Organyc pads are 100% cotton throughout. Their adhesive wings make them more comfortable for daily use, whether you’re hitting the gym or hitting the couch for a Netflix marathon. If you’re a mom-to-be, you’ll also love that they carry maternity pads specifically made for postpartum recovery.
Good for: heavy and light flows (and everything in between)
This is the other of the two brands with the MADE SAFE label, and they use GOTS-certified organic cotton too. All of their products come in recyclable packaging, and their organic pads are compostable! (Just follow the composting instructions.) Their products are also cruelty-free. In addition to their range of absorbency levels, they also offer postpartum pads and baby wipes for moms-to-be.
Good for: all flows
Lola pads are made with 100% organic cotton, and they’re very open about their ingredients. Your skin only touches organic cotton, but they also use a plant-based bioplastic (to water-proof the bottom layer) and non-toxic adhesives. These pads have wings to make them more comfortable and easier to apply, and we love that you can customize your box (because every woman is different!).
You can choose between heavy and regular pads, and they also offer panty liners for super-light days.
Good for: light to medium flows
You’ve likely seen Rael on the shelves of your local grocery store. Their products are available at a variety of brick-and-mortar stores. You can also purchase their organic pads directly from the Rael website, and they offer a rewards program that will score you some great discounts. The pads come in a variety of absorbency levels, including overnight pads that are thicker and longer.
We like that they’re very open about their ingredients too!
Good for: all flows
Cora is another well-known brand in the period market, and they make sure your sensitive skin only touches 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton. All of their other ingredients are listed directly on the box too, so we appreciate their openness.
Cora offers regular and overnight pads, and they have a subscription service to make things easy. In fact, with your email, you can get your first month free (just head to their website and wait for the pop-up).
Good for: light to medium days
OI (Organic Initiative) was founded in New Zealand, but their pads and other menstrual products are available at a variety of retailers, including Amazon and Walmart. These pads are made with 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton, and the brand is on a mission to be the “best in the world and best for the world.” We love that they also make period products for young girls that are suitable for smaller bodies and lighter flows.
Good for: all women & all flows
These pads are 100% organic cotton, chlorine-free, fragrance-free, and hypoallergenic. They’re perfect for everyone, but especially women with very sensitive skin. Not only do they respect women’s bodies, but Totm respects our beautiful planet too. Their packaging is all biodegradable and compostable, and even the mailing bag is made with plant-based ingredients.
Totm is a U.K. company, but they ship internationally.
Good for: light to medium days
Mondays gives you a customizable subscription service that will assure you always have menstrual products on-hand when you need them. Their pads have a 100% organic cotton upper core (which is the part that touches your body). They’re fragrance-free, chlorine-free, and the packaging is compostable and recyclable.
We love that this company is striving to get period products into the workplace too. Feminine products are just as necessary as toilet paper, and Mondays believes that women should have easier access to them, even when they’re at work.
Good for: light to medium flows