Adapted from ‘Safe Alternative to Tampons and Sanitary Pads: These Feminine Hygiene Products are made with Natural Materials’ by Chethana Prakasan

Alternatives to Disposable Menstrual Products

People who menstruate use an average of 16,000 disposable period products (primarily tampons or sanitary pads) over the course of their lifetime. These products are composed of absorbent material well-suited to containing vaginal bleeding. While effective for the purposes of menstruation, many of the ingredients of these disposable items are harmful to human health, environmental health, or both. 

Environmental Impact

The environmental effects of many chemical compounds contained in disposable menstrual products have not been adequately examined. However, most contain several varieties of plastics, which are known to take many years to degrade.

Human Impact

Disposable products contain ingredients which can act as vaginal irritants. They are also often expensive. 

Reusable alternatives provide a feasible solution to the problems presented by disposable menstrual products.


  • Menstrual Cups: They are composed of medical grade silicone, which eliminates the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) posed by tampons. They are also comfortable and convenient to use. However, they do require annual replacement, and must be washed after each use.
  • Period Underwear: These are likely the product with the least user inconvenience, and they provide a very comfortable option. However, their use may be dependent on the strength of the blood flow, and they must be washed after each use.
  • Reusable Cotton Pads: The mechanism of action is the same as disposable sanitary napkins, but with higher user comfort, and lower environmental impact. They must also be washed after each use.

While every sustainable product has its limitations, their benefits to both human health and the environment over those of traditional menstrual products far outweigh their drawbacks.

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