"Right now, the FDA actually doesn't require that feminine care brands list all of the ingredients in their products," explain Lola founders Jordana Kier and Alexandra Friedman. "So while most of us assume the products we're using are 100 percent cotton, they may contain synthetic fibers such as rayon and polyester." (The problem with synthetics like rayon is that they tend to be bleached and sometimes contain a carcinogen known as dioxin.)
Now, a few new companies, Lola included, are stepping up to change the industry, creating feminine care products made with non-toxic materials like organic cotton that are better for you—and the environment. The other big push? Socially conscious brands that give back (think Toms, but for tampons instead of shoes).
As we've come to a place where there's more openness about periods—from Thinx's controversial ads plastered across subway stations to the end of the tampon tax—it seems that the period revolution is only just beginning.
Read on to get to know the five brands making it perfectly clear to women what they're getting up close and (very) personal with every 28 days. —Amy Marturana, Lisa Elaine Held, Rachel Lapidos
Originally posted August 11, 2015, updated September 18, 2016.
Founders Jordana Kier and Alexandra Friedman originally just wanted to create a subscription tampon delivery service.
"However, as we researched the tampon market, we realized that the more pressing issue was lack of transparency about the ingredients that went into tampons," they explain. "Lola was born as a modern approach to feminine care and a way to change both the product and delivery of tampons."
The company offers recurring delivery that allows you to customize the number of boxes (with your ideal assortment of absorbencies that best match your flow) and how often a delivery arrives. Tampons are made with 100 percent hypoallergenic (not organic) cotton, with BPA-free applicators, are completely biodegradable, and cost $10 per box ($18 for two). Oh, and the brand has scored some major investments—including one from Karlie Kloss.
"Friends don't let friends use non-organic tampons" is the tagline of this brand, whose co-founders are committed to bringing women completely organic feminine hygiene products. "As women that believe in the benefits of choosing organic, we had an a-ha moment of sorts that we were eating organic and using natural cleaning products, but when it came to our period, we were using a non-organic option—simply because we didn’t realize an organic option existed," says co-founder Sarah Shake. "We knew at that point that we had to not only provide an organic product, but also help educate women on the benefits of choosing organic when it comes to their period."
The $19.95 per month subscription service not only comes with 100 percent organic and biodegradable tampons, but pre-moistened towelettes (made with organic cotton) and a hydrating rosewater toner and aromatherapy spray for serious freshening up.
Plus, Kali has partnered with Girl Up, the United Nations empowerment campaign for adolescent girls, and donates $1 from every box purchased to the organization.
Entrepreneur Molly Hayward originally created Cora to empower women and girls who were missing out on educational and economic opportunities because they didn't have access to pads or tampons. "It’s estimated that 100 million girls around the world lack access to sanitary products that they need or want," she says.
Hayward thought she could help them by selling products to women who did have the means and using the profits for product donation, but another layer soon emerged. "I realized we are suffering in a very different way. Although we have access to products, the majority of those products are very bad for us and are very bad for the environment," she says—which is why Cora only uses 100 percent organic cotton tampons with BPA-free applicators, and works with a social enterprise in India that provides plant-based, biodegradable sanitary pads to girls in need with every purchased box of Cora.
Cora's subscription-based service ships to customers for as little as $9 a month. And don't expect the typical pastel- or candy-colored packaging: Cora's aesthetic is sleek and black, and the package even comes with a vegan clutch so you can discreetly carry your tampons in style.
Former humanitarian crises-documenting photojournalist Talia Frenkel—who saw how many girls in developing countries would stop going to school when they got their periods—was stirred to do something to change the feminine care industry. "I saw a pattern—girls weren't getting access to basic health care products we buy every day," she tells us.
L.—which was first created as a healthy condom brand—now has a line of organic pads, panty liners, and tampons which provides products to a female entrepreneur in a developing country every time they make a sale. "The world is really out of touch and behind on this [feminine care] topic," says Frenkel—which is why L.'s products aren't only packaged beautifully (hello, palm print!) but they're free of the major toxic chemicals ordinary feminine care products have: chlorine, rayon, fragrance, artificial dyes (the list goes on). And the cotton is organic, which means you're not risking pesticides going inside your body.
Now available at Target, L. aims to be accessible and at a competitive price point. A (chic) box of 30 tampons, 100 panty liners, and 42 pads each cost less than $6 each, and the brand will be offering a customizable subscription service in the near future to really make conquering your monthly cycle a breeze. And as their tongue-in-cheek package of regular tampons says—they're regular...but not basic.
The first ever subscription-based tampon service powered by a reproductive health tracking app, Monthly Gift provides women with a customized delivery of tampons, pads, and liners for as low as $10 per cycle. Through the app, women can stay on top of their "monthly gift" along with their mood, fertility, and overall health, as well as set reminders for doctors' appointments or for taking birth control.
"We wanted to create a product that raises awareness and empowers every woman to take control of her health," say co-founders and sisters Kimmy and LisaMarie Scotti.
And for women around the world in need of sustainable feminine hygiene solutions, Monthly Gift supports Days for Girls, a grassroots nonprofit feminine hygiene organization.
"We as social entrepreneurs are committed to using our business to affect the change we wish to see," say Margo Lang and Annie Lascoe, co-founders of Conscious Period—which is why they not only produce completely organic tampons with BPA-free applicators, but give back as well.
"We founded Conscious Period as a social enterprise that gives back to women living in homelessness across the United States," say Lang and Lascoe. The company provides 100 percent organic cotton pads to homeless women with every box sold, and gives these same women employment opportunities to produce and package the pads for the shelters' long-term needs.
All of this happens for just $8.50 for a box of 18 tampons (with two extra—"one for a friend, one for a stranger," the brand likes to say).
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