4 Eco Friendly Period Products for a Plastic Free Period

You read that right -- plastic free periods!  Hands up if you knew the majority of period products on the market are laden with toxic chemicals and planet polluting plastics.  But you're in luck, because there is a rising number of eco friendly and sustainable period options out there for you to choose from!

You've all heard the message: plastic is bad.  But have you stopped to think about why?  I mean, we've all seen the horrific images of sea turtles with their heads trapped in netting, whales washed up on shore filled with deadly shards and scraps, and baby birds unknowingly fed residual pieces (or sometimes even huge chunks!), and that is more than enough reason to change, but what about what plastic is doing to our own personal health?

Some studies have shown that the plastic and residues found on pads and tampons can actually cause a pretty big risk to health.  Since the skin around the vagina is so thin and there are so many small blood vessels in that area, the potential for absorption of toxic ingredients is much higher than for other surfaces of the body.  That means that BPA, the chemical cocktail that is synthetic fragrance, pesticides, and other nasties that have been frequently found on these items are slowly leeching into your bloodstream every time you use these products.  And these have all been linked to some pretty scary things, like cancer, infertility, heart disease, and more.

With 4.3 billion disposable period products used in just the UK every year (and 45 BILLION worldwide!), it's really time to start rethinking how we approach menstruation and the items we use to get through that time of the month.

eco friendly period products - plastic free sustainable menstruation

There have been many posts adding up the numbers, talking about all the problems related to periods, and sharing solutions, but despite all of this the general public still has not totally picked up on the dangers of plastic packed period products.  I think part of the issue is that there just is not as much visibility when it comes to periods.  There is still so much stigma when it comes to menstruation, with women still exchanging sanitary towels like they are doing covert drug deals and blushing when they carry their purchase up to the till.  But it's time to change that, and time to talk about all the good that can be done by simply switching to more eco friendly alternatives.

In terms of accessibility and message, I have two favourite brands I keep coming back to: NatraCare and TOTM.  I have to choose these as my top plastic free period brands for a few reasons.  Not only are they available online, but in most shops that sell eco-friendly products (even our local independent green grocer and select Tesco stores!), making them easy to find, buy, and try!  This is so important, as it helps keep nontoxic period products visible -- a person who might not have chosen an organic cotton (or reusable!) option under normal circumstances might see them and take a chance, and next thing you know they are totally converted!

I have also been impressed by the amount of indie creators who have set up shop.  Every expo and market related to ethical living (vegan, organic, etc.) seems to feature at least one local creator of reusable pads, and I have seen an increase in sustainable period products on the shelves of health food shops.  There doesn't seem to be a shortage of plastic free options anymore, so it has never been easier to find the kind that works for you!

Let's take a look at all the different alternatives shall we?


"Traditional" Sanitary Towels + Tampons:
This is definitely a great first step for those looking to make a difference with their monthlies.  If you are a bit hesitant to try out any of the more 'adventurous' options, don't fret -- you can still change things up so you are limiting excess plastic as well as your exposure (and the environments!) to toxic chemicals.

Like I mentioned above, most single use sanitary products contain nasties that aren't so planet or health friendly, like chlorine, BPA, and petrochemicals.  Plus, the a conventional pad can actually contain up to around 90% plastic -- that's as much as four carrier bags in a single pad.  And a tampon contains 6% plastic not counting the outer wrapping or applicator.  Yikes!

tried out TOTM ages ago, and was hooked from my very first delivery.  Not only did I love the little extra goodies sent with each "subscription," but the products themselves are so comfortable and effective.  Like I mentioned in my initial review of the brand, the mission of TOTM is to provide transparency about period products, offer convenience through their subscription so customers can always be well-stocked on tampons and pads, and promote a healthy relationship with menstruation to help eliminate the shame around bleeding.  Plus, they are dedicated to a ethically sourced, no-nasties range!  How fab is that??

"Our tampons, pads and liners are all made with 100% organic cotton. Cotton is biodegradable and will naturally break down in the landfill. We also use sustainable packaging wherever possible in the range. Including biodegradable cardboard tampon applicators and biodegradable pad wrappers."

Another fantastic thing about TOTM is that you don't have to rely on the internet to try out their products anymore.  The brand is now available in select physical Tesco stores throughout the UK and Ireland, along with Tesco and Ocado online shops!

If you are a new customer, you can grab 25% off your first TOTM subscription order by using my referral link.  Plus, you always get free shipping when ordering two or more products, so you can enjoy even more savings while benefiting both the planet and your health!

TOTM eco friendly period products


I also have had great luck with Organyc, a brand that offers 100% certified organic cotton menstrual and intimate care products.  Available from a variety of online retailers, including one of my favourite one stop beauty shops, Love Lula, Organyc is another name making waves in the world of plastic free periods.  The pads, tampons, liners, and wipes are all free from synthetic materials, perfumes, dyes, and SAPs, meaning they are safe for skin and cut down exposure to common nasties, plus they are completely biodegradable and compostable.  Even the wrappers and back sheets skip the plastic, as they are made from a corn starch derived substitute called Mater-Bi®!

Organyc is dedicated to providing less toxic and less polluting products.  They state, "Organyc has replaced all the synthetic materials with pure organic cotton, which is an excellent high quality material, soft, comfortable, absorbent by nature, hypoallergenic and breathable. When you wear organic cotton, the air can pass through the fibres, and you avoid creating a over-humid micro-climate on the skin that can encourage the growth of bacteria, you are usually less sweaty and feel fresher."

I have found these pads super comfortable, and I love that I can pick them up with my regular beauty shop.  No hunting around or having to make a separate trip out -- I can just pop them in my basket and have them arrive a few days later with all my other self care essentials!

Organyc organic cotton pads


Another favourite eco friendly menstrual brand of mine is Natracare.  Their founder Susie actually developed the world's first organic & natural period products in 1989, and has been providing more sustainable options ever since.

"Natracare products are made from renewable, biodegradable and certifiably compostable materials. They work just like other brands, but unlike plastic products, ours won’t be polluting the earth for the next 500 years."

Available worldwide, Natracare is a leader in plastic free menstrual products when it comes to visibility, and can be found in physical retailers like Holland & Barrett, Waitrose, and independent health shops and pharmacies, along with online sellers like Ocado and Abel & Cole.  There is no short supply when it comes to finding their range while out and about!

I love how many varieties Natracare has for their range, as it ensures there is a fit for every body and preference.  Customers can choose from liners, pads, tampons, maternity wear, wipes, and incontinence products.  Even beyond that, there is a huge amount of personalization.  I mean, there are ten pad selections to pick from!  Just choose the absorbency and style you need, and you're all set to go.  And guess what -- all are free from GMOs, chlorine, fragrance, and dyes.  Plus, many of their items are home compostable, and the few that do use plastic wrappers are widely recycled so you can dispose of packaging responsibly.

Natracare eco friendly period products




But what about reusable options?  With reports like that from Women’s Environmental Network showing that the average woman will use more than 11,000 disposable menstrual products during their life, many may be tempted to pick up something that lasts more than just a single use.  So what plastic free period products are there for those looking for an even more sustainable alternative?

Don't worry, there are actually quite a few out there.  Just check out these three:



The Cup:
Menstrual cups have been on the market for quite some time now, but it has only been recently that people have really started to think about making the switch from disposable pads and tampons to the cup.  The concept is this: you insert a flexible reusable "cup" to catch the blood, and empty it when it gets full.  The product can hold up to

One of the biggest perks of this zero waste alternative is that it doesn't require frequent changing and it is easy to clean after use.  Sounds pretty good, right?

eco friendly period products - TOTM menstrual cup

I was given the chance to try a menstrual cup out for myself thanks to TOTM -- they got in touch with me back in November last year and asked if I wanted to try their newly launched TOTM Cup, and of course I said yes!  I was a little nervous, as it was such a foreign concept to me having primarily used pads the majority of my life, but was keen to see how I got on.

There are three different cups available from TOTM: Size 1, Size 2, and Size 3. The first is for those under 18 years old who do not have sex regularly and has a 40mm diameter.  The middle option is suitable for those under 30 years old and have not given birth vaginally, and it has a 43mm diameter.  The final size is best for anyone over 30 years old or who has given birth vaginally, and it has a 46mm diameter.  After a few questions to make sure I picked out the right size, I was all set to go with my size two cup!

TOTM's product is made from FDA approved medical grade TPE, a thermoplastic rubber that is super soft and designed to be comfortable and pretty unnoticeable once inserted thanks to its flexibility.  I've only been able to use this a few times as my bleed has been really irregular, but I have been pleasantly surprised so far.  I was terrified about putting the cup in the first time, as I wasn't sure what it would feel like, plus I had an irrational fear of it getting stuck and me having to go to A&E for help.  That wasn't the case at all I'm happy to report!

"To insert the cup, fold (as shown), relax your vaginal muscles, separate the labia and insert into the vagina (cups lower than a tampon). There are multiple cup folds, so you need to find which works best for you. When you have inserted the cup, gently release for a secure, comfortable fit. Cup usage instructions are included in the box to aid first time users."

Once I learned how to do everything, it wasn't as big of a faff as I had feared.  It does definitely take practice, and it doesn't always happen on the first try, but once it is in it's in - no leaks, no slippage.  I even managed to do some yoga with the cup in and didn't have any discomfort or mishaps!

TOTM folded menstrual cup

I also appreciate the advice given by professional gynecologists via TOTM, as it actually conflicted with a lot of the information I had read online.  They say “I recommend to not leave any cup in for prolonged periods of time. The cup should still be removed, cleaned and reinserted every six hours or so for hygiene reasons," but also that it's "advisable to not leave a menstrual cup in overnight. This is the same advice for tampon users. Some people can find that cups can leak at night (depending on sleeping position etc) so a pad can help prevent additional leaks.”  Shows how important it is to get proper intel rather than just taking the internet at its word!

While the cup isn't my preferred method, I love having one available for travel and for days where I will be out for a long period of time and don't want to have to worry about changing my pad every hour or two.  It's a great option, especially since you can theoretically keep the same one for years and years -- think about how much plastic waste is being saved this way!



Reusable Pads + Tampons:
It's hard to know where to start in terms of brands out there, as there are just SO many now.  There are tons available from independent sellers (just have a browse over on Etsy and I'm sure you'll find some that suit your needs!) plus some bigger names you can check out like Bloom & NoraEarthwise Girls, and Honour Your Flow.

When it comes to reusable pads (and in many ways, tampons too) there is a lot of choice in terms of materials used, size, price point, and aesthetic.  Bamboo, cotton, fleece, wool, hemp, PUL, nylon, wool, flannel, minky... Those are just a few of the options you will find on the market when you begin your journey into zero waste period products.  And while you may be tempted to make your own, I do think there are a lot of benefits that come from purchasing from someone who knows exactly what they are doing.  These materials are not just a matter of comfort or cuteness, but of absorbency, waterproofing, and breath-ability.

Right now I have two pad brands in my rotation: ImseVimse which I picked up from Ethical Superstore and Aunt Irmas which I bought from Little Shop of Vegans in Norwich.  I know that no one else will really see the designs, but I have to say I love knowing I have Doctor Who print and tye dye on my reusables!

Both brands have served me so well, and have surpassed all my expectations.  And while ImseVimse *does* use a PUL layer (a plastic coating - read more here) so it is not technically totally plastic free, this was a personal choice and one that best suited my current needs for those heavier flow days.  I just make sure to pop those cloth pads in my Guppyfriend when washing just to be extra safe about my environmental impact.

eco friendly period products - reusable pads

So how long can I wear a cloth pad, and how do I maintain them?

Well, pretty much as long as I would wear a 'traditional' pad.  In fact, I find they last me longer than disposable options, and I only need to change twice a day rather than 3-5 times per day.  Plus, since they are more breathable I have never had any not so nice odors.  When I am ready to change, I just pop into the washing machine with my other clothes.  If it has been a particularly heavy day, then I may quickly rinse the used cloth under water before the regular wash, but usually that isn't necessary.  I don't find it gross or weird, as there really isn't much mess to worry about.  I wash on our usual cycle, then choose to air dry just so I can make sure my reusables last as long as possible.  The gentler you are with your cloth pads, the longer they will remain effective.

These are definitely my favourite alternative I have tried, as they are so comfortable, mess free, and there is no learning curve at all.  You just use them as you would the traditional method, but without any of the associated guilt or concern!

Unfortunately, I don't get on with tampons really so I haven't actually picked any reusables up as I was not sure how often they would get used.  Perhaps I will try them in the future, but until then I am happy with what I have!  If you are interested in reusable tampons, you can check out Leotie Lovely or Tales of a Blogging Mommy who talk about the different options, from natural sea sponges to reusable cotton inserts.


Period Pants:
I have yet to take the plunge on this plastic free option, but not because I do not want to try them.  I was offered the chance to test out an eco friendly range (won't say which...), but unfortunately the collaboration fell through after the brand stopped responding and blanked me.  I have been thinking about buying from a different business, but I am really worried about fit since the material is slightly different from your average pair of underwear.  I hate having to worry about returns, especially with online purchases, so I have just put it off and put it off.  Anyone relate??

But let me share the basics, give the details on how period pants work, shout out a few eco-friendly businesses that make/sell these (and who show respect for potential customers!), and link to a few people I know have made the switch to period pants.

Natracare Time To Sea Red period statistics

Period pants are just a special pair of underwear that have been designed to absorb blood while you are on your time of the month.  The effectiveness is dependent on what you buy, as not all period pants are created the same way.  Some of the best protection on the market can hold up to 4x the amount of a traditional pad.

However, the tricky thing with period pants is some do not actually replace disposable pads/tampons.  They are more of a leak preventative choice than a proper alternative, though even the brands that make no claims about replacing traditional sanitary items can be worn alone on lighter days.  Also, many of the brands on the market are not as upfront about exactly how their products are made, with many quoting the plastic problem or the concern over chemical exposure but not listing if their undies contain PUL or a similar barrier.  Like reusable pads, the materials vary by brand, so some do still contain a thin plastic layer for waterproofing.  If this is a sticking point for you, then questions will need to be asked!

Want a breakdown of what brands offer what?

Well, one of the biggest names in the period pants market is Thinx, a US brand that offers a huge selection of underwear styles for all shapes and sizes.  From thongs to boyshorts, unitards to high-waisters, there really is a diverse range available, with each style 'holding' a different amount of blood.  Plus, they offer seven sizes and a variety of colours!  There are two main kinds to choose from: the classic or the organic cotton.  Both do contain elastane and a PUL layer, and depending on your flow you can use these to fully replace your previous disposable routine.

You can also check out Dear Kate (fabric is plastic derived, no PUL layer, can replace disposables depending on flow), Pretty Clever Pants (doesn't replace disposables, uses PUL layer), ModiBodi (can replace disposables, materials depend on product but plastic derived fabric is used), and Flux Undies (replaces disposables, uses recycled fish nets for moisture wicking layer), all of which offer period pants and related menstrual products.

Want to read more about the experience of using period pants before trying?  Check out Her Packing ListEmma PicksReusable Menstrual Cups, or Comfort Bites for a range of views on the different brands out there.


eco friendly period products



Of course there are other options out there, like menstrual disks and period active-wear, but I wanted to focus on the day to day alternatives that are as free from plastic as possible.  Switching these monthlies over to eco friendly options is great not just for the planet, but for your health (and usually your wallet too!), and I really do hope we see a new mindset begin to sweep the nation.  With all the attention on single use plastics at the moment, this is the time for  change.

There is no "best" option in my opinion.  If you're reducing waste and limiting exposure to harmful chemicals then that's brilliant!  What I will say is you want to pick something you will actually use, not just buy and then leave in the cupboard unused.  If you prefer tampons, you'll probably do well with the reusable tampons or the cup.  If you usually opt for pads, then the reusable cloths or period pants will be the ones that probably work for you.  But I guess you'll never know until you try!

Want to get involved and start making a difference?  Take the plastic free period pledge!  This petition calls for manufacturers of single use period products to take responsibility and create only plastic free ones.  This would help combat the growing problem with plastic pollution, plus create a safer time of the month for all who use sanitary towels, tampons, and liners.

You can also start transitioning over your own products right away.  Enjoy 25% off your TOTM subscription to get started on your plastic free period journey, or you can grab new customer discounts at pretty much all of the websites mentioned in this post.  And if you are still unsure about all the different brands, The Quirky Queer has got a really good rundown of a selection of the options available on the market so you can find the one that suits your needs best.

What I would like to know is this:
- Have you tried any eco friendly period products yet?  If so, which ones and what did you think?
- If you haven't (no shame in that -- I mean, you're here reading this so that's a huge start!!), what has stopped you from trying?
- and what do you think will help get more people trying more sustainable menstrual products??

Let me know in the comments, as this is such an important topic to discuss and have a conversation about!

Also, just a heads up that this isn't the last you will be hearing about eco friendly periods from me.  I have another post in the works that talks all things time of the month.  I will be covering plastic free products for cramps, heavy bleeds, and more!  Do let me know what your tried and trues are, and I will see if I can test them out to include in my review.  Until then, TTFN, ta ta for now! xx

8 comments

  1. Great post - I have a few friends who use Naturacare products and absolutely love them. I recently wrote about getting a menstrual cup on my blog, and I hope to be to do so soon (as it is a large step in the right direction for my journey towards zero waste). Thanks for sharing!
    -Jenna ♥
    Stay in touch? The Chic Cupcake

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    1. ooh I will go check it out! they aren't as scary as I thought, and I'm really glad I have one to use when/if I need.

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  2. I normally use Natracare products for my periods and sometimes some other brands such as Organyc. But now I am thinking of trying a menstrual cup (Mooncup) to see what's like and whether I can get on with it. It was good to read your review of TOTM menstrual cup, to be honest there are so many menstrual cups out there, it's difficult to know which one to try first! It's good to know TOTM products are now available in selected Tesco stores, I will definitely look for them next time I am in Tesco.
    A great post Bryanna and really useful!

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    1. yes I do like Organyc :) I was going to give them a mention -- I'll definitely pop them in now as they're a great option. the cup was way less scary than I thought it might be, and more comfortable too than I expected. there are SO many out there now -- it's hard to choose, but so so good that there is so much choice available. so glad you enjoyed xx

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  3. I've been using Bloom & Nora (and similar from etsy/amazon) for well over a year. I love the cute designs and the softness of the fabric. I always found disposables irritated my skin, so much so i would be red raw... and thats the last thing you want down there! Ive no children yet but when I do, I plan to use reusable nappies on them too.

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    1. etsy is honestly so good for reusable period products - it makes me so happy! I love the designs too :) and yes, same, especially if the bleed went on for ages which happens on the new BC I'm on. the organic ones are much less harsh on the skin for sure. xx

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  4. Eeeek! I just started my own Zero Waste journey and came on my period today with no preparations made. This is so useful, will be taking your advice ready for next month.

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  5. I've heard great things about menstrual cups, I have anxiety with tampons plus I find them really hard to use like you. The cup scared me for a similar reason but you've made me feel at ease with these alternatives. x

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