How Our Product Choices Affect Our Pelvic Health

How Our Product Choices Affect Our Pelvic Health

Written by: Dr. Jessica Papa, PT, DPT


Many people are awakening to the truth about what’s in their food and how certain ingredients negatively affect their health. Most of us, however, don’t stop to consider the ingredients in the personal care products that grace our most delicate regions and how they might be affecting our pelvic health. Just like the foods we eat, the most beneficial and health-promoting personal care products are made with non-toxic, natural ingredients that don’t disrupt the body’s natural chemistry.

Don’t let clever marketing slogans or pretty pink packaging fool you—certain brands of tampons, pads, personal lubricants, wipes, deodorizers, and powders can negatively affect your pelvic health. Today, we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty of why the products you choose to use “down there” matter and how you can find safe options that support your pelvic health.

How do certain products negatively affect pelvic health?

Like many products in the health and beauty industry, the products we use on or near our nether regions can be full of junk (no pun intended). Using chemical-laden products on our pelvic area can lead to irritation, yeast infections, pelvic pain, allergic reactions, dryness—at a minimum. However, there can be far worse consequences than irritation. Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (or EDCs) found in many products can interfere with the normal function of the hormonal system and can contribute to an array of negative health impacts including reproductive toxicity, endometriosis, ovulation disorders, and even an increased risk of cancer. 

This is serious stuff, especially considering that the skin surrounding the genital area is thin and more permeable than skin covering the rest of the body, meaning harmful byproducts can more easily be absorbed. In fact, researches from one study estimated that exposure to EDCs from menstrual products is at least ten times higher than the estimated absorption rates through the skin on other parts of the body. Yikes.

Which products contain harmful chemicals?

In general, you need to be on the lookout for harmful chemicals in any feminine hygiene or personal care products including tampons, pads, period underwear, douches, sprays, washes, wipes, powders, or anything else that comes into contact with your pelvic region.  

Now, this is where things get a little dicey. The FDA doesn’t require companies to test for all harmful chemicals, nor do they require companies to disclose the presence of all chemicals used in these products. Given the widespread use of these products, this is a real concern. However, many of these harmful chemicals are listed on ingredient labels so always check the label before purchasing it.

So, which ingredients should I avoid?

Two of the main offenders are phthalates—a group of plasticizer chemicals—and parabens—a commonly used preservative. However, these two poisons, and many others, hide under hard-to-spell, complicated names. Never buy a product with the following ingredients:

  • Benzethonium Chloride
  • Benzocaine
  • Butylparaben
  • D&C Red 33
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • Dioxins and Furans
  • DMDM Hydantoin
  • Ethylparaben
  • Ext. Violet 2
  • FD&C Yellow No. 5
  • “Fragrance”
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone
  • Methylisothiazolinone
  • Methylparaben
  • Menthol
  • Octoxynol 9
  • Polyoxymethylene Urea
  • Propylparaben
  • Quaternium-15
  • Sodium hypochlorite
  • 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1, 3-Diol

Now, I know those words look like a bunch of gibberish, so I recommend printing out this list and always check it before making a product purchase.

Tips for Avoiding Harmful Chemicals

As mentioned above, the FDA isn’t required to disclose the presence of all chemicals used in these types of products. Crazy, right? Many organizations are working to do something about this, but in the meantime, here are some helpful tips for avoiding products that might contain hidden chemicals.

  • Avoid this list of “Hall of Shame” products.
  • Understand that the vulva is a self-cleaning organ—you don’t need to clean it with soap or apply powders or sprays. Simply clean it with warm water every day, or when you feel you need to freshen up. “Using soaps could alter the environment, meaning that bacteria or fungal organisms can overgrow, causing infections like Bacterial Vaginosis (BV).”- Woman’s World article (NEED TO REWORD THIS) [Washing with soaps like this can even cause infections, like Bacterial Vaginosis! These soaps will change the environment of your vulva, and bacteria and other fungal organisms can then flourish.]
  • To the point above, reduce the amount of personal care products you use in general, especially those that aren’t medically necessary.
  • If a product smells like a brand new shower curtain, run!
  • If a product smells sickly sweet or artificial, pass!
  • Use your intuition—if a product seems too cheap, it’s probably low quality and filled with chemicals.
  • Choose unscented products when available, especially in tampons and pads.
  • Choose chlorine-free bleach or unbleached tampons and pads.
  • Trade out your tampons for a menstrual cup made out of medical-grade silicone. It’s reusable, non-toxic, and once you get the hang of it, a pretty nifty little product!

Remember, your health matters

Toxic chemicals have no business hanging out “down there.” Now that you know what to look out for, you can be more mindful of choosing pelvic-friendly products. You have a choice in which products you put on your body, so be your own advocate and choose wisely—your body deserves it.

If you have more questions, contact us today! We are happy to help.

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