Getting to know what is in the hygiene products you usually buy may change your purchasing decisions, which is why we have put together a list of the different types of ingredients and what their complicated, often confusing names can mean.
The first thing you need to know before we delve into the make up of these products is just how they are constructed. Sanitary pads and sometimes also pantyliners have five layers - a topsheet that makes contact with your skin, the acquisition and distribution layer, the absorbent core, the liquid stop layer which prevents leakage and the release paper. You can find the usual materials listed below being used in one or more of these layers.
Viscose - Viscose is a fiber that is made from materials of plant origin. It is made by extracting the cellulose from the wood, which is then regenerated into fibers using a special process. The good news is that viscose is made from renewable raw materials so it is 100% biodegradable and compostable. Due to its qualities it is often compared with cotton. Viscose is also known as rayon, tencel, or lyocell, and can be found e.g. in the topsheet and in the acquisition and distribution layer of pantyliners and sanitary pads.
Bamboo (viscose made from bamboo) - Incredibly similar to other viscose, the only real difference is the plant used.
Cotton - Another plant-grown fiber which is also 100% biodegradable and compostable, cotton is used in its natural shape but will be cleaned and purified before it is processed for use in products. Next to regular cotton there are different types of cotton, like organic and recycled cotton. Organic cotton is taken from plants that have not been genetically modified or treated by chemicals, whereas recycled cotton comes from other cotton products like t-shirts. Cotton and organic cotton both are used e.g. on the topsheet of pantyliners and sanitary pads.
Wood pulp - As the name suggests, this is a fiber made from wood. Used in their natural shape, they’re usually found in paper products, hygiene products and flushable wipes. Wood pulp, which is also known as fluff pulp, is often found in the absorbent core of sanitary pads and helps pull the liquids away from the surface.
PLA (poly lactic acid) - This man-made fiber is created from renewable resources, such as corn starch and sugarcane. Even though the name might make it sound as if it is bad for the environment, it is actually biodegradable and often used in products that need to break down such as shopping and waste bags.
Polyester - This easy-to-recycle synthetic fiber is usually found in clothing, plastic bottles and food packaging. It is developed from plastic resin and is useful because it manages to be strong while also being soft to touch. Polyester doesn’t absorb, so it is useful in hygiene product layers to give a dry and soft feel.
Polypropylene - Another synthetic fiber, polypropylene can be found in pantyliners but is also used in food packaging and the textile industry. The main difference between this and polyester comes down to temperature. With a lower melting point, polypropylene is quite good at thermal bonding. Great if you want to add a design to something using heat, or to bond structure layers together to make the product without using glue. Because of its features, you can find polypropylene in topsheets of pantyliners and pads.
SAP (super absorbent polymer) - You can find SAP inside absorbent feminine hygiene pads, incontinence products and baby diapers. It improves the product’s ability to absorb fluids and lock them in. This improves comfort, dryness and also helps keep them discreet by allowing the products to be thin. SAP can absorb 300 times its own weight, unlike wood pulp which can only absorb up to 10 times its own weight.
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