Menstrual cups are taking over. In 2016 the global market for menstrual cups was valued at around $995 million. By 2023 it’s estimated to grow up to $1.4 billion! (1)
And here at Allbodies, we love menstrual cups! If you’re already a cup user, maybe you know some of the pros: The cup is reusable for several years so it’s better for the environment, it doesn’t disturb the pH and flora of the vagina like tampons do (2,3), and you can leave it in for to 12 hours. But here’s something maybe you haven’t thought about; What is your menstrual cup made of?
When we were deciding which menstrual cups to rep as a period solution, we landed on Lunette, hands-down, no brainer. Why? Because it turns out, not all menstrual cups are created equal. Lunette takes such deep care and thought when it comes to their materials and processes! So we teamed up with them to find out what to think about when considering what your menstrual cup is made of.
Menstrual cups are mostly made from one of three materials: silicone (this is the most prevalent), TPE aka thermoplastic elastomers (which is a rubber-like material, although it isn’t actually rubber) (4,5), and occasionally, actual rubber. There are pros and cons to silicone and TPE. For instance, TPE is easily recyclable (6) compared to most silicone (although not all) and it also has the ability to become more flexible with your body temperature, molding to your shape and creating a more custom fit (7). However, because of this, TPE loses its shape over time.
Silicone can be subjected to higher temperatures than TPE, and so it is easier to sterilize (6,8). Silicone is also shown to have high compatibility to human tissue and fluids compared to other elastomers (9) (which TPE is one of). And, some silicone is just as recyclable as TPE. Get this, when you are done with your Lunette Cup, you can simply toss it into your next bonfire (of course bidding it a humungo Thank You as you do!) where it will turn into white ash, without releasing any harmful substances, and return to the earth. Heck. Yeah.
Rubber cups are harder to find and are made with latex, so stay away from these if you have a latex allergy. They tend to be less flexible, which may mean they’re harder to insert, but can last years (10).
Good to know!
When looking at menstrual cups, you want to find one made with materials that are FDA approved. The FDA approves menstrual cup materials at two different levels:
- Medical grade
- Food grade
Cups made with “Medical Grade” material indicate that the material has been tested by the FDA and has been approved for biocompatibility (11, 12). Biocompatibility means that the material can be safely placed inside the body for a long period of time (11, 12). Note: this does not mean that there will be no chemicals found in the menstrual cup material, just that if there are chemicals, they will be in concentrations small enough that won’t risk harm. (Read on!)
Cups labeled as “Food Grade” also indicate they have been tested by the FDA, but have not been tested for biocompatibility. Instead, they have been tested for safety with food. Not so relevant for menstrual cups.
If you find a cup without any labels, you probablyyy don’t want to use that cup. If you feel confident in the company, and there are no labels, we still reco that you do some research to ensure the materials used in the cup are biocompatible.
Lunette is made of FDA approved, medical grade silicone.
Even in food and medical grade materials which are FDA approved, there are some other sneaky things that can end up in that cup!
Various studies (4, 13, 14, 15) have found chemicals associated reproductive toxicity (15) and endocrine disruption like Phthalate, DEP, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in menstrual cups. One study also found volatile organic compounds, higher than the recommended limit for pacifiers (15). The specific volatile compounds found were unknown and consequently, the effects were also unknown (15)…which leaves us scratching our heads.
While this all sounds…bad… the studies have also concluded that in the concentrations found in menstrual cups, those chemicals aren’t dangerous. This brings some comfort for sure, but we also must remember that many of the long term side effects of such chemicals found in our environments, may that be in our food, our air, or our menstrual cups, aren’t entirely known. And, as one study pointed out, we don’t really know where else we’re exposed to these substances to know how much we are actually being exposed to overall (4).
So, since the vagina is such an absorbent part of the body, and because there are cups out there that don’t have all the icky stuff, we like to hedge our bets and go with the chemical-free cup. #nobrainer.
In an independent study conducted by International Consumer Research & Testing (ICRT) with the Danish Consumer Counsel THINK, Lunette Menstrual Cup Clear was rated the NUMBER ONE (15) cup for chemical safety out of a group of competitors.The menstrual cup Lunette Clear is the only cup in the test that received the best chemical rating. It contained none of the problematic substances analyzed in the test (15). All this and it is still totally comparable in price to other menstrual cups on the market. :High Five:
Interested in what’s in your cup? You can see a timeline of the various tests on menstrual products and the chemicals that were found in them here.
So we’ve got the basics of what you should look out for when picking a cup!
A few other questions and food for thought when picking cups:
- Where is the cup coming from? Where is it being made and what regulations are in place in the country of production?
- Cheap cups are often bad reproductions of genuine designs. Some manufacturers even go so far as to use texts and pictures from other companies (and even safety certificates and patents), so you don’t exactly know what you’ll get when ordering these products. The cup might be completely different from the one shown in the picture.
- Do you trust the company? Do they clearly state all their company information, returns policies, product and production details? Do they make it easy for you to contact them?
These questions are important as there can be risks related to counterfeit menstrual cups, such as:
- Unknown sources of silicone that can be a danger to your health;
- They could contain other substances with unknown toxicity or contaminants;
- Use of poor quality silicone can result in cup rips, cracks, collapse, inability to hold fluids or failure to insert correctly;
- Unauthorized sellers could sell you a “previously used” product (along with all the health risks attached).
If you want to upgrade your cup, or feel ready to try one, you can check out Lunette’s! It’s silicone is (deep breath now) latex-free; chemical-free; BPA-free; medical grade, and FDA approved, and the menstrual cup itself is FDA registered! It even comes in two different sizes, and a plethora of colors, making sure that you get the one that is right for you!
Now you understand why we chose them!
Written by: Martha Michaud
All content found on this Website, including: text, images, audio, or other formats, was created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
(1) ltd, Research and Markets. “Menstrual Cups Market – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Trends and Forecast, 2015-2023.” Research and Markets – Market Research Reports – Welcome. Accessed March 13, 2020. https://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/4209052/menstrual-cups-market-global-industry-analysis.
(2) van Eijk, Anna Maria, Garazi Zulaika, Madeline Lenchner, Linda Mason, Muthusamy Sivakami, Elizabeth Nyothach, Holger Unger, Kayla Laserson, and Penelope A Phillips-Howard. 2020. “Menstrual Cup Use, Leakage, Acceptability, Safety, And Availability: A Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis”. Accessed March 13, 2020. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(19)30111-2/fulltext.
(3) Team, Women’s Health. “Tired of Tampons? Here Are Pros and Cons of Menstrual Cups.” Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, November 15, 2019. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/tired-of-tampons-here-are-pros-and-cons-of-menstrual-cups/.
(4) OPINION Of The French Agency For Food, Environmental And Occupational Health & Safety On The Safety Of Feminine Hygiene Products. 2020. PDF. Maisons-Alfort. https://www.anses.fr/en/system/files/CONSO2016SA0108EN.pdf.
(5) Nall, Rachel. “Are Menstrual Cups Dangerous?” Healthline. Healthline Media, October 8, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/menstrual-cup-dangers#how-to-select-the-right-cup.
(6) Timm, Al. “Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) vs. Liquid Silicone Rubber (LSR).” Injection Molding Company & Engineering Solutions Experts. Kaysun Corporation, November 5, 2019. https://www.kaysun.com/blog/thermoplastic-elastomer-vs-liquid-silicone-rubber.
(7) Hearn, Amanda. “All About TPE Menstrual Cups.” Put A Cup In It, October 17, 2019. https://putacupinit.com/tpe-cups/.
(8) “Support: Silicone vs TPE.” My Cup NZ. Accessed March 14, 2020. https://www.mycup.co.nz/silicone/.
(9) Anonymous. “Silicone Rubber for Medical Device Applications.” MDDI Online, August 7, 2017. https://www.mddionline.com/silicone-rubber-medical-device-applications.
(10) Morris, Susan York. “Menstrual Cup Comparison: Pros and Cons.” Healthline. Healthline Media, March 8, 2019. Accessed March 13, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/menstrual-cup-comparison#3.
(11) Anonymous. “FACTORS IN SELECTING MEDICAL SILICONES.” MDDI Online, August 7, 2017. https://www.mddionline.com/factors-selecting-medical-silicones.
(12) Andrea. “Silicone Menstrual Cups: A Look at What Exactly ‘Medical-Grade’ Means.” Intimina Blog, April 17, 2019. https://www.intimina.com/blog/medical-grade-silicone/.
(13) “Chemicals in Feminine Hygiene Products.” ECHA. Accessed March 14, 2020. https://chemicalsinourlife.echa.europa.eu/chemicals-in-feminine-hygiene-products.
(14) Survey Of Hazardous Chemical Substances In Feminine Hygiene Products A Study Within The Government Assignment On Mapping Hazardous Chemical Substances 2017–2020. 2018. PDF. Stockholm: Swedish Chemicals Agency. https://www.kemi.se/global/rapporter/2018/report-8-18-survey-of-hazardous-chemical-substances-in-feminine-hygiene-products.pdf.
(15) “Test: Menstrual Cups.” Forbrugerrådet Tænk Kemi, August 14, 2018. https://kemi.taenk.dk/bliv-groennere/test-menstrual-cups.