Sustain Natural: Changing the World’s Perception of Female Sexuality

Written by Rita Thompson


Across the world, women are unknowingly putting themselves at risk with their use of sexual wellness and feminine care products. Many women use cannabis to combat the pain that often comes with menstruation, but what else can we do to protect our bodies? 

The Facts

More than 20 million women in the U.S. lack access to women’s health services. But, those with access to hygiene or contraceptive products don’t know what’s in them. 

Just last year, New York became the first state to require ingredient lists for tampons. Historically, however, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not required big period corporations to disclose their ingredients. That means these companies can use just about whatever they want in their products.

In September 2014, the Reproductive Health Technologies Project (RHTP) released independent test results of latex condoms sold in the U.S . Sustain was one of only two major condom brands to be free of detectable nitrosamines across their entire product line. 

Do you Know What’s in Your Sexual Wellness and Period Products?

The ingredients found in conventional sexual wellness and period products often do more harm than good.

As aforementioned, the FDA currently also does not regulate or make these companies share what is in their products.

Harsh chemicals and ingredients, like rayon, are cheaper than those that are better for you so companies continue to use them.

For instance, a 2018 study by Women’s Forces for the Earth tested six brands of tampons for the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The results were shocking. While there were no VOCs found in the 100% cotton tampons, all products containing rayon tested positive for carbon disulfide, a known reproductive toxin.

According to the study, “exposure to carbon disulfide among rayon manufacturing workers has been associated with menstrual disorders and reproductive harm.” Additionally, some of the tampons were found to contain methylene chloride, a dangerous carcinogen that has caused the deaths of at least 64 people since 1980

Co-Founder and president of Sustain, Meika Hollendersaw further revealed issues within the industry to the Emerald.

We operate in a world where consumer products companies have been using a mindset of ‘safe until proven otherwise’ when putting products on the market,” she explained. “But, we don’t think that’s right or good enough.”

“When it comes to what’s going on inside of the most intimate, absorbent parts of your body, you deserve to know what is in those products and that they are safe,” Hollendersaw continues.  

How Sustain Natural Helps

Hollendersaw saw an opportunity to address the social issues surrounding women’s sexual health. So, she helped launch Sustain, a female-focused, sex-positive condom company.

Located in New York, Sustain is on a mission to provide period care and sexual wellness products—like tampons, period underwear, condoms and more—that put your body first.

The company offers 100% organic cotton tampons that are free of synthetic ingredients including rayon. No harmful chemicals, no animal by-products, no parabens, no synthetic fragrances. 

The goal? Moving women’s sexual health from a formal place of shame and stigma to celebration and empowerment.  

Making Sustain even more notable—they donate 10% of pre-tax profits to women lacking access to STD testing and breast examinations.

Do Sustain Products Have any Effect on my Risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome?

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a sudden and potentially fatal condition. Toxins produced by some types of Staphylococcus bacteria can cause the illness.

Experts aren’t sure why tampon use leads to the condition. Many believe that leaving it in place too long attracts bacteria. The FDA, for example, recommends that tampons be changed every 4-6 hours. 

“While our products are made of 100% organic cotton and are free of any artificial additives or fragrances, the risk for TSS is the same,” explained Hollendersaw. It’s rare, but, “the best way to avoid TSS is by using the lowest absorbency you need during your cycle, and pads and liners when you get to your lighter days!”

As you can see, if you’ve never wondered about period care and sexual wellness products, it’s time to start.

For more information on Sustain Natural, visit


Emerald contributor since June 2019


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