why do sanitary pads cause rashes?

Pad Rash /Period Rash - What is it, Treatment & Symptoms

Menstruation is an uncomfortable experience filled with messy predicaments in the form of menstrual cramps and the unpleasant smell of blood. In our society, women have often been barred from talking about the challenges they face during their periods and it wasn’t until very recently that we started debating the logic of showing period blood as blue instead of red in television commercials.

Period problems have always been discussed in hushed tones and discussing them openly is considered a taboo, as a result of which many girls deal with these problems alone, without really understanding what is happening to them.  Nevertheless, as a result of the evolving discourse around breaking the stigma around periods, many people are now opening up about these things and as a result, we now see such topics being discussed in the open. 

What is pad rash? 

While sanitary pads are a massive upgrade from husk, straw, or ash that is still used as a menstrual care alternative in certain parts of the country, they cause swelling, rashes and even intensive itching in some cases. Although conventional sanitary pads are the most common period product used in India, they can often leave a rash which can later swell up and may cause bleeding. The reason for why rashes occur may vary from person to person and the most common cause among pad-users being the composition of the sanitary pad itself.


The synthetic material used in a pad rubs against the skin for 5-7 days straight, and the friction causes Contact Dermatitis, which leads to these rashes. Another common reason for rashes could be the heat and moisture trapped near the vaginal area which occurs when one wears a pad for 5-7 days straight, and can also cause a bacterial infection in some people. 


Composition of a sanitary pad

  • The back sheet of the sanitary pad is made up of single use plastic to stop period blood from leaking. This plastic constitutes polyolefins, that are also used in making clothes, straws, and ropes.
  • The absorbent core between the top sheet and back sheet of the pad usually has highly soluble material made from wood cellulose and foam, sometimes also containing gel-based absorbents.
  • When these substances come in contact with our skin for a long time, they cause friction, resulting in irritation and itchiness, which may also cause an infection.
  • The top sheet of a pad is the part that comes in contact with your skin for the longest duration and if it is made of poorly synthesized plastic, it may chaff your skin due to constant friction, causing rashes especially during those days when we may have a sensitive skin due to the bleeding. 
  • In addition, some manufacturers add fragrances and certain persons may be allergic to this. Moreover, in some cases, when menstrual blood mixes with the chemical fragrance, it can create a smell worse than that of normal period blood.
  • So, instead of masking the smell of blood, it can further worsen it. They can also cause a bacterial or yeast infection and emit toxic chemicals that irritate the skin. The trapped heat and moisture can irritate the vulva and cause rashes. Blocked sweat ducts and trapped sweat can also cause tiny bumps and blisters because the sweat can’t evaporate.  


Treatment for period rash 

If one does end up with a rash due to sanitary pads, the ideal solution is a calamine lotion, which is quite effective and helps cool the infected area. Experts also suggest applying coconut oil on the affected area. However, if pain and irritation still persist, a visit to the dermatologist is recommended. 

The pertinent question at this point would be: Are period rashes avoidable?  

We believe in the old adage that prevention is always better than cure, and especially more so in case of a period rash. Therefore, it is recommended that you:

  1. Change your pads every 4 - 6 hours as recommended by gynaecologists.  
  2. Switch to a pad that is made with gentle materials. 
  3. Wash your vaginal area frequently when you are on your period in order to avoid bacterial build-up.  
  4. Explore other period care alternatives like menstrual cups, tampons or rash free organic sanitary pads.  


Carmesi pads for rash-free periods

Keeping in mind the struggle with rashes, Carmesi Sensitive Sanitary pads are specially designed for sensitive skin and have been tested by Gynaecologist and certified as 100% rash-free sanitary pads. These pads are derived from a plant-based composition, which is safe for the body. The top sheet is made of corn fibre, which is naturally soft. And it’s fragrance-free as well!


Other than pads, the Carmesi range of sanitary products includes 100% organic cotton tampons that are made with organic cotton with no chlorine, dioxins, or pesticides. The organic cotton reduces skin irritation and has better tendency to absorb substances as compared to synthetic materials, thereby reducing the chances of getting a rash. Carmesi also has menstrual cups that are made with 100% biocompatible medical-grade silicone, keeping safety and hygiene in mind.  

No doubt periods are chaotic and problematic. But with the right product, you can have a relatively stress-free and comfortable period. 

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