The ingredients in feminine hygiene products are not regulated by the FDA, which means that companies are not required to list them on the labels, and some of the chemicals used in certain brands have been shown to have detrimental health effects. There also isn't enough research on the long-term effects of using chlorine-bleached products in such an intimate way.
This is part of the reason why Talia Frenkel launched L., a movement to provide safe and natural products to women worldwide. Originally a photojournalist, Frenkel's interest in women's health developed after working for the Red Cross and United Nations, where she was fully exposed to women's lack of access to reproductive rights and the effects of HIV/AIDS on girls across the globe. While conversing about empowerment and how girls are the greatest untapped resource in the development community, Frankel noticed that enough wasn't being done to properly support these future agents of change.
"What we really failed to realize was that the same girl that we talked about as the future president also gets her period and is sexually active. And that there's absolutely nothing wrong with that," she says. "I just felt this disconnect, and I realized that instead of reporting [on the] girls the way that I wanted to, there was this shaming. And it's not just isolated to developing countries—it also occurs here all of the all of the time. The shaming of taboo topics that really impact women's ability to not just thrive but survive."
Frenkel started off with L. condoms in 2014 but has since expanded the brand to facilitating non-GMO pads and tampons that can be ordered through a subscription service. The best part about L. is that the company wants their products to be both accessible and affordable, which is why they are also available to purchase at Target.
"It would have been a lot easier to make a hyper-premium product, but, for me, it was like, 'How do we create access to healthy products here in the United States as well as in developing countries?'" she says. "The reality is that this is a product that women need access to and that shouldn't be treated as a luxury. It was really important for us to have certified organic cotton and use the best quality ingredients, but also to be able to make it affordable through a subscription model."
When customers buy a product from L., they are also distributing one to another woman in need in the process. L. has also been donating its pad manufacturing machine in an effort to employ up to 10 women at a time and to give back to girls in a holistic way.
"I think what I just realized is that the conversation that I really wanted to have growing up, or I wish I had, is a conversation that I think many people, women, and men, are desperate to have. I love the way the men respond if I'm in a bar or something and I talk about what we're doing. It's crazy to me how eager they are to talk about these things outside of their relationship and to get educated," says Frenkel. "I think there's a huge opportunity for a more open dialogue. I think everyone would benefit if that existed, and we're working to make that happen."