Baba, if you’re reading this, stop.
Unlike founder Meika Hollender, I am uncomfortable talking about anything female health related with my dad (you’ll get what I mean by this in a bit). But because I understand the importance of discussing these types of topics – especially in a community whose most common method of “dealing with it” means not talking about it – I decided it was important to welcome you all into the world of Sustain products.
Sustain Natural, a line of female healthcare products for all things period and sex related, puts women and their/our vaginas first. The way female healthcare products SHOULD. It took me speaking to Meika, to understand how as women, our health and body needs are left out of conversations – even when it comes to products FOR our health and bodies…? It just didn’t add up, so Meika decided it was time to change up the equation (I’m not sure if I’m worse at math or math jokes).
Launched in 2014, Sustain Natural is a line of female care products – anything from tampons and panty liners to condoms and lube – that refrain from including the harmful chemicals used in commonly used brands that often result in women suffering from infections and contracting STIs. Your hoo-ha’s are important, ladies, and you only get one. Meika gives us some insight on how to better care for our most important body part as women.
MM: Female health care is very important to us at MissMuslim – and we love to talk about all uncomfortable things vagina related because we know it’s necessary for the well-being of women. Tell us everything we need to know about vaginal care when it comes to period products and sexual pleasure enhancers!
Meika: Our vaginas are one of the most absorbent parts of our bodies, so what you put in them matters. Conventional brands use everything from rayon, to fragrances to chlorine bleach. The crazy part? The FDA doesn’t even require tampon and pad manufacturers to list their ingredients. So when you dig into the ingredients in these products, you learn things like conventional cotton is one of the most widely sprayed crops, meaning that trace amount of pesticides end up in your vagina and bloodstream. Additionally, a byproduct of using chlorine bleach is dioxin, which has been found as well to end up in trace amounts in tampons and pads. Because there have been no studies on the long-term impacts of these chemicals on our bodies, we believe in only putting 100% organic cotton inside your vagina.
Our vaginas are one of the most absorbent parts of our bodies…
At Sustain, our 100% organic tampons and pads are rayon and fragrance-free, non-chlorine bleached and grown without pesticides. Additionally, we created a bioplastic applicator because the waste from petroleum-based plastic applicators (which virtually every other tampon uses) is extensive, whereas our biodegradable plant-based applicator are made with sugar cane.
What makes Sustain different from other female health care products on the market?
Sustain was founded to empower women to get on top of their sexual and reproductive health with products that protect their bodies, their partners’ bodies and the world. How? By creating the first line of organic, vagina-friendly tampons, condoms, lubricants and more.
Sounds simple, but it’s anything but that.
Women have felt stigmatized for their sexuality for far too long. Anything related to sex is mainly marketed to men. Probably because the products being marketed are actually harmful to women’s bodies.
We created Sustain to change that with products that are better, safer, and just as effective. To start with, all natural and vagina-friendly tampons, condoms, and lube. And we third party-certified our products every which way because getting tested is important.
We care about the issues surrounding sexual wellness. There are over 20 million women in this country who lack access to reproductive health care. We can’t accept that, and so we donate 10% of our profits to organizations that provide women’s reproductive health services to centers across the country. We realize the idea of what we stand for pushes some boundaries (just like the ideas at MissMuslim). We’re comfortable talking honestly about sex and periods – because it’s too important not to.
You mentioned that you donate a portion of you profits. Why did you decide to include that as part of your business model?
Yes! For all of our products, Sustain gives 10% of our profits to women’s healthcare organizations in the U.S. Specifically for our period products launch we partnered with Girls Helping Girls Period (GHGP). Because tampons and pads are classified as “luxury non-essential items” that low income women in this country can’t use food stamps to purchase, and that’s a serious issue. They are one of the most requested and least donated items in homeless shelters. GHGP donates tampons and pads to women who cannot access these products, so it was a no brainer for us to work with them as we entered the period products space.
How did Sustain start? Is it true you founded the Company with your dad?
About four years ago when I was finishing up business school at NYU my dad approached me with an idea he’d had many years prior: a natural, vagina-friendly condom company. To many, a family condom business can sound a bit shocking, but my family has deep roots creating sustainable products. Over 30 years ago, my parents founded Seventh Generation.
When I started talking about starting this business a lot of people asked me, Why condoms? Here’s why: Believe it or not, the manufacturing of and ingredients used in intimate products, from condoms to tampons to lubricants, can harm rather than help bodies. I saw an important opportunity to create better, safer products with Sustain.
I saw two opportunities – first, in all other categories, women were demanding safer products, from food to cosmetics, but the most intimate of products, the ones going inside of our vaginas, there weren’t safer more natural options. Additionally, sexual wellness products have been forever made by men and marketed to men. What about women? Women buy 40% of condoms, yet have forever been completely neglected by the category.
I founded Sustain to change all this. To empower women to take control of their sexual and reproductive health with better, more natural products.
Does it ever get awkward during a normal work day for you being that you run a condom/lube/period product company with your dad?
To be totally honest, it gets awkward MAYBE once every 6 months — and that’s usually because we’ll be at a restaurant talking about the business and the people at the table next to us will legit get up and move to another table (this has happened more than once). But we’re not sitting around sharing sex tips, we’re running a business. We’re working to create a more transparent and empowered future around women’s wellness and sexual health products.
Women buy 40% of condoms, yet have forever been completely neglected by the category.
Being that a majority of our readers and writers are Muslim – we love featuring all things “halal”. Are all Sustain products halal?
Women tend to put so much thought into the products they buy from testing makeup brands, hair products, skin care needs etc. It’s crazy to realize that a majority of us don’t even think twice about the tampons we’re using or what goes up “there” when it comes to maintaining our cycles (and anything sex related). What do you recommend women look for when trying to find the vaginal care products that are right for them?
Less is more when it comes to these products. Look for brands that list 100% of their ingredients! Because the FDA doesn’t require tampon and pad manufacturers to do so, it’s important to look for brands that willingly disclose their ingredients because that usually means they’ve got nothing to hide. Sustain’s tampons use only one ingredient: 100% certified organic cotton.
Why should women switch from whatever they’re using to Sustain products?
Your vagina is one of the most absorbent parts of your body, which means everything you put in there gets absorbed and goes straight into your bloodstream. From tampons, to condoms, to lubricants, most products contain harmful ingredients that can harm your body. For many women, these ingredients can also cause a whole host of issues from Bacterial Vaginosis to a greater risk of contracting STIs. At Sustain, we’re committed to always putting your health first, which means our products are better, safer, and more vagina-friendly than traditional brands.
What do you recommend as a “first purchase” to ladies who are considering the switch?
TAMPONS TAMPONS TAMPONS!!! We use on average 11,000 tampons in our lifetime — that’s 6 years of a tampon sitting inside of us! If you’re going to change one thing, change your tampon!
What’s the most important thing that you want women to remember when it comes to self care and taking care of our “lady parts”?
Just as you think of diet and exercise as part of your health routine, your sexual and reproductive health is a critical part of your overall wellness. Make sure you know everything you need to know about your vagina and how to properly care for it.
Is there a fun promo code that we can share with our readers to help them make the switch over to Sustain and begin their au natural journey?
Yes! Use code DOWHATSNATURAL for 15% off your first period kit.