Are you concerned about what’s inside your tampons? We know that it’s not the most exciting topic of conversation, but it is an important one. Have you ever wondered about all the chemicals and ingredients found in feminine hygiene products, like tampons? Well, wonder no more! Join Claire Crunk as she dives into her research and helps demystify this often-overlooked subject. From understanding which materials are used to make tampons safe to discussing why some women experience irritation or infection when using them – Claire will cover it all so you can be better informed when choosing a product that’s right for your body. This episode is for you!
What you’ll learn:
1:38 Who Claire Crunk is and what she does
3:41 The story of how I was able to invite Claire to the podcast
6:13 Why what’s inside our tampons is important
9:33 Tampons and FDA
16:16 Our relationship with menstrual management
22:01 The mission of Claire’s company
26:31 How people can purchase tampons
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The Carolina Sotomayor Podcast is brought to you by Carolina Sotomayor and the Fertility Foundation.
Carolina Sotomayor is an Expert Womb Healer who helps women conceive by removing physiological blockages with Reiki. She is the host of the Carolina Sotomayor Podcast, a show that covers everything from fertility to postpartum to motherhood, and the creator of Fertility Foundation Collective, an online membership that helps women heal at their own pace to boost their fertility.
Carolina has served over 500 women from around the world to heal. She is passionate about helping women create their families. As a result, there are over 60 reiki babies in the world.
Fertility Foundation Collective: https://carolinasotomayor.com/membership
Carolina Sotomayor Reiki: https://carolinasotomayor.com/
Full episode transcript:
Hi, I am Caroline. You’re a podcast host and womb healer. I want to thank you so much for subscribing, and please don’t forget to leave a rating and review of our podcast. It helps us rank and allows us to reach more people. So today we’re talking to someone I’m so pumped to talk to.
Her name is Claire Krunk, and I have a funny story about how I was able. To get Claire here and Claire, thank you so much for being here and thanks for taking the time to talk to me. . I’m so excited you’re one of the guests. I waited so long to interview and like I got super giddy. Probably the most anticipated guest I’ve interviewed so far.
I don’t know if you can feel my joy right now. Do you wanna introduce. Sure. I am just as overjoyed to be here, and thank you so much for that affirmation. This is my second career, so to have that positivity and affirmation in my new role just warms my heart, so thank you and I love your podcast. Oh, thanks,
I’m Claire Kru, founder and c e O of Trace Femcare. We are a new brand of menstrual products made from innovative and healthy natural materials like hemp fiber. I started my professional life as a women’s health nurse practitioner. Graduated from Vanderbilt here in Nashville, way back in 2008. Graduated August 3rd, started working August 4th.
Wow. And yeah, I didn’t take any time off. I practiced for 10 years, and the last few years of that I owned my own clinical, um, practice where I did ambulatory gyn taking care of women across the lifespan. So menstrual issues, pregnancy, infertility, cancers, you know, the full gamut. And then in 2018 got really burned out in healthcare, which I’m sure some of your listeners can understand.
Yeah. The modern healthcare system can be soul sucking and just took a step back and reevaluated what my true purpose was in the world. And decided that after reflecting on the issues I saw in clinic, that I felt called to bring better products to women and really dig deep into why things were the way they were and how our bodies interact with our products.
So thus, trace was born and. It’s been a long time coming, but we have product and we’ll be launching in late spring. I watched all the videos on your website and they’re so beautiful and I learned so much. I had no idea. I wasn’t super familiar with hemp versus cotton. And we’ll get into that, but like, I’m so excited, so I’m just gonna drop my little story here.
I was on ticky talkie just like everyone else in America, and you came across my feed because my F Y P is filled with everything vaginas and periods infertility. Yes, that’s what I put out. So you came across and I think it’s like, what’s your handle? Trump Magic ceo, E o. Yeah. I was like, what is this? And of course, because I’m an entrepreneur, I love all things entrepreneurship and C E O, and I’m like, what’s that about?
And I forget what exactly the video was, but it activated and triggered me enough in such a positive way. I literally. To my husband. I was sitting on the couch and he goes, what are you doing? You have that look? I was like, I’m gonna shoot my shot . And he goes, what? I was like, you know what? When the young kids, I’m 39 and I’m proud of my age, so like at 39, I’m like, I think I’m cool.
My kid does not think I’m cool, and he’s five. And I was like, . You know, on the internet they say like when a guy’s trying to like hit up a girl, they call, call it like, shoot in your shot. I said, why don’t I shoot my shot? This lady’s perfect for my podcast. I was like, she’s never gonna say yes. So then I instantly followed you, let her comment, went to your Instagram, left you voice note, was trying to find your email, and I was like, I said a prayer to the baby Jesus.
And I said, Please let me have this lady. I was like, she is everything that I want for women to know about. And he goes, I haven’t seen you this fired. I was like, I need this lady on my podcast. He goes, what did you write to her? I said, literally shooting my shot here. I need you on my podcast. Sending you a dm and he goes, I hope she says yes for all of us.
So I’m such well partner. You’re welcome. . . So my husband, he goes, what do you got on the, we both work from home. I’m self-employed. He’s a writer. And I was, he goes, what’s on your agenda, Terry? I was like, I am interviewing Claire Cronk. And I was, you have the coolest name ever. And he is like, is that the tampon lady?
I said, it’s a tampon lady. And did flirt with the idea of calling them crunk tampons. But you know, worried about Google ads on that one. . We’re just kidding. But no, thank you for giving a platform for me to share our mission and to speak about this. So thank you. No. So let’s just dive in. So, The whole purpose.
You’re trying to change what’s going inside of our bodies, but why does the inside of our tampons and what goes inside the inside of our tampons really matter? Why does it. Sure. Well, honestly, the most important thing to me that I feel like is missing in this industry is transparency. I’m a firm believer in consent, and right now we know more about our T-shirts and our Tinder dates.
Than about our tampons. Sure. And not, yeah, it’s crazy. And so really, in order for us to have full autonomy over our bodies, we deserve full information. And in the way that tampons are created today, it’s almost impossible to know that. Right now materials are being used like rayon, which is really just wood chips that have been chemically melted down into a liquor and then turned into a fiber from that.
There’s conventional cotton that’s grown with pesticides. There’s organic cotton, which I’d love to speak about, organic cotton issues there. And poly, I use organic cotton, which is plastic. Yeah, so I only found that. After diving into the industry and joining trade groups and meeting with manufacturers, so the supply chain’s really complex and opaque that make it almost impossible for brands themselves to know how their products are created, much less the users who are being asked to put it inside of them.
So that’s a foundation of our company. What we’re trying to change is the transparency and understanding of. across the supply chain, and then using the gifts that Mother Nature has already gifted us with amazing absorbent natural materials that don’t require the harsh chemistries and that actually give back to Mother Earth and heal some of the damage that’s been done.
So using that healing modality from clinic in a new way to focus on healing your so, All that to say, you know, what matters? What we put into our body is number one, consent and making the choice for what we each individually believe is best. Everybody comes at life from different health issues, from different wellness goals and what’s, you know, good for one might not be good for the other.
and as a women’s health clinician, I very much believe in plastic free inside of us, especially where we can control it. You know, we have like a credit card full of plastic in all of us right now because of microplastics and the fact that there’s just still not a lot of research on how these products affect human health in the vagina over time.
So with that, you know, I believe our safest bet is to avoid using any synthetic materials whatsoever. . So what you’re saying is tampons that are mainstream that we find in target are not what necessarily we think they are. They’re made of plastic and they have pesticides and we don’t really know. It’s probably cuz they’re not required to list all the things by the f d a Is the F D A that governs.
Manufacturing guidelines that are on the label? Yes and no. So tampons are, and I’m gonna speak specifically about tampons, side note, menstrual pads and menstrual cups do not require any human health impact oversight. So tampons, on the other hand, are classified as a class two medical device with the fda, which requires, you know, certain burdens of proving.
Human health impact and what you do as a company to make sure that that doesn’t get adulterated. Right. It’s still not enough. But that said, there’s actually new laws that have just gone into action this past year requiring brands to disclose ingredients in their final product. So that is like a piece of legislation that I believe is with more of the commerce side of the law.
Bucket of the law rather than the fda. But there’s two problems with. The first is there’s a lot of green washing in marketing materials, so brands that on the front of the box say organic cotton tampons. Well, when you look at the actual ingredient list, might say polypropylene veil or bioplastic applicator.
Side note, bioplastic applicators are mixed with petroleum based plastic and are not biodegradable at all, and it does not dive into the chemicals used to actually create the tampon. And there are, you know, acceptance criteria for the level of residues allowed. in those final materials, but it’s not required to be listed.
So, you know, we believe that it’s a good first step, but doesn’t go really far enough. And you know, we don’t have to like put the entire supply chain on the box, but it does need to be available to the customer somewhere. And you know, that’s part of what we believe in changing. It’s really sharing. It reminds me when I, I used to have a career in pharmaceutical manufacturing.
Hmm. I used to have something called M S D S. That’s Material Safety. Safety and data sheet. Yeah. So basically everything you need to know. About that particular material for you to know how to handle it, how to store it, how to manage it, temperature, the hazards, what could happen, where’s the Ms d s on your fucking tampons?
So like . Well, and you know, that’s something that’s unique to us because we start at the soil in sourcing all of our raw materials and the relationships that. Forged and support in our supply chain. We know every single chemical that is used to grow our natural fibers and to process them, and we have input there.
So as clinicians looking at this process, if there’s something that we know, either we know or we suspect is not gonna be best for our bodies, we can have that input. , and that’s really unique. And one of the problems too is again, there’s still a lot of research gaps in all of these chemistries and how they affect human health.
So there’s still a lot of question marks, but in order to address those question marks, we need to know what we need to be looking at and where those gaps are. So the only way to do that, Is knowing the process by which a tampon was made, why is there a lack of transparency? Like, so if I wanna get super woo here, like what is the energy that you feel inside the menstrual industry like, , can you explain more on this?
Like why is there a lack of transparency? Sure. Well, I’ll start first by saying the industry is full of good people who really wanna make a positive impact on the world. So I don’t wanna vilify my esteemed colleagues, but the first time I ever went to a conference for this industry, I walked in and like everybody was wearing a suit.
It was mostly sales teams and, and there were quite a bit of r and d teams there as well. But zero clinical voice, zero human health impact voice. And that was really concerning for me. And a light bulb moment that there was an opportunity to uplift the industry and connect those dots. You know, our team has had some really, Kind of gut-wrenching experiences through that and, and we’re members of these trade organizations and we’re glad to be because we wanna be leaders there.
But there’s quite a bit of lobbying power and money and politics behind this that is really protecting the financial interests of corporations and deprioritizing. You know, the question marks that we have in this conversation today. So that is, in my opinion, evidence of a very patriarchal society, very shortsighted society, and certainly, you know, any initiative to improve the world in the time that we exist on this planet in our physical form needs to have some sort of profit bearing in order to get the ball.
But just historically, literally since the beginning of time, women’s needs both physically and emotionally and socially have been deprioritized and placed under capitalism basically. So that is very misaligned with our team and our company values, but we also feel like everything is converging at a perfect point in time.
and that across the world we’re seeing a shift in energy and new ways of thinking and a welcoming of a more matriarchal society where, you know, the tone can shift not only in the tampon industry, but in other ways as well. It just seems at the forefront of like your mission and your company. There’s just a reverence for women in what we’re putting inside of our bodies.
Absolutely, and I love that so much. You know, a lot of what’s out there now really focuses on what I call the S word, which is sustainability, and that is typically defined as doing less environmental harm, and we define that much differently. So we’re focused on healing not only earth. But ourselves and our relationships because all three of those are one and the same.
So we believe that we are nature, that nature is us, and we’re all us in nature. Just big balls of energy that swirl around together and that our. Interconnected with each other and you know, that’s what the meaning of life is, . And so you can’t heal one without working on healing the other. I love that. So since they’re all interconnected, what is our relationship with MIS role management?
Hmm. So this is something that I think is. Wholly missed in the industry is that it is an intensely personal experience. Certainly there are cultural influences and familial influences, but every person who Menstruates has. Both a unique experience to them and a unique journey across their lifespan. And with that, we really want to honor that and never tell anybody that there’s a right way to manage their period or that they’re doing it wrong or to shame them.
What we do believe in is presenting all the facts, presenting all the information, giving an option that we believe is elevated, but recognizing. We might not be the best choice for that particular person, and that’s okay. So I guess that’s my beach that I’d put on a soapbox for that on menstrual management, that is the core that we build our foundation on in our teaching and how we design products and how we bring products to market.
Let’s talk about infertility, cans. Tampons influence how we conceive or our actual fertility or ability to conceive. So this is one of the big question marks that we have, that we feel like is under-researched. Um, we don’t really know if the chemicals used to make tampons or to make other menstrual products for that matter, negatively influence our fertility.
Now we do have data that looks at certain chemistries like P F O S, chemicals that we know can be absorbed into the bloodstream and we know are endocrine disruptors that can impact fertility negatively, both in women and men. Can we pause for a second, just because maybe our listeners may not know our endocrine system controls what?
Because there’s not every. Our hormones, so maybe not. I just wanna make sure everyone knows like, so your hormones are in super important because that’s what’s gonna release all the things. The eggs and all your hormones are super important. Are critical for you to conceive. So, absolutely. So that Sure.
And the hormonal system or the endocrine system, it touches every body system that we have than every body function that we have. So it’s not just our reproductive. Systems, but you know, our brain chemistries, our thyroids, which is connected to reproductive health. So again, much like we were talking about earlier in interconnectedness, it’s the same with our hormonal systems.
And what makes those function normally or atypically? So, you know, P F O S chemicals we also know is a chemical finish in textiles that helps make a fabric water resistant. So there has been some controversy in menstrual underwear and what sort of textile finishes. is basically when the fabric is made, it goes through a chemical process to spray a chemical on it, to give it some sort of performance feature.
And this has been a challenge for us as we begin our development of our menstrual underwear, is how to create product that doesn’t leak through. That’s a whole purpose. Without using chemicals that we know for a fact negatively impact our hormones, I would’ve never thought, like as a person, I don’t actively wear tampons anymore due to trauma that I have just decided.
I put boundaries around my trauma. I’ve healed certain traumatic events, and after my son’s birth, it was very difficult for me to wear tampons and not physically just emotionally use them, and my body just didn’t respond well. So I was a avid tampon user. Before my pregnancy and then afterwards I switched to pads.
Mm-hmm. , I have only worn probably five tampons in six years. Yeah. So it’s like very, very, and I absolutely have to, but I would’ve never guessed. I have looked up period underwear and I thought, oh wow, that’s really clever. But I guarantee you. That I am just like any other consumer, but we’re all awakening to what are the companies supporting?
What are they lobbying and what’s inside our products? But what’s like, I didn’t even know there was like formal Ala Hyde on my kid’s pajamas, but I would’ve never guessed that there was a finish, cuz I don’t know anything about textile manufacturing. That there would’ve been a chemical that could impact my hormones.
And I’m just looking for, for me not to get blood from my period on my effing jeans. So like, that pisses me off. Hmm. Sorry, did I just bring ? That pisses me off though. Like I have to like, so this is totally unrelated. I grew up in Miami. You have to be aware of your surroundings, but like, so now I have to be extra vigilant, like now as to.
I’m putting near my vagina because like Right. I don’t want my hormones to be, I’m not actively trying to conceive, but like I’m hitting 40 next year. Mm-hmm. , you know, I’m so thankful that we’re having this conversation because I’m having so many breakthrough moments and like awareness now I’m like, all right, I gotta take this up a notch.
I need to learn more. But I guarantee you there’s thousands of other women’s, I didn’t even think that there could be something wrong if they were just putting on period under. Thank you for sharing your story and welcome. This is, you Know, your story is exactly one of the reasons why we do wanna honor our story.
In our value statement, we actually say we honor stories, and that’s why we would never tell somebody. Oh, tampons are the best. You know, because we don’t know what somebody’s individual experience has been and what influences their decision making. But you said something about, um, oh my gosh, now I have to be vigilant about what everything is in.
And this was something that really motivated me in the beginning of trace because I am so sick and tired of the responsibility of everything falling on the shoulders of women. We are hard working, hard fucking preach, , fucking preach. Yeah. And so there should be shouldering of accountability across society.
And the big missing link right now is in corporate decision making. They call it social responsibility. Right. And, but even going beyond that, so you know the reason I used tampons and pads and now menstrual under. But that was a journey that I started just cuz I was like, well I gotta do market research
But the reason I used, are they comfortable pads and tampons is the convenience. Yeah. You know, I’m a working mom with three kids and for me, I literally cannot handle one more thing. Right. And I’m also just really tired of feeling guilty that I don’t sort my recycling that, you know, every time I’m just trying to clean the house and just get the trash out.
If I don’t take the extra energy to sort and then drive the recycling to the particular sorting facilities, because where I live does not pick up recycling. I feel guilty. Yeah. It just doesn’t. We can make products that we use every single way in different ways with better materials that alleviates that burden of work from the shoulders of people who are normally doing the most housework and child rearing.
So for us at Trace, we wanted to create our entire product line that took that off of consumer’s responsibility. You don’t have to recycle anything that we give you. We can compost it if you choose to, but it’s fine to throw it away. And then on top of that, again, it’s not just about doing less harm, it’s about in using these products, you actually are helping.
So you are healing the earth just with your body’s natural body, you know, excrement, , and you know, using our bodies in our daily lives as a built-in tool to healing the environment. So, you know, What you said about being really, it’s one of my triggers for being very protective of women and our energy, and I don’t believe that we should have to like di you know, go on Environmental working group for every single personal care product we want to use.
It should be presented very forth. To us right on the shelf, and we need legislation that helps protect us from insidious or, you know, manipulative things like greenwashing.
Heavy . There’s a lot in there, right? Oh, you let me get on my soapbox girlfriend. I’m here for it. Let’s fucking write it down. Let’s burn it down. Don’t get me activated to do that. It does take a lot of innovation and a lot of research and development that is often underfunded or that isn’t really resonating with typical investment.
Um, so this is where this new age shift where we’re putting more in the hands of a matriarchal society, it’s gonna take a while, but, you know, getting wealth in the hands of women as well to then deploy investment capital in these sort of innovations is really the transition that we’re seeing now and that we hope will accelerate.
So, you know, we do believe that. I mean, truly everything that we need on this earth to thrive and live has already been gifted to us. It’s just up to us to steward it properly, and part of that stewardship is innovation in our personal care and household products. So true. So how can people get your tampons and support your company?
So we launch in late spring. We cannot set a firm launch date until we get our final approval from the F D A, but we’re hoping it’ll be Earth Day for pre-orders. Oh my gosh, that would be so lovely. . We’re like, okay, do we launch on four 20 or Earth Day ? But we. We actually have no CBD or THC in our tampons.
It’s just hemp fiber. Can you imagine a cbd? B D tampon? ? Well, girl, you know, that is on our dream list to pursue. I would love that with my cramps. Yeah, so we’d love to do some clinical research with that and see if we can bring that to market. I’m manifesting that for you. Can we help support your company?
How can we do that? What would be the most meaningful way for our followers and listeners to support you? Yeah. The best way to know when you can get our product is to sign up for our wait list, so you can do that on our website, trace your tampon.com, and then follow us on socials. So we’re starting to put out a lot of really great blog content from experts in the field.
Doing a lot of educational content on our socials, and then we’d love to hear from you. So right now, we, you know, are finalizing everything that we wanna put out into the world, and we see you as our true partner in this. So it’s not us sitting, you know, up high giving edicts. We want this to be a reciprocal relationship and the only way to do that is to connect with us.
So please join our wait list. There’ll be opportunities to be the first to receive product to test it. To give us your feedback. And the last thing is we do have a Facebook group called Soil Mates, S O I L N A T E S, where we have these conversations that we’re having with you, Carolina. So you know, what are I, I’m running to join.
Yeah. And how can we. Serve those needs that you have. So those are the best ways. And then tell your friends to join too. So what is your Instagram handle? So when people are listening to this episode, they can tag you and me and their Instagram stories. Sure. Or their post. What is your handle? So the handle is trace your tamp.
and then mine is of course, crunch Magic, c e o, . I will forever just love your name. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, your expertise, and your very radiant light. Your voice matters and we’re so thankful for you. Well, thank you so much, Carolina, and I really appreciate the platform that you have and the teaching and healing work that you’re doing.
I appreciate that so much.