What are the raw materials of sanitary napkins

What are the Raw Materials of Sanitary Napkins?

Sanitary napkins, also commonly known as pads, are essential products that provide women with leak-proof protection and comfort during their menstrual cycles. With heightened awareness surrounding women’s health, more people are curious about what sanitary napkins are made of. As a professional sanitary napkin manufacturer, I will explore the raw materials that make up modern sanitary pads in this article.

What are the raw materials of sanitary napkins

The Importance of Understanding Pad Ingredients

Before diving into the specific components, it’s worth discussing why knowing the raw materials of sanitary pads matters. Here are a few key reasons:

Safety and Health: Certain chemicals used in feminine hygiene products may be associated with health issues. Being aware of potentially concerning ingredients allows women to make informed choices about the products they use.

Sustainability: Some pad materials take an extremely long time to break down. Understanding the environmental impact can help guide purchasing decisions.

Accessibility: Lack of access to safe and affordable pads prevents girls around the world from attending school during their periods. Knowing what pads require allows organizations to source sustainable local materials.

Now let’s break down exactly what modern pads contain, layer-by-layer.

What are the Raw Materials of Sanitary Napkins?

The exact materials of sanitary napkins can vary by brand, but most modern pads contain the same basic set of ingredients layered together to lock in fluids. Common materials include renewable cellulose fibers and cotton for absorbency, odor-fighting polypropylene, durable and moisture-proof polyethylene, and securing adhesives. Recent innovations have yielded more sustainable plant-based alternatives as well.

The Topsheet Layer

The topsheet is the part of the pad that comes into direct contact with skin. Since it touches the body, comfort is paramount. Most topsheets consist of the following materials:

Polypropylene and Polyethylene

These oil-based plastic materials allow fluids to pass through while feeling smooth. Polypropylene resists odors while polyethylene offers durability.


The natural fibers of cotton make it incredibly soft on skin. Cotton is also very breathable, preventing overheating. Many topsheets blend cotton with polypropylene or polyethylene to optimize comfort.

Alternatives like Bamboo Viscose

Some companies are exploring alternative plant-based materials as a sustainable replacement for polypropylene. Bamboo viscose is smooth, breathable, and odor-resisting like polypropylene, but comes from a renewable resource.

The Middle Layers

Beneath the topsheet are a series of layers designed to pull moisture away from the surface and absorb fluid deep into the pad core. Common materials include:

Cellulose or Airlaid Paper

This layer helps draw fluid from the topsheet into the absorbent core. The paper is made from renewable wood pulp or plant fibers.

Superabsorbent Polymers (SAP)

SAP granules can absorb up to 30x their weight in liquids. This super-moisture-loving polymer locks fluid away from the topsheet to prevent discomfort and leakage.


In addition to comfort, cotton offers exceptional liquid retention. Cotton may be blended with wood fluff pulp or SAP to optimize moisture absorbency.

Alternatives like Banana Fiber

Banana fiber contains natural absorptive properties, along with antibacterial benefits to inhibit odor. As a fast-growing agricultural byproduct, banana fiber is also sustainable.

The Backsheet Layer

The backsheet layer prevents fluid from leaking out the bottom of the pad. It’s made from the following components:


This thin plastic film allows some air circulation while blocking liquid. The polyethylene backsheet helps lock moisture into the pad core.


A thin strip of polyacrylate adhesive allows the pad to securely fasten to underwear, preventing uncomfortable slipping throughout usage.

Some backsheets also include cotton fabric overlays to provide breathability and extra leak protection. The adhesive may incorporate oils for smooth removal from undergarments.

Additional Pad Components

Beyond the layered construction of the pad itself, other material components include:

Silicone Release Paper

Pads are wrapped in a paper coated with silicone to prevent the adhesive from sticking before use. The paper peels off easily when ready to apply the pad.

Plastic Applicator Tubes

Tampon applicators are commonly made from either polyethylene or cardboard. Both materials are smooth and sturdy to ensure comfortable insertion.

Plastic Packaging

Individual pads and tampons come wrapped in plastic, like polyethylene or polypropylene. This helps maintain cleanliness and absorbency up until first use.

Emerging Sustainable Alternatives

Consumer demand for more eco-friendly feminine products has fueled promising material innovations. In addition to plant-based options like bamboo viscose and banana fiber, companies are exploring alternatives like:

  • Oxy-biodegradable polymer films that break down faster after disposal
  • Renewable corn-based bioplastics for absorbent layers and backsheets
  • Compostable silicone paper wrappers and applicators
  • Plastic-free reusable applicators made from medical-grade silicone or cardboard

The Takeaway

Modern sanitary pads are made from a combination of plastic materials, renewable plant fibers, and super-absorbent polymers. Polypropylene, polyethylene, and polyacrylate adhesives provide functional leak protection and a secure fit. Renewable materials like cotton, wood fluff pulp, and emerging alternatives such bamboo viscose maximize comfort and absorbency while reducing environmental impact.

As demand grows for more sustainable pads and applicators, expect to see promising new material innovations continue emerging onto the market. But for now, being mindful of the ingredients that touch intimate areas of women’s bodies remains an important consideration for both health and waste reduction.

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