What the Heck are PFAS and Why You Should Care?

Girl on couch covering face

Every day we are making more mindful decisions when it comes to our bodies and the environment - whether that be switching to sustainable beauty products or choosing organic produce for the benefit of our health. But with life getting busier and marketing messages getting louder, it can be hard to differentiate between truly green and greenwashing.

Which is exactly what happened recently when several prominent brands were discovered to contain PFAS (despite advertising their products to be toxin-free and environmentally friendly). But what does this mean and why does it matter to you?

 

What the … PFAS?!

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are synthetic chemicals that help make a fabric water resistant. They’re extremely effective at what they do – so much so that it’s reported that up to 70% of waterproof products contain them. Talking specifically to period undies, they increase the moisture-wicking property meaning they dry way quicker. But the issue is they have a larger impact to both the environment and within the human body, having been linked to cancer.

EarthJustice reported “Some PFAS are associated with cancer, decreased immune response to vaccines, decreased fertility, and more. Exposure to PFAS at even the lowest concentrations has been shown to harm human health.”

Also known as “forever chemicals” due to their non-biodegradable nature, these chemicals can accumulate in the soil, water, and air, posing long-term risks to both human health and the ecosystem.

 

So that means you are PFAS-free?

This is where it gets tricky – and messages are less transparent - as claiming to be completely PFAS-free is technically impossible. These chemicals exist in our environment at microscopic levels due to their “forever” nature. So, anyone making an absolute claim of being entirely PFAS-free should set off warning bells.

What we promise is we are free from intentionally adding chemical treatments, including PFAS. And as per worldwide guidelines, our independent tests (which are bloody exxy hence why people don't do them!) have confirmed any detectable PFAS in our garments are less than 1 part per million, meaning if they are there, they are below a threshold that can be easily detected. 

 

The Oeko-Tex Fallacy

Whether it’s white-washing or ignorance, many brands lean on certifications like Oeko-Tex Standard 100 to validate their claims of safety. Unfortunately, this certification, while valuable, primarily focuses on restricted substances, but it's not an all-encompassing guarantee of a product's PFAS-free status. To be sure of what you are putting on your body, you need to ensure a brand has been independently PFAS tested – and that means independent lab testing for all layers of a product too.

 

Scarlet - Only the good stuff

As a small, independently owned Australian brand, we understand the importance of consumer trust and safety. SCARLET's period underwear has been certified there are no PFAS at a detectable level across all layers and materials. Additionally, we only ever work with manufacturers who share our beliefs.

We care about what you put in or near your vagina and believe the products you use should help support your overall health, performance and wellbeing. And we believe that the extra effort and cost are well worth the peace of mind it brings – not only for our customers but also for our own ethical standards.