Menstrual Products that Aren’t Gross

When I was pregnant I found myself in the feminine hygiene aisle at the drugstore, looking for panty liners. I grabbed a box off the shelf and headed to the checkout. Waiting in line I started reading the box and noticed that “fragrance” was listed as one of the ingredients in the liners

Fragrance? WTF is fragrance doing in a panty liner?

First of all, let’s talk about the issue of telling a woman that something that comes out of her body is so gross it needs to be covered up by the scent of artificial roses.

Second of all, let’s talk about how I don’t want fragrance anywhere near my vagina. Or any other part of my body for that matter. Fragrance can contain any number of the 3,100+ chemicals used by the health and beauty industry, many of which are known to be allergens or worse – carcinogens (i.e. cause cancer), endocrine disrupters (i.e. mess with your hormones) or neurotoxins (i.e. fuck up your brain).

Needless to say, I put the pantyliners back but the chocolate covered almonds came with me.

Fragrance isn’t the only concerning ingredient found in pads or tampons that I might not want in my body or next to my skin. They often contain plastic, dioxins from the bleach used to make ’em whiter than white, and god only knows what the glue that sticks the pad to your underwear is made from.

No seriously, only god knows. Feminine hygiene products are classified as “medical devices” which means manufacturers don’t actually need to disclose what’s in them. And while companies like Tampax and Playtex now list ingredients thanks to public pressure and list the main ingredients that go into their products like cotton, cardboard and fragrance, they still don’t have to include “unintentional ingredients” like the pesticides that are sprayed on the cotton or the harsh chemicals used to produce rayon out of wood pulp.

Sources estimate that the average woman uses anywhere from 11,000 to 16,000 pads and tampons over the course of her lifetime. That’s thousands of times she is exposed to toxic chemicals and thousands of times she has thrown or flushed those pads and tampons “away.” But what does “away” mean? They end up in landfills where they take hundreds of years to biodegrade, longer if they’ve been thrown away in a plastic bag.

Your period really does last forever!

What’s a gal to do? No need to turn to Mensez, which “glues” your labia together to hold your period in, there are plenty of options that are better for you and for the environment and here are my faves.

Menstrual Cups

It’s true what they say, once you go cup you’ll never go back. Cups are my personal period fave. They’re made from medical grade silicon, last for years and collect rather than absorb your flow. There are lots of cups on the market so if the first one you try out doesn’t feel right, try again! While I’ve been the

While I’ve been the DivaCup‘s number one fangirl for years, I’ve recently felt it doesn’t fit quite the same post-pregnancy. The makers of the Casco Cup recently sent me a cup to try out and I’ve been digging it! I like the stretchy stem (the Diva Cup has a hard stem with rings on it that I’ve found irritating) and the hard-shell case the CascoCup comes with.

Period Underwear

Seriously, why has it taken this long for someone to think of this? Period underwear look just like a cute pair of regular panties but they contain an absorbent, leak-proof lining RIGHT IN THEM! Depending on the brand and style they can absorb up to two tampons worth of blood and are washable. You just throw ’em in the machine when you’re done with them.

Take your pick: LunaUndies, from the makers of the DivaCup; Dear Kate, who also make “commando yoga pants” now!, and THINX, industry pioneer named by Forbes as one of the most innovative companies of the year. I am 100% sure this list is incomplete and there are other amazing options available out there.

Reusable Pads

Reusable cloth pads are just like the pads that you buy in the drug store except they are reusable and not gross. Made from (usually organic) cotton, you snap to your undies, go on your merry menstruating way, and throw ’em in the wash when you’re done with it. You can get them in pretty much every size and shape that you’d find conventional pads in from liners to postpartum pads. And the best part is they often come in really awesome colours and patterns.

In high school I sewed my own reusable pads using a pattern I got from a riot grrrl zine, but today you can buy them on the internet from GladRags, hannahpad or my personal favourite – Party in My Pants.

If you’re feeling crafty, a quick Google search for “reusable menstrual pad pattern” yields plenty of options.

Organics

I recognize that reusables aren’t for everyone (although I would challenge everyone to GET comfortable with them because our earth is dying and toxins are killing us) or there are times that you just want or need to use a disposable pad or tampon. When that’s the case, do yourself and the environment a favour and at least look for certified organic products. Most health food stores and some higher-end grocery stores will stock organic pads and tampons.

And now through the magic of the Internet you can have your non-toxic, eco-friendly tampons delivered right to your door via subscription! Lola lets you customize what goes in your box and easy., a Canadian company, delivers your tampons with a bar of fair-trade chocolate.

Giving back

Even if you love toxins and hate the environment, there’s another reason to support many of the companies I’ve listed above: they give back. easy. donates 5% of their profits to Zana Africa Foundation; THINX works on a buy 1, fund 1 model (like Tom’s but for period panties) and recently launched the Global Girls Club through the THINX Foundation to help educate girls around the world on reproductive and sexual health, human rights and entrepreneurship; and the gals behind LunaPads and the DivaCup support menstrual and reproductive health and access to education in the Global South through One4Her and Pads4Girls.

WHO RUN THE WORLD?

I’d love to hear what products that aren’t gross you use each month on your period, or after birth, or when you’re pregnant and leaky like I was! Any great companies I’ve missed on the list above? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “Menstrual Products that Aren’t Gross

  1. Deborah says:

    I’ve been using “the keeper” menstrual cup for over a decade now. It is rubber instead of silicone, which to me was even more biodegradable (slightly). It seems insane to me that women still use tampons! It is quite subversive to start thinking of your body as better than “gross” and “awful” by treating it with respect. Keep on it!

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