Yes, this page is all about periods, because periods are a plastic nightmare!
To keep this page simple, I have written a separate blog article to explain why this is the case, and also why the taboo of talking about them might actually be making it even more difficult to tackle the issue.
So, to summarise…
Applicators, tampons, sanitary towels and the plastic pouches that come with them, all of these contain, or are made of, single use plastics. A huge number of these end up in our rivers, oceans and beaches, often because people are flushing them down toilets (yes, people do that). The alternative is they end up in landfill, where they will stay for, well, quite possibly forever.
The beauty of the situation is that there are actually some really simple and from my personal experience, preferable, alternatives out there. We just don’t hear about them (more about why that might be and how people are tackling this in my blog post).
So what are these alternatives?
I’m not talking about the pair of massive comfy pants that you have hidden in the back of your drawer.
These guys are on a whole new level and you won’t need to hide them away. In fact they’re so flattering, I think you are more likely to find that you want to wear them any day of the week.
So what are period pants?
They are the reason you can stop buying nappies disguised as sanitary towels!
The period pants I am talking about are designed and sold by a company called THINX. They have a in built layer system that is so thin, that aside from providing a little bit of lift (people pay for that though, right?), it is completely invisible. Not only is it invisible, you can’t feel it either. It is just like putting on a normal pair of pants, only these possess magical superpowers. They should be called power pants!
Here are a few things to love about them:
- Because the absorbent layers are built into your pants, you don’t get any awkward bunching up like with a sanitary pad.
- They feel much drier than the usual sanitary towel, despite absorbing way more. No more pulling your pants back up and feeling gross.
- They’re antibacterial, so no bad smells.
- The period pants inner lining is black, which means the evidence of your period is disguised way better and you don;t have to stare at it every time you visit the loo.
For even more technical know-how, the THINX website has even more information about how these pants work.
Technical details aside, the only thing you need to do is put them on, wear them, rinse them and then wash them.
“Rinse them!?” Yes, I made the same face when I read that, sounds gross doesn’t it?
It really isn’t though. My best advice, having used them, is to just take them in the shower with you and give them a rinse in COLD running water. Only on mega-heavy days have I noticed the water looks very reddish/brown as you do this, but it doesn’t take long to rinse them completely clear and then they’re free to join the rest of the washing pile until wash day. And then you can whack up the heat and enjoying a nice steaming shower.
Do they really work?
Ok, so the pants are designed to hold different volumes of blood, and they measure this based on the number of tampons worth they will hold. So the ones you buy/wear will very much depend on what your own cycle is like.
As most people would, I first tried these out around the house. I wasn’t sure whether to trust them and I certainly didn’t want to get caught out whilst on the go.
As it is, I am glad I did. I was still getting used to my own cycle (I really recommend trying to do this if you aren’t on hormonal contraceptives, it really is quite eye opening what your body tells you when you take notice) and so I didn’t anticipate my flow very well, which meant a very small amount of leakage (not onto anything, it just bled into the edges of the pants).
I wasn’t about to give up though, everything else about them had been great and I have now come to realise that I am just particularly heavy for a couple of days of the cycle, which means I am going to purchase the ‘boy-short’ option for those days, or use the ones I already have as a backup to use with a Mooncup (I talk about this further down).
THINX also now make some of the designs in cotton. I can’t wait to try them as I never say no to a more breathable option down there (although I haven’t any issues with my current ones as of yet on that front).
So, despite having a few teething issues at first, it really wasn’t bad enough to put me off. Since then I have worn them out and about and had zero issues, in fact if anything I just find them super comfortable!
The only way you will know for sure is to try them out. If you don’t think they help you ‘period better’ then just tell THINX within 60 days and they will give you your money back! I know they’re not the cheapest option on the market, but you see the savings in the long run.
For those of you who sometimes find the need for a light liner, these are a fantastic option that can be used over and over and over and over, just pop them in the wash!.
There are lots of different designs and sellers online but having tried a couple for myself, my favourites are those deisgned by OneCheekyBee on Etsy. I find their shape fits better than others I have tried, they’re more comfortable than the usual liners I would use, they’re made of natural fibers and they don’t move about lots as you wear them.
One of my favourite things though is the variety of patterns and colours that they come in. They’re add a splash of colour and art that brightens up those otherwise boring trips to the loo.
You can also buy sanitary towel versions of these, designed for your period, but I actually prefer to use the THINX pants that I just talked about for those days.
As I don’t use them for time of the month, I can’t comment on the absorbency of the ones designed for that purpose, but as panty liners they work perfectly.
You simply use the press-studs on the wings to fasten them in place and, voila! you have a little extra added protection for the days that you want it. Just pop them in the wash when your done.
I honestly never envisaged myself browsing panty-liners for fun, but here I am getting excited because I have just seen some new Christmas designs!
I love the period pants by THINX, but at the end of the day, there are times where I would still like, or even need, the convenience and advantages that come with using a tampon.
Introducing the Mooncup!
So what exactly is it?
It is a soft, medical-grade silicone cup that sits a little lower than a tampon (but still inside), and simply forms a comfortable but tight seal to hold any menstrual flow.
The benefits of the Mooncup go way beyond the fact that it is waste free though:
For starters, it is a great money saver. Based on using a couple of tampons a day, for 5 days a cycle, you are probably going to end up spending the same amount of money on a Mooncup as you would on tampons every single year!
You can never run out…think about that, no more despairing as you search every last cupboard and handbag to realise you have ran out of tampons. The Mooncup will always be there when you need it.
It should hold up to three times more fluid than a regular tampon, so good news for those of you on heavy days!
Another bonus is that even on very light flow days, or days when you’re just not sure if your due, the Mooncup can be used safely because it doesn’t absorb moisture. That means your vagina stays healthy and comfortable no matter the flow.
Finally, the Mooncup is free of perfumes, latex, dyes, BPA, phthalates, plastic, bleaches and toxins…yay!!
I have spent quite a lot of time sat here researching what goes into the tampons and sanitary towels we use, but it is really difficult to get a definitive answer as to just what ingredients are in them, and how safe they really are.
If scientists researching this are struggling to find a definitive answer, then I am not about to try to attempt to provide one either. But I do talk about the questions surrounding this issue in this blog article, which will hopefully shed a little more light on the matter.
For now, I have put a video on here that I would say is worth a watch. It shows two different pads, one 100% cotton and one by Always (ingredients unclear), being set on fire. The results are pretty illuminating.
In case you can’t view the video, the cotton pad burns clean and slow and the Always pad burns like a firelighter!
Go back to Cardboard
For those of you who still want to use tampons, to be kinder to the planet I would recommend that you choose ones which still use cardboard applicators. These may not feel quite as smooth, but they still work and they’re not going to end up polluting the oceans for years to come.
Based on what I wrote in the Mooncup section above, and in my blog post here, you might also want to opt for those which are 100% organic cotton until we know more about what actually goes into some of the brands of tampon, and how safe those ingredients are when used in this way.