By Cassie Angu
For centuries, social norms have encouraged women to keep their periods to themselves, reserving open discussions about their body’s processes to sleepovers, female family members and their gynecologist. With new advancements in the feminine care industry, periods are finally starting to lose their taboo.
Though a quick walk down the feminine hygiene aisle could convince you otherwise, until recently women’s options for period products have been limited to tampons, pads and menstrual cups. These have also come with a price – the tampon tax, discussed in this Shape article, charges women a 4 percent tax on all feminine hygiene products.
Recently, women have been taking their periods into their own hands – literally, and figuratively. Many of the major innovating brands on the market today ( Thinx, Lunapads, Diva Cups) are run by women, created by women, and invested in philanthropic efforts ensuring women worldwide have access to the feminine care and products they need.
For various reasons, women have decided to leave behind their traditional feminine hygiene products in lieu of something better – body positivity and self empowerment. Many women who frequent these products rave about the empowerment that comes from getting to know their own bodies firsthand and the boost in self-love they attribute to shedding their inhibitions during their periods while using period alternatives. Though there definitely isn’t a scientific correlation between which feminine hygiene products you chose and your overall self esteem, foregoing social norms that could be restricting you for the sake of self exploration could definitely boost your self confidence and overall view of such a beautiful bodily function.
Aside from the body positivity boosting powers alternative feminine hygiene products can have, many of them also tout amazing eco (and wallet) – friendly benefits as well. This Guardian article reveals that the average woman uses 11,000 tampons in her lifetime, about 300 pounds total which takes centuries longer to fully degrade. Many women who are more socially and environmentally conscious try to reduce their carbon print by trying an alternative to traditional forms of feminine hygiene. Though these reusable mediums may gross out others, it is growing more and more “normal” to incorporate more eco-friendly products into their period routines.
Below, Jade Moten and Haidee Cano, real women who swear by their innovative period products, explain how they found a newfound sense of mental, physical and emotional freedom during their most restricting time of the month.
Jade Moten, Period Panty Promoter:
In the last five years, a new product has been creating buzz in the period industry: period panties. These absorbent underwear are infused with layers of fabric specially formulated to combat leakage, wick moisture, and fight bacteria. For Moten, who struggled with a severely heavy flow after opting to use a nonhormonal intrauterine device (IUD) as contraception, tampons were not practical anymore.
As a junior Biology, Nutrition and Dietetics major at Florida International University, her heavy flow was impeding her every day activities. “I used to have to wear a tampon, pad, underwear, and then little tight shorts over to hold everything together,” she says.
When her boyfriend noticed the frustration and stress he saw her period bringing her, he actually bought her first pair of Thinx period underwear.
“He knew I was doing so much to try and ensure my period didn’t take over my life, and he thought they would be a good alternative,” she says.
Now she even keeps a pair at his house just in case, finding empowerment in knowing that she is more in control of her period and doesn’t have to be ashamed lugging tons of products around with her.
“It’s empowering. I don’t have to bring anything with me – I’m already wearing what I need. It’s not a run to a store, it’s an opening of a drawer,” she says.
Now, Moten recommends her newfound products to everyone, saying, “every person really should try them, especially anyone who has issues with controlling their flow or leaks.”
Haidee Cano, Menstrual Cup Connoisseur:
Though menstrual cups have been around since 1937, their popularity among women has recently spiked. Popular brands like DivaCup, Lunette, and Lily Cup are turning thousand dollar startups into billion dollar businesses overnight. Cano, a migrant family advocate for the Alachua County School Board, decided they were the best option for her after her growing frustration with the heaviness of her period.
“I went to the gynecologist to ask about my heavy bleeding and all she really said was, ‘this is normal; there’s nothing wrong with you – it’ll probably get better after you have kids. Or you can get on birth control,’ “ she says.
Not wanting to use contraception to help regulate her periods, she purchased a DivaCup.
“The first night was heaven. I didn’t have to wear an adult diaper, “ Cano says. I actually forgot I was on my period.”
Since finding her new normal using menstrual cups, Cano has only good things to say. “People need to know about this! I would recommend [menstrual] cups to everyone. I was even thinking about creating a company for girls because there is so much potential,” she raves.
Finding Empowerment Through Innovation
Aside from the positive physical benefits both women have had from using alternative period products, Moten and Cano both tout the emotional, social, and ecological benefits of switching to innovative period products.
Though Moten does not consider herself someone who is completely conscious of her environmental impact, she likes using period underwear to help reduce the amount of waste she produces. When she started investigating what materials were used to make pads and tampons, she knew she wanted to make the switch.
“Tampons and pads contain sulfates and other bleached fabrics that I think would be hard on the body. I didn’t want to risk it anymore,” she says.
Both Cano and Moten mentioned their newfound body positivity after making the big switch, even going out of their way to engage in period-positive dialogue on social media.
“It’s empowering. You can be more in touch with yourself in a non-gross way. When people think of sanitary pads, they don’t think of sanitary. It helped me understand free bleeding. I don’t think about my period as much anymore,” Moten says.
Cano agrees. “I posted on Facebook when I got my [menstrual] cup to see if any of my friends would have any tips and it created such a great dialogue with my female friends. I have become way more in tune with my body, and have come to love my period even more. I know all the ins and outs of my body and how it works during my period and that’s beautiful,” she says.
Before making any major switches to your period routine, please seek the advice of a trusted physician.