Honest Period Solutions, by Women, For Women.
The Truth Behind The Advertisements and Your Period.
Something we all have seen are those always commercials, the bouncing blue ball that jumps across the pad showing how absorbent it is (apparently we bleed blue kool-aid) - or the tampons stuck in a cup of a similar substance - where we are supposed to be amazed by the amount of liquid that little “cotton” blood plug can hold.
Since the beginning of time we have been being Marketed to in a way that shows that longevity, superior absorption and ability to maintain discretion as the only things worth knowing about the product. Not acknowledging even slightly how much this part of our experience in our female bodies changes our day to day life, prior, and during our flow period - and not even taking time to acknowledge the impact of the ingredients that allow those products to miraculously hold a large portion of blood for what seems like an indefinite time period.
Fortunately for the women at Women's Voices of the Earth created a compelling and well informed report called “Chem-Fatale” which outlines the honestly horrifying truth of the feminine care industry.
A few facts to pay attention to:
The Feminine Care Industry is very loosely regulated (read as: barely regulated) - Since the FDA classifies tampons and pads as medical devices, manufacturers do not have to disclose a list of materials or chemicals in their products. Convenient for them, right?
Consider this from May Day Glow:
“The chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products are unregulated even though they are linked to cancer and reproductive issues. Some of the same toxins and carcinogens are found in feminine care products. By inserting a tampon, you’re exposed to chemicals like dioxin, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and many women’s health organizations link to reproductive issues and even cancer. Let’s do the math: manufacturers sell tampons and pads, well-aware they are laced with toxins linked to hormonal and reproductive problems, to come into direct contact with reproductive organs multiple times a day, 5-7 days each month, for decades.”
Beyond having a terrifying impact on our bodies - while exposing our vaginas incredibly absorbent and sensitive nature - to chemicals regularly, the environmental impact is huge as well. Our friends at Diva Cup highlight this portion of concern thoroughly:
“Every month, women flush and throw away hundreds of disposable products and their packaging. Have you ever wondered what happens to all those products? For the last hundred years, the feminine hygiene industry has told women that when it comes to menstruation and the products they use, the best approach for ultimate care and comfort is: “out of sight, out of mind”. But disposable tampons and pads are anything but “out of sight”. They are visible everywhere – in our bathroom garbage cans, our landfills and even washed up along our coastlines. If they are still visible after disposal, they have probably left a visible trace on or in your body. Yikes!
When you read more and more on the reports surfacing on many of the super market brand feminine care products, you'll continue to find that this is a real problem, and one that most likely affects you directly!
Fortunately for you (and me), there are a number of mindful options - from the Diva Cup, to the organic Natracare products, which are widely available at local co-ops and well rounded grocery stores, and are kept stocked in my bathroom regularly. These two lines in particular include a great way to incorporate feminine needs and function, although the latter doesn't always contribute to the eco side of the issue, and for many people - this is all they will ever need.
Then there are a number of people who prefer the alternative route to whats widely available - and praise them with a huge amount of satisfaction and reward - boasting of more comfortable periods, easier maintenance, happier bodies.
One of our favorite companies on the path less known side of things is Holy Sponge.
Janeen, the founder and self proclaimed (rightfully so) Menstruation Activist - has kind of become my periods spirit animal. I find myself browsing her feeds, in admiration of her empowering work through her site and collaborative work. She has time and time again reminded the women who happen to cross paths with her work - that they are not alone and have nothing to be ashamed of. Beyond that, she is offering the only truly 100% straight from nature resource for our menstruation - sponges.
So there are number of reasons I feel the need to share the power of the sponge here with you, which i'll cover in a bit - but first I want to share straight from the source on why they are so passionate about the sponges they sell -
1) Sponges are sustainably harvested, totally natural, and from the ocean. They once moved in sync with the moon and the tides, our cycles also sync with the moon.
2) They are super soft and already feel like the inside of the vagina. This makes sponges sex friendly!
3) You can run them under warm water before putting them into your vagina, which feels far less harsh than a dry wad of cotton. They also fit to the unique internal landscapes of the body.
4) They’re great for the environment! By using sponges you reduce the amount of trash in our landfills and oceans. Sponges are also COMPOSTABLE, returning to the earth.
Personal Highlights on Sponge Use.
First off they are incredibly absorbent and malleable - meaning that you basically are able to get it into your vagina with ease of use - and worry very little about leakage. In fact, I have had literally zero leakage problems within my time using the sponge and find this to be the most rewarding part of the experience.
I have made a habit of taking out my sponge in a safe area, though - and have made a habit of using them at night in particular due to the low leak and ability to remove in the shower. The change out process can be messy, but like most things feminine in nature, messy isn't the end of the world, and with practice you really learn a rhythm of what works (kind of like all those women who felt like their Diva Cups were stuck inside of them, when all they did was get acquainted and learn a technique for removal.)
The step by step instructions that are a part of HOLY SPONGE's thoughtfully made packaging are hands down one of the best approaches i've seen to feminine care. She includes a small bottle of tea tree oil for sanitizing - which is meant to be used along side of boiling water, hydrogen peroxide, and apple cider vinegar - As well as a tiny sage bundle for whatever monthly ritual you allow yourself. The thought put into just the box and the ingredients outside of the sponges itself is genuinely a little piece of art, and it kind of opens up these doors to really valuing the beauty in nature - the beauty in our cycles. They are meant to be celebrated. There are a few things to know about the Sponge Power and the safest way to keep them clean and your body healthy!
"The most important thing about using sponges is the hygiene of both hands and the sponge. Before you receive your sponges, they have been sanitized with organic tea tree oil. So there’s no need to clean them before using, unless of course you want to! If you have an allergy or strong preference against tea tree oil, please let us know & we will disinfect your sponges with peroxide instead. When you begin to bleed and are ready to use your sea sponge, follow the directions below."
1) You will want to be sure that the sponge is pushed up/back far enough, so that it can absorb properly. If the sponge is too low, you may experience leakage.
2) When the sponge has filled, use your fingers to pull it out. If this feels new or difficult at first- don’t worry- there’s nowhere for the sponge to actually go (it can’t get lost). Just relax, breathe, push, and your sponge will come out as you use your fingers to reach for it. If you are worried about getting it out, you can sew a string or unflavored dental floss into it.
You can buy HOLY SPONGE!, HERE - and please take some time to read through the rest of Janeen and her talented teams work while you're on their site. They are truly doing magical things that i'm grateful to be able to take in, even from a distance.
THINX, Underwear for People Who Menstruate.
There is so much I could say about this company as I am entirely in love with their dynamic and product line. With that being said, to say that I was initially a little scared of the ramifications of using the free bleed method this underwear has built its brand on -- so I did the obvious thing, and I handed them to my very pregnant sister and said "Here, these are for after the baby - report back and let me know what you think"
A few (or more) weeks went by and all of the sudden, we were holding a baby a month old and I saw her casually folding her freshly washed THINX panties I had handed to her earlier...
"So, How were they??"
"THEY SAVED MY LIFE.", She said enthusiastically.
Naturally I asked for all the details - She let me know that shortly after giving birth she began wearing them for her Postpartum lochia - and with a new baby and an eighteen month hellion at home her biggest selling point was how absorbent they actually were. She also let me know how comfortable she felt in them - and how much you'd be surprised about the lack of "wet" feeling.
I looked into how this all works, and apparently its all in the design. Not only are these babies moisture wicking, but they are Anti-Microbial too -- meaning they are basically resisting all the bacteria, so you're fresh, and HEALTHY - giving your uterus some time to just flow as nature intended or even just protect yourself in those white pants with the accompaniment of other products.
The Chonies I gave her in particular were these Hip Huggers, and although they are the most absorbent of all the chonies they offer - they have a wide range of styles and measure they free flow capabilties in comparison to tampons. I think that investing in a couple of these cuties just as a safety measure outside of home is definitely worth it. Imagine never worrying about bleeding through?
Thinx BOY SHORTS have us seeing bigger pictures:
Another thing THINX offers, that I had genuinely never considered but just let out this huge sense of relief when I realized it, is mens styles too. They had a conversations surrounding this topic featuring Sawyer DeVuys - inspired by sawyer’s photo project, @sawyermine. All words are his.
This is such an important piece of this menstruation conversation.
"Gender and sexuality are two separate
things. Gender is who you go to bed as,
and sexuality is who you go to bed with.
My gender is trans male, and my
sexuality is queer. I’m attracted to men,
women, non-binary people, people in
between, people who identify as both
male and female, who identify as neither
male nor female. I’m just attracted to
It’s not necessarily that I want to be this hyper-masculine man, it’s just that that’s the way I feel safe walking the world.
Once people know you’re trans, they treat you differently. They’re more gentle with me. They think that I’m non-threatening, because I don’t have a penis. They treat me as if I’m not a man because I don’t have that anatomy, and it’s bullshit.
Everyone experiences dysphoria at some point about their body, whether you’re a man or a woman, whether you’re trans or cisgender. A product like THINX really makes people feel secure. And that’s regardless, if you’re a woman or a trans man, or a nonbinary trans person who gets their period.
They say, like, “stars, they’re just like us!” but also, trans people, they’re just like us. They’re just like a normal fucking person that wants to get on the subway and go to work.
There’s a piece of me being a white transmasculine person, where I don’t feel like I should talk. Because white cis men take up SO much space - so much physical space, so much emotional space, so much mental space - that I don’t feel like I have the right to have a voice. And that’s difficult because pre-transition, pre-coming out as a trans man, I lived as a cisgender woman, and you’re also told that you shouldn’t speak and you don’t have a voice, so on both sides of my transition, I’m not sure where I have a voice."
They launched the THINX boy shorts on November 14th, In honor of Transgender Awareness week.
You can learn more about THINX, Here - And if you are inclined, I strongly encourage you to support this company - who is creating solutions and empowerment around menstrual cycles for everyone.
Another company I have grown to love for their overall drive and vision - as well as products - is the team over at LUNAPADS.
"Disposable pads and tampons are made primarily of bleached wood pulp or viscose rayon, made from wood cellulose. What makes these products perform so effectively is the use of high tech chemicals such as super-absorbent acrylic polymers (SAPs) surfactant-laced gels and leak-proof plastic backings.The long-term health and environmental impact of these ingredients is contentious and largely unknown, but they pose the risk of cervical cancer, endometriosis, infertility, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, immune system deficiencies, pelvic inflammatory disease, and toxic shock syndrome."
With Luna Pads, and reusable pads in general, you are overlooking this concern by creating a solution through the comfort of chemical free natural materials.
For the Environment:
"It is estimated that approximately 20 billion pads, tampons and applicators are being sent to North American landfills annually. On an individual level, each of the approximately 73 million menstruating people in North America will throw away 125 to 150kg of disposable menstrual products (or 16,800 disposable pads or tampons) in their lifetime. These products require hundreds of years to biodegrade, particularly if wrapped in the plastic bag commonly provided for this purpose as part of their packaging. In fact, every piece of plastic ever made, still exists to this day."
By choosing to use natural menstrual products you are doing your part to help the environment. With proper care, LUNAPAD washable and reusable menstrual products will last for many years as opposed to 3 or 4 hours in the case of disposables. We estimate that 1 Lunapad replaces 120 disposable products. Just imagine not having to buy menstrual products at all for at least 5 years!
"Lunapads is an ethical, social-mission based business. As one of only 1000 certified B Corporation worldwide, we’ve had our business audited to ensure we meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency."
Causes Close to their hearts include Pads4Girls. Since 2000, Lunapads has been providing girls and women in developing nations with cloth pads and underwear so that they can attend school or work during their period, a practice known as Pads4Girls. You can learn more about their work, HERE.
They also actively participate in ONE4HER, which aims to improve access to education for girls, while supporting local employment for women in Uganda. How? For every product you purchase for yourself, Lunapads will provide a girl in need with a Uganda-made AFRIpad to support her education. One for you. One for her.
"We are also creating sustainable jobs for women: not just here in Canada, but in Uganda too. In 2008 Lunapads endorsed the startup of a Ugandan pad-making company based on the Lunapads design. Today, AFRIpads employs over 100 women and men, and has supplied over 250,000 schoolgirls with cloth pads so that they can stay in school during their period. Looking for a way to provide ongoing support for AFRIpads, we created One4Her: for every eligible Lunapad purchased, a girl in need will receive a Ugandan-made AFRIpad pad to support her school attendance."
To top this off with personal experience and ease of use and comfort, as well as great designs. This company is one that will back up its words through its product, and you won't be disappointed. Take some time to browse the extent of work they are doing, and enjoy the open talks about periods as well as resources through their blog.