A woman’s monthly cycle can be the source of great discomfort, but toxic disposable products can make it a downright nightmare. Though cotton tampons and disposable pads have come a long way since they were first introduced in the 1940s, they still carry health risks such as toxic shock syndrome as well as exposure to harmful chemicals like bleach and glyphosate. Turns out, though, that added up over months and months, disposable menstrual products are actually quite a bit more expensive than reusable alternatives. Here are five eco-friendly options that are healthier for you, the planet and your bank balance.
1. “Period Panties”
The latest rage in monthly accessories is absorbent underwear that eliminates the need for any other menstrual products. THINX has recently emerged with in-your-face ads, seeking to bring attention and compassion to the issue of that pesky monthly visitor, while other retailers like Lunapads have been quietly marketing their “Lunapanties” for years. Although they are pricier than traditional undies and a woman would need several pairs to get through her monthly cycle, these bad boys will pay for themselves in time. The company offers discounts on multiple pairs as well as a no-questions-asked (but not ‘money-back’) satisfaction guarantee.
2. Reusable Cloth Pads
For ladies who might feel like absorbent panties are a little too radical, there are lots of reusable cloth versions of the familiar paper products. Indeed, this is probably the oldest reusable form of menstrual protection, and cloth pads (also known as “mama cloth” for their use during post-partum recovery) are pretty straight forward. GladRags and Lunapads are two leading brands selling cloth menstrual pads both online and in health stores, and online marketplaces like Etsy are filled with homemade versions. They come in a variety of sizes, styles, absorbency levels, and even some with cute colors and patterns. Used much like disposable pads, the cloth versions are collected after use, rinsed out in the sink or in a big of cold water, and then washed along with the regular clothes laundry.
3. Reusable Menstrual Cups
A menstrual cup is a reusable alternative to tampons that, instead of being absorbent, catches the flow until the cup is emptied, which can be done just twice a day. This option, which dates back more than 150 years, doesn’t interfere with a woman’s ability to comfortably engage in certain activities – like swimming and boating – that just aren’t compatible with pads and new-fangled period underwear. There are a variety of menstrual cups on the market in different sizes and materials, though the DivaCup, made from soft medical grade silicone, is perhaps the most popular. The Keeper, a stiffer latex rubber version, and one cup runs around $35 and a woman may only need to buy one, depending on her age and whether she’s already had children (as sizes vary).
Similar to the menstrual cups listed above, Softcup (formerly known as Instead) is a disposable cup, but it’s designed to let a woman go longer between changes (as compared with tampon use) and doesn’t carry the same health risks associated with cotton tampons. The soft cup is inserted and braced behind the pubic bone, so it may not work for every woman since anatomical structure tends to be a factor in getting a good seal for preventing leakage. One of its selling points? It’s one of the only menstrual products in existence that can be safely worn during intercourse.
5. Sea Sponges
Sea sponges are nature’s answer to the absorbent tampon, and they’ve been used for that purpose since the 17th century. Sea sponges are just that: sponges harvested from the ocean. That is to say, it’s an animal, so this option isn’t exactly vegan friendly. The sponges are harvested, washed, trimmed, and packaged specifically for menstrual use, often under the name “sea pearls.” Sea sponges must be changed several times throughout the day, and then washed and dried before reinsertion. One sea sponge can last up to six months, with proper care, making them a super affordable option when compared to disposable products.
So, ladies….. we’d love to hear from you on this issue. What do you use for your monthly flow? What features do you like and dislike? Sound off in the comments below…