What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “period panties?” Yup, I thought so, those ugly briefs that you don’t mind ruining, the comfy ones that can take a beating.
But thanks to what seems like new, revolutionary technology, period panties have a whole other meaning. I’m not sure if NASA was involved, but whoever thought of this textile technology deserves some kind of international recognition. Today period panties can actually take the place of pads or tampons.
They’re part of a whole new crop of period products designed to cut out some of the eco-waste that’s involved in our monthly flow. They also add a heck of a lot of convenience and cost savings beyond their virtuous perks.
Period Products Really Trash the Environment
Still, menstruation product waste is a huge area many of us have never considered the need to eliminate. We might’ve swapped out our disposable water bottle for a sleek stainless flask, but most of us never thought about washing out a reusable pad.
In the US alone last year five billion tampons were bought, the vast majority of which most likely included plastic applicators, a piece of plastic that has about a five second- use compared to its semi-eternity in a landfill.
According to Alejandra Borunda’s outstandingly comprehensive National Geographic piece on periods, “How Tampons and Pads Became Unsustainable,” a single menstruator uses between 5,000 to 15,000 pads and tampons. All pieces destined for a landfill.
In digging into this article (which I highly recommend reading), it churned up all sorts of toxic messages we’ve inherited from our cultures over the years. From being viewed as biohazards in ancient times to even a few hundred years ago being seen as having “bad blood,” periods have always been a double whammy for women of pain and shame. Even today, many girls in developing countries miss out on an education simply because of their menstrual cycle. As if cramps, gushing blood and mood swings, weren’t enough to deal with, right?
What Message Do Products Send?
Just as these misinformed misogynistic attitudes framed much of the public’s view of periods, so did it shape the products we use. Disposable products promised a way to hide our periods and keep us moving in the workplace. If disposability became king, then discretion was queen. “Quiet open” wrappers, unmarked boxes, and more plastic to disguise them conveyed a message of shame — that periods were something to hide. Growing up in my house the word “period” was never even uttered, it was “you know what.”
What it’s led to, beyond our own body image baggage, is an industry that’s been allowed to continue to hide its ingredient list at the same time consumers in 30 states are still made to pay sales tax on these purchases. (Just wait until 2021 though, when New York state law goes into effect, becoming the first state to require tampon manufacturers to list their full ingredient list on packages.)
But in the last few years, progress has been made. First there were the menstrual cups, that promised a new, sustainable way to period. And recently other options have come to the foreground to give the sanitary corporate giants some new reusable competition.
I bought my first pair of THINX a year or so ago. I was wary of the claims that these panties could replace tampons and pads. How? Just how? A year into being a loyal fan (I gift these every chance I get) I still honestly don’t understand how they can work as well as they do. I chart it up to some weird alien technology, like velcro that was gifted to us by extraterrestrials one night.
My only wish is that 13 year old me had these so I wouldn’t have had to keep that giant track jacket in my locker for tie-around-your-waist leak moments. Remember those fun middle school days? Yeah, I’m trying to block them too.
Period panties essentially just absorb and keep absorbing, while feeling like regular panties and not at all damp (thank you aliens!). I generally use mine as a back-up to a tampon and they have made heavy-flow period days that sometimes kept me housebound, now so carefree. Can’t find a bathroom? What used to be a nightmare scenario is now no worries! Am I the only woman who has a perpetual paranoia over staining
Period Swim Suits
Surprisingly RubyLove has been around for five years now, but the concept still seems like some type of new sorcery to me. Period swimwear, which means like you can go into the pool, into the ocean while menstruating. Let me say that another way. You can swim on your period. Not saying everyone was skipping the water entirely up until now, but if my high school gym class was any gauge, plenty of us in fact were. With dozens of prints, colors and styles, plus one piece and two-piece, this swimwear uses a patent-pending technology that creates a snug fit and allows for an additional pad if you so choose. Did I mention they promise to hold the same liquid mass as three tampons!?
It’s not just tampons that create a lot of plastic waste with applicators. By mass, pads definitely outrank, which is why reusable pads are such a great alternative. Rael’s Organic Cotton Reusable Pads 3-pack for instance, is a gorgeously chic option. They’re designed for over 100 uses each and feature breathable cotton and the promise of reliable leak protection. After wearing, just toss this in the washer, dry and you’re ready to snap them back on to your undies again.
And if all this menstrual talk has got you motivated to support some pro-women, pro-period causes, check out these three nonprofits working to make periods better for everyone:
Days for Girls: Supplying real-world practical reusable period kits to girls in developing countries.
Tax-Free Period: Mobilizing protests again period product sales tax in the US
Support the Girls: Providing bras and menstrual products for homeless people in need.