A survey of menstrual products with a [superfluous] collage of related anecdotes
Hello all. Welcome back. So I was on my period the last couple of days and I thought: I need to do a period/menstrual products blog entry! And by the powers invested in me, here I am now.
Now this is a serious, uber interesting, and extensive topic. I could dedicate all my blog entries to this subject and still fall short. So for now, I’ll be focusing on a survey-slash-product review of what’s out there in the market mixed with tips, intertwined with tragic yet retrospectively entertaining personal stories. I rate products on how effective they are, how friendly they are to the earth and your body, and their price and availability.
Where do I begin? I guess I can dabble on when my fascination with “feminine hygiene products” began. (NOTE: You may or may not skip the following 3 paragraphs and still not miss anything important.) I must have been like 4 or 5. Every time a commercial about pads came on TV and I was with my mom, I would ask her, “para que es eso?” (one of my favorite questions in general, I think). She’d answer with something like “that’s adult stuff” and sometimes would add at the end, “I’ll tell you someday.” It was obvious that the topic was either embarrassing, dirty, or something having to do with the mysterious main ‘adult stuff’ (which of course, turned out to be sex!). But I couldn’t wait until “someday”! That seemed like forever! I had to prevail in my quest for knowledge…
I don’t know why, but I remember this vividly: It was a weekday evening and mom and I were at my aunt’s house watching TV with my teen girl cousins. The Always commercial comes on. In a matter of about 10 milliseconds (while the commercial played), my mind devised a foolproof plan that was guaranteed to deliver the information I urgently needed [for no reason]: I would ask my mom “para que es eso?” right then and there, in public! Hah! Surely, she couldn’t say “that’s adult stuff” when there were other people around! It would be too embarrassing for her and she’d crack under pressure and just tell me! Muahahah…my five year old genius mastermind reveled in her cunning and skill. Silly adults who think they can outsmart kids! So I pop the question. She gives me “The Look.” Oh, you know the look… And if you got a Mexican mom, you know the look, you tactless, inappropriate mocos@. The one that says “you’re embarrassing me” and “shut the fuck up” simultaneously, and in some cases it may also mean “andale, esperate a que lleguemos a la casa.” I fell silent instantly. She just said, discreetly, “ya te dije que eso es de adultos.” And we all continued watching TV, except now I was at the edge of my seat. Great, Linett. No new information gained and now I was gonna get it. This was not in my Mastermind Plan brain sketches. Later, after leaving my aunt’s, she scolded me (which, to me, was like a slow death) by giving me the good ol’ “ya te habia dicho.” Meaning, “I already told you that’s adult stuff and that I’d tell you later.”
One day, when I was about six years old, as I was helping my mom wash the dishes, she suddenly brought up the topic. She briefly explained that menstruation was a girl thing, and that I’d get it someday, and not to freak out, etc. Simple little pep talk, and it seems so insignificant but makes such a huge difference! She’s a cool mom, I tell you. Of course, so many things were still left for me to learn on my own. Point being — everyone out there with female-bodied children: you all BETTER be having period talks with your kids!
The story of my first period is not all that exciting, so I won’t delve into it too much. I was kind of a late bloomer so it was more of a “fiiinally” kind of thing, and a little exciting too. I was not scared, not sad, not any of that. I was just like “all right, let’s do this then. I’m ready for my boobs to grow! Let’s see’em!…How about some curves? Can we get this girl some curves, hormones? Hook me up, here!” I repeat this mantra during every menstrual cycle ever since, and I am still waiting. Waiting. Ya’ll know that woman in the “El muelle de San Blas” song by Mana? I’m that lady, but instead of waiting for her lover, I’m waiting for puberty to take its full form. Over ten years now, going to the Puberty Port. Waiting. Okay, I’m kidding. Kinda. Ok I am kidding, but there’s more to it too! Maybe I’ll tell you later, in another blog entry, so you’ll have to subscribe muahaha…
Ya’ll like how I just wrote all this blabber that’s not useful to you and haven’t even STARTED what you came here for? I’m sorry, but nothing in life is free. You have to read my stories in order to gain practical information that you actually care about. Ok let us begin!
Product: Always Infinity
Effectiveness: A >>This one is my confession/guilty pleasure. I only have one brand of pads that swept me off my feet and this was it. I was so impressed that I really wanted to go to their website and write all sorts of sweet things. But I was too lazy and never did it. These pads are thin, super absorbent, and it doesn’t feel like you have a diaper on even after it has done some good absorbing. Best pads I ever tried, hands down.
Comfort: B+ >>They’re pretty comfortable as they are pretty thin, but not so comfortable that you can’t feel them.
Eco-friendlyness/Body-friendly: D- >>They don’t get an F because in a way, they do save you some money since they are really good at getting the job done. But they’re still disposable, they’re still not sustainably sourced, and I still have no idea what kind of chemicals they’re using (but it’s shady all right: you can learn more about those chemicals here). Also, their packaging is plastic upon plastic upon plastic.
>100% cotton pads are available at some health stores and online. Yes, they are about $1.5o-$2 more expensive, and in my experience, work just as well as your average pad.
Price and availability: B- >>They’re everywhere, you’ll find them at pretty much every drug store, Target, Rite Aid, etc. They are pricier than most; about a $1-$1.50 more expensive than your average bag of Always pads. So if you’re on a really really tight budget (been there!), this might not work for you. But if it’s the weekend, and you just went through a break up or lost your job or something, and you really wanna treat yourself, go ahead, splurge on these babies! Actually, reconsider if you did lose your job and you’re on your last $5.
Overall grade: B (I think. Could be C+. I don’t know, I didn’t really do the math)
CLOTH MENSTRUAL PADS
I have not personally tried these yet, so I don’t want to speak to how effective they are. Based on my research, however, most people say they’re as absorbent and leaks are as few as you would experience with the traditional disposable pad. But I didn’t say that, I read it. What I do know is this…
Eco-friendlyness/Body-friendliness: A- >>Reusable, yay! When it comes to the material being safe for your body and the earth, it varies. Some are made from 100% organic cotton and the whole deal, while others are made from microfibers (which means they’re usually not biodegradable and may have been treated with weird stuff like flame retardants), others are made from bamboo fibers (super environmentally-friendly!), and there’s more out there.
Price and availability: B >>Price also varies (5 for $30, 12 for $43, 6 for $26, 1 for $17!). All in all, seems like the average is about $4.50-ish per pad. I still haven’t seen these at your average Walgreens or Target, but they’re pretty easy to find on Amazon or event etsy. If the price intimidates you, remember that you can use these over and over so you’d still be saving a ton of money in the long run! Extra bonus points because there’s DIY guides out there that teach you how to make your own too ☺
Overall grade: B- (just ‘cause I say so. But mostly because I love the factors above, however, still not crazy about an extra thick layer of cloth in my underwear)
→ A special note on tampons: tampons have been a favorite of many because, well, what else can you do when you’re on your period and you wanna go for a swim? Or wanna wear your favorite skin-tight white pants? Or you just wanna clean your house naked but are tired of leaving blood stains on your carpet? And then, of course, the diaper feeling thing with pads. However, funny thing about tampons is that they can bring convenience to your life AND kill you. Or cost you a limb! HA-HA crazy, right?! Yah, toxic shock syndrome is no joke. So if you must, here are four tips, according to my research*: 1)If you use 100% cotton tampons, you significantly reduce the chances of this rare syndrome (most tampons out there are not 100% cotton, so watch out!). 2) If you’re still a young wee lad, avoid using tampons altogether unless you really have to. Young women are at higher risk of TSS. 3) During the summer and while on vacation, always carry a bottle of red dye and ‘accidentally’ throw it in the swimming pool. You won’t need tampons but use a big coat and dark sunglasses to avoid anyone recognizing you. 4) Never use a tampon overnight or for over 8 hrs.
Product: o.b. tampons
Effectiveness: A >> I have never experienced a major ‘spill’ with tampons, they’re pretty reliable! Although you usually see the baby-sized** ones, they actually come in different sizes to fit your flow.
Comfort: A >> It feels like wearing nothing at all, nothing at all (shakes butt). One free tampon if you get the reference.
Eco-friendliness/Body-friendly: B >> I like these because they don’t have that plastic applicator that is such a waste of resources and just creates trash. Seriously ya’ll, those things will stay in a landfill for like over 400 hundreds years. So yay for no plastic! However, o.b. tampons are NOT 100% cotton, and like most mainstream tampons out there, they are made with viscose rayon (which produces the TSST1 toxin, linked to TSS).
Price and availability: B >> Although not as widely available as, say, a Tampax, you can find o.b.’s at major retail/drug stores. The price is pretty good! Usually costs you as much or a little less than your average tampon.
Overall: B- (Again, I didn’t do the math but I felt like putting the “-“ because of the death risk and all)
(in angelic voices) MENSTRUAL CUUUPS
Aight ya’ll, this one takes the cake, and is by far the most deserving of my menstrual blood. And yes this part is about to be highly biased and no, I do not have stock in Lunette Cups*** (I just found out yesterday that this brand exists).
There are TONS of brands out there (MoonCup, Lunette, Softcup, Keeper cup, etc.), but I will focus on the DivaCup because that’s what I own and it’s also pretty easy to find online. If you’re super confused about how these things even work or are used, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CBh6cAKapA
Effectiveness: A (or can be a D, if you’re me) >> When used correctly, you should have no problems with leaks and it’ll work magically. A note on said ‘correct use’: the DivaCup rightfully advises you to read all the instructions before getting your DivaCup on. Naturally, I didn’t read all the instructions. I skimmed most, and got right to it. The consequences of this were near fatal. Let’s just say that you should save your off-white dress for once you get the hang of how to use your Cup 100%. I recommend using a pantiliner the first few times you use it until you feel like a DivaCup master.
Simply make sure you do the “complete turn” of the DivaCup once it’s inside your vageegee, and you should be fine. Really.
Comfort: A >>Again, feels like you’re wearing nothing at all! This factor brings such joy to me! And you can wear it overnight! No more sleeping in the same position all night! Did I mention you don’t feel anything at all? I won’t give it the A+ because it can be uncomfortable to put on and remove, it takes some practice to get used to the routine.
Eco-friendlyness/Body-friendlyness: A- >>Reusable yeeeaahh!! Medical grade silicone that’s totally safe for your body yeaaahh!! It is not biodegradable but it can be recycled.
Price and availability: B+ >> Aight the price might intimidate you, they run about $35 on Amazon. However, you can reuse it! Technically, you can reuse one for about 1–2 yrs. But we’re gonna keep it for 9–10, ‘cause you know how we do! But seriously, it seems like because of some regulation they HAVE to say 1–2 yrs, but you’ll see that most menstrual cups are good for 8–10. As for availability, you may find it at Sprouts or WholeFoods, but you should be boycotting WholeFoods, so maybe just try online shopping.
>Sidenote: Softcups are more widely available in stores but let me tell you, they suck! Uncomfortable, hard to use, and not environmentally friendly at all.
>Another tip for potential menstrual cup shoppers: If you have ever used a tampon (or you haven’t, but you’ve read in-depth about it) you know that you’re supposed to insert the tampon way way in there in the depths of your vaginal walls so that it doesn’t hurt you, and you’re supposed to essentially feel nothing as you go about your day bleeding. Not the case with these menstrual cups. You just push it until you can’t see it, and if you push it too much, you’re going to have a really really hard time retrieving it and after 15 minutes of struggling and sweating, you will seriously consider calling the paramedics. This did not happen to me, I just heard it happened to a friend. My friend’s neighbor. Her cousin. Yeah…
Aight ya’ll, I think I gave you plenty for the time being. You got any products I missed that you recommend? Any other nerdy facts? Relevant info? Do tell!
Tune in next time for my survey and review of the hottest and most eco-friendly sex toys! With special appearances and [edited] quotes by ALL my ex-lovers. And I mean ALL OF THEM. ALL TWO, that’s right. Raw and uncut. It’s going to be a wild ride! (Rides off into the horizon. Forgets her water bottle and comes back 3 min later. Rides off into the horizon)
* tip #3 has no scientific basis
** tampons are not meant to be used on babies