Aunt Flo. Time of the month. Surfing the crimson wave. Shark week. Just a few of the slew of expressions in common parlance that refer to a woman’s period- all euphemisms to hide a completely natural aspect of womanhood: menstruation. The need to dance around the term betrays years of shame and secrecy that surrounds a monthly fact of life. Not to mention a lack of innovation in an industry that affects half of the world’s population. Why has it taken so long for tampons to be rethought and pads to be redesigned? Why are feminine hygiene products so perfunctory and inefficient? Why are they so un-environmentally-friendly?
Fortunately, a number of companies have stepped up to fight the big red stigma and to create world-class products that are created with a woman in mind, for women, by women. Disrupting the feminine care industry in the best of ways, these socially-conscious brands are not only making sanitary products eco-friendly, safer for our bodies, and designed for the modern world (farewell, gaudy pink maxi pads!), they’re also taking great strides towards making sanitary supplies available to all women, all over the globe.
Around the world and especially in developing countries, girls lack the necessary hygiene products they require to effectively manage their period and lack the vocabulary or the space to discuss their period and their changing bodies. Many are forced to miss school. A significant portion end up leaving school for good as a result. Thanks to menstrual activists like Rupi Kaur and Miki Agrawal, both of whom are shedding a much needed light on this controversial topic and are doing their part to help, there is now such a thing as period activism. It is helping to break barriers to educate women and speak up about the menstruation taboo. A menstrual revolution is happening, and it’s loud and proud.
But what could be better than what I have under my sink now, you ask? Ladies, prepare to be amazed and heartened by the sheer variety of new feminine hygiene solutions out there. Green Queen has done some serious homework on the topic: we scoured the interwebs to put together this list of the best eco quality products and brands to help you #greenyourperiod and inspire your inner #periodactivist.
Conventional pads are usually made from a combination of synthetic chemicals, pesticide residue (cotton is one of the world’s dirtiest crops, requiring huge amounts of synthetic pesticides), and toxic adhesives, a frightening consideration given their monthly appearance and their proximity to one of our bodies’ most sensitive parts. And this is before even mentioning the environmental factors: it is estimated that 20 billion pads and tampons are sent to landfills every year. The plastic wrappers and applicators from the packaging alone will take hundreds of years biodegrade. Lunapads and GladRags are two companies that saw an opportunity to help.
Created by fashion designer Madeleine Shaw after she suffered recurring infections associated with her disposable tampons, she created Lunapads to avoid exposing herself to toxic chemicals. Completely machine washable and dryer safe, Lunapads offers six sizes of pads and four sizes of pantyliners in an array of colors and fun prints. In a two-part system, one pad will last throughout the day; you’ll just need to change out the removable insert to stay dry and comfortable. The leak-resistant base pad keeps your underwear stain-free. To choose the right fit, Lunapads includes guidelines based on your flow, frequency, duration, and fit to help make your selection. One standout from Lunapad’s product list: you have the option of natural (for comfort and self-care) or organic (better for our planet and reduces your pesticide exposure) fibers.
Based in Vancouver, Lunapads offers international shipping to Hong Kong.
Inspired by the simplicity and eco-friendly comfort of her newborn daughter’s cloth diapers, GladRags founder Brenda Mallory wanted something similar for her own cycle. Owned and operated by women, GladRags’ reusable and earth-friendly menstrual pads are machine washable and made from soft cotton flannel that folds and snaps around your underwear. Their fun color pads are made with cotton fabrics (read: soft and breathable), while their organic pads are made with unbleached, un-dyed GOTS-certified organic cotton. Made to last five years, GladRags has a three-part design (a holder and two inserts) to allow you to customize the absorbency of the pad according to your flow. If you’ve never tried reusable menstrual products, GladRags has a handy survey that you can fill out to offer you a personalized selection of products based off your responses.
Handmade in Portland, Oregon, GladRags offers international shipping to Hong Kong.
Feb 2017 Update: One of our awesome Green Queen fans shared some great news with us: Ztore, an online superstore for groceries and household products, now stocks a range of reusable and eco-friendly menstrual pads from the following brands: Eco Femme (India), Dharti Mata/Lovelady (from Nepal), Ecobibi (from China) and Hedgielittle Happeriod (Hong Kong).
The average woman uses anywhere between 10,000 – 17,000 tampons in her lifetime. Containing synthetic material likes rayon and polyester, as well as synthetic pesticide residue (a side effect of growing non-organic cotton), that’s a lot of crap lodged in your body’s most vulnerable tissues for multiple hours a day! Feminine hygiene product manufacturers are not required to disclose their ingredients and no studies are being conducted on the long-term effects of long-term exposure to artificial fibers in tampons in your inner parts. Fortunately, brands like LOLA and Cora are completely transparent when it comes to providing better menstrual tampons.
Completely free of toxins, dyes, or anything synthetic, LOLA tampons only has one ingredient: 100% organic cotton. Made by women, for women, co-founders Alexandra Friendman and Jordan Kier started LOLA because they couldn’t figure out what was in the tampons they were using. They were definitely onto something, because among the LOLA’s investors are supermodel Karlie Kloss and GIRLS creator and women’s health advocate, Lena Dunham. Packaged in a sleek white and slate blue box, LOLA is taking your period and infusing it with some serious style cred, all the while celebrating what is a normal and natural part of life for women everywhere. Available as a tampon subscription service, you choose the product type that meets your needs (applicator or no applicator), specify how many you need and how often you’ll need it and boom: your ‘pons get shipped to your door. from there, you are able to adjust your quantity, skip a month, or cancel anytime.
Made in Europe and packaged in the USA, LOLA does not ship to Hong Kong at this time.
With an impeccably-designed range, Cora is best described as the tampon’s version of beauty and brains. Having witnessed the harmful effects menstruation had in developing countries and the stigma associated with it, Molly Hayward and Morgan Newman developed a 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton tampon that is completely biodegradable, hypoallergenic and comes with a BPA-free plastic applicator (they’re working on making it from bio-based plastic to reduce their carbon footprint). In addition, Cora tampons expands width-wise – as opposed to length-wise which can irritate the cervix – to conform to your body’s shape. Their octagonal design fits better to absorb leaks and relieve discomfort. The company offers two absorbencies, regular and super.
Wrapped in stylish geometric black and white patterns, the tampons come in an elegant, nondescript box- the kind of thing you can leave lying around in the bathroom, no hiding required. There is also a chic black vegan leather clutch that can hold a day’s worth of tampons to keep in your purse or gym bag. Cora also offers individual tampons discreetly packaged in a small black tube (one that closely resembles lipstick) called ‘Stowaways’ that can be given to friends or taken to the toilet without embarrassment.
At the moment, Cora can only ship within the USA.
Ed. Note: Unfortunately these awesome brands are not available in Hong Kong at the moment (they are working on it) but health stores like JustGreen stock organic tampons by mass brands like Organyc and Natracare, and online retailer The Store features Organic Initiative organic tampons from New Zealand.
To all you sisters out there with torn, ratty, granny panties you keep stashed in the back of your delicates drawer away and only bring out during your period, your prayers have been answered. Thanks to revolutionary modern technology, game-changers like Thinx and Dear Kate have developed period panties that do not leave your crotch feeling wet, full or saggy, the last adjectives you want to hear during your moon cycle. On the contrary, get ready for feeling dry, comfortable and covered.
You may know already know Thinx from their attention-grabbing founder Miki Agrawal or from their groundbreaking ad campaign involving women of all types speaking up avout their periods (perhaps one of the most prolific and viral advertising campaigns ever, and the first menstruation ad to feature a transgender model) Thinx is addressing period stigma in a big way. Serial entrepreneur Agrawal devised this period-proof underwear to protect you from leaks and leave you feeling dry and fresh all day (and night) long. Made up of four ultra-thin layers that pull liquid away from the body, trap bacteria and absorb blood so that you’re not sitting in it, Thinx can hold up to two regular tampon’s worth of liquid! Insane, right?! To wash them, first rinse them by hand, then throw them in the washing machine and hand dry.
Made in Sri Lanka by a family-run factory, Thinx offers international shipping to Hong Kong.
Putting her chemical engineering background to work, founder Julie Sygiel designed Dear Kate to support women through their periods, workouts (they have period yoga pants), and everything in between. Offering underthings in various styles, from basic to sport to fancy, Dear Kate’s underwear are made in their signature Underlux fabric: two super soft microfiber layers to wick away moisture and one thin, silky outer layer (made of nylon and lycra) to prevent leakage and with a 3-teaspoon liquid holding capacity. Anther bonus? Dear Kate has no plastic or latex in any of their products. Per their website, even those with yeast infections should be good to go. Care instructions are simple: toss the undies in the washer with cold water, tumble dry on low and they’re good as new.
Designed and manufactured in New York City, Dear Kate offers international shipping to Hong Kong.
Designed for people who prefer to wear sanitary pads, PantyProp is underwear with a pocket sewn inside that prevents the pad from shifting and/or chafing. Pop the pad in the crotch area, and the underwear will hold it in place. Bothered by having to see her maxi pad protrude out of her underwear like a sore thumb, creator Crystal Etienne set about finding a solution to make her period more comfortable, and more elegant. Mission accomplished! PantyProp boasts plenty of options to choose from, ranging from panties to swimwear- they even have leak-free bodysuits for dancers. Popular with young teens who are not ready for tampons, PantyProp features a built-in, absorbent, organic cotton liner to prevent leaks and stains. To clean, machine wash and dry normally.
Made in the USA, PantryProp offers international shipping to Hong Kong.
For those looking for tampon and pad alternatives, menstrual cups have truly revolutionized that time of the month for converted users. You only need to buy one every few years, it’s reusable, there’s no packaging…Menstrual cups are the minimalist way to go: easy-to-use, practical and comfortable. Lunette, Fleurcup and The Diva Cup are startups that have made a mark on the cup scene.
Founded by Finnish entrepreneur Heli Kurjanen, Lunette started when she encountered problems using a menstrual cup and decided to design her own. Lunette menstrual cups are toxin-free, made from medical-grade silicone and come in two different options. Lunette Cup Model 1 is made of very softer silicone and is recommended for light to moderate flow, sports enthusiasts, and those with tighter vaginal muscles (such as women who haven’t experienced intercourse) to make insertion easier. While still soft and pliable, Lunette Cup Model 2 is made of firmer silicone for normal or heavier flow (works great during pregnancy). Made to last up to three years, Lunette should first be rinsed in cold water after use, then washed in warm water and soap (perfume-free, please) before reinsertion. If water is not available, it is okay to wipe the cup with toilet paper and give it a proper wash when you can. Notably, Lunette has been awarded the Key Flag Emblem in Finland (similar to Hong Kong’s Q-Mark certification), a recognition of the product’s premium quality.
This French menstrual cup is a basic round cup with a flat stem that can be trimmed to a shorter length for a better fit. Made of 100% medical silicone for maximum softness, flexibility, and durability, Fleurcup‘s curved bell design is often said to be more comfortable to wear than other brands. Available in two different sizes and seven color shades, the Fleurcup comes with a carrying pouch and lasts up to 10 years. For apprehensive or first-time menstrual cup users, Fleurcup has elegant, silent GIFs (as opposed to glaringly obvious and aggressive YouTube videos) to show you how to properly fold and insert the cup.
Shipped from Andorra, Fleurcup offers international shipping to Hong Kong or find selected styles on local online store Nature & The City. October 2017 Update: Nature & The City no longer stocks the Fleurcup.
Frustrated by the unsanitary and impersonal feel of disposables, Francine Chambers developed the DivaCup as a menstrual cup to be worn lower in the vaginal canal. The stem of the DivaCup is shorter than other cups to allow for added comfort, while the extra grip ridges on the end (where you pull) has rounded edges for easier removal. Available in two sizes (but only one transparent color), the material is made from soft, healthcare-grade silicone. DivaCup recommends boiling the cup at the end of each cycle and replacing it once a year.
A fun fact we learned from their website: your period only begins to develop an odor when it is exposed to air. The fluid on tampons and pads during your period comes in contact with air when you bleed, which creates the unpleasant, fishy smell. As The DivaCup is worn inside the body, no odors are emitted. Talk about fresh and so clean!
Order the DivaCup on iHerb.
Feb 2017 Update: One of our awesome Green Queen fans shared some great news with us: Ztore, an online superstore for groceries and household products, now stocks a range of menstrual cups including: FemmyCycle (USA), the Intimina Lily Cup (Sweden), Formoonsa Cup (Taiwan) and the Ruby Cup (UK).
Images courtesy of Earthwise (lead), Cora, Thinx and Lunette.