I remember. I was at a Halloween party, at my friend Pascale’s place. I wish I could tell you I was dressed up as a vampire, which would be amazing foreshadowing, but I’ve no idea what my costume was. Let’s just say I was a ghost. I was 10 years old. And that night, as I was high on sugar eating Tootsie Rolls, I got my first period.
I was a pad fan for many years, before I gathered the courage to venture into the scary world of tampons. My biggest phobia, like many others I’m sure, was that it would sneakily make its way into the dark corners of my reproductive system, trapped until the end of time, until I’d tragically die from toxic shock syndrome.
Obviously, my fear never materialized. I had my share of mishaps — broken string, putting on a tampon without taking the previous one out, etc.—, but a long agonizing death was thankfully none of them.
Today, I am the proud owner of a Diva Cup and Thinx underwear (which I’ll tell you more about later), mostly to reduce my environmental footprint, but also as a way to have greater control of what comes in contact with my body.
Like most of you, my menstrual routine has evolved over time. But one thing hasn’t changed throughout all those years: the stigma around menstruation.
From elementary school until very recently, when I had to go to the bathroom to change my tampon, it was a quest worthy of Mission: Impossible. “Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to take the tampon out of your bag, sweep it deftly and quickly into your jean pocket, pull down your sweater to hide the presence of it-that-must-not-be-named and leave the class going unnoticed.
Or how many times have cried or been angry at someone, only to be faced with the oh-so annoying answer “Are you on your period or something?”.
Or all those other times I got my period on the subway, trying to hold my thighs tightly together, a very delicate operation meant to conceal that blood stain that kept growing bigger and bigger just to make sure no one would see it. Because, ***OMG***, how embarrassing would that be! *Sigh*.
I’m sharing all those super personal stories with you, because I know they also happened to you too. And because we ought to talk about it if we want to get rid of the social discomfort associated with menstruation.
To be honest, my anecdotes sound very easy-breezy compared to what women from third-world regions have to go through every month. In India, only 12% of all menstruating women have access to period-related necessities. This year’s Oscars’ Best Documentary, Period. Endof Sentence, portrays exactly that reality by telling the story of a group of women, living in rural India, who have access to a pad distributor for the first time in their lives. In Africa, UNICEF estimates that one out of ten women skip school when she’s on her period. Believe me, I could go on and on with examples just like those ones.
For having recently made the decision of discussing more openly about menstruation with my girlfriends, I’ve realized how women are eager to talk more about it, ask questions, shop smarter by turning to cleaner products, and learn more about their cycle and how their body functions in general.
With all that in mind, I found five companies, from organic tampons to an anti-cramp gadget, that celebrate our periods just the way they are and, most importantly, stigma-free.
1. Company: Thinx
Category: Period underwear
How does it work? First of all, to all the skeptics: yes, they really work! Take my word for it, Thinx period underwear fulfill their promise and beyond. “But how is it even possible”, you might ask? The bridge of each panty is made with four layers of fabrics, each playing a key role: 1) Moisture-wicking cotton 2) Odour-trapping lining 3) Super absorbing fabric 4) Anti-leaking barrier. Depending on which style you pick, whether it’s a thong or a high-waist panty, the absorption level varies, going from half to two tampons!
Personally, I use them as a backup to my Diva Cup on the first two days of my period and, after that, the underwear alone is more than enough.
Why are they so bloody amazing? Other than making that time of the month easier to manage — it really is a revolutionary product* —, Thinx promotes amazing values, like body and cultural diversity, and actively participates to a bunch of good causes aiming at helping women learn and care for their sexual health. For those who might me wondering: their underwear are made in a certified manufacture in Sri Lanka where they promote female leadership, their employees’ well-being, and environmental responsibility.
*I’m not paid to say all those things, it’s just really what I think.
2. Company: Dame
Category: Reusable tampon applicator
How does it work? I often hear women say that they don’t use applicator-free tampons, because they don’t really know how to maneuver it or they find their use kind of messy. Great news: the English brand Dame has found a way to make a reusable one, made with some kind of fancy medical-grade, self-sanitizing material.
Why is it so bloody amazing? 100 billions of period by-products are thrown out every year… 100 billions, not millions, BILLIONS!!! And obviously, a lot of them are made with plastic and can’t be reused or recycled. In other words, the arrival of a reusable tampon applicator on the market was long overdue! The brand also makes its own organic and biodegradable tampons and pads, but the applicator is compatible with any other brands.
Other brands worth checking out: Thinx just came out with their very own version of a reusable tampon applicator.
3. Company: Clue
How does it work? When you launch Clue for the first time, you’ll be asked to enter when your last menstruation started, its approximate duration, and the average length of your cycles. A couple of seconds later, you are introduced to your bespoke and interactive calendar which gives you an idea of where you are in your cycle and, consequently, gives you a heads-up for when to expect your PMS, ovulation period, your next menstruation, etc.
Why is it so bloody amazing? Firstly, the interface is super cute and easy to navigate, which makes it fun to use even if you’re technically dealing with a very down-to-earth subject. Moreover, every day, you can log in a bunch of different data, from your mood to your sex drive. After a couple of cycles, the app is able to give you a forecast of different fluctuations expected to take place in the upcoming days. Clue also takes pride in not selling their users’ data to third party companies, so, rest assured, your periods are in good hands.
4. Company: Rael
Category: Organic tampons, pads, and a whole lot of cool stuff
How does it work? Founded in 2017 by three women living in California, Rael first came to be known for their tampons and pads made with certified organic cotton, while also being chlorine and toxic adhesive-free. Since then, they’ve expanded their offer to all the essentials a woman on her period could dream of: period underwear, hot patches to ease cramps, acne-fighting masks, etc.
Why is it so bloody amazing? Because it’s a one-stop shop, where you can get all the necessary stuff for that time of the month. Plus, the packaging is gorgeous! They also have “first period” and “mom-to-be” kits, two categories that don’t really concern me, but I’m sure would speak to some of you. Unfortunately, the website only ships to the U.S. for now, but all their products are available on amazon.ca.
5. Company: Livia
Category: Anti-cramp gadget
How does it work? Think of a pager (you know, that thing before cellphones) to which two electrodes would be attached and that you could stick to your lower stomach: You get Livia, a tiny gadget that neutralizes menstrual cramps. Its technology is based on the Gate Control Theory which suggests that painless signals have the power to block painful ones. In other words, this little box from the future sends pulsating signals to our nerves, preventing the transmission of pain signals to our brain.
Why is it so bloody amazing? Let me be clear: I haven’t tried it, but after reading a couple of reviews online, let’s just say that it seems like a pretty miraculous product. On Amazon (not that it’s the most accurate source, but still), many women suffering from endometriosis observed a huge improvement in their symptoms. Also, an independent study conducted with 163 women showed that 80% of them saw their pain drop drastically and, in some cases, even completely disappear.
Even if it’s kind of expensive (250 $), if you’re suffering from painful cramps every month, I think it’s definitely worth checking out.
On this note: HAPPY PERIOD, LADIES 💖
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