This probably comes without surprise, but I have a period. It comes every month, whether I like it or not. With its ever-persistent frequency, it got me thinking about what I choose to put (or not put) into my body each month, and how my monthly cycle adds to my personal contribution to the environment.
So began my journey toward a healthier, zero-waste period.
I can’t quite remember when my first period was, but I do remember how excruciatingly difficult I found it to insert a tampon when the time came. I can’t recall how much menstrual health was talked about in my middle school sex-ed class, but it clearly wasn’t discussed to extent that I felt in any way prepared to know what period products worked best for my body. Nevertheless, I went on to use tampons for a majority of my cycle due to the convenience of being able to swim, run, and stay active while on my period.
From middle school until now, the predictability of my period thankfully stayed consistent. I can just about nail down the exact time of day it’ll start. What has changed though, is my body’s reaction to old Aunt Flow’s visit. It seems that the older I get, the heavier my monthly flow, and the more sensitive my body becomes to menstrual cramping and body aches. This could be due to a variety of reasons, from an increased hormonal levels that come with being in my 20’s, to the mix of synthetic materials that make up the ingredients list of the tampons I’d used most of my life. Either way, it’s made me reconsider what products I use when my monthly menstruation hits.
Having been swept into the “clean beauty” trend, I made the switch to organic tampons about 2 years ago. I hadn’t thought much about the impact non-organic tampons might have on the environment prior to that, but was keen on ensuring that what I put into my body wouldn’t put me in harm’s way. In retrospect I came to find that much of the organic beauty trend wasn’t personally healthy for me (particularly in the realm of skincare), but stuck with using organic tampons as I thought it couldn’t hurt to take the precaution, especially since they’d become more financially accessible as organic tampon and pad companies started popping up left and right.
This last year in particular though, I’ve been on a journey questioning and addressing my consumption patterns. It started with reconsidering my diet, and how the overconsumption of red meat contributes to climate change. Lately, I’ve been exploring how to more intentionally invest in slow and ethical fashion, as a means to reduce my clothing consumption and waste. And as my period has continued to come each month, I’ve also been considering how to consume and waste less during my monthly menstruation.
Did you know that tampons are used by about 43 million people in the U.S. alone? And of those 43 million, one will likely use 11-16 thousand tampons in a lifetime. That’s a LOT to dispose of, y’all. Not only are single-use applicators adding to landfills, but most non-organic tampons contain rayon and traces of dioxin, which are dangerous to both your body and the environment.
There are some amazing alternative tampon solutions out there, like the first ever FDA-cleared re-usable tampon applicator by THINX. Designed with medical-grade materials, this pocket-sized tool lets you ditch single-use applicators by inserting an applicator-free tampon into the THINX re.t.a. (reusable tampon applicator.) On average, using an OB (non-applicator) tampon produces 58% less waste than a normal tampon.
But in an effort to personally ditch single-use period products altogether, I decided to integrate a menstrual cup into my monthly cycle. The cup seemed like a simple solution, as most menstrual cups are made with medical-grade silicone and are flexible enough to fold and insert with ease. They can be left in for up to 12 hours (dependent on your body and your flow) and can be washed and sanitized for re-use once your cycle is over. I understand that the cup doesn’t work for everyone’s body, but I wanted to give it a shot as it really did seem like a “catch all” solution to my period waste problems.
I’ll be real – transitioning to the cup has been a process to say the least. I give extra props to those who use menstrual discs, because though cup insertion has been pretty simple…I’ve come to find that removing it is the tricky part. I can’t imagine removing something that doesn’t have a handle of sorts to help identify where it’s at “up there”. Either way, you really get to know yourself when using either product. After trying out a few menstrual cups in different sizes, I’ve come to find that with a personally moderate menstrual flow, I like model 1 of the Diva Cup best. I leave it in anywhere from 5-8 hours at a time, and it catches most of my flow pretty seamlessly. But when I say most, I mean not all of my flow. It wasn’t quite the “catch-all” solution that I’d hoped it would be, as I still found myself wearing liners to catch the little bits that the cup let slip out. I’ve also noticed that after the first couple “heavy” days of my period the cup gets increasingly difficult to remove because it doesn’t fill nearly as much. With gravity playing a generous factor in aiding cup removal, having a lighter cup actually becomes pretty problematic.
That’s when I decided to try out THINX underwear. I’d seen ads for THINX across social media, and occasionally in my inbox. But “period proof panties” seemed too good to be true, and I didn’t have the guts to give them a shot until hearing positive feedback about the underwear from a trusted friend. THINX are washable, reusable undies that are designed to replace pads, tampons, liners, and some days — even cups. The period-proof tech in each pair consists of 4 layers of fabric that are moisture-wicking, odor-controlling, super-absorbent, and leak-resistant.
A couple cycles ago I reached out to THINX as I was researching menstrual hygiene and eco-friendly period options for future blog content; and THINX graciously sent me a complimentary pair to try out. Y’all….I was absolutely blown away by the effectiveness of these period-proof panties. Not only were they perfect for pairing with my menstrual cup on heavy days, but they completely replaced the need for pads and liners on the days where my flow was too light for a cup. Surprisingly stylish, and easy to clean; I very quickly got back in touch with THINX to join their THINX Leaders program and build a fuller set of THINX underwear for periods to come.
At this point in my low-waste journey I’ve found that the combination of a re-usable menstrual cup with a few pairs of THINX underwear is the perfect fit for my body, and my flow. I know that everyone’s body is different; and for some a re-usable tampon applicator in combination with organic tampon inserts, or re-usable and washable pads is a better option. No judgement there! The thing to first prioritize is to know your flow, and find what low or no-waste option works best for your body.
If you are looking to try THINX specifically though, this weekend is the perfect weekend to do so!
In honor of May 28th being Menstrual Hygiene Day, THINX is generously offering a 30% discount off of all their period-proof undies from May 24th – 28th. Should you choose to invest in a few pairs yourself, you can do so through my THINX Leader link, meaning I’ll receive a 10% commission for every 10 pairs sold. I will be donating all commission made this weekend and onward to Planned Parenthood, in support of the vital reproductive health services and education they provide. If you’d like to think about it longer before trying out THINX, you’ll still be eligible for $10 off your purchase after this weekend’s sale by buying through my THINX Leader link.
I know I’ll be getting myself a couple more pairs this weekend, and I hope you’ll join me as we crush period stigma, pursue a zero-waste lifestyle, and fight for menstrual equity in the process!