Why and how to deplastify your period

Zwoice . Nov 6, 2019

Pink reusable menstrual cup, cup cleaner and a floral washable menstrual pad in a carton box decorated with yellow floral paper lying on a wooden table surrounded by flowers.

Plastic pervades modern life, and menstruation is no exception, as the materials used to manufacture the most commonly used period products nowadays come from the petroleum industry and forestry.

It is easy to see. Tampons are wrapped in plastic foils, encased in plastic applicators, with plastic strings dangling from one end, and a thin layer of plastic in their absorbent part. Pads generally incorporate even more plastic, from the leak-proof base through the synthetics that soak up fluid to the packaging; every single one of them bears about the same amount of crude oil plastic as four plastic bags. That is a hell of a lot of plastic right there. But it is not it.

Add to it that most women will menstruate for about 40 years in total, bleeding for five days a month, which equals to a staggering six and a half years of their lives. The numbers leave us with an average lady using up to 12,000 disposable period products, over the course of her lifetime, each of which takes at least 500 years to degrade? No surprise that pads and tampons are the 5th most common beach waste.

It’s true, plastic is in no way fantastic!

Our planet is not the only one impacted, because there is a very fine line between polluting production practices, nasty ingredients and our health.

Notably, synthetics in feminine hygiene products restrict airflow, trap heat and dampness, hence disturbing the vaginal pH and potentially promoting yeast and bacterial growth in the vaginal area. Additionally, the application of a tampon may cause micro-tears in the vaginal walls, allowing the bacteria to accumulate and leading to a higher risk of a life-threatening condition called the toxic shock syndrome.

Traditional period products also contain other potentially toxic ingredients, such as conventionally grown cotton full of pesticides, genetically modified organisms, chlorine bleach, as well as odour neutralizers and fragrances heavily packed with polyester, adhesives, polyethylene, polypropylene, propylene glycol, and artificial colours, contaminants linked to hormone disruption, cancer, birth defects, dryness and infertility.

This is no good news, you know why? Well, because our skin is the largest, thinnest and one of the most permeable organs in our body, especially in and around the vaginal area, meaning that anything coming in contact with it will end up in our bloodstream for distribution throughout the body, directly reaching the organs and accumulating, as we typically lack the necessary enzymes to break them down.

Several unpacked synthetic tampons, placed as if swimming on a dark, sea-like background.

“Something magical happens when you realise what's not working and let go.”

It does not matter if you are more of a disposable pads or tampons user; nowadays there are equally reliable reusable alternatives available to collect menstrual blood. Be it ultra-absorbent menstrual pads, leak free period panties or a long-lasting invisible menstrual cup, be prepared for a positive change in the way you manage your period, because they are better for your body, the planet and your wallet than traditional sanitary products, and also, so much more convenient. What exactly makes them so great? Well, there is no doubt that they are:

Safe

Contrary to their invasive synthetic ancestors, reusable menstrual products are closer to nature and thus made of non-toxic, hypoallergenic and odour-neutralising ingredients, such as non-dyed organic cotton, bamboo or charcoal in case of pads and panties and a soft medical-grade silicone when it comes to menstrual cups, which makes them all free from allergy-prone, as well as carcinogenic plastics, toxins and bleaches.

Ecological

Long-lasting, washable and reusable mean these products will last for up to 10 years, so thanks to just a handful of them, you will not be leaving those 12,000 pieces of sanitary waste behind you anymore.

Affordable

The cost of a reusable menstrual cup or a set of washable menstrual pads is equal to the cost of 6 months worth of traditional period product supplies. It gets slightly higher when opting for period panties, but still, imagine all those savings adding up to 6 years worth of period product supplies, yay.

Convenient

No more tampons or runaway pads to accidentally fall out with your wallet, no more planning ahead and regularly shopping for disposable period products, and no more urgently searching for them on your trips. You have your set of cute washable pads, discreet panties or a simple cup and that is all you need for the next 10 years.

In particular, the menstrual cup is great for busy and active lifestyles, as it has three times the capacity of a super tampon and can be worn for up to 12 hours, depending on the strength of your flow. No more visits to the toilet in 3-4 hour intervals, no more embarrassing menstrual odour wafting out at the most inopportune times either, since the fluid does not get exposed to air as it does with pads and tampons, and last but not least, forget about those gross, pee soaked tampon strings popping out to make appearances at the pool or beach. You will not even notice you have it; it is invisible, allows you to exercise freely with no worries about leaking or showing, and also to finally sleep through the night.

Easy to use

The swap towards reusable menstrual products is a piece of cake and does not even require a change of habits when it comes to washable pads or period panties. You simply snap or put them on, change them regularly, add to your laundry when used, instead of tossing them to a bin and enjoy all the abovementioned benefits they have to offer.

A menstrual cup might feel like more of a change, but rest assured that anyone who has used tampons, especially the kind without applicators, should have little trouble getting used to it. For those who have not, here is a quick guide with all you need to know about how to use a menstrual cup:

  • Always start by washing your hands.
  • Make the cup wet, as it is much easier to insert that way.
  • Fold it and gently insert the folded cup into your vagina, tilting it back to the base of your spine and giving it a little push. The cup should sit as low as it comfortably can inside your vagina, normally lower than a tampon but with the stem fully inside.
  • When the cup is inside, it wants to pop open, creating a light suction. The suction is how the cup prevents leaks, so use your finger to check if it is fully unfolded. Twist or rotate the cup if you need to. When inserted properly, you should not feel its presence at all.
  • Wash your hands and use it for up to twelve hours.
  • With clean hands, gently pull the stem of the cup downwards until you can reach and hold the base of the cup. Pinch the base to release the suction, use your pelvic muscles if needed and gently take it out.
  • When you have got your cup, empty it in the toilet or while showering, and rinse it with water. If you do not have access to water, you can wipe it with some tissue or simply reinsert it right after emptying it. But make sure to rinse it at your next available opportunity.
  • After each cycle, sterilize the cup using boiling water.

That’s it! So what do you think? Is it time for change?

Pink and blue menstrual cups on a white tray, next to vase with fresh flowers.

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