Alternative Menstrual Materials: 3 Products to Spice Up Your Cycle

Last year marked my 10th anniversary of menstruation. One summer, a decade ago, I went from a carefree kid to a puzzled preteen upon discovering blood in my Friday undies. For the rest of that week, I waddled around overnight camp with a puffy maxi pad between my legs, ironically feeling more like a toddler than a burgeoning woman. When I had my first bleed, only two product options were presented to me: pads and tampons. There is a world of menstrual products beyond the mainstream, drug store products we’ve come to store in our medicine cabinets and it’s time we explore our many options. Let’s look at some cutting edge, leak-free, comfortable, healthy, and eco-friendly pussy plugs.

1. THINX Underwear

Description: underwear designed for menstruators that keeps the top layer dry but absorbs liquid into the thin layer right beneath it

Length of use: as needed

Maintenance: rinse with cold water immediately after use, throw in the washing machine with other delicates, and hang dry

Price: $25-$40/pair

Learn more: explore THINX’s frequently asked questions

Fourth-year MIT student Jessica Granofsky’s major period woe? She hates tampons.

“My period is usually pretty light so they don’t work well for me,” Granofsky admits. At the same time, one can easily get sick of the bulkiness of pads; enter THINX underwear, “an amazing alternative to pads,” according to Granofsky. The Western student says that the period undies are “super comfortable and soft,” and even though “they don’t feel exactly like normal underwear” they are still “nothing like [pads].”

Granofsky feels the amount of waste produced using disposable menstrual products is unacceptable, hence her love of the reusable nature of THINX. While Granofsky is a fan of THINX, the only downside, in her opinion, is the cleaning process, although she feels this is “super minor compared to the benefits.” Granofsky is stoked about her new life as a woman who isn’t staining her good undies.

2. Lunapads

Description: Lunapads consist of 2 vital parts: a pad base with wings that fasten under your underwear and a removable insert that secures to the pad base

Length of use: change removable insert as needed

Maintenance: wash by hand or machine and dry on rack or in dryer (pre-soaking is optional)

Price: $15-$25/pad (includes one base and one insert)

Learn more: inform yourself about the Vancouver-based organization Lunapads

A testimonial on the Lunapads’ website confirms the product’s outstanding impact on consumers. Renee Lynn has been a long-time user of Lunapads and says they “stand the test of time,” and she would “recommend them to everyone.” Lynn writes that the pads have saved her “tons of money,” “have made a [positive] impact on the earth,” and are “healthy for [her] body.”

If there’s any downside these reusable pads, it’s likely maintenance, as the pads need regular washing, but avid users can easily adjust to this routine of upkeep. The feminist organization’s goal is to “help people have more positive and informed experiences of their menstrual cycles, and by extension, their bodies overall” (dope, right??). Lunapads is a brand passionate about female empowerment and regularly donates their pads to organizations that benefit low-income women. The organization focuses on inclusivity and opens up valuable discourses about the LGBTQ+ community and trans menstruators.

3. Menstrual Cups

Description: small, tulip-shaped, silicone devices that are inserted into the vagina to catch menstrual blood

Length of a single use: up to 12 hours

Price: $30-$50

Maintenance: wash with soap and warm water after every use, occasionally boil in hot water for a deeper clean

Learn more: check out the Diva Cup’s informative video for first time users

Second year Media Theory and Production student Amy Scott is in a new, loving relationship with her Rebel Kate menstrual cup. Scott is supportive of the cup since it helps her produce less waste and will save her “A LOT of money over the years” (since a single cup can last for up to 10 years). Scott found the first few days of inserting and removing the cup to be difficult and experienced some discomfort and leaking as a result. But once Scott got the hang of the cup she found it to be easy, breezy, and beautiful. Upon trying the cup, Scott was worried about having to clean it in public (who wouldn’t be squeamish about handling their period blood at a public sink?) but found this wasn’t an issue since she can have the cup in for twelve hours with full effectiveness. Scott is psyched about a life free of pesky tampon strings getting in the way and forgetting tampons at home when she’s in a pinch.

Becca Serena, a fourth year MIT and Creative Writing Student, is on board for the healthful benefits of the cup. After using pads and liners that gave her dry skin and rashes, Serena started looking for more natural alternatives to standard drug store pads. Serena was understandably concerned about all the chemicals involved in most menstrual products and set out to try the cup. Since Serena has an IUD, she was wary about trying the cup, not knowing if it would interfere with her internal birth control. After talking to her doctor, Serena was assured as long as she used the cup carefully, it would be smooth sailing.

“It was a learning curve when putting it in and taking it out,” Serena says, “and now it just feels like second nature. I honestly forget I'm even wearing the cup or that I'm on my period!”

Around twenty billion disposable menstrual products are sent to North American landfills annually. The use of products like THINX, menstrual cups, and Lunapads keep period products where they should be: in contact with our bodies and not with landfills. Despite the slight inconveniences that reusable products impose, their benefits of being eco-friendly, non-toxic, ethical, financially-savvy, and comfortable outweigh any downfalls. All the products mentioned in this article come in a variety of forms (for different flows, vaginal sizes, cervix placements, sensitivities) and can be found at health food stores, drug stores, or online. On a final note, I hope we can continue to explore options to improve our periods and to help our periods improve the world.

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