Meet the five companies elevating the menstrual care industry.
We’ve all been there: the cramps, the mess (RIP Fleur du Mal silk G-string), the awkward, “So how do you feel about…” sexual encounters, and the desperate asking every women in your office/gym/a mile radius if they have a tampon. Despite this happening every. single. month. you’re still never prepared. Let’s hear it for your period: the wondrous gift that just keeps on giving, month after month until menopause. And while menstruation is one of the universal experiences a woman goes through, for many, it still carries an unnecessary stigma—particularly the case in developing countries where the lack of access to affordable and effective “feminine hygiene” products, a weirdly euphemistic term in its own right, causes many women and girls to miss school and adapt unsanitary and inhibitive methods of self-care.
While feminine care products are commonplace in North America, the regulation of those products is not. Did you know that there are no laws in North America or Europe requiring feminine hygiene manufacturers to disclose the ingredients used in their tampons, pads and liners? So that tampon you’re using, could, unbeknownst to you, be full of toxins. Not cool, FDA, not cool.
In the name of elevating (and educating re) our periods, we turned to five companies that are changing the menstrual care game, from organic feminine care products, to (color-coded) subscription tampon services, to a product that takes the mess out of period sex—yeah, you heard us right. It’s time to take control. Period. (Had to.)
Natracare: the world’s first all-natural feminine hygiene company.
Ever wondered what’s in the tampons, pads and liners you use every month? Susie Hewson, founder and international sales and marketing director of Natracare did, when, in the face of Toxic Shock Syndrome headlines in the ‘80s and ‘90s (as a result of overly absorbent tampons on the market), she created Natracare, an organic, natural, and chlorine-free sanitary pad, panty liner, tampon and wipes company.
“Conventional pads are made of about 90% petroleum derived plastics and polymers. Tampons are generally made from between 65% and 100% viscose rayon, a fibre derived from wood that is prepared by bleaching it with chlorine, therefore containing dioxin and furan residuals, which are bioaccumulative [editor’s note: this means the organisms absorb toxins faster than they can excrete them]. If they are not 100% rayon, then the cotton component will be conventionally grown or GMO, and this means grown using multiple pesticides and glyphosate that will also leave residuals in the cotton,” explained Hewson. “There is no regulation in Canada, the USA or Europe requiring feminine hygiene manufacturers to list the ingredients on the packaging of any tampons, pads or liners, so it’s difficult for consumers to find out from the packaging what it is they are placing into, and next to, their bodies.”
Natracare works to educate women and challenge big-box brands, as well as the government, about the toxic ingredients used in feminine care products and the lack of legislation surrounding them. The award winning company’s products are all biodegradable, made with certified organic cotton, and are chlorine and plastic free—better for your body and the environment.
LOLA: Organic tampons delivered right to your door.
Founded by Jordana Kier and Alex Friedman, LOLA is a subscription-based service that delivers 100% cotton, hypoallergenic tampons, pads and liners, free of synthetics, chemicals, or dyes directly to your door step. “We founded LOLA with a simple and seemingly obvious idea: you shouldn’t have to compromise when it comes to tampons. Like most women, we had been using the same feminine care products since we were teenagers. The initial plan for LOLA was actually a subscription service, but when we started looking into existing tampons on the market, we found out that feminine care brands aren’t required to disclose exactly what’s in their products. Since our teenage years, we hadn’t once thought to stop and think: what’s in our tampon? To us, it just didn’t make sense. If we care about everything else we put in our bodies, this shouldn’t be any different,” explained Kier and Friedman during our deskside interview with them last year.
Completely catered to you and your schedule, the mix-and-match approach allows customers to choose how many, and what kind, of tampons, pads and liners they’d like to receive. Have one heavy day and four light days? There’s a combo for that. And did we mention they’re literally the chicest tampons we’ve ever seen? Call us suckers for a good color-combo, but, hey, if we’re paying, we’re obviously going the most aesthetically pleasing route (in this case: blue ombre). Additional perk: If you’re an applicator type of girl, the plastic used is BPA-free. Think of it as a green juice for your nether regions.
For our Northern neighbors: easy. (pronounced “easy, period” because Canadians are cheeky like that) offers a similar direct-to-consumer organic-tampon delivery service, which donates a portion of proceeds to ZanaAfrica, an organization providing girls in Kenya with feminine care products. And spoiler: your delivery comes with chocolate.
THINX: Period-proof panties.
Hands up if you’ve ruined at least one pair of underwear during your periods? Ten? Twenty? Despite your most vigilant attempts, it happens to all of us. Enter: Thinx, the first brand of period-proof underwear that can be worn as a supplement, or substitute, to conventional feminine hygiene products. “We realized that the feminine hygiene industry had not changed in nearly 50 years, and that the tampon was invented in 1931 with little innovation since then,” says Miki Agrawal, CEO & Co-Founder of Thinx (and Icon Undies, TUSHY, WILD restaurant, and author of Do Cool Sh*t—powerhouse would be an understatement). “We wanted to come up with something leak proof and stain resistant, so we combined four different technologies (anti-microbial, moisture-wicking, breathable leak-proof, and absorbent) that work together to be totally period-proof. The absorbency layer and leak-resistant tech make sure nothing comes through the underwear if you have an accident, yet you feel clean and dry the whole time you are wearing them thanks to the anti-microbial and moisture-wicking layers. It's like magic! Science-y, tech-y magic.”
Too good to be true? According to the thousands of women who swear by the product, they truly work, leaving you stainless, comfortable, and, honestly, cute. The reusable underwear come in five styles, ranging from a chic high-waisted that holds one and a half tampon’s worth of menstrual fluid, to a lace thong that protects leaking up to a half tampon’s worth. As an added bonus, for every pair of Thinx purchased, a percentage of sales is sent to Thinx’s partner organization AFRIpads, which trains women to sew and sell washable, reusable cloth pads, creating jobs and affordable, effective feminine hygiene products for women and girls in Africa. “We realized that over 100 million girls in the developing world still miss one week of school because of their periods and are falling behind and dropping out,” explained Miki. “Periods are taboo, so we are setting out to break the menstrual taboo and eliminate the shame around it.”
The DivaCup: the more affordable, environmentally conscious alternative.
Don’t love tampons, but equally hate the discomfort of pads? You’re preaching to the choir. Made of 100% healthcare-grade silicone, free of chemicals, plastics, and dyes, The DivaCup is a reusable bell-shaped menstrual cup that is worn inside your vaginal canal, blocking and collecting the flow of your period. “There are many benefits to using The DivaCup. First and foremost, The DivaCup provides up to 12 hours of leak-free protection. It offers comfort and convenience and is easy to use. Because it is reusable (we recommend replacing The DivaCup annually), you not only save money, but also reduce your eco-footprint by sending less waste to landfills,” says Daniela Masaro, Brand Marketing Manager of Diva International Inc.
DO THE DIRTY, CLEAN
FLEX: for mess-free period sex.
Along the same lines of The DivaCup, Flex is an innovative menstrual disk that sits inside the vaginal canal blocking the cervix. Rather than absorbing menstrual fluid like a tampon or pad, it collects it. Its positioning leaves the vaginal canal open, which helps to alleviate the cause of cramps, bloating, and, drum roll please, allows you to have mess-free period sex.
“I created Flex after suffering from chronic yeast infections caused by cotton tampons. On my quest to find a better product, I learned that tampons were never intended for the female body; they were invented during WWII to stop bullet hole wounds and are still carried by the CIA today. Tampons are packed with chemicals. Even organic ones cause yeast and bacterial infections, and young women are still dying of TSS every year,” says Lauren Schulte, Founder and CEO of Flex. “Flex is made from hypoallergenic, medical-grade materials that allow your vagina to maintain its pH, which helps prevent bacterial and yeast infections. It’s also tested and approved for use up to 12 hours (leak free). That means most women use about eight Flex per cycle, versus 21 tampons. And unlike a menstrual cup, Flex doesn't require rinsing and reusing or boiling on your stove top.”
But please note: Flex does not work as a replacement for birth control or as protection against STIs—simply as a way to help you keep “the dirty” clean.