Period protection and feminine hygiene has had a sustainable and modern makeover

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The new offering of period protection covers pain, too. Image: iStock

From environmentally-friendly, plastic-free pads and clean cotton tampons, to reusable menstrual cups and underwear, period protection is proving to be more sustainably savvy and better on our wallets than ever.

The terms “period protection” and “feminine hygiene” have both undergone a massive makeover (no more thick, uncomfortable plastic pads for one). But what’s behind the social shift? Aside from the impact of the scrapping of the “tampon tax”, Nourished Life head of e-commerce Lani Barmakov believes it’s a mix of marketing and female empowerment: “The whole conversation around feminine hygiene has been normalised in recent years and messaging has shifted from a focus on discretion to being ‘loud and proud’ of what the female body is capable of and the menstrual cycle.”

Products have also had an update. Not only are the new range of offerings more attractively and discreetly packaged – you will no longer cringe if they roll out of your handbag and spill on to the floor – but they’re now also environmentally friendly and cost-effective, too.

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Reusables over disposables

Could menstrual cups be the future of period protection? If the latest figures are anything to go by, the answer is yes. In the past six months, the number of reusable products (including both cups and underwear) sold in Australian grocery stores increased by a huge 49 per cent, proving Aussies are more eager than ever to become more sustainably savvy. Which makes for a compelling case when you consider women use an average of 12,000 disposable sanitary items in their lifetime.

Otherwise known as “moon cups”, the bell-shaped items are usually made of medical grade silicone and said to be hypoallergenic. Some can be worn for up to 12 hours and even during sex, plus they last for years. Worn low in the vaginal canal, they collect blood instead of absorbing it. The cup is then removed, emptied, washed and reused. TOM Organic has launched a dual-purpose steriliser and carry case made from recyclable green plastic that’s said to allow for sterilisation in the microwave and works to kill 99.9 per cent of bacteria in 60 seconds.

Try: JuJu Cup ($49.95 at Juju and Flora & Fauna) and Intimina Ziggy Cup ($59.95 at Intimina or $50.95 at Adore Beauty)

Period underwear

Aside from washable pads and cups, period underwear, which look and feel just like normal underwear, are also proving popular. Most have layers of protection that work to absorb moisture and neutralise odour, while waterproof technology keeps you safe from spills.

Worried about making the switch? TOM Organic founder Aimee Marks has some helpful advice. “Some people are reluctant to try reusables because trying something new, particularly in period care, can be intimidating. That’s why we’ve created how-to videos and information on how best to use products. We want people to know we have experts behind the design to ensure they’re functional, easy to use and do exactly what we need them to do.”

Barmakov recommends doing your research to find what’s going to suit your lifestyle. “If you opt for a menstrual cup, make sure you choose the best cup for your body and life stage,” she advises. “You should also consider utilising different options for different days of your cycle based on your flow. It’s certainly a learning curve and it usually takes a few cycles to get the hang of it. Perseverance certainly pays off, though – once you make the transition, you’ll never look back.”

Try: Bonds Bloody Comfy Period Undies (from $19.95 at Bonds) and TOM Organic The Period Brief ($15 at Tom Organic)

Cleaner options

Did you know that in a single year one person can use up to 325 tampons? As more of us jump on the clean beauty bandwagon, it makes sense our feminine care follows suit. That’s where non-toxic, pesticide, bleach and chlorine free, organic cotton options that are good for you and your bits step in, both safe and reliable.

The same goes for pads. Many traditional options are made up of 90% plastic, the next generation are either reusable, biodegradable or made from bamboo, clean cotton or other plant-based materials without compromising on absorption or protection.

Try: Tsuno Mini Tampons ($6.50, at Nourished Life) and Juuni Super Organic Pads ($3.20 for 5 at Juuni or $3.99 at Nourished Life)

Care and cleanse

Gentle and fem-friendly wipes and washes are also becoming more and more available. They don’t sting or compromise your natural pH balance, and are great for when you need to feel fresh on the go. But it’s important to note that the vagina is self-cleaning, so these are for external use only.

Try: Queen V Swipe Right Wipes ($13 at Sephora) and Yes Cleanse Intimate Wash ($21.95 at YES and Nourished Life)

Put a patch on it

Instead of popping a pill, the new way to get some relief from period pain comes in a sticky patch. These adhesive wearable pads are soaked in natural herbs known to help with muscle pain, such as menthol and heat the skin to try and relax cramps (or at least distract you from them).

Try: Rael Natural Herbal Heating Patch ($10.79 at Revolve) and The Good Patch ($15.06, at iHerb)

All products featured in this article are selected by our editors, who don’t play favourites. If you buy something, we may get a cut of the sale.

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