Let’s face it: periods can be messy and sometimes uncomfortable affairs, and some of the most common period products, such as tampons and pads, are not exactly great for the environment. For instance, the average woman will actually use one-time (and often non-biodegradable) femcare products over 11,000 times in her lifespan. That’s a lot of waste!
While you can certainly invest in or make your own reusable cloth pads and liners, or even shop exclusively for 100 percent organic cotton and plant-based packaged period products, there are alternative menstrual products to keep on your radar if you want to try something different and eco-friendly.
Here are three eco-friendly alternative menstrual products that aren’t tampons or pads.
1. Menstrual Cups
Reusable, silicone menstrual cups are probably the most well-known menstrual product alternatives to pads and tampons. Two of the most popular brands are The Diva Cup and Lunette, although with a little research, you’ll be able to find many more.
Not only are reusable menstrual cups eco-friendly and economical, but they can offer up for 12 full hours of leak-free protection, and they tend to come in different size “models” so you can choose the most comfortable and best-fit cup for your particular body.
What’s more, menstrual flow actually doesn’t develop an odor until it’s exposed to air, so using a menstrual cup actually eliminates some of the scents associated with periods, because you wear it internally.
2. Period Underwear
Period underwear is essentially a pair of extra-absorbent underpants designed to catch your flow. Some designs can hold up to two regular tampons’ worth of fluid, and most are designed to neutralize period odors.
You’ll likely need more than one pair for a full period-cycle, and they tend to cost a little more (Lunapads underwear can cost in the $40 range while Thinx usually runs in the $30 range) but all you have to do is throw them in the wash when you’re done, and they’re ready to go again.
3. Reusable Sea Sponges
Before you freak out, first just know that these aren’t the kinds of sponges you buy in a four-pack at the store and wash your dishes with. Reusable sea sponges are natural products that come from the ocean, which means they are totally free of synthetic materials, dyes, fragrances, chemicals and chlorine—none of which you want anywhere near your vagina.
Essentially, sea sponges are natural, reusable resources (they’re sustainably harvested and biodegradable!) that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. If you end up buying one too large, you can actually trim it down until it feels non-irritating and comfortable for you. Just make sure to wash them before use. Check out this article for tips on how to wash, trim and use a sea sponge as a tampon alternative.
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