According to research, we spend around 2280 days of our lives dealing with periods. In fact, by the time we’ve reached our 50s, we’re likely to have to spent about £14,000 on various period products that aim to ease the monthly ride over the crimson wave. This got us thinking: Since menstruation occupies so much of our time, it’s only right that we have access to the best options to suit our bodies, flows and lifestyles, right?
Gone are the days when slipping a standard pack of sanitary towels into our basket at Boots was the only choice. From Mooncups to organic tampons and bespoke subscription services to absorbent period pants, innovation has started to make real progress in the menstrual aisle. Not only have these advances made things easier, but they’ve also helped us move towards a more environmentally friendly (have you considered plastic waste when it comes to your period?) and cost-effective period.
Keep scrolling for the lowdown on all the period paraphernalia you need to know about right now, so you’ll be ready for anything the next time Aunt Flo comes to town.
We’ve likely all heard about the potential risks of toxic shock syndrome, which can come with using tampons, which is why we’re so glad that organic alternatives are becoming much easier to get hold of. Since the cotton used in organic tampons will have skirted chemical pesticides during farming and skipped bleaching during the manufacturing process (a practice the Women’s Environmental Network has found can imbue tampons with an array of potentially harmful toxins), they’re far safer and far kinder to the environment.
Those with a heavy flow know all about the tampon-plus-pad layering trick. But now, to make things easier, menstrual-care startup Callaly has done all the doubling-up for us, with the innovative design of the Tampliner. An organic tampon with the added protection of an attached liner also crafted from bleach-free organic cotton, this is a great way to go if you’re worried about leaks. The tampons come in sizes Regular, Super and Super+, and there’s an absorbency for every flow. The to-your-door subscription model allows you to mix and match to create a box that suits your unique cycle.
The Mooncup may be the OG here, but it’s not the only option. From Ruby Cup to Lunette, and Diva Cup to OrganiCup, the growing number of options means it’s easier than ever to find a shape and size that suits you. You can even bag one in high-street stores like Boots and Monki. The main plus of cups, of course, is that they’re reusable.
On top of that, you can leave a cup in place for way longer than tampons or pads (up 12 hours depending on your flow—hello, weekend lay-in), and they also don’t block menses (the medical name for tissue linings that join your flow) from escaping easily. In other words, you can be confident that everything is operating as it should down there.
The Flex is neither a menstrual cup or a tampon—it’s a disposable menstrual disc. Like a cup, you squeeze the disc to pop it in and can leave it there for up to 12 hours; the main difference is that the Flex doesn’t remain in the vaginal canal. Instead, it’s designed to sit a little higher in an area called the vaginal fornix.
The beauty of this disc is that it reduces cramps and discomfort. Bonus: Since the disc is “out of the way,” so to speak, you can also enjoy some mess-free sex while you’re wearing it (however, please note that the Flex is not a contraception, nor does it protect from STDs). A box of 24 Flex discs costs £13, which should last you for three cycles.
Period pants aren’t just your standard big knickers anymore—they’ve had a super-absorbent makeover and are now a viable way to go. Look to brands including Modibodi, Wuka and Thinx—all of which come lined with a tech-savvy layer that locks away blood (between two and four tampons’ worth, depending on which pair you opt for) without leaking or leaving you feeling damp. While they tend to start from the £20 mark, each pair is reusable. All you have to do is pop them in the wash along with everything else (okay, avoid washing them with whites).
If it’s been a minute since you last used a pad, you’ll be pleased to know that they’ve come on leaps and bounds. As with tampons, organic bleach-free options are where the real innovation lies right now (you can bag brands such as Kind and Cottons on shelves at Boots). The new generation of menstrual pads aims to keep environmental impact and health concerns to a minimum.
Reusable pads are making a comeback too, with brands such as Hey Girls crafting a chic take from layered microfibre bamboo. The brand’s pads are cost-effective (a pack of five starts from £33) and designed to be super soft and leak-free. Oh, and with each purchase, Hey Girls donates a care package to someone battling period poverty in the UK. Win-win.
We’re living in the age of Uber, Apple Pay and Deliveroo where convenience is queen, so it’s no surprise that bespoke period subscription services are booming online. From the likes of Pink Parcel to Freda and Flux, you can expect to personalise your monthly arrival for around the £10 mark. Often these subscription services come with everything you need to cater to your cycle. Some boxes even include a few pick-me-ups along the way, from makeup samples to herbal teas and chocolate. Yes.
Next up: What the F Is seed cycling, and can it cure my ridiculous period pain?
Opening Image: Getty