It’s been a whirlwind of a year, and a lot has changed – even in the world of feminine hygiene. Everything from charitable movements to a Facebook faux pas have shaped the landscape of period products and women’s health in 2020.
The Sustainable Period Product Market is on the Rise
It’s almost impossible to talk about 2020 without mentioning the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on so many aspects of our lives. Feminine products haven’t escaped COVID-19’s touch. Women worldwide have encountered a shortage of period products during lockdowns.
In some places, like the US and UK, these shortages primarily occur when people stockpile tampons and pads in preparation for long lockdowns. But in other parts of the world, supply of these products has been interrupted, resulting in either inflated period product prices or no period products at all.
This, paired with the worldwide movement for a greener and more ecofriendly lifestyle, has inspired many women to give reusable and sustainable products a try. In the Asia-Pacific region alone, where shortages have been especially prominent, the menstrual cup market has grown by $102.73 million this year.
But this growth isn’t just limited to the Asia-Pacific. Female consumers within the US are supposed to be the main force behind a strengthening menstrual cup market over the next four years. The menstrual cup sales rate is predicted to experience a 4% increase year-over-year up to 2024, and 48% of that growth could be attributed to US consumers. Market experts have also predicted that period panty sales will experience “massive growth” by 2028.
What does this all mean for you? As eco-friendly menstrual products gain popularity, you can expect to have more period product options; a growing community of menstrual cup, reusable pad, and period panty users; and – hopefully – a gradual decrease of harmful period waste as we move away from disposable plastic products.
The Charitable Movement Towards Sustainable Period Products
As we mentioned above, access to period products – or a lack thereof – has become a serious issue in many parts of the world. Girls and women who were already struggling to manage their menstrual cycles while attending school or meeting professional obligations are now in an even more serious bind than before.
India is perhaps one of the countries worst hit by the shortage of period products. Numerous schools previously provided products to their female students, but with sudden and strict lockdowns, many girls are having to go without. During social distancing measures, only 15% of Indian women had access to sanitary products. Many women and girls have resorted to crude means of handling their periods, such as wrapping rags around bits of old cloth, hay, ash, or clay.
This shortage has also impacted access to sanitary products for women within the US. An explosion in the popularity of homemade pads and tampons has arisen as a result. But these “crafts” can be dangerous, especially when we’re talking tampons. The vagina has its own self-contained ecosystem that supports a host of healthy bacteria. Even if a material is natural, it’s not necessarily safe to use it as a tampon. It can disrupt you vaginal pH and leave behind fibers, both of which could lead to infections and potentially deadly conditions like toxic shock syndrome.
Menstrual cups, manufactured reusable pads, period panties, and traditional menstrual products are all safer options. But what’s a girl to do when the market shelves are bare or the price of period products is more than she can afford?
Nonprofits and individuals alike are coming together to provide solutions for women without ready access to period products. One UK woman has taken up making reusable pads from donated materials and delivering them by bicycle to those in need within her community.
The group I Support the Girls has played an invaluable role in providing reusable products to individuals and other charitable organizations during the pandemic. This organization’s goal is to provide underwear, bras, and menstrual products to women in need – some of whom are homeless, in shelters, or refugees.
The efforts they’ve taken to combat the current period product shortage have made headlines. They’ve received a 35% increase in requests for products since the pandemic began. For example, they delivered about 900,000 menstrual products in March alone – almost five times the amount they provided over the same month the year before. In total, they’ve been able to distribute over 2 million products to women in need.
Another organization doing its part is Days for Girls. They recently offered free menstrual cups to women attending US colleges. They’ve also taken a unique approach to tackling the issues caused by the current menstrual product shortage on an international level. Their “Periods Don’t Pause for Pandemics” initiative aims to teach impoverished communities all over the world how to make reusable pads and face masks from safe materials.
The New Disabled-Friendly Menstrual Cup
The world of menstrual cups isn’t just making huge strides against the coronavirus; it’s also evolving to become more inclusive for those suffering from disabilities. Those who are non-disabled may never have considered how the limitations caused by some disabilities may make menstrual cups an impossibility for certain individuals.
For example, Elizabeth Wright has an informative blog on the challenges presented by different period products for people with disabilities. The limited dexterity in her one hand means traditional menstrual cups are not an option for her.
But a new product is on the market that might make it easier for some disabled women to use menstrual cups. The Flex Cup was codesigned by Andy Miller – a medical device inventor – and Jane Adamé – a woman suffering from a condition that makes using traditional cups painful and impractical. While most menstrual cups require you to slightly push in the wall of the cup to break suction when taking it out, the Flex Cup has a long stem with a loop at the bottom that, when pulled, breaks the suction and allows for easier removal.
This simplified removal process doesn’t mean that the Flex Cup is perfect for all women with disabilities, but it does offer a more practical option for some. It’s also a great product for non-disabled individuals who want cups that are easier to remove.
If you’re curious about the Flex Cup and if it’s right for you, you can check out our review of the product.
Period Panties and Facebook’s Messy Mishap
Finally, we’ll end our list of sustainable menstrual products in the news with a bit of scandal. Modibodi has been providing women with period and incontinence panties for close to a decade now. But Facebook banned a recent ad for their products because of its “shocking, sensational, disrespectful or excessively violent content” – a violation of the social media platform’s guidelines. And what was so dastardly about this ad campaign?
It depicted blood – period blood, to be exact – as red.
Apparently, Facebook removed the ad to protect its users from content that could be viewed as distressing. Modibodi was told to cut out scenes depicting period blood if it wanted to continue its campaign on Facebook. But Kristy Chong, the company’s CEO, refused. Eventually, Facebook caved and unbanned the content.
Campaigns like Modibodi’s are important because they help destigmatize menstruation and other issues surrounding women’s health.
What are the best charities to contribute to?
There are numerous organizations out there that are doing great things in the world today. But if you’d like to help charities that help women, Days for Girls and I Support the Girls are both great nonprofits. Days for Girls provides feminine products worldwide to young women that might otherwise have to miss school due to their periods. They also teach communities how to create reusable pads and masks. I Support the Girls offers underwear, bras, and menstrual products to women in tough situations. They’ve responded to pandemic shortages of period products by distributing more and more products across the US.
Why do period commercials use blue liquid?
Traditional ads for tampons or pads use blue liquid to show how much their products can absorb. But why the color blue? Commercially, blue liquids are often associated with sterile substances like cleaning products. By using the color blue in period commercials, companies are trying to avoid “offending” the delicate sensibilities of their audience. But lately, more and more companies are moving away from this clinical depiction in an effort to destigmatize periods and the blood that comes with them. Even Tampax recently used a red blood-like liquid in their pad commercials.
Why are menstrual cups unpopular?
Even though menstrual cups have been around since the 1930s, some women are afraid to give them a try. But why? Most fears surrounding menstrual cups are unfounded or rooted in cultural misperceptions. Some women are anxious a cup will tear their hymen. Others worry that they will be uncomfortable. And many struggle to become comfortable with inserting and removing cups. But menstrual cups are actually becoming more and more popular. Lack of access to traditional period products during the pandemic means many women are turning to menstrual cups. Cups do not damage your hymen, are often considered more comfortable than tampons or pads, and are easy to use once you become comfortable with them. And the cherry on top is that they’re a great way to reduce the negative impact disposable period products have on the environment.