Feminine Hygiene Products: What They Really Are

We’ve all been there ladies… It's officially "Leak Weak"; that week of mood swings, CRAAAAMMMPS, headaches and let's not forget...BLOATING! Any woman who suffers through this knows, that her car is moving faster than she is. There has never been a positive connotation associated with "The Monthly Cycle" - not one rainbow or unicorn can put a smile on a woman's body during this week. Sounds Fun, right?

Although we can’t necessarily alter our body’s anatomy to function reproductively without a period (we wish!), we do have a few remedies that can soothe our pain during this uncomfortable time. 

So, let’s talk about feminine hygiene products. These helpful items are personal care products that are used to help not only with monthly menstruations but also with vaginal discharge or other bodily functions related to the vulva or vagina, or Vibe as we like to call it.

Our bodies are going to do what they please, so why stop them? These hygienic products have been put in place to discreetly help us while going through this common process. In fact, there are several options for women who have different preferences for period aid and comfort.

When you think about it, do you know how lucky we really are? Hygienic products like these never used to be so readily available… or available at all!  

So, How Did Women Get to This Point?

Unfortunately, periods or even the discussion of them weren’t really recognized as commonplace or appropriate conversation. It was more of a “hush-hush” situation, so the proper care didn’t actually start to come to fruition until the 1900s.  

Until then, women had to suffer in silence and figure out the situation for themselves. It was no easy task, to say the least. Dating all the way back to the 1700s, there was only slight recognition of the need for period care, so women made do with household products such as old rags or spare cotton. It was difficult, and there were no sanitary regulations whatsoever.

The Public Starts to See Progression

So, fast-forwarding to 1896, Johnson & Johnson was one of the first companies to recognize women’s extreme need for feminine products, and so they attempted to sell ”Lister’s Towels.” These products were supposed to be some of the first sanitary pads available for sale.

Although, with that same “hush-hush” mentality circulating, women were embarrassed to purchase the product for fear that they would be telling the public that they were menstruating. Shhhhhh!

Kotex was the next company to give sanitized products a whirl, releasing Curads by Kotex in the 1920s. Want to know an interesting fact? Women nurses serving in World War I was actually the ones to make this amazing discovery.

The material was more absorbent than any of their common household products, so they’d wear them during their shift. Stores also allowed women to discreetly pay for them by calling them “sanitary pads” instead of a name that explained their actual use. This then became the brand’s slogan to help women: “Ask for them by name.” Finally, we had progress!

As the 1900s continued, more companies started to follow suit and even more forms of feminine hygienic care were officially released. In the 1930s, women were introduced to the first menstrual cup, and then the tampon in the 1950s.  

Let’s Talk About Cost

We all know that cost matters! So how much are all of these feminine products costing women today? Too much is the short answer.  

In fact, on average, women spend about $13.25 per month on menstrual products, which equates to about $6,360 when taking a woman’s reproductive lifetime into consideration (typically averaged between age 12-52).

Not all period products or feminine care items are created equal or cost the same. There are so many other variable factors. If a pair of underwear gets ruined because of leaking, there’s a cost to replace them. If there is a medication that’s also taken to help relieve pain from cramps, then that’s another added expense to consider. The list seems almost endless and extends far beyond just pads and tampons.

Will Feminine Hygiene Products be Free One Day?

In an attempt to lower the cost of feminine products, people across the nation are actually calling for the tax to be eliminated on period products.

However, out of our 50 states, only 20 of them actually consider these items to be essential and are tax free.

Unfortunately, these products are a long way away from ever being free, but with an immense movement, women are beginning to see change mobilize in ways that were never spoken of before. Thinking back to the 1900s alone, women are now able to freely speak about the topic without fear of judgment, which is a vast improvement and achievement in itself.   

Period Products Currently on the Market

So, with immense improvement and growth occurring in the feminine hygiene industry, what are the products available to women? Many companies have stepped up and helped champion this cause to mobilize this movement for women, which is notable. Because of this, these are the period products available on the market today:

  • Pantyliners
  • Sanitary Napkins (Pads)
  • Tampons
  • Menstrual Cup
  • Cloth Menstrual Pad
  • Period Panties
  • Menstrual Sponge

Let’s Learn More About All the Feminine Care Options

Now the tables have turned! Women went from having extremely limited options to now have the power to choose which product is best for them and their needs. Again, progress! To eliminate any confusion and help women choose which products fit their monthly needs, we’ve explained how each one might work differently for various situations.

Pantyliner: For those with a light period (lucky duckies!) or those who may be on their last one or two days of their cycle, pantyliners are usually seen as the best option. Pantyliners are a thin sanitary napkin that fits perfectly within the lines of underwear.

During the month between periods, this tool is also used to absorb any vaginal discharge as well. It’s thin, sleek shape allows it to be easily concealed in a small purse or handbag, too!

Sanitary Napkin (Pad): These are the pantyliner’s cousins. If you experience a normal to heavy period each month, this hygienic material will do the trick in aiding and guarding against any possible leakage.

They’re quite the superhero, as now they also have wings, which grip the underwear, keep the pad in place, and protect your underwear from leakage.

Tampon: Unlike pads or pantyliners, this applicator item is actually inserted into your Vibe for a more discreet aid to the period flow. However, tampons do carry the risk of toxic shock syndrome, especially when worn for longer than the standardly recommended time of 6 hours.

There are also different sizes built for different period flows, from regular to extra super.  

Menstrual Cup- Following the same method as a tampon, the menstrual cup is made for insertion and will collect menstrual fluid instead of absorbing it. Although, unlike most hygienic methods, the cups may actually be reused when washed properly. 

Cloth Menstrual Pad- This is the same idea as the sanitary napkin. However, to be more environmentally sustainable, this option is great for reuse.

Make sure that it’s properly washed and sanitized every time to prevent infection. 

Period Panties- Not into a tampon or pad? No worries. The period panty eliminates the need for either. This specific item is a pair of underwear meant to absorb all menstrual blood and keep women dry as much as possible. Better yet, they’re completely washable!    

Menstrual Sponge- The period sponge is actually a natural and renewable resource meant to replicate the tampon’s use.

The sponges are soft to the touch, and some say they’re easier to insert than some tampons. They’re also environmentally friendly and a cheaper alternative to most feminine hygiene options.

What About Hygiene Products for After a Period?

While the above are for women’s periods specifically, these products are particular to aiding the overall women's health of the Vibe. Our lady parts cleans itself out naturally, but some women prefer more aid with the following: 

  • Douches
  • Feminine Wipes
  • Unscented Soap
  • Vaginal Steaming
  • Detox Pearls

All Non-Period Products Work Differently

All feminine hygiene products are different animals, and this is proven through the different uses and rationales for each one. Product used around a woman’s intimate area doesn’t necessarily work for everybody either. People say that buying feminine products is like buying shoes. You may have to try on a few pairs first before you find your favorite.

So, let’s take a look! Here are a few examples of non-period products and how they are used:

Douches- It makes sense to want to feel refreshed and clean after your period. After a week of unpleasantness, some women use a douche in order to clean out the inside of your Vibe, especially if there might be any residue from the previous menstrual cycle.

Many of these products are sold pre-packaged and contain the ingredients water, vinegar, baking soda, or even iodine.

Feminine Wipes- Meant to take on the go, feminine wipes may be used to clean the vaginal area whenever a woman wants to feel refreshed, especially following a period.

These wipes can also be purchased for everyday use to prevent infection. 

Unscented Soap- Scented soap is rated a top enemy in the world of women’s intimate health. Use unscented soap to clean and protect your Vibe, and don’t let the area fall victim to the chemicals and perfumes of scented soaps.

The ingredients used to provide the scent may irritate your skin, especially in this more sensitive area.

Vaginal Steaming- This old-age remedy is trending, and women are once again praising its use. Steaming can actually be used during the period and after as it eases period cramps and regulates periods. Not to mention it also releases the body from bloating and cleans the area.

Detox Pearls- Detox pearls are a natural remedy made with herbs and wrapped around cloth. This method is meant to be inserted into your Vibe and ultimately relieve hormonal imbalances, improve fertility, and aid in regulating the menstrual cycle.

And there you have it, ladies! As you can see, there is a myriad of feminine hygiene products at your full disposal. So, mix, match, and try what fits your monthly needs best!

 Sources- 

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/surprising-origins-kotex-pads-180964466/

https://www.periodequity.org/

https://www.swnsdigital.com/2019/11/new-research-reveals-how-much-the-average-woman-spends-per-month-on-menstrual-products/

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