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Menstrual products of the past and present

I remember in high school when I switched from pads to tampons. I lived on a Caribbean island, and not being able to take my shorts off at the beach on weekends was becoming a real drag. Oh, the woes of teenage-dom. Tampons served their purpose for many years, but then in my mid-20’s, I found that I didn’t really love them anymore, and I ended up switching back to pads.

Part of the reason was that I had become aware of the awful ingredients in conventional tampons, and I no longer wanted any of that in my body. At the time there weren’t great alternatives, so pads (even the conventional ones would have to do). Let’s just say, when it comes to organic cotton pads and tampons we’ve come a long way in the last ten years.

Then I found out about reusable pads. Who knew there was such a thing?! I decided to fully embrace my inner hippie, and purchase some cotton pads from Lunapads and Gladrags. I know most women think this is crazy, but they have really worked for me. Big bonus –  they are machine washable and you are saving the world by not dumping single-use pads and tampons into landfills.

Then, almost three years ago I made a whole new discovery. Period underwear. I bought my first pair LONG before they were on anyone’s radar – yup, I’m always on the forefront of ground-breaking period technology! Haha.

There’s been a lot of talk about period underwear in the last 12 months. Nowadays everyone wants to up their period game and get in on the underwear action. I get texts, emails and FB messages almost weekly from friends who want to know whether they are worth trying out. Here are the most common questions and concerns from women who are considering buying these undies.

But really Nicole do these things actually work?

Yes, yes they do. I was just as skeptical as you at first, but they really do. Just like pads or tampons, you have to choose the type of underwear that works for your flow on each period day. For instance, if your period is on the heavier side, you don’t want to be wearing a thong right? Also, they are not bulky and you won’t feel like you’re wearing a pair of Depends!

Don’t they leak? I’m terrified of leaks!

I know, leaks are literally the worst thing. The struggle is so real. I remember in high school, I leaked onto my uniform, and I pretty much wanted to leave the planet.

In three years I have not had any leakage issues so far, unless I wait too long to change my undies. This works the same for pads, tampons and menstrual cups. A lot of women I know use an organic cotton tampon or menstrual cup in addition to the undies as backup, especially when they are first starting out or on heavier days.

Isn’t it gross, aren’t you swimming in a pool of your own blood?

I personally don’t feel anything when wearing period underwear. They’ve got their design down to a science now, so there is no pooling or puddling happening. Again, it’s important to change your undies on heavier days. I go through either two or three pairs on a heavy day, and 1-2 pairs on a light day.

Is it like wearing a wet swimsuit all day?

Haha no, the materials used are highly absorbent (just like most pads on the market) and you will definitely not feel like you’re in a wet swimsuit. However, if you feel a whole bunch of wetness, it’s a sign that you should get your butt into another pair pronto (see leaks advice above).

Do I have to soak and/or handwash these things?

Actually no. You just have to rinse them with cold water, and pop them in the washing machine. Not any harder than washing a pair of nylon tights right?

Which brand should I use? What are they made of?

There are two brands that I currently use – Lunapads underwear and Thinx underwear. They both offer a variety of undies that include thongs, hip huggers, boy shorts, bikini bottoms and high waist options.

Luna Undies come in 2 different lining options:

  • The Selene styles feature  a dual-layer leakproof lining topped with soft, absorbent cotton fleece. Selene styles provide protection for light flow or light bladder leaks.
  • The Maia and Boxer Brief styles feature a dual-layer leakproof lining with a removable Insert that lets you customize the absorbency to fit your flow. The Maia and Boxer styles can be worn all day, even on heavy flow days – just swap out the Insert as needed.

Luna Undies are made from cotton/spandex jersey. The lining is made from PUL (Polyurethane Laminate) and cotton fleece. Luna Undies are available in conventional or organic cotton options.

Thinx offers only one type of underwear, where the pad is permanently sewn in. Thinx underwear materials per their website: Interior Innermost 95% Cotton, 5% Elastane; Middle breathable PUL (Polyurethane Laminate), 95% Cotton, 5% Elastane; Outer 89% Nylon, 11% Elastane; Trim 100% Polyester. Update Fall 2017: They now also offer organic cotton undies.

What I love!

I gotta say I lurrrve both brands of underwear. I’ve been using Thinx for longer but what I really dig about Lunapads is they are mostly organic cotton and some of their panties have inserts/pads that can be switched out depending on how heavy your period is. Translation: you don’t have to change your whole pair of underwear, just a tiny pad.

You’re gonna laugh at this, but my man used to call me the most unprepared period girl he’s ever known. Not that he’s known any period girls, but whatever! Without fail, I’d be caught off-guard almost every period with not a tampon or pad in sight. This happened mostly when we were traveling, but it was still way too often. Now I just throw my period undies in with all my clothes when I’m traveling, and I’m all SET.

At the end of each period, if you were to put all your pads and tampons along with their wrappers into one big pile, you’d see just how incredibly wasteful disposable menstrual products are. Multiply this pile by billions (of women) each month, and you can see how much garbage we create every single year. This is serious business, and it’s now something you have complete control over.

Both of these companies were founded by badass women entrepreneurs who found their calling helping women, albeit somewhat unconventionally, but they found it nonetheless, and that’s what entrepreneurship is about. Madeleine Shaw and Suzanne Siemens, the founders of Lunapads and Miki Agrawal, the founder of Thinx are trailblazers, who are committed not only to sustainable business but to social change. Now, who doesn’t want to get behind that!?

Speaking of unconventional careers, if you have been thinking about doing something to make a difference in women’s lives, OR you want to learn more about my work and how I got to being the period girl, check out this video series I created – Heal the World, One Woman at a Time: Inside secrets to being a successful women’s health coach.

How should I start with these undies?

I’ll preface this by saying that my period is not super heavy, and your choice in period underwear will look different to the next girl.

My period lasts about 3-4 days, and starts out pretty light, gets progressively heavier, and then goes back to being light on the last day. I use a thong for the first part of day 1, then switch to the Thinx Cheeky or the Lunapads Selene Lacy Bikini. I will sleep in either of those and use them on day 2 as well. Sometimes if day 2 is heavier, I’ll use the Thinx Hiphugger or the Lunapads Boxer Briefs. I’ll sleep in the boxers, and then use either of those for day 3.

FYI: The Lunapads Boxers allow for pad inserts so they can be used with any amount of flow. I also really like the Lunapads Maia undies, which also have inserts, so can be used on any day of your period.

On day 4 I switch back to the thongs and I’m done!! You don’t need to go out and buy like 12 pairs of these undies either. I’d suggest you start with three pairs. Wear and wash, and see how you like them.

Here are the Lunapads Underwear/Lunaundies options:
You can choose between the Boxer Briefs and the Maia undies that both use pad inserts, or the Selene undies that have built in pads. The lovely people over at Lunapads are also giving my friends (that’s you!) 15% off your purchase with the code HEALTHYPERIOD. 

Here’s how to build a cycle set on the Thinx website:

I know this is like starting all over again for many women, but it’s very similar to the switch we’ve all made from pads to tampons or menstrual cups. It takes a little finagling but eventually you get into your groove. Don’t get me wrong, I still use an organic cotton tampon or pad every now and again, so this isn’t an all or nothing deal. These days, I am a very happy menstruating woman though, and I want you to be as well.





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Information in this post and on this web site is provided for informational purposes only. The information is a result of practice experience and research by the author. This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem.

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