As a woman, I’m constantly dreading that time of the month – bloating, headaches, nausea, cramps and just general discomfort. One thing I haven’t worried about in a while? All the waste that’s generated by my period.
At least, not in the years since I’ve made the switch to a menstrual cup. The average Australian woman will use anywhere between 10,000 and 12,000 disposable menstrual products in their lifetime. Around 300 million tampons and 500 million pads are sold in the country each year, and the majority of them end up in landfill after use.
But there are so many more sustainable options out there now, from cups and period underwear to reusable pads – some are even on supermarket shelves. Not sure where to start? Here are some of our favourite options.
Kristy Chong started Modibodi in 2013 as an alternative to disposable tampons and pads, and spent two years fine-tuning the brand’s period-proof underwear design. It’s moisture wicking, antimicrobial and made of breathable fibres, with stain-resistant linings that can hold about four tampons’ worth of liquid. There are different absorbency levels, from super-light flow to heavy overnight, as well as different underwear cuts including bikini, high-waist, boyleg and thong. Modibodi also makes a range of period swimwear and activewear, including leggings that let you go commando in comfort. The brand also recently introduced biodegradable period underwear, which breaks down into non-toxic substances at the end of its life cycle.
Juju launched its first menstrual cup in 2011. Since then, the environmentally and socially conscious Sydney-based brand has grown its collection to include absorbent underwear, reusable pads, accessories like a menstrual cup sterilising kit and printed storage bags for stashing your goods on the go. Access to menstrual hygiene products continues to be a challenge for women around the world. Juju supports Share the Dignity and Days for Girls – two charities focused on ending period poverty in Australia and overseas.
Boody make some of Broadsheet’s favourite undies. But the brand’s period and leak-proof pairs are worth talking about specifically. Available in light–moderate and moderate–heavy options, they promise to support you through various days of your monthly cycle. Classic in black, you can also choose between bikini and full brief fits.
Not sure if period undies or a menstrual cup would suit you better? Scarlet carries both – and you can save up to 20 per cent when you create a bundle. The underwear is mostly made of soft organic cotton, with a bit of polyester for absorbency, and comes in four styles. The cup, on the other hand, is made with 100 per cent medical-grade silicone and promises eight hours of leak-proof protection. It also comes with finger grips and outer ribbing to make it easy to insert and remove. Both come with a 90-day guarantee, so you can test them for three cycles – and if you aren’t satisfied, you can get your money back.
Menstrual cups come in all shapes and sizes – for Hello, it’s a matter of inclusivity and making sure everyone finds the right fit. But if you’re unsure, there’s a handy quiz to figure out which cup is for you based on your age, activity level, cervix position and pelvic-floor strength. There are eight Hello Cups to choose from, all hypoallergenic, medical-grade and silicone-free. Pre-orders are also open for the Hello Disc, a shallow menstrual disc that sits below the cervix and behind the pubic bone. They aren’t held in place by suction, meaning you can wear them with your IUD and you can have sex wearing them without having to worry about mess.
Awwa Period Care
This Kiwi reusable period underwear brand is both woman- and Indigenous-owned, and the name comes from the Maori word “awa” meaning river or flow. Periods were traditionally called “te awa atua” or the divine river, and they were celebrated rather than made taboo. That’s also Awwa’s goal with its range of period underwear and swimwear, all designed to hold up to five regular pads’ worth of blood. They’re made with slim layers that don’t feel bulky, moisture-wicking fabric, a leak-resistant barrier and flattering cuts that both protect and feel good. The brand also donates two per cent of its annual revenue to help end period poverty in New Zealand. You can take 10 per cent off your first purchase with the code “TRY10” at checkout.
Almost synonymous at this point with tampons, pads and panty liners, Libra launched its first period-proof undies a couple of years ago – and this isn’t the plain option you might find elsewhere. Libra’s hipster briefs are cute, with a strip of lace along the top for a more feminine look. They promise protection for up to 10 hours and can hold the same amount of liquid as four tampons.
Available in most major supermarkets, Tom Organic’s conscious period products run the gamut from biodegradable tampons and pads to reusable underwear and a menstrual cup. The original mid-rise midi-briefs are made with organic cotton and can hold up to three tampons’ worth of blood, while the bikini-style briefs have flat seams that sit discreetly under clothes. Sizes range from 6 to 20. As for the cup, it comes in two sizes and has indents that help with inserting and removal; you can also get a steriliser case that lets you clean your cup in the microwave.
The Japanese fashion giant entered the menstrual undies game with its period shorts made from the brand’s trademarked Airism fabric. They come in a high-waisted style, with six sizes and four colours available. The silky material is made from nylon, elastane and polyester, and the absorbent layer can hold up to 40 millilitres of blood, or the equivalent of three medium-flow tampons.
Additional reporting by Jo Robin, Emma Joyce, Alice Jeffery and Nicole Conway
This article was first published on February 15, 2022 and has since been updated.
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