Are Eco-Friendly Period Products Worth the Hassle?

Periods, amirite? For most women, they are something to be dealt with on a monthly basis. Over the centuries, technology has evolved to allow women in the developed world to manage their Moon Times in a convenient and highly disposable way. While the environmental impact may not be terribly high -- many reports show that feminine hygiene products make up 0.5 percent of a woman's total personal landfill -- the financial impact is difficult to ignore. A 2015 Huffington Post article showed that a woman will spend over $18,000 on her period over her lifetime.

Over the past year, I became more aware of eco-friendly feminine hygiene products. One of the most popular is the Diva Cup, a silicone menstrual cup that is inserted into the vagina and boasts 12-hours of "leak-free protection." Many women on the websites and Facebook groups I frequented raved about how they loved their Diva Cups. Others noted that it was awkward and did not work as they expected. However, general consensus was that the Diva Cup was a game changer.

Knowing my body and my comfort level, I decided to delve into the world of reusable maxi-pads and period panties. After giving birth to my son almost three years ago, tampons never felt the same as they did before and a few other issues (Bartholin gland cyst -- look it up) have resulted in me using pads exclusively. About a month ago, as I had to run to the store, yet again, to buy pads because I was mysteriously out of them again. Even with the my grocery store club card, generic pads still cost upwards of $6 for a pack of 36. As I paid for the pads, I wondered if the eco-friendly version was worth the investment.

Reusable Maxi-Pads

Reverse of the Wegreeco Twinkle Star pads
Image Credit: Renee Herrmann
Inside of the Wegreeco Twinkle Star pad
Image Credit: Renee Herrmann

I started my investigation by looking into companies that make reusable maxi-pads. The sticker shock can be powerful. Products range from starter kits priced at over $100 to a pack of six medium sized pads for $17.99. Being frugal, I went for the Wegreeco reusable pads. I purchased them through Amazon, which has a wide range of eco-friendly menstrual products.

The pads are adorable, for one. I ordered the Twinkle Star pattern, because 1) they were black and 2) they made me feel like a rockstar. The main core of the pad is fleece and the wings are a waterproof fabric. They have plastic snaps, which you use to secure them in place. I ordered the medium size based on the sizing chart recommendations and feedback left from users on the Amazon page.

The Pros: The pads are breathable and soft. They are highly absorbent, and unlike with ultra-thin pads (my preferred), I rarely felt like I was overly saturated, especially after standing up after sitting for awhile. They were easy to clean: For the first two days, I rinsed them in the sink with a little laundry detergent and hung them to dry. On the third day, I threw them in the wash on delicate cycle and hung to dry, and they came out looking just the same as they did going in. I also never experienced a leak in my time wearing the pads, which is something I typically experience at least once with disposables.

The Cons: You have to be conscious of what underwear you use. Like many women, my period underpants are my oldest, rattiest pairs. They are probably about three sizes too big at this point and stretched out beyond reason. I found this to be problematic as the waterproof fabric is quite slick. When I wore the giant undies, the pad was more prone to twist and turn, especially while working out, and had to be readjusted frequently.

Are They Worth It?: For $17.99 + shipping, yes. It was freeing to not have to throw away any pads and to not have to empty the bathroom garbage an extra time. You may have to do an extra load of laundry, but seeing how the pads held up, machine washable is always a plus.

Period Panties

For the purposes of this article, I also wanted to try out period panties. Full disclosure: I reached out to a few companies to get some more information about their products, and the people at Thinx sent me a free pair. I selected the boyshort style, because I tend to like more coverage. The packaging boasted that the panties could hold up to two pads'/tampons' worth of fluid, and I was curious to see how essentially free-bleeding felt.

The Pros: I will say it was amazing. The panties felt a little like wearing bathing suit bottoms. The outside is waterproof, but the inside is soft material. The absorbent material runs down the center of the panties. I felt a little compressed at times, but the sensation of not having to wear anything other than the panties was freeing. It felt empowering. I didn't have to worry about a pad bulking up or a tampon feeling out of place. I didn't feel wet or uncomfortable. I felt excited to have my period and to be able to just put on a pair of underwear -- something after over 20 years of having a period, I've never said before. Plus, they are machine washable (delicate cycle, hang to dry) and hold up to repeated washings.

The Cons: The price. They are expensive, and I would recommend at least three pairs for exclusive use. If you are out in public and need to change them, you will need to change your underwear completely. The outer fabric does not breathe, so that can be a little uncomfortable, but in the scheme of the entire experience, it was a small price to pay.

Are They Worth It?: Yes! A million times yes! For the patriarchy smashing sensation alone. At $30-40 per pair, these are a much larger investment, but I enjoyed them so much that I'm going all in. To see if it makes sense for you, compare your average spending per year against the up-front investment. If you're buying two boxes of pads per month, that's $144 per year. Three pairs of Thinx will set you back about $100 and will last for three years.

So, are eco-friendly menstruation products worth it? Yes! The period panties, especially. I cannot overestimate how much of a life changer these were. If you are like me and on a tight budget, you will find similar success with the pads, especially if you are able to make your own.