Menstruation is a big deal. It costs people with uteruses a lot of money; it's estimated that over a menstruator's lifetime, their period will cost them $1,600 —provided they only buy tampons, and that those tampons' price never fluctuates. And that's not counting the labor involved, from cleaning stained clothes and sheets to time in the bathroom. So getting it right is important to us — and the menstrual market is out to make our periods easier, cleaner, greener, more technologically sophisticated, and better overall. These unusual period products may seem peculiar at first glance, but they're likely to shape the future of our periods, and even make our cycles better.
If you think these inventions are a bit too far-out for you, bear in mind that the way we deal with periods has undergone huge transformations since Eve first received "the curse." Ancient Egyptians had used rock salt and dung to stop their periods, and up until the 1960s menstrual products were sold in discreet, unmarked boxes because the entire idea of having a period carried such stigma. We've come a long way from using spare rags to disposable cotton tampons and pads, and it stands to reason that there's always room for improvement. Meet the period products of the future.
1The Reusable Menstrual Cup
As a recent convert to this amazing invention, I can testify that for the first few times it can feel deeply confusing. Inserting a tiny rubber cup into your intimate areas to hold period blood can be as strange a sensation as putting in a tampon for the first time. The good news is that you get the hang of it (and cleaning it out), it's much more earth-friendly than tampons or pads, and it's also much less expensive. No more midnight emergency drug store runs.
2The D Reusable Tampon Applicator
If you use tampons, you're likely familiar with the disposable cardboard or plastic applicators that come with each one — but D is aiming to make the practice more sustainable. Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, this reusable applicator is made of antimicrobial material so it's effectively self-cleaning; you just need to give it a wipe with a clean paper towel before using again and again (and saving thousands of applicators from the bin in the process). Be prepared to rethink your menstruation experience.
3Washable Sanitary Pads
It sounds almost impossible, but washable sanitary pads are A Thing, and available at many different places. Lunapads are some of the most popular in the U.S., while Earthwise Girls are going strong in the UK. They're easily washable, save you money on your pad and tampon bills, and are environmentally friendly.
4Combination Tampon & Liner
Gynecologist Alex Hooi developed the Tampliner after finding through her research that many women find the combination of tampons and liners during their periods insufficient and wasteful. It's a liner with a special membrane that operates as both a way to insert tampons safely and as a replacement for pads. It's made of organic biodegradable cotton, so it won't spend much time on the landfill after you dispose of it.
5The Menstrual Disc
The Flex disc was designed to operate in much the same way that menstrual cups do — except that, unlike a larger menstrual cup, it allows for sex. It's designed to sit at the very back of the vaginal canal for up to 12 hours, where most sexual activity won't reach it. If you're tired of having to remove your tampon for the sake of getting intimate — and then getting blood everywhere during sex — this one is for you.
The growth in the period underwear industry has been pretty massive. Since THINX made a big impact a few years ago, other companies, including Dear Kate, Knixwear, and Adira, have been producing new version to help you avoid tampons and pads altogether without staining your clothes. Discerning shoppers now have a few different options to test out what suits them.
The Bellabeat pendants, which can be worn as necklaces or as bracelets, track menstrual periods as part of their general design as health trackers. It links up to an app on your phone that ties what you tell it about your period to your sleep, activity levels and other aspects of your health. If you're all about the science of menstruation, this one's for you.
8Period Subscription Boxes
This is one of my favorite ideas: all your menstrual needs arriving at your door every month without your needing to lift a finger. And ther are many different options to help you tailor them to your needs. LOLA and Cora both provide customizable monthly deliveries of organic period supplies like tampons and ads, while subscription boxes from The PMS Package and Bonjour Jolie include period necessities and treats like chocolates, teas, and heat pads.
9This Philanthropic Tampon Necklace
As well as providing subscription boxes, Cora also has some powerful period jewelry. The Fearless Necklace was designed by Katarina Hornwall to hold an emergency tampon when you're on the go, and is now offered by Cora complete with 18 tampons to go with it — and, because of a partnership with ZanaAfrica, every one purchased gets a girl in Africa a year's supply of pads, helping battle period poverty. Even if it's empty, it's still a stunning piece of period-pride you can wear out and about. Practical and philanthropic.