I'm 31 years old. And for almost 20 years of my life, I have bled for a week every month. I'm talking about periods. During this time, I have wandered between various menstrual products. Some of them weren’t for me but I continued to use them since there was no alternative. And some of them felt like a gift from heaven at first but after a few months revealed their flaws.
One to two people go to a travel destination in advance to explore possible options for group tours such as school trips. This is to reduce any discomfort for other travel companions. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know the experience of someone who has already tried the same menstrual products? This is why I decided to write the 《My Exploration of Menstrual Products》 series.
This series tells a story that will help reduce the trial and error of those curious about other menstrual products.
The series first covers the five product types: disposable menstrual pads (adhesive menstrual pad), cotton menstrual pads (reusable menstrual pad), tampons (disposable, insertable menstrual product), menstrual cups, and absorbent menstrual underwear, which includes reviews based on my personal standards as well as any related issues. Next, we’ll look into the comparison of well-known products within each product type. Since it’s impossible to try every product of every brand, product comparisons are based on criteria that can be immediately examined such as materials/ingredients or size, rather than personal opinion.
People who Menstruate
I menstruate very regularly. I don’t need to take note of myas I start to bleed within two days of wondering “Isn't it about time?”. I barely experience any now.
But my menstrual flow is not that lenient. In the first two days of starting my period, I have to change menstrual pads or empty a menstrual cup unbelievably often. Therefore, volume is incredibly important when picking menstrual products. An auxiliary product is needed even if I use a menstrual cup since I can’t use a large cup as my cervix drops lower as I near my period. But after two days, the menstrual flow drastically reduces and there is no leak even when using an 8 ml cup for 12 hours.
And another thing. I am a non-binary transgender who chose not to undergo medical procedures to transition for various reasons. Dysphoria gets severe when menstruating. I don’t know whether it’s due to hormonal upheaval or due to the history of being treated as a woman when I started my period, but what’s important is that I feel out of place and uncomfortable every time I realize that I am menstruating. This is why I prefer products that allow me to forget that I'm on my period as much as possible.
Comparison by product types: 7 Criteria
There are various types of menstrual products. In the early parts of this series, I will be reviewing five products, among various menstrual products, that I can assess to some degree since I have consistently used them for over a year. These are disposable menstrual pads, cotton menstrual pads, tampons, menstrual cups, and menstrual underwear. I’ll first cover what it was like to use these products and give them a certain star rating by evaluating them based on the seven criteria that I consider when picking menstrual products.
The comfortable feel of the product is important, as we use it for between three to seven days in my case, and I considered whether there is any dampness or if it feels unpleasant because of the pooling of menstrual blood.
The capacity may not be that important if your menstrual flow is low or is spread out throughout your period, but it is a very important criterion for someone like me who has a heavy menstrual flow in the first couple of days. Reusable cotton pads do not absorb much menstrual blood compared to other products, and their capacity reduces with each wash which was uncomfortable for me.
The convenience of replacing, emptying, or washing the product is also important. Since bleeding constantly is bad enough, having to spend time cleaning as well is a major drawback.
In fact, most menstrual products out in the market are safe and should be safe. But it’s also true that there is a high chance of unsafe material getting into the product when materials or ingredients are complex. Also, there could also be a problem in using the product even if the product itself is safe. Although it’s a very low probability, tampons can lead to infections such as. Products with “a low probability of being unsafe” will be rated high for this criterion.
This criterion evaluates whether the product is easy to purchase, if instructions or reviews are easily available, and whether the psychological barrier of trying the product is high. No matter how good the menstrual product is, it’s meaningless if the product cannot be purchased or you can't use it due to fear or psychological resistance.
The cost of menstrual products can’t be ignored when you menstruate every month for decades. Disposable products are a constant drain of money and reusable products do have a high cost at first but you only need to pay for them every two to three years.
This criterion evaluates feeling out of place or discomfort about your gender as you become conscious of menstruating when using menstrual products. This is a very subjective criterion but I'm sure it will become a reference for not only transgender people, but also cisgender people who are menstruating. If a specific menstrual product causes less dysphoria for me, it would mean that product will also allow you to focus on things you need to do rather than your period.
Product comparison by brand : 5 Criteria
Even the same type of menstrual products can vary greatly depending on how the product was made, materials or ingredients, price, and size. The latter part of this series will include noteworthy information about some of the well-known products/brands in each of the five menstrual product categories introduced in this article.
Materials/ingredients of menstrual products are important information that can affect not only their texture but also their safety. Ever since the shock of carcinogens in menstrual pads in 2017, relevant systems were modified, and it became mandatory to label all components for menstrual products in Korea. While menstrual cups are usually made with one material, the components of disposable menstrual pads tend to be complex with many terms that are not easy to understand for general consumers. The things you need to check for are included in this series.
Sizes of pads are directly related to their capacity and there are a variety of sizes to choose from, depending on when you’ll be using them. As for insertable products, some people may not be able to use them depending on their size. Sizes for absorbent menstrual underwear can be similar to the size of your underwear.
Menstrual products with a large capacity can be convenient since they do not need to be frequently replaced or emptied. The capacity of the menstrual cup can be checked accurately through the manufacturer or product reviews. Most manufacturers mark the capacity of absorbent menstrual underwear in units of ml. Commonly used disposable menstrual pads, cotton menstrual pads, and tampons will be excluded from this criterion since their capacity is not usually marked.
It’s best to pick the lower priced product if they have the same conditions. The standard prices will also be covered.
5. Detection of hazardous material
Disposable menstrual pads, cotton menstrual pads, and tampons sold in Korea are marked whether hazardous volatile organic compounds were detected from a full investigation of menstrual products by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) due to the 2017 shock of carcinogens in menstrual pads found through research by the Korean Women’s Environmental Network. The full investigation by MFDS detailing what substances were detected is also included. Whether manufacturers are conducting their own test of hazardous substances in products or not is also included, since it is not guaranteed that the 2017 investigation results can be accurately applied to current products in the market.
Since Menstruation Can’t be Avoided…….
it’s best to find the menstrual products that are at least slightly more suitable for us. But you need to dig into all kinds of information to accurately pick the product that’s right for you. You also have to experience the products and learn by trial and error.
It’s unfair that you need to put in so much effort simply because you menstruate. That's why this series aims to organize all the information that’s scattered around and share the trial and error process I have experienced, in hopes that it would be helpful in reducing your time and effort spent.
The first part of the series covers, the most commonly used menstrual product.