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Period products: where we began and what the future holds!

Guest blog written by Ira Guha, the founder of Asan

Gone are the days where we only have two period options: pads and tampons! Here's all you need to know about the huge variety of period products on offer to suit every body shape and need, and what the future holds for us all.

Recently, there has been a massive rise in innovative period solutions, including cups, discs, period underwear and others. This innovation in period care is happening against the backdrop of period-positive activism, campaigns to address period poverty and global movements against period stigma.

With increasing awareness about our environmental impact, modern innovation in period care has been centred around sustainable period solutions.

It’s a very exciting time in the period care space – but before we get to new innovations, let’s talk a bit about the evolution of period products over time!

A brief history of period products

For thousands of years, we have used fabrics and plants to manage our periods. People would craft pads through cloth, papyrus and absorbent materials and tie them to their waist or an underwear cloth to soak their period flow.

Here’s a diagram of what very common period products used to look like not that long ago:

It was only in around 1880 that disposable menstrual pads were invented and became commercially available. These took off when large companies such as Kotex and Johnson and Johnson started manufacturing plastic period pads at a large scale.

Through various iterations in design, sanitary pads were later developed with adhesive and wings to make them efficient and easy to use.

It was in 1933 that the first tampon as we know it was patented by Tampax, and took off as an alternative option to pads in the second half of the 20th century.

Tampons became a popular choice for many people as they are insertable and don’t cause discomfort, rashes and leaks in the way that period pads can do.

What’s changed in the last decade?

While disposable pads and tampons have been game-changing innovations in the period care space, recently menstruators are speaking up and demanding more choice so they can find the perfect product for their body and wider values including sustainability.

Simultaneously there has been an increasing shift towards sustainable innovation in period products, much like in everything else.

What is sustainable innovation?

Sustainable innovation can be understood through three key factors:

  1. Environmentally conscious menstrual care

With the rising plastic crisis, users are becoming more aware of the millions of plastic sanitary pads or tampons that end up in our landfills and oceans every year - releasing toxins into soil and becoming a huge hazard for marine life.

As environmental awareness is growing and more people are shifting towards a sustainable lifestyle overall, innovation in period care has been centred around creating eco-friendly menstrual products to ensure menstrual product waste reduction.

  1. Affordable products

For decades people have spent money on a monthly basis on sanitary pads or tampons, which can be highly unaffordable, especially in the cost of living crisis we are facing today.

To address this, sustainable innovation in period products has prioritised creating reusable products - which can be used for years on end so you can save money while managing your period efficiently.

  1. Comfort and convenience

Everyone’s body is different and the variety of choices we have in terms of period products should mirror these differences.

With more female founders in the period care space now than ever, there has been a creative shift in period care solutions through understanding first-hand experiences with existing products.

What are some sustainable menstruation options?

There are a number of green period products available today, such as:

1. Cloth pads

Cloth pads are similar to single-use sanitary pads in design, but are made with sustainable materials such as organic cotton.

You can wear a cloth pad for the same amount of time you would keep a period pad on for.

A good quality cloth pad should last you for 2-4 years, helping you avert up to 1000 period pads or tampons from going to landfill.

If you are someone who is comfortable with single-use pads but would like to consider a more sustainable option, cloth pads are a great fit for you.

2. Period underwear

Period underwear is similar to a normal underwear, except with a leak-proof padding and layered absorbent to collect your period flow.

This means that you don’t need to use an external period product along with your underwear - as you can simply pop on your period underwear and go on about your day.

Period underwears come in different sizes and options of absorbency, so you can pick what works best for you based on your period flow.

Period pants have a varying lifespan. Some brands will last six months to two years, while other last as long as 8 years!, The average pant lasting two years helps you aver more than 400 pads or tampons from going to landfill and helping you save money.

3. Reusable tampon applicators

There are far more brands than ever before bringing out reusable tampon applicators to help reduce waste.

Tampon applicators are usually made with plastic and can be sterilised in warm water and reused during your periods.

They offer a safe and comfortable way to help you insert your tampon, and will stop you sending thousands of applicators to landfill!

4. Menstrual cups

Another big innovation in eco-conscious sanitary products has been reusable menstrual cups.

A menstrual cup is a bell-shaped device that can be inserted into your vagina to collect your period flow.

While the first menstrual cup was invented in 1937, they’ve only started gaining popularity over the last decade as sustainability, affordability and comfort are at the forefront of considerations towards period products. .

There are now menstrual cups available in a whole range of shapes – for example, the Asan cup has a removal ring that makes it very easy to take out. A high quality cup will last you for 10 years, making it a very affordable option.

A menstrual cup is a zero-plastic period care alternative – by making the switch to a cup you will be preventing up to 2500 pads or tampons from going into our landfills and oceans.

What other innovations are happening in the menstrual health space?

Innovation is happening not just for the products we use to manage our periods, but also for better and healthier period care.

For example, the rise of menstrual cycle tracking applications now enables menstruators to better understand their bodies.

There is also an increase in period products addressing period cramps - such as pain-relief patches, medication specific to cramps, and natural period products such as soothing oils, to name a few.

It’s fantastic to see innovative menstrual care focusing on sustainable menstruation products - which are better for the environment and our bodies.

This guest blog was written by the Asan team. Ira Guha, the founder of Asan, is a graduate of Cambridge University and Harvard and is changing gender norms in the world of entrepreneurship with her period innovations. To try her invention, you can use the coupon code SEXEDMATTERS for 25% off on In this blog, Asan explores the history of period products and what the future holds for us all!

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