Before we dive into the fascinating world of my menstrual cycle and how it has changed over the past 15 months, I feel like I should introduce myself. So, hi! My name is Tomi. I’m 24 years old, and I am on a gradual journey of increased consciousness about what goes in and on my body. Over the last 7 years, I have slowly transitioned into a more organic and natural lifestyle when it comes to products. My most notable changes so far are:
Transitioning from relaxed hair to natural hair
Making my own organic, all-natural body butters which transformed my skin (s/o Simisola Naturals)
Switching to organic pads, that are chlorine, pesticide, dye and fragrance free. (sidenote: completely scary that these ingredients are in regular pads in the first place, but we’ll get to that later).
That being said, it’s a little unsurprising that I ended up stumbling down a rabbit hole of articles discussing the dangers of mainstream pads and tampons and their ingredients which typically include plastic, chlorine, synthetic pesticides, dyes, and irritating fragrances. The ingredients are not only toxic to the body, but can also worsen period symptoms. It’s extremely concerning thinking about the consistent exposure to these ingredients, especially when you consider how sensitive and permeable the vaginal area is, and the number of years women spend in their lifetime having periods.
To be fair, I wasn’t completely oblivious to this. In university, I had one or two friends who switched to menstrual cups like the Diva Cup and swore by them, but those were not (and still are not) for me, so I ignored the reviews and stuck to what I knew. I have been lucky to never have insanely terrible periods. My periods typically consisted of bloating, cramps, and mostly manageable pain, which made it difficult to complain when compared to the experiences of others, but unfortunately, my symptoms only got worse over the years.
After being traumatized by what I found on the internet, I began thinking about how women - particularly black women - tend to find a product that works for them and stick to it religiously over long periods of time. For example, Pink Oil, Johnson’s Baby Powder, ORS Hair Mayonnaise, and many others have been used by black women over generations. There is also limited research about the long term effects of the gradual exposure to the same product over a period of years. This is why being aware of what’s in the products you’re using is crucial.
Prior to switching, I was using Always Pads religiously. Why? Because that’s what my mom used, and it’s what she had always used. I decided to try L. and Honey Pot Co. Pads, after doing some research, and getting some recommendations from a few friends, and an Instagram Poll I did. I have a heavy flow, especially during the first 3 days of my 5 day period, so I opted to get the ultra thin extra long overnight pads from L., but I found the MAXI extra long overnight pads to be the most effective for me for the first 2-3 days. I also tried Honey Pot Co. Pads in Overnight and Super Absorbency.
feminine hygiene products bought in Target
The results were astounding in the first month alone. But, I am a firm believer in giving things time before giving an opinion, so I wanted to try them for a minimum of 3 months. Now, 15 months later, I am finally breaking down my results and discussing the following incredible changes I've experienced:
Organic pads are more comfortable
Point blank, period. A big issue with periods for me was that I always felt so uncomfortable, which usually resulted in me just wanting to stay home until I felt like my best self again. Once I swapped to organic cotton pads (which are also hypoallergenic), I instantly felt more comfortable. I don't know how else to say it- but picture sitting on a soft cloud during your period, where the only pain - if any - is from your actual cramps, not because your pad is awkward fitting or uncomfortable. Long drives, sitting through classes, etc., are 100% better for me in every way, and to be honest, this is one of the greatest gifts.
I have less cramps
Truthfully, my cramps were not always unbearable, especially in comparison to some of my friends with debilitating periods, however, they could be excruciating some days. Since my switch, my cramps have drastically reduced. I’m able to do more for longer, and go out more without feeling completely dreadful. The Honey Pot Co. pads in particular help with this too. On days where my cramping is worse than others, using their mint and lavender essential oil infused pads really help. The cooling/tingly feeling, in addition to the soft and comfortable cotton, really helps to soothe and settle my cramps.
I have LESS CLOTS
This one is in caps because it’s my most significant development, along with the first point I made about being so much more comfortable (it’s important, and you can never understand how important until you try it). For the past few years, every fourth day of my period, like clockwork, I would pass a really painful and large blood clot. The pain associated with it is excruciating, and because of that I would stay home every fourth day to ensure I could be in bed, in the fetal position, and close to a comfortable toilet when it passed. I talked to my primary care physician and OB GYN about it and I was met with the usual “it happens”, “it’s normal”, “this happens to quite a few people, so you’re not the only one” and of course, the ever popular “I think you should try birth control, it will really ease your symptoms and help you maintain clear skin”. Since my switch over 15 months ago, I’ve only noticed the blood clot about 7 times. Yes. SEVEN TIMES… OUT OF FIFTEEN. And even then, the pain was drastically less than what I was used to. Sometimes now, I even forget that it’s day four, and I can go out and live normally that day. This is by far the BEST gift this switch has given me. I noticed during month 1 that I felt very little pain when the clot passed, but by month 6, I actually forgot that I used to have them, which is insane. Thinking back to those appointments with my doctors, and hearing them tell me other people experience these clots, cramps, and other terrible period symptoms, makes me very concerned. It’s possible that these symptoms are seriously aggravated by the things being put in our pads and tampons. I’m sure thousands of women are living in pain and dealing with things that are evidently easily avoidable when you’re not poisoning yourself vaginally for 5 days every month, 12 times a year.
No more rashes and skin irritations
I have very sensitive skin, which is partly why I got into making my own skincare products over six years ago. And while this didn’t happen very often, I would sometimes get a skin irritation from my pads during my period - super awkward and super uncomfortable. I’ve spoken to a lot of women who have expressed similar sentiments, and I’m happy to say, I 100% have not had this problem since switching to organic cotton pads. It seems my skin got super irritated when it came in contact with some of the fibers and chemicals in the Always pads. My best guess is the plastic coating on the top of the pads, but it could be something else, or even a combination of different things.
My flow seems… lighter? If that’s even possible?
Interestingly, I now use fewer pads each period than I used to. Plus, my flow in general seems lighter, which is a blessing, but again, scary because… why was I unnecessarily bleeding more than I should have been prior to this? And is this contributing to my anemia? At a point, I was taking iron pills daily, especially during my period because of the excess blood I was losing. In November of last year, I did my bi-annual blood work, and guess who’s no longer anaemic? Me! Now, this isn’t to say there’s causation or anything, I just think it’s interesting to think about, and I didn’t want to read too much into it until enough time had passed, but 15 months is a long time, and my results have been consistent and/or improving each month.
Since my switch, I find myself browsing the feminine care aisle in every store in every place that I visit, just to see what options are available to everyone, and how accessible these products are. I personally have used and loved L. Pads and Honey Pot Co. pads and I’ll eventually do another post breaking down and comparing each product offering to mainstream products to help you find your perfect product dupes.
For now however, I would 100% recommend everyone tries switching for 2-3 months, just to see if it makes a difference at all. It really couldn’t hurt, and the potential benefits for you are astounding. Below, I’ve compiled a helpful list of companies and stores who make and carry organic feminine hygiene products, based on my visits and polls on Instagram:
Where to Buy
- Ultra Thin Pads Extra Long Overnight [$6.99 36ct Target] vs [$7.29 24ct
- MAXI Extra Long Overnight [$5.99 20ct Target]
- Super Ultra Thin Pads [$6.99 42 ct Target] vs [$7.29 28ct CVS]
- Overnight (12 ct), Regular (20ct), and Super (16ct) all $7.99 at Target and
on their website
- Most products are $6.29 on Amazon & at Wholefoods
- Most products are $5.99 at Target
- Most products are $7.99 at Target and Harris Teeter, and $8.99 at CVS
- Most products are $9.99 at Target
- Products between $3.99 - $5.99 on Amazon, and at Walmart & Harris
Hands down the best place to go for the largest range, best pricing and
largest quantities of organic feminine care products (also for ethnic hair
products too, but that’s a discussion for another day). They carry the largest
sizes of L. Pads I’ve seen, and for a cheaper price than your local CVS for
example, sells the smaller sizes. Honey Pot Co. pads are consistent in size
and price, and are predominantly sold online or in Target (but I’ve found that they often sell out in Target, so when you find them stock up).
They have a decent range for sure, but CVS is generally more expensive
- Brands' Own Websites
4. Whole Foods
1. Kind Organic
- Organic Tampons £3.29 (14 ct) - £3.49 (18 ct)
- Organic Pads £3.79 (10ct)
- Pads £1.99 - £3.00
- Tampons £2.69
- Most products between £2.99 - £3.99
- Products Between £2.99 - £2.79
- Products between £3.59 - £4.29
2. Holland & Barrett
3. Online (Amazon)
4. Whole Foods
For Nigeria… I’m still searching. There are one or two Nigerian brands I’ve been researching the ingredients for, and unfortunately they have included 2 or more of the ingredients that you might want to avoid. So, I will have to get back to you all on how to access alternatives in Nigeria.
I hope you found this helpful! There’s honestly so much I could discuss on this topic, and I plan to write a lot more about it on the Simisola Naturals Blog. Feel free to reach out via Instagram to ask questions, send me topic suggestions, and to see more occasional updates on my Instagram Stories. If you’ve made the switch, or tried any organic feminine hygiene products, tell me about your experience! Please share your stories, and share any product suggestions and where you buy them. Stay safe and healthy!
NOTE: I originally wrote this article in November 2019, and it was posted as my feature piece on the Sanitary Aid NG blog in May 2020. The dates and timelines mentioned in this article reflect the time of its posting (i.e. May was the 15th month since my switch). Additionally, I realize and am sensitive to the fact that with everything going on in the world right now, it may not be easy or convenient to actually go out and buy organic feminine hygiene products if you want to try them. If this is the case for you, don’t panic. This is a great opportunity to take notes of what you want to try once the shops, and life, go back to normal.
DISCLAIMER: The author of this article is not a medical doctor. This article is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified health professional with any questions you may have with regards to your menstruation, anemia, birth control, and related conditions. Do not disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read in this article.