Period care is moving from the sidelines to the forefront of the health care industry (and beyond) thanks to a recent uprising of political reform, product innovations, and educational efforts.
Approximately half of schools in low-income areas lack basic sanitation and hygiene for period management, with 50% of girls in Kenya alone not having any access to sanitary products, demonstrating a crucial need for a period care overhaul worldwide. Scotland recently became the first country to offer free and universal access to sanitary products, while Brighton’s Premier League football club became the first organization of its kind to provide complimentary period products for female fans. Period poverty and limited access to essential products presents one side of the challenge; demystifying talks around the subject of menstruation is another. Consumer brands are playing an equal part in this revolution.
The FemTech industry, which is estimated to reach a worth of $50 billion by 2025, has birthed products such as Clue’s data-based period tracker and NextGen Jane‘s Smart Tampon platform (which will assist in early disease diagnosis). Analytical data is being employed for ease of management and mind, as well as broader female health care. “The development of FemTech is further empowering people to track their bodies and the impact of hormones on their cycles, while other products are supporting people more generally—and destigmatizing women’s overall health and life stage concerns,” comments Abi Buller, Foresight Writer at The Future Laboratory.
Cross-category products are further broadening the dialogue surrounding monthly menstruation. A range of period-proof underwear brands including Thinx, Proof, and Lunapads have entered the market over the last few years. Fashion retailer Monki collaborated with Lunette on a bright pink menstrual cup, while skincare brand faace offers a Period mask targeted towards skin affected by hormonal fluctuations. Subscription service Blume sells a period bundle gift box including an essential oil blend to help reduce cramps, a heat pack, and breakout-reducing serum.
Even traditional period care products (a global industry set to reach $51 billion by 2027) are receiving an overhaul. British gynecologist Dr. Alex Hooi and garment technologist Ewa Radziwon designed the Callaly Tampliner, a dual-function, organic cotton tampon and mini-liner in one, which was recognized by TIME as one of the 100 best inventions of the past year. “The period-care industry has been failing people for decades. Little to no R&D in the space means that many people with periods are compromising their health, comfort, and convenience,” comments Callaly founder and CEO Thang Vo-Ta.
“Traditionally, the period care market has been slow to progress—steeped in taboo and off-the-mark messaging—but new products and innovation in the sector are now gaining momentum,” Abi Buller tells BeautyMatter, pointing to trans-positive period campaigns and chronobiologically aligned products as two examples of this development. She also attributes “a greater focus on health and well-being, as well as elevated consumer consciousness,” propelled in part by a renewed conversation around gender norms, as drivers for this recent trend.
Another is personalization, as evidenced in Yoppie, a subscription service that delivers individualized period product solutions straight to the consumer’s doorstep in accordance with their own menstrual cycles. “The biggest misconception from both a consumer and corporate perspective is that period care is one-size-fits-all,” states Yoppie founder Daniella Peri. “The nuances of your menstrual cycle is 100% unique to you. This is why we created the UK’s first personalized period care service—to help battle this misconception and provide people with product packs that match their cycle and needs.”
Peri states that the consumers she has spoken to struggled to find the right absorbency level (which can upset the vaginal pH balance) or would purchase either too much or too little product. Aside from dispelling myths and misinformation, the company—which counts “Millennials and busy mums” as its two dominating customer demographics—also focuses on the health and sustainability impacts of tampons, pads, and more. All products are made from 100% organic cotton that hasn’t been treated with chlorine, dyes, or fragrances, non-applicator tampons are wrapped in paper, and the applicator variety is made with cardboard to reduce waste.
Sustainability in period care has remained largely undiscussed, despite the substantial environmental effects of disposable tampons and pads. Two billion menstrual items are flushed down Britain’s toilets every year, non-organic pads take 500-800 years to biodegrade, and with the average woman using 11,000 tampons in her lifetime, the waste adds up.
“The plastic in tampons is an urgent problem that we need to address. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade when it reaches our oceans and rivers, it disintegrates into smaller pieces. These ‘microplastics’ are having a devastating impact on marine life,” Kate Metcalf, co-director of Women’s Environmental Network, tells HuffPost UK. Applicator-free products in sustainable packaging present one option, reusable products another, with the menstrual cup market value predicted to grow from $632 million to $963 million in 6 years’ time.
While mass-market brands had been able to exist for decades with no competition or rival to their products, the recent upsurge of accessible education is creating room and demand for change. And that change incorporates “high quality, sustainable, personalized and beautiful products delivered as conveniently as possible,” Peri adds. “The industry has been stuck in the past for too long. In 2020—in real life—women deserve period care that’s just as innovative and future-thinking as they are.”
Photo: via Callay