I Tried Five Menstrual Product Alternatives and Barely Survived

I Tried Five Menstrual Product Alternatives and Barely Survived

If pad technology isn't evolving, then neither am I. I'm going to go live in a red tent.

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People with periods, say it with me: Menstrual products are kinda trash. Or at least my experience with them has been for the last 20 years. Why is the very thing that was created to have our backs at the most sensitive of times continuing to let us down?

There are few things more excruciating than ripping a maxi pad out of the crack of your ass. Can’t nobody say I’m not a gangster after slowly feeling each butt hair unstick from the pad glue. Lord only knows what type of damage I’ve been doing to my butt skin and what kinds of chemicals have gotten trapped up there.

As a reformed tampon user, I’m pretty old school when it comes to pads: I’ve tried everything from Always to U Kotex Sports to the Stayfree, and, without fail, at the end of the day, the pad is either leaking, too big, not sticking to the right place and/or stuck in my crack like an ex that wanted that old thang back. I’m not asking for much—my cycle is usually about five days and only moderately heavy, so all-day coverage and a pad that stays in place shouldn’t be such hard technology to figure out for a species that managed to put a man on the moon five decades ago.

And this week, I learned I’m one of many women with fewer butt hairs than what they started with after using mainstream pads. This week, a fellow Black woman went viral on Twitter after she shared that she was rushed to the hospital with septic shock after an Always pad got stuck in her butt while she was asleep.

Although I know this experience is rare, after seeing the horrifying responses from women around the world about their pad chemical experiences, I decided now was the perfect time to ditch the old and maybe try something new. I’ve been informed that even period pads and alternative menstrual products marketed as “natural” are not much better than the mainstream brands. So where does that leave me?

I went on a bloody quest to find the perfect period product, and now I’m bringing you all on the journey with me. It’s going to be messy, but someone’s got to do it.

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2 / 8

Honey Pot Menstrual Cups

Honey Pot Menstrual Cups

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Image: Khalisa Rae

Honestly, I’ve never been so angry after touching my vagina for hours. For starters, the instructions for Honey Pot immediately made me nervous: You’re essentially shoving a silicon plunger up your vagina and praying the little rain bucket won’t jostle or leak for the next ten hours. Besides that minor concern, inserting, cleaning, and preparing the cup is cumbersome and time-consuming.

First, you boil the cup for five to seven minutes, then grab some lube and lie or sit down. The instructions try to make that shit sound simple, but they’re basically saying you need to hold your vagina open with one hand while crafting the cup into an origami flower with the other. What?! The size one diva cup size is like a small shot glass, so just folding that small enough to fit inside my cave of wonders while maintaining that shape took an hour of sweat and cursing.

Every time I’d try to fold the cup, it would pop open before getting in. The one time I got it halfway in, my Kegels popped it out like one of Janet Jackson’s tits. I took that as a sign of rejection.

What the instructions don’t tell you is: 1) It really takes two people to insert this, 2) it takes a lot of time, 3) you have to apply force or drench the paper crane in lube, and 4) this isn’t suited for people with small vaginas or fibroids/cysts/chronic vag pain. This is gonna be a no for me, dawg. My vagina still hurts. Rating: 2 out of 10.

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3 / 8

Softdisc Menstrual Discs

Softdisc Menstrual Discs

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Image: Khalisa Rae

Fam, this disc was a backstabbing friend that wouldn’t leave my house, so I had to kick her out. And oh, the kicking out was painful. The menstrual disc gave me flashbacks to the harrowing extraction of the Nuva Ringjust spelunking in my deep ocean for hours. The Soft Disc is the size of a compact mirror, but acts as an open-faced colostomy bag of blood in your vagina. Who thought this up?

Long story short, anything that goes into the cave must easily come out—otherwise, we’re fighting. Similar to menstrual cups, you have to hold your vagina lips with one hand while inserting this large disk with the other, then keep pushing in until it’s fully inserted. Remembering my Diva Cup experience, I thought lube might make it go in easier—WRONG.

I cocked my leg up and sat on the toilet (like the instructions told me to) and it still kept slipping through my fingers. I pinched and twisted, and when I finally got it partially in, it got stuck, was tilted, and fucking hurt. Apparently, the discs can be dangerous if they don’t go in properly, and to yank it out you need to use the Valsalva maneuver where you breathe in and bear down to help with removal. Let’s just say, ya girl wants a refund. Zero out of 10 do NOT recommend.

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4 / 8


Joya Menstrual Undies + General Period Panties


Joya Menstrual Undies + General Period Panties

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Image: Khalisa Rae

I am here to report that menstrual underwear should be worn as back up singers, not the soloist, if you have a heavier period. When I read the box it says it’s leak-proof, but the absorbency pad areas are small and the material is thin. Also free-flowing, just dripping straight into underwear without additional support was anxiety inducing after running around all day. There’s always the question—will I have a stain on the center of my ass and none of the homegirls in Target tell me?

I bought two types: Joya daily and generic overnight. The cool thing is, period underwear are comfortable, you can wear them like normal for hours, and there are hundreds of options to try, like Thinx, Proof, etc. Also, I find out after the fact, that Joya let’s you pick the absorbency level so if you’re a faucet, a flood gate, or a drip drip, you might find what you need.

But here’s how sis tricks you: 1) Most all period panties say: the fabric is “special” and contains a moisture-wicking fabric and can hold two tampons worth of moisture. But when the thin one is put to the absorbency test, it barely passes without back up tissue and extra liners. Why am I paying for special panties when I could put panty liners in my own underwear? 2) The thin, barely-there panties are cute, but may leave you with a red booty during downward dog, so changing frequency is a must. To change them, you have to take off your pants, swap out, and bag them up—it was just too much. 3) When the Red Sea waves start roaring, the best defense seems to be the thicker style of panties—but after trying on the thick Target brand, they feel like you’re wearing a girdle or control top underwear. The ridges on the sides start to dig into your skin and are not comfortable for all day. 4) Overnights feel like a big stretchy diaper, and I wasn’t a fan. Big-thighed people be warned: The sizes are not kind to wider hips or curvy folks. 3 out of 10.

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5 / 8

Chemical-Free “L.” Pads

Chemical-Free “L.” Pads

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Image: Khalisa Rae

All pads give me PTSD and remind me my butt is basically bare from past pad glue trauma. But my major apprehension with cotton pads was that they wouldn’t pass the “can you hang with me all day” test—absorbency, adhesive strength, comfort, and endurance. Ironically, cotton pads turned out to be my favorite alternative menstrual product in terms of comfort, except for the fact that their absorbency level basically equaled a wad of tissue. L. pads are soft to the touch, and they stay glued and in place for a few hours. After a while, I basically forgot they were there, but then the flood gates opened and these little fairies weren’t the Dwayne Johnsons I needed them to be in the moment. I need the bouncer outside this womb club to bench 350. Rating: 7 out of 10.

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6 / 8

Etsy Bamboo Reusable Pads

Etsy Bamboo Reusable Pads

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Image: Khalisa Rae

Okay, I cheated a little and watched the tutorial on reusable pads before trying them. I even tried making my own. I’ll admit that these are soft and comfortable to wear, the material is thick and absorbent, and they make you feel secure that you wont leak because of extra padding.

On the downside, reusable pads are like carrying around an actual baby—lots of maintenance. When you go out with a reusable pad, you have to bring enough wet bags to drop them into. Also, the washing process is time-consuming: Like period panties, reusable pads require you to immediately rinse them with cold water to get all the blood out, then wash by hand with pure soap and air dry, or throw in the wash machine.

I moved around in these, did jumping jacks, and the girls stayed in place. No sticking to my butt, didn’t get twisted. Pro tip: Get a range of sizes for different type of underwear. These clasp in the back of your panties and can slide if too big. Would I wear these to feel sexy? No! They are fairly thick and definitely don’t give you the “barely there” effect. But I could at least rest assured that I was saving a bunch of water and baby dolphins by using them. 6 out of 10.

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7 / 8


Cora Natural Cotton Tampons


Cora Natural Cotton Tampons

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Image: Khalisa Rae

Due to this vagina being tighter than a New York apartment, this product was not allowed to occupy my Wall Streets. Nope nope, I don’t need a whole dildo tampon. Currently researching huts in the woods where I can just bleed out naturally before returning to modern life.

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8 / 8