Let’s talk about what we put in our vaginas.
Have you ever been so desperate for a tampon that you took the risk of using a slightly opened, definitely unsanitary Tampax that's spent the last nine months hanging out in the bottom of your purse with some Nature Valley granola bar crumbs and an open container of lip balm?
Of course you have.
We’re downright gross when we’re desperate, but let’s be honest with ourselves: Tampons are just kind of gross to begin with. Personally, I’ve never loved using them—they’ve always felt stiff and either pinchy or itchy, depending on the brand and how tired I am while inserting it. Not only that, they just seem wasteful. You’re not really supposed to flush them, and depending on how heavy your flow is, you have to use so much toilet paper to wrap them up before putting them in the trash that you might as well be packing a box of fine china. Also, one time my dog ate a whole used tampon from the trash and we had to take her to the emergency room to have her stomach pumped. Ridiculous!
That’s why I’ve always been into alternative period products. All my cool feminist friends were anti-tampon long before it was in vogue, and they taught me the beauty of menstrual cups—and helped me figure out how to insert the damn things. While it was inconvenient to use in public restrooms, it’s also kind of cool to get a bit more personal with your period and really see what that business is all about. Having to get all up in there on the reg gives you a better sense of your own health and anatomy, which is educational and just really important. It’s your body after all, so you should probably know how it works.
"One time my dog ate a whole used tampon from the trash and we had to take her to the emergency room to have her stomach pumped."
I stopped using tampons and menstrual cups all together when—after almost 10 years on the Pill—my period became about as heavy as a tiny dog’s sneeze. These days, a light panty liner gets the job done just fine. But as I mentioned earlier, I'm not about unnecessary paper products, which is why I was super-psyched when I heard about Thinx.
If you’re not familiar with the brand, Thinx are underwear specifically designed to be worn during your period. They have a special lining in the crotch that is extremely absorbent (but not padded or diaper-like in any way). They're also moisture-wicking, anti-microbial, and leak-resistant, so there’s no need to use any additional tampon, pad, or panty liner. They come in a variety of styles: thong, hiphugger, sport, boyshort, and "cheeky." And in terms of price? Well, if you take into account that the average woman spends thousands on tampons in her lifetime, the $24-$32 per pair price of Thinx (which you wash and reuse) makes them a cost-efficient no-brainer in my book. Also, you can just buy these bad girls online at shethinx.com, so there's no need to hoof it to the drug store in the middle of winter to replenish your tampon supply.
The women behind Thinx—Miki Agrawal, her twin sister Radha, and their friend Antonia Saint Dunbar—aren’t just invested in making period technology that benefits their buyers. They also want to help women for whom periods are a disrupter of everyday life. For every pair of Thinx purchased, seven washable and reusable pads are sent to a woman in Africa so she can be better-equipped to manage her period and pursue her life goals. Not only that, but Thinx are made by women in a family-run factory in Sri Lanka that prides itself on helping its employees achieve educational and economic success. So you know, this is a pretty rad company doing some awesome things for women—major bonus points for that.
But back to my business...
The first day of my period, I grabbed a pair of Thinx in the hiphugger style. Hiphugger is a pretty popular cut for me, and while I was interested in the way the thicker fabric would feel (maybe like a light pair of Spanx—which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing), I was turned off by the weight of the seams. There was definitely going to be some visible panty lines no matter what I wore, and believe it or not, I’ll take staining a pair of undies over VPL any day. So the hiphuggers went back in the drawer, and I pulled out the thong.
If I was a person with a heavier flow, I might be a bit nervous to have nothing standing between my bleeding uterus and my skinny jeans except for a thin strip of fabric. But with my weak leak, I was willing to give it a shot. Besides, how often can you get away with wearing a thong during your period?
Quick question for all the menstruators out there: What color are your favorite period panties? I mean, presumably different menstruators would have different answers, but chances are, they were once a pretty color that now, thanks to biology, has become an assortment of earthy hues that make them look like a prop from a horror movie. That’s what makes period panties period panties after all—they are an utterly essential garment all women own, and yet no one but the owner ever sees them.
What I learned from my black Thinx thong was that I missed knowing what was going on down there. A post-pee swipe of the vagina can only be so informative. Not having a tampon or pad to help tell the story of my cycle created more questions than answers, such as: Was this period different than last month's? How heavy is it today? And most importantly, is it over yet?
The Thinx were great. They were doing their job, but they had taken something away from me. Imagine if the toilet always flushed before you got to look at your poop. That’s sort of what this mystery felt like.
That said, it was super-nice not having to deal with pads or tampons all day. I put my Thinx on around 7 a.m., and I actually didn’t take them off until the following morning. I commuted on a crowded subway. I walked my tampon-munching dog. I sat on a white couch in someone else's office. I did some amazing things! And guess what? There were no leaks. Nothing got stained (including my favorite white pajama pants with the tiny zebras on them). The Thinx thong did exactly what it was supposed to do and have thus become my new favorite pair of period panties. (A period panty thong! Who woulda thought?)
So yeah, I highly recommend them, especially if you're tired of the ins and outs of living that pinchy/itchy bottom-of-the-purse tampon life...unless, of course, that's what you're into. And in that case, I have some tampons I'm never going to use if you want me to send them to you.
Caitlin Abber is the senior editor at WomensHealthMag.com. Follow her on Twitter.