How the industry is changing for people with periods
It’s about time for some change. Period.
We’ve already seen some innovation take place in the past three years in the period space, with all-cotton products and subscriptions services making their way into the industry. Services like Lola even offer both together. And while they certainly disrupted the period giants like Playtex, Kotex, Tampex, and Always, they were only improving products (which, boy, did they need improving) and service.
But lately, chatter about alternative products has grown significantly. These options boast safer (containing none of the dangerous chemicals found in current Tampon materials), and more eco-friendly materials and benefits like prolonged, comfortable wear and decreased cramping.
There are two big players in this space.
The global revenue average growth rate for the menstrual cup has been around 3.2%, well in the range of good. I wouldn’t be surprised if the past year saw much greater growth than that, as well.
Normally, a menstrual cup is made from medical-grade silicone. It is inserted completely (there is a small learning curve) and collects the blood. It can be worn up to 12 hours straight with little worry for the majority of women. It is empties, clean, and reinserted.
For context, traditional period products need to be changed every 2–8 hours depending on flow.
There are a number of reasons we are seeing its success now outside of the functional benefits. There have been many players entering the industry in the last few years. One of the biggest draws of the cup is that it produces virtually no waste (outside of packaging). One cup can have a life of up to ten years — also leading to savings. Because of this, it is the choice of many conscious users and has easily grown do to the social context of environmental concerns today. Additionally, there is little worry of Toxic Shock Syndrome that comes alongside tampon use and a cleaner feel to it than other products.
Full disclaimer: As a person with a period, this is my product of choice.
A little bit newer to the game, the menstrual disc has a similar approach to periods that the cup does. In the past 3 years, one brand has grown 4 times in sales.
The disc will fit more people comfortably than a cup will. It’s a flat fit disc that sits all the past the vaginal canal, behind the pubic bone. Another bonus for some people who experience periods? Because of how it sits, it’s is the only period product you can wear while having penetrative vaginal sex.
This product solves a conundrum that was exhibited on an episode of The Bold Type: cleaning and accessibility. The cup has to be boiled in between periods and sterilized with cleaner between most wears. This is to ensure that yeast infections and other bacterial concerns are avoided. There are many people who get periods that might not have access to boiling water or be able to afford cleaners. While the disk does produce waste to solve this, being disposable, it is still far less waste than you would get with pads and tampons. It also is a much safer for the body, This is a great middle ground for those experiencing periods that interrupt life too often, but do not have access to sterilization options.
Currently the market is shared between two main players: Softdisc and Flex.
Through my research for this article, I found a newer hybrid of the cup and the disc — a reusable, flat fit product. It looks like a higher quality disc, fits like a disc, can be worn during penetrative vaginal sex like one, but is reusable. Its life (two years) is less than that of a cup, likely due to the thinner silicone.
This is a great option for users who want the fit of a disc, but still want to eliminate the waste of period products.