Plastics and harsh chemicals in personal hygiene products are things we are increasingly aware of, but when it comes to avoiding these, it can be hard to know where to start. Where can I find good, reusable substitutes to disposable products? And what’s the difference between them all, anyway? Today we’re going to discuss some Haakaa products that are sustainable, non-toxic, long-lasting alternatives to some of the everyday items that make up your personal hygiene arsenal.
One growing concern people have is with regards to disposable menstrual products and their impact on the environment. Research done by Statista and cited by Hait & Powers (2019) found that in the US alone, 174 million boxes of tampons and 396 million boxes of bags of sanitary pads were used in 20181 – this is a staggering level of disposable menstrual products, many of which contain plastics. So what are some options to help reduce the amount of menstrual products going to landfill? One option that doesn’t take too much adjustment, if you already use the disposable variety, is switching to reusable sanitary pads. Haakaa’s reusable pads have two options, each with a range of sizes. These plain white ones are bought individually and come in small, medium, and large, and are made from soft, breathable and absorbent layers of microfibre and microfleece. Alternatively, you may wish to buy a set of four. This set consists of four different sizes (small, medium, large, and extra-large), and come complete with a variety of gorgeous patterns in the waterproof external layers. The pads in this option are made with soft, absorbent layers of bamboo and microfibres, leaving them comfortable and cost effective. To use, lay the pad open in your underwear as usual, with the cotton side facing up. Fold the wings around your underwear and snap the fastenings closed! After use, simply soak in cold water, then either hand wash or throw them in the washing machine.
For those who would prefer something a little closer to tampons, good news! Haakaa have not one, but two different reusable menstrual cups. First up is the Flow Cup. This comes in two different sizes – small, which is recommended for women under 30, and large, which is recommended for those over 30 or post-childbirth. This cup comes with a short stem – ideal for those who have found they had to trim longer stems when using other menstrual cups.
How do I use a menstrual cup? is the question most often asked by those who are first making the decision to switch. The answer is surprisingly straightforward! Make sure your cup is sterilised before you use it – being made of 100% non-toxic, medical-grade silicone, you can do this easily by boiling in water for 2-3 minutes – then find a comfortable position (let the cup cool first!). This can be sitting, standing, having one foot up on the toilet – whichever works for you. Wash your hands with soap and water (just like with tampons!) then place your finger on the top rim of the Flow Cup and press down, forming a triangle shape – this will help make it easier to insert. Holding the cup firmly with one hand, gently insert the cup into your vagina on a straight angle, making sure it remains folded until the stem is even with the vaginal opening. Once inserted, release your grip to let the cup open, then check for any folds or dents around the base. If there are still folds, rotate the cup until it opens. If you can pull gently on the stem and feel resistance from the vacuum seal, the cup is inserted correctly! Once fitted, the menstrual cup can stay in place for up to 12 hours (depending on flow), which means you can even wear one while sleeping. To remove the cup simply wash your hands again, then pull gently on the stem until you reach the base of the cup. Pinch the base to break the vacuum seal and continue to pull until the cup is removed, then empty it into the toilet. Rinse with water, then reinsert! At the end of your period wash and re-sterilise the cup before returning it to the case.
Menstrual cups can last 5-10 years with proper care, making them not only environmentally friendly, but incredibly cost-effective as well.
The companion to the Flow Cup is the Flow Cup with Valve. Like the standard Flow Cup, this menstrual cup is made of 100% medical-grade silicone, and comes in two sizes – small, for those under 30, and large, for those over 30 or post-childbirth. This difference here is the valve – instead of having to remove the cup entirely to empty it, a valve at the bottom allows you to remove the cap and squeeze it empty while still inserted. Just make sure to remove and rinse within 12 hours. And as an added bonus, as part of our efforts to fight period poverty for every Flow Cup (standard or with valve) purchased, Haakaa will donate one Flow Cup to a student in need at a low decile school. By purchasing a Flow Cup, you’ll not only be helping the environment and your wallet, but you’ll be making sure a student who would otherwise be dealing with the effects of period poverty can continue to attend school without worrying about their period.
In part two we’ll discuss some of the sustainable, plastic-free alternatives to some of your other personal hygiene essentials, including razors, lotions and exfoliating products. We look forward to seeing you!
1Hait, A., & Powers, S. (2019). The value of reusable feminine hygiene products evaluated by comparative environmental life cycle assessment. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 150, 104422. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2019.104422