Could these trends in period products mark the demise of tampons and pads?
This Canadian company wants to make period woes a non-issue
You know the scene: You're going about your day, oblivious to what's going on inside your uterus, and – bam. You got your period.
Easing the woes of women on their periods – woes including stained underwear, stress over leaks and general discomfort – has long been the goal of the period product producers. But even in recent decades, women were limited to choices of bulky pads or disposable tampons. The need for change was long coming and, in recent years, new products have revolutionized the menstruation industry from both environmental and consumer choice perspectives.
"Part of being a woman is menstruating," said Joanna Griffiths, CEO of Knixwear, the Toronto-based company that makes leak-proof underwear for adults and teens. "(Periods are) not going anywhere. The more you can turn it into a non-issue the better."
Today, women have access to reusable menstrual cups, leak-proof underwear, Bluetooth-monitored tampons and, recently, Canadian-designed period underwear for teen girls specifically.
Griffiths launched Knixwear back 2013 with the goal of encouraging women to feel comfortable in their own skin – periods and all. The brand started off with a line of leak-proof performance underwear for adults, made from fast-drying carbon cotton fabric which has a built-in leak-resistant panty liner. The underwear absorbs up to 15 mL of liquid, the equivalent to two regular tampons' worth of blood, and can be worn alone or with tampons or menstrual cups.
In May, the brand launched a line of "oh-no-proof" underwear for teens. Griffiths created the teen line, which are smaller versions of the adult underwear, after hearing from women who used the adult products and wanted sizes for their daughters. She hopes the line helps eradicate the stress of having a period for teenage girls.
"Even before you start menstruating it's like, 'When am I going to get my period?'" Griffiths said. "We're there to give them peace of mind from day one."
There is clear demand for innovative menstruation management solutions, with other period underwear brands such as Thinx and PantyProp also finding success in the USD $19 billion global market for period products.
But the products still haven't hit the mainstream, said Crystal Etienne, CEO and founder of PantyProp, a company that makes underwear and swimwear with a gusset to keep pads in place.
"People are still exploring…all the options that are out there," said Etienne. "But (period underwear) has given everyone options."
One challenge in attracting more menstruating consumers: a certain "ick" factor.
"There can be the apprehension of, 'Is this gross?'" said Griffiths.
She admits it's difficult to change people's preconceived notions about period underwear – some worry the product may be smelly or unhygienic – but she believes the unbiased reviews of the products online help encourage hesitant customers to give them a try. And as for concerns about cleanliness or odour, Knixwear underwear is made with anti-odour and bacteriostatic fabric, which prevents bacteria from reproducing, and can be washed in a washing machine just like regular underwear.
They're pricey (upwards of $20), but factoring in the reusable nature of the product and the bonus of it being leak-resistant and considering the cost of a year's supply of tampons and pads is pegged around $65, there's a decent case for investing in a pair or two.
Imagine: a future where no teen feels she has to sneak a pad out of class or worry about dropping a tampon in the hallway.
"I'm sure that we'll get there," said Griffiths.
Katrina Clarke is a Vancouver-and-Toronto-based journalist who writes about relationships, health, technology and social trends. Find her on Twitter at @KatrinaAClarke.