In celebration of Menstrual Hygiene Day, a leader in environmentally-friendly period products explains why reducing menstrual stigma is an important first step
Did you know 28 May is Menstrual Hygiene Day? Olivia Cotes-James, founder and CEO of Asian social impact period care company LUÜNA naturals, explains the steps mamas (AND dads) can take to reduce menstrual stigma and ensure periods are natural, healthy and shame-free for our daughters.
Take a moment to think about your own relationship with menstruation by answering the questions below:
- Do you know that the ingredients in your period care products are healthy & safe?
- Can you name the four stages of the menstrual cycle?
- Do you hide your period products when going to the bathroom?
- How would you describe your period in 3 words?
By asking these same questions over the past few years, my team and I have found that:
- Over 90% didn’t know what their period care products were made of. This is concerning when you consider our vaginas are the most absorbent part of our bodies; therefore whatever we expose them to affects our overall health.
- Not a single person (that wasn’t a medical professional) has been able to name the four stages of the menstrual cycle, proving the dangerous lack of education we are given about our fundamental female health.
- Women frequently describe symptoms like ‘irritation,’ ‘smelly,’ and ‘uncomfortable’ to describe menstruation but periods are naturally none of these things. These are mostly caused by the plastic products we use.
- Over 85% admit to actively hiding their period care from others, highlighting the effects of deep-rooted menstrual shame on our confidence & wellbeing.
Creating More Open Dialogue: Moms & Daughters Period Workshops
In 2018, I hosted the first of our Moms and Daughter Period Health Workshops. It was held in Shanghai with young girls between the ages of nine and ten, all of whom had yet to start their periods.
Its aim was to create a more open dialogue between mothers and their daughters about menstruation, explore healthier more sustainable product options, and empower the girls to feel excited about this upcoming change to their bodies.
My team and I have held over 500 of these workshops for students, communities and corporates to-date, but I vividly remember this event. There were so many profound interactions between the mothers and their daughters which exposed the urgency with which we, as adults, must overcome the menstrual stigmas we carry with us.
Failing to do so subjects future generations of girls and boys to lifetimes of shame and discomfort around their bodies. As such, parents play a vital role re-shaping the conversation around periods.
The Need for a New Kind of Period Care Company
Watching the girls at the workshop react with horror as we tore apart best selling pads, revealing layers of plastics masquerading as cotton, reminded me of the moment I made this same discovery.
It was 2016 when I realized that my own period care, which I had assumed to be safe, was in fact made of synthetics like viscose and contained conventional cotton grown with toxic chemicals. These take over 500 years to degrade and are increasingly linked to health issues like endocrine hormone disruption which can lead to consequences like infertility. They are used in most big brand period care products, including those I had used over over a decade.
I immediately stopped using these products and right away, the negative period symptoms I had suffered for years stopped. I had blamed the yeast infections, funky odors and discomfort on my own body, when they were in fact the result of the poor quality plastic products I had been unwittingly using.
I was initially furious, feeling deeply betrayed by the brands I had used and trusted for years. However, once the initial fury subsided I became clear about my mission; to provide access to safe, healthy and planet-friendly period products for all women and girls.
This led me to launch LUÜNA and our line of organic cotton tampons, pads and liners, as well as our 100% medical-grade silicone period cup. As myself and my team use these products every month, too, we can provide the highest safety assurance that they are healthy and safe.
The Vital Role of Parents in Reducing Menstrual Stigma
To these young girls at the workshop, the notion of a menstrual cup, which many of their mothers looked at with every emotion from hesitation to horror, wasn’t daunting. In fact, the LUÜNA Cups, which are bright pink and super soft, looked far more compelling than the other products.
Unlike their mothers, who by their own admission were uncomfortable at the idea of a cup containing their own blood, the girls were excited by the idea of using a product that would help reduce plastic waste and relieved there were alternatives to the thick plastic traditional pads we had dissected.
A Call to Action for Parents of Daughters and Sons
LUÜNA’s work to tackle menstrual stigma can only progress with the support of our allies, and nowhere is this more necessary than within schools and homes catering to the minds of the future.
Through our work, we’re creating a world in which future generations of girls are free from menstrual stigma. Where they have access to toxin-free period products, taboo-free menstrual health education and are surrounded by shame-free attitudes towards their bodies.
We must ensure that our sons are educated to respect menstruation and that our daughters are empowered to demand the menstrual care they deserve; knowing what their products are made of, understanding their cycles and being proud of their body’s natural process.
Take 50% off your first LUÜNA naturals purchase with promo code SassyLuuna. Spend $46 or more and LUÜNA will donate 100 pads on your behalf to vulnerable communities across Asia.