Maxi Pads That Don’t Feel Like Diapers A Review

Hey reader: This is part two of a review on period products. To read part one about tampons, click here. Part three about menstrual cups is here.

Have you ever been at work typing away and you reach for the post-its or to check your phone, only to hear a muffled rustling noise from your nether regions? It takes a moment, but you realize with dread that it’s your “sanitary” pad crinkling like a toddler at day care. You stare straight ahead, careful not to move your body, while slowly swiveling your entire chair around to see if anyone else might have heard. And then there is the delicate maneuvering to get up from the chair and make it to the bathroom as quietly as possible and without a pronounced waddle. I don’t get grossed out by too many things, but this feeling of humid-diaper-ass makes me understand perfectly why babies wail uncontrollably when they need to be changed.

And this is exactly why pads have such a bad reputation. Unfortunately, a lot of the grossest stuff is actually due to the anti-vagina materials in conventional pads (namely fragrances, plastics and weird absorbent chemicals). If you strap a plastic bag to your cooch and spray it with perfume, it shouldn’t really be a surprise when it starts sweating and smelling and feeling gross down there.

But there are more eco and vagina-friendly options out there —both disposable and reusable— that are worth trying. And lucky for you, I spent a bunch of my hard-earned money trying them out so you don’t have to! I know, I really need another hobby.

Pads 2.0

I’ve heard some women argue that pads — even the organic kind — are just flat out gross because you’re sitting in period blood all day. I would like to point out that we’re always sitting on our vaginas all day and it’s almostalways producing some kind of moisture. If you use a pad made of breathable material and change it regularly, it’s not any more disgusting than having a vagina (which is zero percent disgusting). So if you don’t like pads, that’s totally cool. But don’t shame other women for preferring them — there are lots of reasons why someone might not feel comfortable with foreign objects just chilling up inside them all day. So cool it on the judgeyness, k?

The good

  • No rayon, fragrances, chlorine, or other toxic sludge. Just like organic tampons, organic pads are free of the nasty chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive problems, which can also cause irritation and allergic reactions.
  • No diaper effect. Organic pads don’t have plastic in them, so they don’t feel plasticky (I hope my high school English teacher is proud of me for that winning sentence). It’s more like wearing an extra layer of underwear than a diaper.

The bad

  • Bunch in your trunk. Because they don’t have any plastic in them, these pads can get bunchy as hell. This is mildly annoying during the daytime, but can be a real problem if I’m wearing them overnight. It was more than a couple times that I woke up with all of the pad stuffed into my ass crack and my underwear all stained up. I curse that body-less hand pouring blue liquid delicately into the folds of a pad on TV; where is she to clean up this mess?!
  • The blood looks more bloody. I know this is a weird thing to say, but let me explain. The leading (read: toxic) sanitary napkins are so absorbent that it’s almost like they take the blood and carry it somewhere deep, deep down inside the pad. I mean, you can still see it but it feels kind of far away. Cotton pads don’t do that because cotton is absorbent but it’s not from outer space. So the blood is kind of just there, chilling. And I think this is the real reason behind why some people are grossed out by pads: you have to actually see the blood. And I guess, admit to yourself that it came out of you.
  • Design. Nobody does product design better than the big guys. And you can pretty much unwrap their pads with one hand and your eyes shut. Does someone own the patent on the ingenious way those Always pads open? Cuz I really hate all those other brands with the thousands of little adhesive backers that fly all over the place and you have to collect them from the bathroom floor like Hansel and Gretel on their way to periodtown. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s annoying.

The options

  • Natracare: Plastic and chlorine free with no rayon, latex, chemical additives, fragrances or dyes. Organic cotton cover (with absorbent stuff inside).
  • Honest Company: No fragrances, deodorants, rayon, or synthetic superabsorbents. Organic cotton “topsheet.”
  • Organyc: Organic cotton topsheet, not sure exactly what’s inside.
  • Maxim: 100% chlorine-free cotton.
  • Seventh Generation: Chlorine, fragrance and dye-free but no organic cotton option.

Reusable pads

Maybe you haven’t attended any drum circles at your local feminist bookstore lately, so you’re not aware of the thriving marketplace for reusable pads. There’s a whole world out there! These are generally made from 100% cotton material and are meant to be used and cleaned and then used again. This makes a lot of environmental sense if you think about all the world’s landfills, stuffed to the brim with bloody pads just rotting away in the sun. Ew. It does pose some challenges though.

The good

  • Organic fabric. These are usually made from cotton fabric with minimal other additions (a snap here, an elastic strap there), so you have none of the weird plastics, rayon, fragrances, or other sludge that conventional pads have.
  • It’s much cheaper. Imagine buying like 10 pads and then never having to buy them ever, ever again! Think of all the money you will have saved that you can spend on wine.
  • They’re cozy. They are like a Patagonia vest for your vagina. The organic fleece cotton is cozy and feels GREAT on the snatch, like curling up naked on a bearskin rug in front of a fireplace at your new (very rich) boo’s winter cabin.

The bad

  • They’re too cozy. If you’re actually in Miami on Spring Break, you don’t want to be curled up in front of your new boo’s fireplace with your snatch wrapped in fleece vests. It was hot as a mutha during the summertime, and I felt like it was just too damn much to stuff my bloated stomach, thick thighs and the pussy vest into some tight jeans. Like, no.
  • Logistical nightmare. What the hell are you supposed to do with these pads after you use them? I’ve read on other blogs that you can carry around a ziploc bag full of bloody pads in your purse until you get home. I think I’m a pretty down ass chick, but I just don’t see myself going there. Do you know how many times I’ve accidentally spilled the contents of my bag at work or on the subway? Nah, sorry. So the only way that I could really make these work for me was to wear them either when I was home all day or overnight. I liked wearing them to sleep best because then I could rinse them out in the shower in the morning without having any buckets of soaking period pads laying around. (I can only imagine that being a feasible option if you live in the country or some kind of commune.) One note: if you wear these to bed, make sure you’re not wearing your huge sagging period panties or it will leak; you need underwear that is pretty tight and will keep the pad in place.

The options

My recommendation

Call me old-fashioned, but I really don’t like sleeping with anything inside of me (and you really shouldn’t sleep with tampons in anyway). So I usually prefer a pad or period panties (review of those coming soon). But because the disposable pads often get bunchy, I won’t use those in the beginning of my cycle when my flow is heavy. So basically, these are both good options but you have to plan in advance a bit — where am I going to be all day? What is my flow like? In my opinion, it’s not the slam-dunk period option you might want, but a solid back up and good to have on hand.

Thanks so much for reading! I’d love to hear about which pads you love and hate, so leave me a note.