It seems that things might be changing in the world of feminine hygiene. We have noticed a lot of press and attention in the US where women want greater choice and particularly, alternative hygienic, safe and ‘natural’ alternatives to mainstream brands and methods. We investigate why feminine hygiene is the newest consumer battlefield.

Factors Driving Change

The first tampon was made by a US doctor who invented it for his wife, a nurse. She encouraged the development of a more suitable product to be placed on the market. The resulting product was marketed by Tampax in the USA in 1937 and reached the UK market by 1939.

This new product was met with a great deal of resistance from politicians and the clergy. Bishops complained in the House of Lords about these ‘sinful products.’ Until as late as the 50s every packet of tampons had to carry the warning ‘Not suitable for unmarried women’ for fear that virginity might be impaired. Completely untrue, of course. To this day, however, in predominantly Catholic countries, sales of pads are notably higher than tampons.

Historic Facts

  • Ancient Egyptians – used rolled Papyrus leaves to make primitive tampons
  • Ancient Tribes – used natural materials, usually grasses, moss, etc
  • Early forms of tampons were in use some 2,000 years ago

It’s natural. It’s a fact of life. 

The world is changing at an alarming rate. It’s natural for the human race to evolve and opinions change as we have seen above. The one thing which does not seem to have changed in the last 50+ years is choice.

We live in a disposable world

If you do a Google-image search for “menstrual products” you will be presented with a range of reusable and disposable products. Same with “period products”. If you Google “sanitary products” you’ll get images of disposables and pictures of bathroom furniture. If you search up “sanitary towels” you’ll only get images of disposable ones.

Anything with “sanitary”, “feminine”, “hygiene” and even “towels” in its name is going to be disposable. But search for “menstrual products” and you’ll get a fairly even spread of reusables and disposables, providing long-term options that promote sustainability and end period poverty.

Is that it? Is this all the industry has to offer woman nowadays?

No, it seems a change is coming.

Pink Tax / Tampon Tax

Tampons and towels are currently taxed at 5% in the UK. But they have been subject to five different rates since 1973. It’s been argued that this tax is unfair, as it’s not a luxury item, but a necessary one.

The average 40-year-old woman has spent over £1000 and £100 is tax. In 2015, activist Laura Coryton created a petition calling for the UK government to introduce a zero-rate for the products, which gained more than 320,000 signatures.

Did you know?

Ex-Chancellor George Osborne announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement that the funds raised by VAT on tampons and towels would be donated to women’s health and support charities. This sum was worth £15m in 2016-17.

Recently, Tesco cut prices on menstrual protection products to incorporate the 5% VAT cost. Other supermarkets including Waitrose, Morrisons and now Co-Op have pledged to pass on a price cut if VAT becomes zero-rated.

Did you know?

9,600 tampons are disposed of during the average females menstrual life cycle? Every month, women flush and throw away hundreds of disposable products and their packaging.

Alternative Options

Thinx are based in the US and deliver to the UK market. During our research, they came up as being a firm run by women, delivering products for women.

NOTE: Flush Hygiene are not affiliated with and do no endorse this firm. It’s for information purposes in conjunction with our research into changing factors in the feminine hygiene sector.