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Health & Beauty, Life & Style

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Conventional period products harbour a dirty secret.  Did you know that the average sanitary towel is 90% plastic?  This equates to the plastic equivalent of a shocking five plastic bags per packet of sanitary towels.  If you consider that the average person who has a period uses over 11,000 disposable menstrual products in their lifetime, then this adds up to a whole lot of plastic.  Many of these products wrongly get flushed down the toilet and end up damaging our oceans and the creatures that inhabit our seas.  

When it comes to tampons, it also turns out that even ‘plant-based’ applicators, often sold by organic brands are not actually biodegradable, and therefore act exactly the same as regular oil-based plastics would after use. 

What’s more, most conventional period products are packed with chemicals and fragrances that are also unkind to our skin, especially in the most sensitive areas. 

With all of these issues, it’s understandable and also great news that interest in eco-friendly period products is growing.  I’m personally a big fan of reusable period products – I’ve written before about eco-friendly period options, and encourage the use of reusables where possible.  However, I’m also painfully aware that many reusable period options are not accessible to all – through cost aspects, limited sizing, lack of washing facilities, and through mobility and/or dexterity impairments.

Today I wanted to look at some of the accessibility problems of the most common reusable period protection options, before looking at what you can do if reusable options aren’t accessible to you, but you are still concerned about the environment.

The Accessibility Issue When It Comes to Reusable Period Protection

Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups aren’t suitable for everyone – particularly those with motor-skills impairment, as insertion and removal can be tricky. At around £20+ per cup, a cup can be a steep upfront investment for some, particularly if there is more than one householder requiring a cup. 

Cleaning can be tricky – many people aren’t comfortable washing out their cups in public bathrooms.  In order to keep your cup hygienic, you also have to boil it every month. This could be tricky in a shared household, let alone for those who don’t have access to basic facilities. 

Cloth Sanitary Towels

Having a cloth sanitary towel stash can be expensive, with pads varying between around £5 and £12 per pad.  I personally find having around 8 pads to be the optimum amount of pads required to comfortably see you through a cycle, and that upfront investment can be prohibitive. 

Period Pants  

Period pants are expensive.  At around £30 a pair, the initial investment in purchasing multiple pairs could be cost-prohibitive.  Price aside, period pants are available in limited styles, colours, and crucially limited sizes. Whilst new options and sizes are arriving as period pants are catching on, it’s still limited in comparison to standard underwear.

And moving away from price – having to change your pants in public toilets can also be problematic, particularly for those with reduced mobility levels.  Remember you will have to remove your trousers/tights and shoes to be able to remove your pants, before getting dressed again in a small cubicle. 

What If Reusable Period Options Are Inaccessible to Me?

natracare

If reusable period options aren’t accessible to you for whatever reason, then be assured that eco-friendly disposable period products (that aren’t greenwashing you) do exist!  A good environmentally friendly option would be to choose a disposable brand that is certified organic, vegan, plastic-free and compostable, like Natracare.  

Natracare’s period products are all plastic, perfume, dye, pesticide, and chlorine-free.  Made from soft, breathable, natural materials, their pads, liners, and tampons are kind to you and kind to the environment.  What’s more, their products are not tested on animals either for extra peace of mind.

Natracare is widely available on Amazon, Ocado, Waitrose, and in health food shops.  Expecting to pay more for their products compared to their plastic counterparts?  You’d be wrong: Natracare’s prices are comparable with big-name sanitary protection brands, with a box of 14 sanitary towels costing around £2.

The only plastic I could find was on the plastic wrapping of Natracare’s non-applicator tampons.  I asked Natracare and they told me this is made from BPA-free, recyclable plastic. They use this to meet legal requirements as tampons are considered a medical device. Some other brands have begun switching to paper wrappings, but until Natracare are confident this is a safe and more sustainable option, they will keep using their current packaging. 

I personally tested a few different products from the Natracare range out – their ultra super period pads and curved panty liners – and found their period products very comfortable and highly absorbent.2 Crucially they stayed in place too, which is always very important!

Beyond the basics, I felt reassured by the fact that Natracare’s products contain no nasties, such as chlorine and perfumes, in the very place where you don’t want anything nasty. The lack of plastic is a huge plus point too. Don’t just take my word for it – Ethical Consumer also recommend Natracare in the disposable tampons and pads category. Definitely one to check out!

Health & Beauty, Life & Style

Homemade Hand Sanitiser Recipe

homemade hand sanitiser

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DISCLAIMER: This homemade hand sanitiser recipe is not a substitute for proper handwashing. And while this home recipe contains common natural antibacterial ingredients, it has never been tested in a lab to determine it’s efficacy against viruses such as coronavirus. This recipe does not include the 60%+ alcohol content that is recommended for hand sanitiser to properly kill coronavirus. A recipe that contains this level of alcohol can be found through the World Health Organization.

Last year I made some homemade hand sanitiser that I have been meaning to share with you. I have two young kids, aged 4 and 8. Whilst my kids are great at getting into messes when we’re out and about, I have to hold my hands up and say I’m an expert at it too!

Also, have you seen the original Trainspotting movie? If so, then you’ll know the scene with the worst toilet in Scotland. Admittedly, whilst not as bad as that toilet, I’ve definitely found a few contenders in and around Edinburgh. Whilst I would always prefer to wash my hands with soap and water, hand sanitiser is definitely a handy thing to carry in those times.

I spent a little while searching on the internet for hand sanitiser in a glass bottle, but the only thing I could find was a £16 bottle from Aesop. Not having the budget or inclination to spend £16 on hand sanitiser I decided it must surely be easier and infinitely cheaper to make my own. So I set about rummaging through my cleaning product ingredients box to see what I had to hand.

What I Found Was:

Witch hazel, made from the bark and leaves of a plant called Hamamelis virginiana. This is a medicine cupboard staple that’s easily picked up really cheaply in most chemists and supermarkets. It’s around £2 a bottle, which will make 3 bottles of hand sanitiser.

Witch hazel is great to use because the tannins in this plant help kill bacteria – it’s been proven effective against influenza A and HPV and herpes, but gentle enough to be used on a daily basis.

If you don’t have any witch hazel then feel free to substitute for cheap vodka. It will push the cost up a little – but if it’s what you have to hand then it will also do the job as it’s alcohol content makes vodka a great germ killer.

I chose lemongrass essential oil for this homemade hand sanitiser recipe because of it’s proven antibacterial action. This scientific study showed that lemongrass oil is even effective against drug-resistant organisms, making it a great choice of oil for a hand sanitiser.

Please note, lemongrass essential oil can be too strong for sensitive skins. If you are sensitive to lemongrass, consider another essential oil with germ-killing properties, such as tea tree oil.

I also chose lavender essential oil for its antibacterial action, which has proven effective against e-coli and MRSA in scientific studies.

My recipe hasn’t been tested in a lab, so I can’t make any claims to its effectiveness other than anecdotally, but if you’re keen to give it a go here’s how to make it:

Lemongrass & Lavender Homemade Hand Sanitiser

Make your own all natural homemade hand sanitiser / hand sanitizer with this easy recipe.

Makes 100 ml

Ingredients

100 ml glass spray bottle (use an old one if you have one. You can also use an old plastic bottle. Sometimes over time, the essential oils can eat away at the plastic so just be mindful of that, but if there’s less chance of it breaking in your bag then it’s a better choice).

60 ml witch hazel (I got mine in glass bottle from Sainsbury’s for £2)

15 drops Lemongrass essential oil

15 drops Lavender essential oil

1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil (optional – added for its moisturising properties)

40 ml cooled boiled water

Method

If you are using the vitamin e oil, then add it to your clean, dry empty bottle, before adding your essential oils. Otherwise, simply add your essential oils to the empty bottle.

Next, add the witch hazel and cooled boiled water, and add the spray nozzle.

Usage & Storage

Before usage, I would always recommend doing a patch test on a small area of your skin, to test for any sensitivities. If after 24 hours there has been no reaction then you should be good to continue usage.

Before each use, shake the bottle well to combine everything and spray your hands a few times. Rub your hands together until they are dry. Do not use on broken skin.

The hand sanitiser has a 1.5% dilution and is safe to use for adults. If you want it stronger, you can go up to 20 drops of each essential oil (a 2% dilution), but I wouldn’t recommend going any higher than that.

Your homemade hand sanitiser will have a shelf life of around 6-8 weeks, but if it starts to look funny or smell funny before that period, it’s best to discard it and make a new batch.

Homemade Hand Sanitiser for Kids

If you want to use it on small children from aged 2 and upwards, I’d always recommend doing a bit of reading on essential oils. I would also recommend using no more than 10 drops of lemongrass essential oil and 10 drops of lavender essential oil. This is a 1% dilution of the oils. Again, do not use on unbroken skin.

Essential oils aren’t recommended for use on children younger than two. Again, doing a bit of research on essential oils if you decide you want to is always highly recommended.

As always, keep your essential oils and the finished product out the reach of children, and only use under direct adult supervision.

Notes on Good Hand Hygiene

Whilst hand sanitiser is good in a pinch, the single most effective way of removing germs from your hands is to wash your hands with warm water and soap. My top tip is to use hand sanitiser when you don’t have access to running water and soap, but to make sure you wash your hands as soon as you can.

The NHS has some good advice on how to wash your hands properly – apparently singing happy birthday twice helps you gauge the length of time you should be washing for!

ps: here are some other things you can DIY with the same ingredients for maximum bang for buck!