2 days ago Thinx announced the release of “re.t.a”, a reusable tampon applicator. Is this a step in the direction of sustainability or does its £47.25 price tag make the eco-friendly movement inaccessible?
There’s no denying that Thinx are a bunch of period pioneers and straight up eco-warriors.
As a company, they’ve played a part in the destigmatisation of menstruation, using graphics that don’t shy away from all things “vagina”, offering great options for trans people and claiming that they’re “all about creating *more* options for people with periods” .
Their innovative “period proof underwear” – alongside a pretty hefty social media marketing budget – has meant that the discussion about reusable sanitary products have hit the mainstream. Huge online influencers and platforms have talked about their love of Thinx and discussed how we can take steps towards making our sanitary products more sustainable, even if they were being paid to do so!
Thinx have managed to create a brand that screams “connivence”, “freedom” and “equity“, whilst also saving the planet.
That’s not bad going.
The pros of the Thinx Reusable Tampon Applicator
So, when they announced that they were releasing a new reusable tampon applicator – or “re.t.a” – I was off my tits on excitement for multiple reasons.
Firstly, I was excited at the prospect of people simply having more choice in the world of sanitary products. I love to see the conversation opening up, companies asking “what else can we do?” and us now having options that extend far beyond the basic disposable tampon or sanitary towel.
I believe that choice is important and I’m totally on team “use whatever the fuck works for you” when it comes to period products.
On top of that though, I was excited that the product would give people a more sustainable option, without being completely granola. The idea is that you put a non-applicator tampon of your choice into the re.t.a, insert it as you would a “normal” tampon and then wash the device ready to reuse it again and again.
Of course, this isn’t the most sustainable of options: You still have to buy disposable tampons. However, it will allow its users to reduce their plastic consumption.
I’m all for people making small-ish, attainable steps to being more ethical-minded and Thinx are offering another way for people to do that.
In fact, I was so excited about the whole thing that I was ready to buy myself one to test it out and tell you guys my thoughts. But then a saw the price tag. And, wow, does it have quite the price tag. Retailing at a vagina-tensing £47.25, I just can’t get on board.
The cons of the Thinx Reusable Tampon Applicator
I totally get it: I’m not Thinx’s target demographic. I’m not a woman living in the big city, with a high profile job who is happy to drop nearly fifty quid on a tampon applicator. I am a-okay with that. However, I just can’t get my head around where that £47.25 worth of material and design is hiding?
I mean, it’s pretty tiny, right?
And even though I know you’re paying for the fact that it’s innovative, I still can’t quite get over the price difference between this and something like a menstrual cup which, on the higher end of the spectrum, retail for around £20.
Whilst it’s all good and well giving people more options on their period, it’s only truly helpful when those options are accessible. Aka don’t cost the equivalent to a whole day’s work for someone aged 18-20 on the minimum wage here in the UK.
Often, I can see the benefit of buying ethical and eco-friendly products at a higher price: They’re going to last you a long time and will eventually work out cheaper than buying the disposable alternative. Which, as long as you can afford that initial pay-out, is brilliant.
For example, as I worked out in my first ever post about menstrual cups, the average woman goes through 22 sanitary products during one cycle. That means that they probably spend about £48 a year on the things. Considering the Mooncup only costs around £20, after a year of use you’ve already got your money’s worth. And some.
In my opinion, it’s totally worth it.
But I’m not sure that you can even see this reusable applicator as an “investment”, since you still need to be buying tampons for every cycle. So, the only potential saving, over several years would be the difference in price between non-applicator and applicator tampons. On top of that, they recommend pairing use of the re.t.a with a set of their period-proof pants, adding yet another expense to your Thinx-branded period.
Honestly, it’s enough to make even the most environmentally conscious of people say “fuck it, then. I’ll just get a box of Always and save myself the ag.”
The cheaper sustainable alternatives
After asking on my Instagram stories (obviously the most reliable source of info) whether my followers would use the applicator, 50% of people said “yes”. But after asking if they would buy it for the price of £47.25, 96% of people said a big, fat “no thanks, babe”. Most people that slid into my DMs about it shared my sentiments that, whilst it was great to see a company doing something so innovative, the price was a huge turn off.
With that in mind, it seemed only right that I share some cheaper, eco alternatives to re.t.a.
Whilst none are as inexpensive as conventional sanitary products, they are either “investments” or are the cheapest and most accessible sustainable option that I am aware of.
If you love the idea of the re.t.a, but aren’t willing to fork over nearly £50, Dame make a comparable product for basically half the price.
Apparently the first ever of its kind, “D” fits tampons from lite to super plus in absorbency, is medical grade and uses self-sanitising technology.
It also comes with 6 organic tampons, a reusable tin and a reusable pouch, unlike Thinx’s version. So you really do get more, for less cash.
If you want to go full on hippie and almost entirely eradicate the waste you produce on your period, a menstrual cup might be the one for you
I use the brand Mooncup and love it: It’s made of medical grade silicone and can serve you for around 5 years if looked after properly.
£2.80 for a box of 10
Some people just don’t feel comfortable using cups or reusable products and that is totally okay.
So, if you can, opt for more eco-friendly brands like TOTM (who I have been lucky enough to work with in the past). All of their products are certified organic, free from things like rayon and chlorine bleach and they only use cardboard applicators and biodegradable bio film to reduce their plastic waste.
They’re also super easy to get hold of, since they now sell in Tesco, as well as on Amazon.
So, will I be buying the Thinx reusable tampon applicator? Nah, I’ll stick to my menstrual cup and use that £50 on more important period essentials like chocolate oat milk and Lush bubble bars, thank you very much.
What do you guys think, though? Let me know on Twitter whether you see this as a step in the right direction, or just an overpriced gimmick?