We’ve all had a moment of holding scented pads in one hand and unscented pads in the other in the aisle at Target. Why the heck do scented pads exist? Do I really want my bits to smell like bouquets? Where did this even come from? Turns out beautiful smells have been associated with rituals and wellbeing for thousands of years. Egyptians used scents like frankincense and myrrh for religious rituals like embalming the dead. Ancient Roman women were well known for their, ahem, liberal usage of perfume. Courtiers in the Middle Ages had their servants wash their clothes with lavender and rose petals. So it only makes sense that today, the theme of using scents to freshen up something ritual and a tad gross lives on in the form of scented tampons in 2015.
Using scented products during my period can be a way to reclaim a time of the month when I feel gross so I can instead feel beautiful. In my career as a lady, I’ve used scented wipes, washes, and pads. I never really understood the allure of scented tampons, since they’re up my hoo-hah 99.9% of the time, and my vagina has never complained about the smell.
My “can’t face my period without it” standby is Summer’s Eve’s feminine wipes in Sheer Floral scent. They smell fabulous. They’re individually packaged so I can stow a few in my backpack when my period arrives. My flow is pretty heavy, so it’s really nice to have the wipes to stay clean in between daily showers, preventing the dreaded blood crusties. (My heavy flow girls out there know what I’m talking about.)
I’ve also relied on the wipes when commuting by train or on days where I’ve got multiple connecting flights. It’s simply nice to come out of the bathroom feeling fresh and flowery, like at least one part of me has been treated with dignity when at the mercy of public transportation and my monthly cycle, two terrible things totally out of my control.
Occasionally I’ve used scented pads, whose actual scents are hit and miss — I’ve used some that smell like they were made in the horrendous odor blend of a department store perfume section, and some that have genuinely nice and light scents. I’ll usually take a chance on them if they’re on sale. I used to buy scented store-brand vaginal soaps, but they tend to be expensive for what I’m suspicious is just “body wash lite.” I’ve since switched to just a drop or two of scented Dr. Bronner’s soap, which goes a long way and is a lot gentler.
My recent discovery is vaginal powder. “WHAT?” you make ask. Yes. This is a thing. Basically baby powder for down there. A little strategic dash keeps me dry for a few hours, which is crucial comfort for outdoor summer events here in the humid South.
In regards to the very common argument about chemicals and scents and lady bits, they are grounded in a lot of truth. I personally pick my battles with going au naturel in the realm of feminine products—short of spinning my own cotton or using leaves, most tampons or pads I use will have some traces of harmless chemicals, since they are artificial forms of absorption made in factories.
Every vag is different, like a beautiful snowflake. Keeping that in mind, test out any scented products in moderation and notice what your body is sensitive to. If you’re already prone to sensitive skin, or ride the all-natural hippie mama bus whenever possible, there are plenty of organic 100% cotton pads and cardboard tampons that are chemical-free. For a nice scent, add a drop or two of essential oil (such as rose or ylang ylang) at the very back of your pad. Boom! DIY scented pads. You’re welcome.
Last word: Remember that for thousands of years, vaginas just smelled like what they were—vaginas—in all their glory. Your genitals are not going to, and were never intended to, smell like cotton fields, so don’t get too caught up in the daily odors your vagina creates, it’s supposed to do that—and if the smells are extreme, talk to your gyno about it instead of buying (*shudder*) a douche from your local drugstore.
At the end of the day, scented feminine products are just a way to make my period nicer and a little less hellish, like falling into a bed of flowers after someone punches me in the ovaries. Periods happen every month and they’re never any fun. You might as well make the most of it!
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.