Today I’d like to talk about a dark subject in history, but that always fascinated me: Intimate hygiene. And because history was mostly written by men, it’s not a well-known subject. So let’s dig in a bit.
Let’s start with periods:
- 5th century: Hypatia becomes an instant feminist heroine: pursued by a man she didn’t fancy, the first female mathematician throws her “menstrual rags” at him. This is the first-ever mention of period products in history.
- Free Bleeding and bits of cloths. It seems to have been the main period care products for almost 2000 years until the invention of proper period products.
- The baby stuff. Yes because you see half the world population menstruates, but it would be an awful shame to mention anything about it. Can you imagine admitting you have periods?! So, women were buying baby nappies and reengineering them to fit their problem.
- The sanitary belt. How do you get your pads to stay in place before the invention of the little adhesive wings? By using belts. This was mainstream up until the 70s.
- The 1920s: The nurses of the first world war were soaking quite a lot of blood from soldiers’ wounds with cotton wadding, and the tampon properly took off. For a long time, because the tampon has to get inside, it was seen as improper for young girls.
- 1937: The singer, actress and inventor Leona Chalmers patents the first menstrual cup, in natural rubber. It stayed extremely confidential until a few years ago.
Another interesting one: UTIs.
Before the discovery of microbes, it was impossible for people to know what the cause of the disease was, and so to treat accordingly. The Ebers Papyrus, all the way from 1500 BC, talks about the heat of the bladder and recommends some myrrh to treat them. Until the invention of antibiotics, bloodletting and various herbs seem to have been the weapon of choice. There are anecdotal uses of yoghurt applied locally, which makes a lot of sense: it’s acidic and full of probiotic bacteria. Today antibiotics are used routinely as a treatment. Probiotics and prebiotics (D-Mannose in particular) are studied for their preventive effect.
And lastly, a little bit about cleaning.
- The douche. Can you believe that 20% of American women still douche? The injection of anything up there is useless at best, harmful at worst. Douches were mostly seen as a contraception method since the 19th century, but also to cleanse your female inherent dirtiness (the prescribed frequency was 6 times a day). Please think of your poor microbiome and step into the 21st Any kind of douching is associated with vaginosis, so a disturbed microbiome.
- 1966: The first vaginal deodorant spray. It seems quite an American object and seems to be still going strong. Cue a long list of ads making you feel bad about your vagina smelling like a vagina. And trying to convince you that a flower scent is more natural?
- But mostly, girls have been cleaning with whatever was around in the shower, or with specific products that tended to be way too aggressive for the fragile ecosystem.
So to summarize, thank you scientific progress, use what you prefer for period, look up d-mannose and only clean the external parts of your vulva, with something as mild as possible, and with an acidic pH. Yes, this is where we suggest our Perfume-Free Cleansing Bar.
Shop our Perfume-Free Cleansing Bar