Warning. The following post contains a lengthy exposition about periods and how my relationship to my period has changed thanks to cloth pads. If all you want is a review of Öko-Teens pads, you can skip ahead, I won’t hold it against you!
I still remember the moment I first learned that reusable cloth menstrual pads were a thing.
I was in a cloth diaper store in Montreal, shopping for reusable cloth diapers.
Obviously, I was already on board for washing and reusing cloth to catch my still-in-utero firstborn’s poop and pee. Less obviously in retrospect, I was grossed out by the idea of reusing cloth to catch my on-hold-due-to-pregnancy menstrual flow.
I think that giving birth to and caring for a being you love unconditionally who is constantly spewing bodily fluids from one orifice or another does a lot for a person’s tolerance for gross things. It also helps reframe what “gross” really is.
Using cloth diapers really brought to the forefront my nascent interest in waste reduction. For all the plastic waste that I was saving by washing diapers, I was still filling trash bags with panty liners and nursing pads. That all stopped when I discovered Öko Creations.
I have now been an Öko user and employee (with mini maternity leaves spliced in) for eight years. I first wrote about my experience using cloth menstrual pads way back in 2014. A lot of that post makes me cringe―more on that later. I’ve also talked candidly about my daily use of Öko panty liners … way back in 2016 I crunched numbers to determine that by using Öko liners for three years, I’d saved $185 and kept nearly 20 lb of trash out of the landfill. It’s now been an additional five years so …. those numbers are even higher. All this to say that I am well versed now in the world of reusable menstrual pads, and I know Öko Creations both as a brand and as the people behind it, who so generously employ me despite the fact that I attend Zoom meetings with at least one child on my lap.
OMG LINDSAY GET TO THE POINT!
Right, so Öko-Teens. Öko has been in the pad making business now for twelve years. Co-owners (and cousins) Karine and Marie have been working on a line of reusable menstrual pads specifically designed and marketed for pre-teens and teens for the past few years. I’m proud to say that as the translator, I had a tiny hand in the finished product and settled on the slogan “Rule your period” to convey the French version, “Brise les règles.” For the non-French-speakers in the house, the word in French for period is les règles. But les règles can also mean “the rules.” So the French slogan plays on that by saying “Break the rules!” The ethos of the Öko-Teens line is summed up by those two slogans together: Öko-Teens is about giving young people ownership and agency over their bodies and about breaking down the deeply entrenched taboos around menstruation that take root even before that first cycle ever starts.
So back to that first article I ever wrote about cloth pads. I felt compelled to update it recently because looking back on it I was … well … grossed out by how grossed out I was still acting about periods. Even though I was openly talking about what it was like to have my period and use cloth pads, I was still talking about it with a regretful overtone of embarrassment. That moment in the cloth diaper store and then the moment I hit publish on my (what was at the time a highly embarrassing) post are two touchstones in my journey to embracing and accepting my own experience of menstruation; a journey I would likely not have taken were it not for cloth pads themselves.
Using cloth pads (and menstrual cups!) actually had a profound impact on my perception of menstruation. As a teenager, the words I would have most strongly associated with my period would’ve been mortifying and gross. How many submissions to the “Say Anything” section of YM (or was it Seventeen magazine?) were about having your period at an inopportune moment? The abject terror of someone knowing I had my period haunted me well into my twenties.
Using reusable menstrual products for the last eight years has put me more in touch with my body and has made me more accepting of what it does. Sure, some of that comes with maturity, but I think most of my inner anxiety and ignorance about my period was socially constructed. Öko-Teens aims to do for teens what it took me thirty years to do: normalize periods.
And I am so here for it! Both because using cloth pads forces you to be more aware of your cycle and more in contact with it, and because the message of Öko-Teens is not “Go swimming in your white bathing suit and no one will ever know you have your period!” but rather one of unbridled period positivity.
Öko-Teens can inspire a generation of kids to talk about menstruation freely and who will look at us old folks with bafflement when we say periods once had a stigma to them. And I say a generation of kids because period education is important whether or not you have one. Normalizing menstruation is a conscious act I take with my daughter and my three sons.
Alright, so we have covered the fact that Öko-Teens has the attitude I love, and that I think using cloth pads inspires an openness and acceptance of menstruation that I wish I’d had at age 13.
But what about the pads themselves? What are they like? How do they work?
Öko-Teens Cloth Pad Review
What are Öko-Teens made of?
With more sizes and associated spokes-characters in the works, Öko-Teens are currently available in two sizes: Yuri is a panty liner for light flow and Vaness is a regular pad for regular flow.
Both have a stay-dry top layer made of a special weave of cotton. If you’re in the cloth diapering world, you might look at the tight mesh of this top fabric and think it is athletic wicking jersey (AWJ), which is a polyester blend. Öko is all about natural fibres, and especially natural fibres up against our delicate vulvas, so this top layer is 100% cotton. Under the top layer is Öko’s signature absorbent fibre, which is a hemp/organic cotton fleece. If you have used Öko-Pads, you’ll be familiar with this super absorbent wonder-textile.
The Yuri panty liner has one layer of hemp/cotton fleece and the Vaness has two. Under the absorbent core is the thin, waterproof membrane that makes these pads leakproof. The printed backing of each pad is organic cotton, which is less slippy in the undies than having the waterproof layer as the backing, which is the case for many other brands.
How do Öko-Teens work?
Öko-Teens secure to the gusset of your underwear with a set of wings. One of my favourite things about the wings on all Öko pads is that they are secured with thin metal snaps. Other brands I’ve used have thick plastic snaps that I can feel all day. I don’t notice Öko’s snaps at all.
Öko-Teens are contoured in shape, with the wider end of the pad designed to sit at the front of your underwear. The extra width at the front helps prevent the pad from sliding backward. I was kind of skeptical about this at first and had been using some of my newer Öko-Pads backwards. (Previously the cut of their pads had been more like an hourglass, with no specific front or back portion to the pad.) Fun fact: it actually DOES prevent slipping!
Note that Öko-Teens are cut narrower than classic Öko-Pads because they’re ultimately designed for smaller bodies, so my experience of the fit is likely not indicative of most teens and pre-teens’ experiences!
It took me a couple of tries to find the right spot to position my Öko-Teens pads in my undies. If I didn’t have the wider, front portion of the pad high enough, one corner of the closure wings poked my thigh. (The shape of these wings is different from the triangular shape of the Öko-Pads I’ve always used.) Once I got used to the proper positioning, they were comfy and pretty imperceptible.
I tested my Öko-Teens as a 38-year-old who wears an adult size medium. I’m certainly bigger in size than most pre-teens and teens who will use these pads, but despite that, I found they worked well for my body. They are narrower and shorter than what I would expect for an adult, but as back up for my menstrual cup, the Yuri pad was perfect. I used the Vaness pad at the end of my cycle on my light flow days, and I must say the top cotton jersey layer is amazing! It’s soft against the skin and breathable, so no dreaded swamp crotch sensations. I was a bit nervous that the pad doesn’t come up as high in the back of my underwear as I would like and would probably require on a heavy flow day, but when I was about 40–50 lb smaller as an adolescent, I imagine the fit would be perfect.
How do you care for Öko-Teens?
Öko-Teens are easy to care for. I have written before about how to wash cloth pads, and Öko-Teens come with an awesome little comic strip to demystify pad washing. In terms of transport when out and about, be it school, work, or out with friends, each Öko-Teen comes with a cute little storage pouch that is the same size as its disposable counterpart (just way cuter). Store one clean pad per pouch, and when changing a pad, simply trade the used pad for the clean one. The pouches feature a little tag that can be pulled out that says “To wash.” This way, the collection of used pads is distinguishable from the new ones! The pouches are lined with food-grade polyurethane so they are leak and odour-proof.
Is there room for improvement?
Despite the fact that I am an Öko employee, I’m still allowed to have complaints about their products. In the case of Öko-Teens they’re not so much complaints as suggestions for improvement as the product line grows.
Because Öko is a very small company, I realize that they cannot launch twelve different pad sizes at once, and I know that they do plan to offer more sizes.
What I hope to see in the future from Öko, for both their Teen and classic lines of pads, is more size inclusivity. Adolescents and adults come in a wide variety of body sizes, and I do find that Oko’s menstrual products currently serve thinner people better. For someone wearing a larger size of underwear, the gusset is naturally going to be wider, and the width of Öko’s pads is insufficient. So bring on a few size options! Even as someone in the size demographic of the current line, I’d love some added width to their pads for overnight use.
Öko has made strides in using inclusive language in their packaging and marketing. Not all people with periods are women, and the same applies to adolescents. I know that Öko plans to expand the spokes-characters for Öko-Teens to include more gender diversity, and I’d honestly love to see every box be a box that the most girly-girl of young girls is proud to pick up also be a box that a non-binary or trans youth feels empowered to buy. The great thing is that it’s not a matter of either/or, but a matter of and. I know their design team can come up with branding that any teen, regardless of gender identity, would feel excited to support.
The bottom line
Using reusable menstrual products has been such a game changer for me, in terms of how much I spend every month on disposable products (now zero) to my waste footprint (greatly reduced) to my relationship to my period (way more positive). For young people to actually start off on their menstrual journey saving money, reducing waste and, most importantly, without shame or embarrassment about their periods is such a revolution to me. It’s like how my kids speak French because we are a bilingual home, whereas I spent my entire educational career learning it. Pre-teens and teens beginning their periods with reusables cuts out the decades of garbage and mortification that many of my generation endured and paves the way for a lifelong attitude of period positivity and environmental sensitivity.
Shop & Learn More
If you or a teen in your life wants to try out Öko-Teens, use my coupon code oko.teens.lindsay to save 20% on the Öko-Teens collection!
For more information about Öko-Teens, visit their Rule Your Period information page.
If you are an educator and would like a PDF copy of Öko’s comic strip, it is available free for non-commercial use here!