If you are squeamish about the subject of menstruation, you should stop reading now. And possibly seek therapy.
I’ve written before about some of the little differences and a couple of the big differences between America and Australia. Here’s another one that for some may be small, but for me is huge. Australia has a shocking lack of selection in tampons.
Fortunately, I’d heard about this before I traveled to Australia and I took a stash with me, but when I ran out, I was forced to see for myself. I went to both major supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, as well as several drugstores. The first thing I noticed is that while supermarkets and drugstores in the U.S., not to mention giant retailers such as Target, have as much as an aisle dedicated to feminine hygiene products, Australian retailers have a maybe a foot-wide section on a two or three bottom shelves. The second thing I noticed is that I didn’t know what I was looking at. The packaging of tampons, even familiar brands such a Carefree, Kotex, and Tampax, is not very descriptive. I couldn’t tell if they were scented (I prefer unscented) or get a good sense of the absorbency levels. The third thing I noticed is that only one of them, Tampax, said “Applicator Tampons.” So, the rumor was true; Australian women use tampons without applicators. Suddenly Australia seemed just a little bit less civilized.
As I picked up the box of Tampax Applicator Tampons with sad resignation, another devastating realization set in. This is the only option for applicator tampons. And they’re cardboard. Similarly, I found it impossible to find suitable pads.
I expect that I won’t always be able to find my favorite brands in Australia and I can live with that for the most part, but this is unacceptable. The tampons and pads that I use aren’t just a matter of comfort and convenience, but of necessity. I have a heavy and prolonged menstrual period and these Mickey Mouse tampons and pads in Australia just don’t do the job for me. I need my Tampax Pearl Ultra tampons and Always Maxi Overnight pads to get me through the night. The whole affair is messy enough and there’s just no way I’m going to resort to these mini-tampons that are better suited for Halloween decorations. The Australian version of the overnight pad, which I think is either a misunderstanding or an example of Aussie humor, works fine for my light days, but light absorbency tampons even with cardboard applicators are seemingly impossible to find.
I’m truly baffled as to why there is such a poor selection of tampons in Australia. There’s only one benefit to the tampon without applicator: it produces less waste. I’m happy to make up for my plastic waste of Tampax Pearl by recycling and buying recycled products, using re-usable shopping bags, composting, and not owning a car. The ease, comfort, and cleanliness of applicator tampons that you slip right in can’t be beat. But it isn’t just the applicator issue, it’s also absorbency. Regular and super is all I seemed to find and super wasn’t all that super. It seems like the shops down under cater to the middle part of the spectrum and women on the lighter or heavier ends are just out of luck.
This week I shipped a six-month supply of my favorite pads and tampons to Australia. That was the best $70 I’ve spent this month.