From Papyrus to Menstrual Cups: A History of Period Products

7 March 2024

Since the beginning of time, women have had to find ways to manage their periods. The changing journey of period products and menstrual products is a testament to human ingenuity and evolving attitudes towards menstruation.

Here at Cheeky HQ, we've been all about reusable period pads and pants since 2013, and we thought it would be interesting to look back at what period products and attitudes to menstruation through history. Here's some examples of period products through history:

  1. Papyrus Tampons
  2. Lint and Wool
  3. Buffalo Skin
  4. Sanitary Belt
  5. Cloth Pads
  6. Modern Pads and Tampons
  7. Menstrual Cup
  8. Period Pants

Papyrus Tampons

Back in the time of the Pharaohs women fashioned tampons out of papyrus reeds providing a rudimentary form of menstrual protection.


Menstrual flow was often associated with purification and fertility. Egyptian society held women in high regard, recognising their connection to the cycles of nature.

While periods were acknowledged, they were not stigmatised.

Lint & Wool

In the medieval period women turned to materials like lint and wool to create absorbent sanitary pads to wear during their periods.

In medieval Europe, attitudes towards menstruation began to shift as religious beliefs and societal norms shaped perceptions. Periods became associated with notions of impurity and sin, leading to practices of segregation and secrecy.

Buffalo Skin

In indigenous cultures and tribes, buffalo skins were used as absorbent menstrual pads.

Menstruation was viewed as a sacred and integral aspect of womanhood. It was celebrated as a symbol of fertility and connection to the earth.

Women were honoured for their roles as life-givers, and menstruation was embraced as a natural part of the cycle of life.

Sanitary Belt

As the industrial revolution swept across the globe, innovations in menstrual hygiene followed suit. The sanitary belt in the late 19th century improved periods for women. This belt featured clips or buckles to hold absorbent layers of cloth in place, providing a more secure and comfortable protection.


While Victorian-era modesty still prevailed, there was recognition of the need for improved menstrual hygiene. Women's health advocates began to push for greater access to sanitary products and education surrounding periods.

Cloth Pads

Throughout much of the 20th century, cloth pads remained a popular choice for menstrual hygiene. These reusable pads were made from layers of cotton or flannel, providing absorbency and comfort for women during their periods - even with heavy flow.

Despite the introduction of disposable alternatives, many women still prefer the eco-friendly and cost-effective nature of reusable menstrual pads, now with waterproof backing.

Reusable sanitary pads are super soft and much more absorbent that their plastic counterparts and can be washed and reused for years.


Attitudes towards menstruation underwent significant changes during the 20th century, fueled by the rise of feminism and the women's health movement. 

"I love these big pads for night time and the first day or two of my period. I have quite heavy periods but can’t use disposable pads as they give me blisters! Tampons aren’t comfortable since I had my children. These pads don’t move around like other ones I’ve tried & are super absorbent. Really happy I bought some!" Bamboo Night Pads Review

Modern Pads & Tampons

Advancements in technology have transformed menstrual hygiene. Disposable pads and tampons became widely available, offering women convenience during their periods. With features like wings, absorbent cores, and sleek packaging, these products have become indispensable for many women worldwide.


Single use period products are adding to our carbon footprint and the destruction of ours seas and the planet. Disposable pads and tampons are typically made of plastics that will not biodegrade. They end up in our waterways and landfill sites increasing our pollution of the planet. Reusable period pads are a more sustainable option.

In contemporary society, conversations surrounding menstruation have become more inclusive. Women are increasingly encouraged to embrace their periods as a natural and normal part of life.

Menstrual Cup

The menstrual cup is a brilliant alternative to tampons for menstrual hygiene. Made from medical-grade silicone or rubber, these reusable cups offer an eco-friendly and cost-effective alternative to traditional pads and tampons.

Cups are the only internal protection with a low risk of toxic shock syndrome.

Menstrual cup can last for years, reducing waste and environmental impact. The rise of the menstrual cup reflects a growing trend towards sustainable living and eco-conscious consumerism. 

Period Pants

Finally, we come to the latest innovation in menstrual protection, reusable period pants. Our customers often refer to them as 'game-changing' for a reason!

These absorbent washable panties feature built-in layers that wick away moisture leaving you feeling dry and provide leak-proof protection during your period.

With stylish designs and a focus on comfort, period underwear offers women a discreet and hassle-free solution for managing their periods. Just machine wash (avoid tumble drying) and use again.


As well as the clear environmental advantages, you will benefit from never running out, no late night trips to the shops. Period pants have cotton or bamboo next to the skin and NO chemicals to cause dryness or chafing, opt for organic cotton - perfect for sensitive skin.

"I've been using cheeky wipes for years and this Tuesday offer was too good to miss to stock up on some period pants, especially as I was about to give birth. They've been super comfortable postnatally. Quick easy offering process and rapid delivery, as always." Emma, March '24 Trustpilot

As we look to the future, it's clear that the journey of period protection is far from over. With a growing emphasis on sustainability, the possibilities are endless. The history of period management is a testament to the resilience and resourcefulness of women throughout the ages.

If you found this blog interesting you might like to read - 

Understanding your periods postpartum

The ultimate guide to postpartum underwear

If you want to more information about switching to reusable pee and period products, feel free to contact the team. You can drop them a email or use the online chat. The team all use the products themselves and nothing is TMI. We all happily overshare our own experiences.

About the Author : Kirstin on our customer services team loves spending her days helping customers with their reusable period product needs and advising cloth nappy using families. Kirstin lives with her three teenagers and loves walking and sea swimming year round in our beautiful bay.

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