Tag Archives: pms

(The Lack of) Tampons in Australia

6 Mar

One constant source of frustration when traveling or living abroad is being unable to find products you are used to back home or even an acceptable substitute. It might be a favourite food or your favourite shampoo or a preferred OTC painkiller or jeans that fit as nice as the kind you are used to getting back home.

I’ve experienced a lot of little frustrations like this on a near daily basis over the years, and I can usually cope, but today, I’m going to go on a hormonally inspired rant about the lack of tampon selection in Australia.

You heard me right. Tampons. Men, feel free to stop reading now. 😉

When it comes to having a period, it sucks bad enough without having to stress out about finding the right sanitary product. When that time of the month rolls around, you just want to be able to go to the store and get what you need without thinking too much about it or having a PMS-induced psychotic breakdown in aisle 3.

I’m partial to the Tampax Pearl line myself. They come with nice little plastic applicators that make the entire disgusting job relatively neat and pain free. Failing that, a cardboard applicator is acceptable, though less desirable, and Tampax tampons expand into a nice shape that prevents any kind of leakage, which is always a plus.

So now that I’ve run out of my stash that I brought from America, I’ve had a chance to explore the feminine hygiene aisle here in Australia. (Travel tip #1787630: Always bring a “stash” of essentials from your home country to buy you plenty of time to find an acceptable local substitute or until you can get back to your home country to restock.)

Let me just say that I am less than impressed with the female sanitary products on offer. Every store I have been to has had shelf upon shelf upon shelf of sanitary pads and the tampons are confined to a small corner of a bottom shelf somewhere.

Upon crouching down to the ground and getting on my hands and knees just to inspect the selection of tampons, I realised it hadn’t even been worth the effort. Nothing to see here, people! Move along!

A typical non-descript box of Australian tampons. Kind of hard to tell what you’re getting in this box.

In this country, tampons are packaged in non-descript little boxes. You really don’t know what you’re going to get when you open the up the box. It may have an applicator… or not. It may be unscented… or not. It may be flushable… or not. Hmm. What to do? Discreetly open up every package to see what’s inside or buy a few different kinds and see what surprise is in store for me in the privacy of my own home? Despite not being rich, I opted for door #2.

I almost didn’t even recognise these as Tampax. And they were the only ones in the store that specifically said “applicator tampons”.

I saw they had Tampax of some kind, so I got one of those. And then I got some kind called Libra which I’d never heard of, but occupied the most shelf space, so I figured it must be popular. Having never seen Australian TV in my life, I couldn’t refer back to any commercials for advice.

I passed over most options because the packages were so tiny it was clear to me that they did not come with applicators and were the disgusting kind that you have to shove inside yourself with your finger. Can I just say how gross I think that is?

First of all, there’s disgusting stuff up inside there during menstruation that I’m not particularly interested in touching. Second of all, my finger is probably not always totally sterile, being a finger and all, and I don’t really want to stick it up there and give myself an infection.

You can sort of get around some of the ew-factor in your own bathroom at home, but let’s say you have to do this in a public restroom. I don’t want to put the same fingers I’ve used to touch the bathroom stall door up inside an infection-prone part of my body. I know that some women probably do this anyway and it disgusts me nearly to the point of vomiting to think of them doing that and then touching the handle on the stall door afterwards. GROSS!!!!! Now all their menstrual germs are all over the handle! Even more disgusting is the number of women who don’t wash their hands at all.

I wonder how many STIs have been transmitted through public bathrooms in Australia for this very reason? Fortunately, I’m such a germophobe that I always use a paper towel or tissue of some kind to manipulate the handle if I absolutely must use a public restroom. If you ever see a blonde girl doing this in a public restroom, it’s probably me. Feel free to say hello.

So yeah. Tampons without applicators are just a no-go. That is so beyond disgusting that it doesn’t even bear thinking of.

And what’s up with the row upon row of sanitary pads? While we’re on the subject of disgusting, let’s talk about that. I cannot for the life of me understand why someone would prefer a pad to a tampon, especially in such a warm climate. Walking around with a veritable diaper between one’s legs while soaking it through with blood is very uncomfortable.

When I was a teenager, my mother wouldn’t let me use tampons, so it was pads only. I remember that it was awful. They smell. They leak everywhere. You constantly have to be on the lookout for a bathroom so you can change it every few hours. Gym class with a pad was a nightmare.

Tampons basically changed my life. No smell, no leaks, and lasts for up to eight hours, so you can go out during the day or sleep through the night without needing a replacement. And in public facilities, having something that is flushable is a major bonus. It’s also useful when hanging out with guy friends who may not be thrilled about having used feminine products turning up in their waste bins. It’s a lot easier to dispose of a tampon discreetly.

No one will ever be able to convince me that wearing something like this in my underwear is comfortable or sanitary.

Now back to my rant about the lack of selection in Australia and the abundance of pads. I’m convinced they are trying to force women to use pads at least some of the time. I have been unable to find tampons for light flow days in any store, except for one brand that only came in a non-applicator version. You can get super and regular and that’s it. So what do you do on days when your period is winding down or if you’re like me and just have a light flow the entire time? Well, you can either risk a yeast infection by using an absorbency that is too high or use pads. Pick your poison.

I considered trying to order my preferred tampons from America, but I couldn’t find anyone who would ship them to Australia. My Plan B is to bring an entire stash of them from America next time I go back and then hoard them. When I told H about my plan, he offered what he thought was a better suggestion: “Or you could just be pregnant all the time. I’d like that.” Gee, what a charming alternative!

Fortunately, I’ll be back on my birth control soon and then I’ll be a lot less narky and won’t get so stressed out about minor inconveniences like not being able to find the right tampons. (Did I mention that I got four months of birth control for only $14? The same drug in America used to cost me $135 for four months! How cool is that?) Once I’m less hormonal, I’ll go back to complaining about more practical things, like reusable shopping bags and feminism. 🙂

Update (22 Jan 2013) : A lot of people find this article from searching on Google for Tampax Pearl tampons in Australia. Sorry to say, there are still no Tampax Pearl tampons in Australia. As of yet, the only Tampax tampons in Australia are the kind I mentioned above. If Pearls ever do make an appearance, you can bet that I’ll be making a huge celebratory post about it. Procter & Gamble, the company that owns Tampax, doesn’t seem to be all that interested in building the brand here, even though I’m convinced Tampax Pearls would be a big hit here. You can always email them to let them know you’d like to see a better Tampax selection in Australia or ask USA Foods to start importing them.

Update (27 Feb 2013): When I wrote to Proctor & Gamble to ask about Tampax Pearl and also whether or not they might ever offer tampons for ultra lite or ultra heavy flows, they ignored the latter question completely, but they did say they do have Tampax Pearl tampons in Australia and provided me with a list of stockists (see below). When I checked online, I could not find any evidence that any of these places stock Tampax Pearl, although some commenters have said they have found them occasionally in their local stores, which is great for them but isn’t so good for those of us who can’t find them in our local stores and were hoping to order online. Priceline Pharmacy, however, does currently offer one variety of Tampax Compak online, saying that it comes with a plastic applicator, though it is not advertised as a Pearl applicator. I haven’t tried these, but if you have, please leave a comment and let me know how they compare.

List of stockists:

Big W                         1800 251 311       www.bigw.com.au
Chemist Warehouse 1300 367 283        www.chemistwarehouse.com.au
Coles                         1800 656 055        www.coles.com.au
Franklins                    1800 004 844        www.franklins.com.au
IGA                                                           www.iga.net.au
K Mart                        1800 051 800        www.kmart.com.au/
Priceline                                                   www.priceline.com.au
Target                        1800 814 788         www.target.com.au
Terry White                1800 653 662         www.terrywhitechemists.com.au/
Woolworths               1300 767 969          www.woolworths.com.au

Update (28 Feb 2013): Please see my post about ordering Tampax Pearl online from Australian retailer, Fishpond. As of today, they have all varieties of Tampax Pearl in stock!!!