A week ago, Twitter user “@amorgxn” took to Twitter to share her horrifying experience using Always sanitary pads. According to her, the pad caused a rash that eventually landed her in the hospital, where she was treated for necrotising fasciitis and septic shock. She went through multiple surgeries and spent weeks healing at the hospital.
She claimed that she had been using Always pads in the UK for 14 years without any issues, but this single use of an Always pad she bought in Nigeria had almost cost her her life. Several African woman also shared how Always pads had caused them serious discomfort and health issues.
#MyAlwaysExperience: Always Products in Kenya
Worse still, such accounts are not new. In March, 2019, Kenyan women started a movement on Twitter with the tag “#MyAlwaysExperience”. Just like @amorgxn, many women had used Always pads in Europe without experiencing any discomfort, but experienced the opposite with Always products bought in Africa. The women then accused Procter & Gamble, Always products’ manufacturer, of selling substandard products in Kenya and urged women to boycott the brand.
It was soon discovered that the Always pads used in Kenya had a thin perforated layer of polyethene (PE) on the top. The plastic material is good at retaining moisture, but is less breathable as it traps more heat. Thus in a country like Kenya with hot weather conditions, the use of PE in that manner would naturally lead to the severe irritation and discomfort experienced by Kenyan women.
Always denied the allegations, claiming that the quality of their products was the same everywhere. However, in January, 2020, Always Kenya re-entered the marketplace with supposedly new and improved sanitary products. There were still concerns about the PE top sheet which Always responded to by claiming they had refined the PE to be more user-friendly.
Always Products in Nigeria - Exploring Alternatives.
For many Nigerian girls and women, the Always brand is synonymous with period care. The brand has nearly monopolised the sanitary product market in Nigeria for years. It is the trust of such a “big name” brand that has made many continue using the brand, even with the questionable discomfort experienced. However, as women are becoming increasingly open about their period experiences, there is a better understanding that the discomfort is not a normal accompaniment to periods; the pads are to blame.
“‘Always’ itches me. Sometimes, I scratch to the point that I have to stop myself, so that I don’t end up peeling my skin”, one Nigerian woman shared when asked about her experience using Always pads. She mentioned that she had tried to use other brands, but they weren’t “heavy flow” pads, so she would get stained. Two other women shared similar accounts of sacrificing their comfort for Always pads which could properly contain their heavy flow.
“I think the ‘Always’ differs per country. The one in Nigeria causes me to itch; the one in Canada is okay for me”, said Amelia. She also mentioned how Always Canada had a sensitive pad line that she hadn’t seen in Nigeria. “They have the flex foam that isn’t that rubbery thing [sic] in Nigeria. The rubbery pads itch for sensitive people, so there is the cotton option here”. Amelia uses Longrich Sanitary Napkin in Nigeria as it is “100% cotton” and therefore, more suitable for her sensitive skin.
Multiple other women shared that even though they hadn’t had bad experiences with the Always brand, they have switched to other brands as a precautionary measure. One brand name that kept recurring was “Molped”.
Molped was launched in 2019 by Turkish multinational company, Hayat Kimya, to cater specifically to Nigerian women. The brand boasts of being irritation-free and “ultra soft”, qualities their users can attest to.
Some women have also taken to using tampons, although, they are a much less popular option for period care in Nigeria. Some, like Osato, are still looking to explore other options. “I want to try using (menstrual) cups. I’ve read it’s better for collection and the risk of toxic shock, and I have a friend who swears by it”, Osato shared.
Nevertheless, Always (P & G) has the responsibility of providing their African markets with products that do not cause women any harm. Many women do not have the luxury of alternatives and will continue to think the burns, rashes and discomfort are just a part of the “period package”, unless something tangible is done about it.