For those with menstruating bodies, being in the “feminine hygiene products” aisle can be overwhelming, regardless of age. Pads? Tampons? Liners? Diva cups? Sponges? Scented? Unscented? Plastic? Cardboard? No applicator? There are a lot of options in a lot of shapes, sizes, and colors (and more keep coming out every day!).
So before you jump into period-season with an industrial-sized box of something, let’s talk options.
Tampons are my personal favorite option. Once they’re in, I tend to forget I’m even wearing them! They are, I find, the most carefree way of managing my period.
Tampons come in all different sizes. These different size options are great because not everybody has the same “flow.” In addition, the amount that you bleed varies day-to-day during your menstrual cycle (lighter on the first and last days, and heavier on the middle days, usually), so having tampons that vary in absorbency is key. I usually buy variety packs of tampons that have everything from Regular to Super-Plus. There are also Junior and Ultra Absorbency tampons.
There are both scented and unscented tampons — I tend to steer clear of scented because of their proclivity to cause yeast infections and mess with your vagina’s pH level.
Tampons can come with cardboard applicators, plastic applicators, or no applicators. Non-applicator tampons, like o.b., don’t produce as much waste, and applicator tampons are super easy to insert.
There are organic and sustainable options for tampons, though they might not be on the shelf at your local drug store. There are organic cotton/plant-based applicator tampons by the Honest Company, and even reusable hemp tampons (make sure you follow the cleaning instructions!)
Panty liners are a very thin, absorbent liner that you stick to the inside of your underwear. You can wear them with tampons to protect your underwear in case of any leakage.
If you don’t like tampons, pads are always an option! Pads cover your underwear, and work to catch blood once it comes out (unlike tampons, which soak up the blood internally.) Pads come with different absorbencies, and there are also scented and unscented options.
Some people don’t find pads as comfortable as tampons, but this is completely a person preference! If you prefer tampons, pads are still great for nighttime sleeping.
There are also awesome reusable pads now, like the Lunapads.
3. Menstrual Cups
Menstrual cups are wonderful for the environmentally and economically minded because you won’t produce any waste and you won’t have to spend money on tampons (tampons are expensive!)
Menstrual cups are reusable healthcare grade silicone cups that can be inserted into your vagina. This can be a little tricky until you’ve done it a couple of times. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to insert your menstrual cup, check this out (skip to 2:02). When you pull out the menstrual cup, you simply dump the blood in the cup into the toilet, clean it, and reinsert!
It is recommended that you remove and clean your diva cup at least twice in 24 hours during use. Make sure you clean your menstrual cup properly! Here’s how.
Overall, it seems that the sponges worked very effectively, but the retrieval was a bit difficult. These natural sponges are also biodegradable — definitely worth a try for those who are exploring different options or want to mix things up, especially if you have sustainability on the brain!
There are a lot of different feminine hygiene products out there, even some lesser known ones we didn’t mention (like period panties). Every menstruating person has their own personal preferences, and don’t worry — you have plenty of time to try different things and figure out what works for you. Happy exploring!
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.