For most people who have periods, tampons are still the go-to option to tackle that time of the month. But there are several alternatives to choose from if you’re looking to move away from single-use products.
It’s easy to see why the tampon has been so popular since its conception in 1931. Tampons are accessible for many, they come in a range of sizes and absorbencies, and they get the job done without much mess.
Over the years, feminine hygiene products have come a long way, and there are many options outside of tampons.
These alternatives are not only more cost-effective and ultimately better for the environment, but they may also offer better protection and a more comfortable experience. So, if you’re ready to ditch your tampons, keep reading to find something that could work for you.
The feminine hygiene products used in place of the menstrual cups are called tampon alternatives. These options can be more natural and eco-friendly.
There are also menstruation sea sponges, menstrual cups, period underwear, and cloth pads. It might take some trial and error to decide which product is best for you.
You will discover a whole new way of experiencing your period in the end. Maybe you prefer menstrual cups or period panties. It is worth exploring.
We did extensive online research to find the right product. We reached out to several experts, including gynecologists, to get their input.
Additionally, when recommending brands, we made sure they adhere to industry best practices and that the products aren’t potentially harmful.
- Price: $20–$40
- Hours of protection: 6–12
- Absorbency: 1 ounce of liquid, roughly twice the capacity of a tampon
- Pro: can last up to 10 years with proper care
- Con: manual dexterity required
Menstrual cups are usually made from latex, silicone, or rubber. The vagina has cups that are folded and tucked inside.
According to Felice Gersh, MD, an OB- GYN and the founder and director of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine, cups can hold more fluid than other methods.
Depending on your flow, you can keep your cup in for up to 12 hours.
Gersh says that changing and cleaning menstrual cups can be done every 12 hours. Many women feel that menstrual cups give them more freedom and convenience.
Gersh says that menstrual cups reduce vaginal infections.
As for downsides, Alexis May Kimble, DO, a board certified urogynecologist at The Kimble Center, mentions that cups require a bit of manual dexterity in order to remove and insert. They can also be messy and involve the ability to handle menstrual fluid during these changes.
- Price: $15–$50 per pair
- Hours of protection: up to 12
- Absorbency: anywhere from two to ten times the amount of a regular tampon
- Pro: comfortable and stylish
- Con: not disposable, requires laundering
There is a special absorbent layer in period underwear. The built-in layer helps prevent blood from leaking through the panties.
Kimble says that leaks are better for the environment and can result in cost savings in the long run.
She says that they come in a variety of styles that can be adjusted and worn during different times of the menstrual cycle and for improved comfort and convenience.
Period undies can hold up to three times the amount of a regular tampon, and can be worn on days when you experience a heavy flow.
The upfront costs might be high. They are more expensive than regular underwear. You will need multiple pairs because you will need to wash them after each use.
- Price: $14–$50
- Hours of protection: up to 12
- Absorbency: roughly 5 or 6 teaspoons of fluid
- Pro: works well during intercourse
- Con: can be messy
Menstrual discs are similar to menstrual cups in that they are inserted into the vagina to collect period fluid. Kimble says that menstruation discs allow the user to have less messy intercourse.
They are available in both one-time and reuse options. The option of reuse is better for the environment and saves money.
Like menstrual cups, menstrual discs can be messy to remove. There is a learning curve to finding the right fit and how to remove the disc.
If you have your menstrual disc inserted correctly, it should sit higher up near your cervix, which will make it easier to use a tampon. This also provides a better seal.
- Price: $10-$40
- Hours of protection: 4-8 hours
- Absorbency: About the same as a regular pad
- Pro: better for the environment
- Con: requires washing and may not feel as comfortable
Reusable pads are available in different sizes to fit your flow. You will want to change your pads when they start feeling heavy, wet, or uncomfortable.
Depending on your flow, you should get around 4 to 8 hours of protection from your reusable pad, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
If you choose a super-absorbent option, you will likely get more protection. You should change your pad daily.
Kimble says that the cloth pads may not be as comfortable as other alternatives. She said that disposable pads can shift around throughout the day, which may leave you feeling a bit self-conscious.
The package has instructions for cleaning your pad. You should be able to toss your pads in the laundry.
Try this reusable cloth pads
It’s a common misconception that tampons are better and hold more blood than their reusable counterparts, says Kim Rosas, an expert in the reusable period care space, from Period Nirvana.
It will depend on which alternative you choose, but most internally worn reusables, such as menstrual cups and discs, hold anywhere from two to five times more absorbency than a regular tampon. They collect blood rather than absorb it.
You will want to look for the level of absorbency that matches your needs, like with buying disposable pads, when you buy reusable pads or period underwear.
Our experts agree that most alternatives work. You need to make sure you have the right size. When you are first starting out, you can have a learning curve with the right menstrual cup or disc.
Most users who switch would say that their experience with a cup or disc has been better than with a tampons, this has a lot to do with how comfortable they are. The right product should be invisible to the naked eye. It is easier than ever to find the perfect cup or disc with the wide selection of sizes, shapes, lengths, and firmness.
It is possible to wear a backup liner or leakproof underwear with your cup or disc until you are through that learning phase.
If you only use cloth pads, they will need washing. The comfort is usually worth the extra time.
The reasons for changing your feminine hygiene product will vary from person to person.
Some people will switch because they want a healthier option for themselves, while others will switch because they want to reduce waste.
The dramatic difference in how much a menstrual cup or another alternative can hold is one reason someone may consider changing.
If not safer than tampons, contraceptive alternatives are.
Kimble says that menstrual products are classified as medical devices. They are registered with the FDA.
“There are harmful chemicals that aren’t always required to be disclosed on the label.”
Silicone or other medical grade materials are used to make t-shirts. Silicone menstrual cups and period underwear may prevent exposure to chemicals that are found in some products.
It is important to follow application and care instructions for each alternative to ensure safe use and good hygiene. Kimble said that the use of pads and period underwear can reduce the risk of toxic shock syndrome.
There are a few things you should consider when choosing the best alternative for your menstrual cycle. If you have always used feminine hygiene products, you might want to look into a menstrual cup or menstrual disc.
There are cups and discs in the vagina. Rosas says menstrual cups are more difficult to use than other types. cups are usually less messy if you are squeamish about blood. Discs have a shorter learning curve than other types of objects.
When choosing a cup, it can be hard to remember. It is a mistake to buy a cup from the pharmacy. You should do some research into your cervix height. You can find the option that is most likely to fit on your first try.
Rosas suggests taking a quiz to help you find your fit. The Period Nirvana quiz asks you relevant questions and gives you a few options that match your needs.
If you are intimidated by the idea of a cup or disc, you could try period panties. Period underwear is great if you have a light flow. If your flow is heavier, you should use reusable pads.
All of the options are good. You will want to decide what is best for you.
What’s the best tampon alternative for me?
The right alternative depends on what you are looking for and what you are comfortable with.
Sara Twogood is a medical expert for Flo and OB- GYN at Cedars Sinai Medical Group.
- How important is a reuse product to me?
- How comfortable is it to put something in my vagina?
- How heavy is my flow?
- Do I have access to clean, private bathroom throughout the day?
- Do I have easy access to a washing machine or do I prefer to hand wash my period products?
What’s the safest product to use for periods?
The alternatives mentioned are all safe. Gersh says the risk of toxic shock syndrome is very low. They do not increase the risk of vaginal infections.
It is important to follow application and care instructions for each alternative to ensure safe use and good hygiene.
Is anything as effective as using a tampon?
The alternatives to the feminine hygiene products can be more effective.
There is no time like the present to consider changing out your feminine hygiene products.
Our experts say that the FDA approved alternatives to the traditional feminine hygiene product are safe, comfortable, and even allow for less messy period sex.
It is helpful to talk with your gynecologist to find out the best alternative for you.
A front-end/iOS engineer and writer named Stephanie Barnes has her work featured on The Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen, and more. She is passionate about health and well being, and it affects minority communities.