It’s time to get down and dirty with a quick little talk about tampons.
The typical vag owner spends a ton of cash on tampons each year. Once a month you’re required to go to a store and pick up a box of what are basically vaginal q-tips for decidedly not q-tip cash, shove them up your vagina then toss them when you’re done, all because of a legit biological need.
It’s hardly fair.
The price of tampons (and the additional taxes) has always boggled my mind. Not to mention, most of them are made from gross crap that really shouldn’t make its way into your body. It’s really time we do away with these archaic products. So, let’s talk tampon alternatives.
Important note: I’m not a doctor. And while I generally want the best for your health, I highly recommend that you talk to a health professional about the best tampon alternatives for you.
Why use a tampon alternative?
Tampons are kind of gross if you really think about them.
I don’t mean in the way that they hold period blood, that’s a natural, normal thing. But they’re filled with chemicals and, in some cases, actual toxic substances that you probably shouldn’t be shoving up your vag—though that’s just me saying that.
Plus they get pricey. Sure you can get a small box for a few bucks, but they don’t last very long, and you have to constantly replace them. Talk about a money grab!
Tampon alternatives help get rid of the questionable ingredients in traditional products. And, in the long run, while they might be more expensive upfront, they can save you a ton of cash.
But not all tampon alternatives are made equal. Things like crochet or cloth tampons are untested, unregulated, and could leave you with more problems than solutions. It’s possible they can raise your risk of toxic shock syndrome—which you don’t want!
So while finding an alternative to a traditional tampon is beneficial, you really want to be careful when it comes to picking which one you actually go with.
Best tampon alternatives
If you’re looking for a tried and true alternative to tampons, the menstrual cup might be for you. Not only are these an environmentally friendly choice, they offer leak-proof security (when inserted correctly) and durability.
Menstrual cups are inserted directly into the vagina where they form a seal and collect all of the blood. Most have the ability to hold a lot of blood, often making them wearable for longer periods of time over traditional tampons.
Now, inserting them to ensure they’re leakproof takes a bit of practice. Not to mention you need to be comfortable getting all up in your own grill (as in shoving your fingers right in there), and cleaning out the cup afterward (which will certainly be filled with blood). Those new to the process say it can be a little uncomfortable at first.
It can be hard to choose a cup to shove up your vagina, but the Flex Cup is a popular choice. Known for its ultra-soft stem that can be made shorter or longer, it’s an ideal choice for newbies to the menstrual cup game.
It offers up to 12 hours of period protection, holding the equivalent of around three tampons. Which, if you’re doing the math, can save you a boatload of cash in the end.
The Flex is made in the USA out of 100 percent medical-grade silicone. It’s registered with the FDA (you know, the guys who tell you whether or not something is good for you), is free of BPA, phthalate, and natural rubber latex, and is hypoallergenic.
Now, I have PCOS, which means that periods are rare for me, so I haven’t used one of these bad boys myself. But most who try menstrual cups, in general, say they doubt they’ll go back to tampons. The Flex is easy to insert and remove, and while the price is a little more upfront, if you consider the amount of money you regularly spend on tampons, you end up saving a lot.
Exactly like the cup, menstrual discs are inserted right up in there. They offer the same leak-proof experience that can last up to 12 hours, but they’ve got a much smaller profile. That small profile means that it’s a lot easier to have sex with—though it is decidedly not a contraceptive, nor does it protect against STIs.
There are two big differences between cups and discs:
- Discs are not reusable, you need to dispose of it one you’ve used it.
- Discs are inserted in the vaginal fornix, this is deeper than the vaginal canal where both tampons and menstrual cups are. This placement is crucial in preventing blood flow during sex.
Menstrual discs can be a convenient tampon alternative, but you do also have to be cool with getting your fingers WAY up in there. You’ll also need to dump the blood in the toilet before tossing the disc.
Not only does Flex make a stellar menstrual cup, but they have a customer-favorite disc as well.
There are quite a few pretty happy users with this disc, with Flex reporting that 60 percent of their customers have fewer period cramps, and 80 percent had less dryness and irritation. So, if you like those odds, it might be the best alternative option.
You get the same 12 hours of worry-free protection with the disc, and each one is easy to dispose of after its use. They’re made in Canada with vegan, medical-grade body-safe material. And Flex says they’re designed to be easy to use, even if you’re a beginner.
If easy and mess-free is what you’re looking for, then period underwear might be for you.
No, I admit, this isn’t the sexiest tampon alternative. But when it comes to ease of use, and comfortability, it makes a big splash (or lack thereof, if you will).
Like regular undies, you simply put these on and wear them around when you’re on your period. They’re washable (just like your ole granny panties) which makes them slightly better for the environment than constantly throwing out paper products.
However, it’s important to point out that many period panties are meant to be worn in conjunction with another method, such as a tampon or even a pad. You don’t necessarily have to do this. But if you aren’t, you might want to consider switching yours out more often to prevent any leakage.
There are plenty of period panties out there on the market, but I’ve chosen to feature Thinx hiphuggers because (a) they’re affordable, (b) they’re one of the OG period undies, and (c) they’ve got great reviews. They can hold up to three tampons worth of menstrual blood, making them a comfy companion.
Reusable cloth pads
Reusable cloth pads are exactly what they sound like: a more sustainable version of the standard disposable pad.
There isn’t a ton to say on these except that if you enjoy wearing basic pads, these are probably the tampon alternative for you. They offer slightly better absorption than you’d see in a traditional pad, and can be worn for around six hours.
Once you’ve used it, simply take it off and toss it in the wash. That way it’ll be ready for its next wear.
Cloth pads are a dime a dozen these days, but these organic ones by Bloompads ones are pretty nifty. Handmade, these pads come in varying lengths so you can find the best fit for you. They’re made of a combination of organic bamboo fleece and premium cotton for the ultimate comfort.
Natural sea sponges
I’m including natural sea sponges on this list because they have a large following in the tampon alternative world. But I want to stress that there is no medical backing for them. In fact, the FDA actually lists them as “significant risk” devices. So, if I was you, I’d probably avoid them.
That said, sea sponges are harvested from the Mediterranean Sea and are made of an all-natural material. They need to be inserted completely dry into your vagina, which is a little tricky considering they’re pretty hard in their natural state. But reviewers say that once they’re in they’re comfortable.
A single sponge can be used again (after being rinsed out) for between three and six months, and they last about as long as a tampon does during a single-use.
Neptune sponges are popular amongst the sponge-wearing crowd.
They are said to be natural, non-toxic, and hypoallergenic. And while they feel harder when dry, once they’re inside and have had some time to loosen up, they’re soft and comfortable.
Technically, these are intended to be used as an exfoliator, but one review said that once they sterilized theirs, they made for the perfect “low-promenstruation option” when it comes to swimming and sex. They help to keep things less messy.
However, I do want to reiterate once again that these are not recommended by medical sources or the FDA as a viable tampon alternative. So, to each their own!
Which tampon alternative is best for you?
I can’t tell you which is the best tampon alternative for you. In part, because I don’t deal with a lot of periods of my own, but primarily because I’m not you and I’m not sure what you’re looking for.
That said, I can tell you that if you’re squirmy about blood, and aren’t big on poking your fingers in your vagina, then you’ll want to skip the discs and cups. But if you want no mess, they might be your best bet.
If you’re simply looking for a straight-up alternative to a tool like a pad, I’d recommend going reusable pad because they’re the same thing but can save you a wack load of cash in the long run. And if you’re looking for added protection on top of something more typical (aka a tampon), then period underwear might be your path.
The bottom line is that just because tampons are status quo doesn’t mean they’re your only option. There are viable, usable alternatives that could save you stress and mess in the long run.
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