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Period hygiene and management have come a long way! If it’s not political debates that’s going on, it’s the war on tampons, menstrual cups, and period underwear. And for newcomers to periods, this choice is abundant!
So, which period tool is best? Well, I don’t think there is a clear winner as they all have their pros and cons!
Period underwear is great when it comes to comfort, convenience and reduced impact on the environment, but less great when you need to change in a public restroom and quite expensive as an initial investment.
Menstrual Cups are a great minimal-waste solution as they last many years. They are probably the most affordable option with a small initial investment in your first cup. As opposed to period panties (you will probably need 4-5 at least to cover a cycle), one cup is usually enough. On the downside, they are not the easiest to change (particularly when not at home) and require (at least) a rinse before you can re-insert. They are best changed in the shower!
While tampons are becoming slightly “passé”, I believe there’s still a time and place for them. When you are out and about, they are small to carry and easy to change. As a disposable product, you don’t have to worry about cleaning or taking it back home. As an internal device, similar to a menstrual cup, they are good for sports and an active lifestyle! The big downside to tampons include the large waste factor and the higher ongoing costs.
In my own experience, I have all three devices: a collection of period panties, a menstrual cup and tampons – which I use only when going out for extended periods of time. Period panties are my go-to choice, and I may use a cup (in addition) for heavier flow days or nighttime.
While period underwear, menstrual cups and tampons are not necessarily mutually exclusive, let’s have a look into each solution!
Period underwear is an absorbent panty that holds up to two tampons worth of blood flow, with a moisture barrier to keep you dry and comfortable, paired with another layer for leakproof undies. With this many layers, period panties definitely work!
This sounds like a lot of layers, however, period panties don’t give you that diaper feeling the same way pads do! They are also not to be confused with old-fashion ‘cloth solutions’ used by our grandmothers and/or great grandmothers. The embed padding is efficient, comfortable and, being sewn into your lingerie, stays in the right place all the time.
Period panties are good for those who stay active and want to stay comfortable during their period. However, it can be hard to make the switch, so I advise you to start wearing a period panty on your lighter flow days before moving on to full-time use.
In my opinion and as a big fan of bamboo underwear, I think ModiBodi provides the BEST period underwear on the market.
What Kind of Impact Does Period Underwear Have on the Environment and Your Pockets?
While period panties are completely reusable, which puts a big smile on the planet, they can be expensive to buy at first. They are generally sold for $20 to $30 a pair. This is definitely a higher cost compared to tampons or pads, however, it’s a sustainable investment for the future.
You might need up to 4 pairs of undies, depending on how long your cycle is. You would see your savings in the future, though, when you’re not frantically running to the store for a pad/tampon!
Period panties are totally reusable and are likely to last for about 12-24 months (depending on the frequency of use and care), which spells amazing news for the environment. When you eventually dispose of it, it won’t last in the landfill as long as a disposable pad or tampon.
The best thing about period panties? They can be washed thoroughly and recycled when they have reached the end of their life. Awesome!
Pros and Cons of Period Underwear
|Pros of Period Underwear||Cons (compared to Cups and Tampons)|
|Convenient! It’s literally so easy to slide a pair on when you start your period. There’s no right or wrong way!||The initial cost can be very high, and you’re going to need at least 4 pairs. They don’t last forever and may need replacement after a few months.|
|They’re good for the environment as some brands are totally plastic-free. And they’re reusable.||Compared to Tampons, it’s kinda hard to change them during the day. You’d have to get naked in an unfamiliar area, plus you’d have to carry the bloodied panties.|
|The crotch has a black lining, so you won’t see or feel the blood.||Some people aren’t comfortable with blood flow, so they would want to wear a cup or tampon too.|
|It does not have a bulky feeling.||Some people still feel “wet.” With internal solutions such as tampons and cups, the flow is blocked inside you.|
|Period underwear is available in various styles, from full panties to thongs.|
Let’s Learn About the Cup!
Our next product is the menstrual cup.
The cup collects blood instead of absorbing it. It is a flexible, cone-shaped product that is made from medical-grade silicone. The cup is inserted into the vagina just how you’d do with a tampon. After 12 hours or so, it’s removed so you can dispose of the blood and wash the cup thoroughly.
The menstrual cup can be used for years.
Menstrual Cup’s Cost and the Impact on the Environment
The cup can be costly at first, but one cup can last you for years.
On average, you can pay up to $40 for one cup. Tampons and pads cost up to $700 a year, depending on how long and heavy your period is, paired with other factors. So, buying a menstrual cup is like a once-off thing!
This benefits those who have low income and from developing countries.
Menstrual cups have been around for quite some time, but it’s recently getting recognition as people become more eco-conscious. It’s by far the most environmentally friendly period product. It does not contain any plastic and is biodegradable when eventually thrown out. Some can even be recycled.
The cup can last anywhere from 6 months to 6 years with proper care and sanitization. When you’re not using your cup, make sure it’s kept in a clean place. Most brands provide a sustainable cotton bag to store your cup.
Pros and Cons of Menstrual Cups
|Pros of Menstrual Cups||Cons compared to period underwear and tampons|
|Cheaper than buying pads, period underwear and tampons every month.||It can be difficult to get the hang of putting in and removing a menstrual cup.|
|Sustainable and better for the environment. One cup is likely to last years – as opposed to one-off disposable tampons and period underwear which is likely to last for a few months but does deteriorate after a while.||It can be messy to remove! Especially for a first-timer. This may cause period stains on your underwear.|
|It can be worn for 12 hours.||You have to properly clean your cup after each use.|
|As an internal device, the cup stops any odor coming to the outside world!||The cup may be inconvenient if you have to change in a public restroom. Tampons are no doubt much easier.|
|Great for swimming and other ‘sporty’ activities (although a liner might be required)||Risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).|
What About Tampons?
Last but not least, the ol’ tampon.
Although fewer people are opting for this solution (myself included), I believe there is still a time and place for it. They are probably still the best solution when you are out and about and need to change your period device! If you have to rely on public toilets, they are way easier to change compared to menstrual cups and period lingerie.
Tampons are a disposable period protection method that is usually made from rayon or cotton. This absorbent material expands as it catches and soaks up the period blood. Tampons are inserted into the vagina, where your muscles hold it in place.
This seems a bit uncomfortable and nerve-wrecking for a first-timer, but it’s something you can ease into once you’re used to periods! Some tampons have applicators to help you insert them properly, so you could opt for those.
How Do Tampons Affect the Environment and Your Pocket?
Depending on where you live, tampons can be affordable, but when you sit and calculate your budget, you’ll see that tampon costs can add up! Plus, there’s tampon tax, so that doesn’t really help.
On average, a person may spend over $1,500 on tampons in their life, and this amount can increase if you choose to buy organic tampons.
Apart from making your wallet unhappy, tampons are also not very eco-friendly. Due to the material of tampon and plastic applicators, they contribute to the waste in the landfills, which eventually end up in the oceans.
So, tampons are not the most economical choice in period protection.
Pros and Cons of Tampons
|Tampon Pros||Cons vs menstrual cups and period panties|
|They are discreet and small enough to fit in your bag.||You can only wear them for 8 hours at a time.|
|You can go swimming or play sports without worrying about your period. Cups are good for that too.||Their cost adds up to a lot of money, which can be hard to manage for those who suffer from period poverty.|
|When you get the hang of it, it’s very comfortable and cannot be felt.||Regular discarded tampons can outlive you and me, and take about 1000 years to break down. This spells bad news for the environment.|
|You can wear any kind of underwear without fear.||There is a possibility that you could get TSS. It is rare, but it’s good to know the risks.|
Which Period Protection Is Right for Me?
We may not be able to control the things that come with having a period, like moodiness or cramps, but we can control our comfort factor!
Between tampons, the menstrual cup, and period panties, the choice is based on your needs and lifestyle. You can also try different products, and ask your family and friends which works for them.
It is common to use different products at different times of your period. For example, one can use tampons during the day but pads at night. One might wear period panties, a pad, or pantyliner while using a tampon or cup for ultimate leak protection.
If you’re trying to walk the eco-friendly path, then you should try all the economical methods and choose from there.
Some people feel more comfortable wearing a tampon or cup, so you can’t feel it. Plus, it’s good if you’re very active. However, others feel that period underwear is more comfortable, as it doesn’t involve inserting anything in the body.
Be it a period panty or a menstrual cup, there’s something for us all!
😊Added period advice! Don’t use scented period products or vaginal deodorants, as they can lead to skin irritation and infection. I know you’re concerned about the smell, but the chances that anyone can tell is virtually nonexistent! If you have a heavy flow, make sure to change often.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is better, a menstrual cup or period underwear?
Both are eco-friendly approaches to handling your period, however, many people prefer the cup as they cannot feel it when it’s inserted. Others find comfort in a period panty since it’s like normal underwear, with lots of layers!
It depends on your preference and your comfort factor. You can even wear both on heavy flow days for added protection.
Is it easier to use a tampon or a menstrual cup?
Both can be fairly difficult if you’ve never used either before. With the cup, you must fold it to look like a tampon and insert it slowly. Tampons usually come with applicators, which is easier for the first-timer.