Let me start with explaining what I mean by reusable menstrual products (which I’ll simply call reusables). No, you do not use tampons more than once (ew). There are different types of reusables that you can use with your disposable tampons and pads (which I’ll simply call disposables) or you can use to replace them altogether. There are 3 major categories of reusables: 1) menstrual cups that replace tampons; 2) cloth pads that replace disposable pads; and 3) period panties that you can use to replace everything or use together with other products.
You may be thinking that some / all of these are gross or that you’re doing fine without them, but give me a chance before you blow this off. Here are some reasons you should make the switch: Reusables are 1) good for your body; 2) good for your budget; 3) good for the planet; and 4) good for travel.
1) Good for your body: Disposable menstrual products are typically made with plastics, cotton, synthetic fibers, and wood pulp. These materials are then bleached with chlorine dioxide (no, cotton is not naturally white) which can remain in your body for decades. Conventionally produced cotton is also one of the most toxic crops grown – it uses 20% of the world’s pesticides and herbicides. Additionally, disposables usually contain artificial fragrances, adhesives, and chemical gels. When you put all that together… Why would you want disposable menstrual products anywhere near one of the most sensitive parts of your body?!
2) Good for your budget: The average American woman uses 12,000 to 16,000 disposables in her lifetime. That’s insane! If you buy boxes of 20 tampons or pads at $5 per box, you’ll spend at least $3,000 or more on disposables. Reusables, on the other hand, have a higher initial cost, but if you make the investment, then you save so much money. Especially think about this for women who have daughters who are just starting to menstruate – if you get them started on reusables, it makes a big difference in their lifetimes.
3) Good for the planet: Let’s get back to those 12,000 to 16,000 disposables that each American woman uses in her lifetime… It all goes in a landfill! Not to mention the impact from the packaging, shipping, manufacturing, etc. The plastics from a pad can take hundreds of years to decompose. I could go into this further, but I think it’s obvious that it’s not sustainable to use disposables.
4) Good for travel: When I’m going on vacation, I don’t want to use up space to pack a box of tampons or pads. I also don’t want to bring nothing and then start while I’m on vacation. I especially don’t want to waste space in my backpack on tampons and pads when I’m traveling the world. I need that valuable space for more important things. But it’s a natural fact of life that I am going to have a period every month, so I can’t just ignore that and not bring any menstrual products with me. Reusables take up less space than disposables do if you’re packing for longer than a couple of days. You can bring 1 small menstrual cup instead of however many tampons you’d require for that time of the month. You can bring a few pairs of period panties (which I assume you were already going to bring underwear, so just replace some of those with period panties). And you can bring a few reusable pads if you like pads. All in all, it takes up less space.
Now, if you’re still with me and thinking you might be willing to try out reusables… YAY! Let me tell you a little bit about the three types of reusables I mentioned above.
1) Menstrual cups (pictured above in photo 1): These are usually made of flexible medical grade silicone, and they can fully replace tampons. They collect your menstrual fluid instead of absorbing it, and they can last 10+ years depending on which brand you choose.
These are great because you don’t need to carry extra tampons with you. You just empty it when it’s full, and reinsert. I will say, however, that these can be hard to get used to. It took me a few months of trying to figure out the best way to insert it and remove it for it to be comfortable now. Overall, it was worth it, but you do need to know up front that it isn’t as easy as using a tampon.
Every woman’s body is different, so there are several different shapes, sizes, etc., and it may take purchasing more than one brand at first to get the right product. I have a Moon Cup and a MeLuna Cup. The Moon Cup is sturdier and doesn’t bend as easily, so it is a little harder to get in and out for me, but the MeLuna Cup isn’t sturdy enough and seems to leak a little for me. This is complete personal preference, so I’d suggest looking at lots of reviews before buying one. This YouTube video is also SUPER helpful for choosing a cup, so be sure to watch it before buying your first one!
2) Cloth pads (pictured above in photo 4): These can fully replace disposable pads. There are soooo many different kinds, sizes, thicknesses, etc., so you’ll have to research what you need depending on your menstrual cycle. Some sell multiple inserts so that you can pick and choose the thickness you want. Some are super colorful and fun. Some are made with bamboo.
3) Period panties (pictured above in photos 2 & 3): People seem to be the most skeptical of these. And I get that because it really does seem unbelievable that not only can underwear replace tampons and disposable pads but that said underwear isn’t big and bulky. Can it be true?! It is!
Period panties are underwear that are made of materials that make them anti-microbial, moisture-wicking, absorbent, and leak-resistant (they don’t say “leak-proof” because they aren’t diapers – it’s similar to a tampon where you aren’t going to leak through unless you don’t change it when you are supposed to. If you leave a tampon in for too long or period panties on for too long, then of course you are going to leak through). I haven't had any of them stain either, so even my nude pairs are still nude :)
And, different brands do different things. Some have a pocket where you can insert a heating pad when you have really bad cramps. Some of them are meant to be worn in combination with other products (cups / pads), and some can be worn alone. Some are cheaper than others. Some sell swimwear and bodysuits and leggings!
I actually bought 3 different brands of period panties to try (my husband: “Why are you spending so much money on underwear?!” and me: “Do you have a period?! Do you even know what it’s like to be a woman?! NO?! Then leave me alone!” and yes, I was PMSing during this conversation).
I recently got a new IUD, so I don't have a good pattern going right now with my time of the month. I've just been wearing period panties for months because I'm not sure when I'll start. It's great because even in a thong, I'm not worried about leaking!
1) THINX: I’m putting this brand of period panties first because it’s my absolute favorite. If you only want to try one brand, Thinx is more expensive than a lot of the others, but for a very good reason (and, you can use my link here and get $10 off of your first pair!). Don’t skimp when it comes to these – you want ones that work and are comfortable.
I bought 2 nude thongs and 3 nude hiphugger panties all in size medium. Thinx are great because they tell you exactly how much liquid each should hold. The thongs each hold 1/2 a tampon worth of liquid, and the hiphuggers each hold 2 tampons worth of liquid. The hiphuggers fit like normal underwear would (the medium was a good choice for me), but the thongs are big. I wish I'd ordered a small in those because they are a little too big for me. Don't let that hold you back - just order a size smaller than you would normally order on those.
2) TOMIES: I got these because of the major cramping I've had with my last IUD. It's still new, so my body is still saying "ef you" to it. Their disposable heating pads are amazing! Thin, but powerful, and they last all day long. If I put one on in the morning, then it's still hot when I go to bed. They are so helpful if you have bad cramps. However, these are just meant to be used with other products, so they aren't as fully functional as Thinx.
3) PantyProp: Do not buy these. Absolutely do not buy. Firm no. I got them because of the price, but they are HUGE. It's not just that the size was too big. The seams are width of the crotch area are so big that they chafe like crazy. And they don't absorb. I wore them anyway thinking I would deal with the chafing, and then I leaked :(
If you have more questions or want more detail, please feel free to send me a message through any interface. I'm more than happy to talk about this stuff and share more details.
Hi, I'm Sara Monica Patton. I love animals, traveling, and eating. Read more about me in my first blog post here.