Super, mini or normal? With or without applicator? Good for the environment or for your wallet? The wondrous white sticks that promise a discreet and comfortable menstruation come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. What to look for? Here are some pointers on how to pick The Perfect Tampon.
Big or small?
Every menstruation is different. Some have a tsunami-like red flow that lasts for five days, with others it’s just a tiny wave that only flows two days. Hence why not everybody uses the same size of tampons.
All tampons have an indicator for the amount of blood they can handle: one, two or three drops. Also indicated as mini, normal and super. This has nothing to do with the size of your vulva, but everything with the amount of blood coming out. Although this might seem contradictory: the lower the absorbency rating, the better for your vaginal flora.
If you’re using a tampon for the first time, choose the smallest size and replace it every few hours. Don’t try to insert a tampon when you aren’t menstruating (yet). Never keep a tampon in for longer than 8 hours.
House brand or fancy brand?
Well, that depends on who you ask of course. One will go for the more expensive brand, the other is happy with the cheaper house brand. It depends on what you want to pay, but more importantly, on what’s most comfortable for your body. No matter how comfortable a tampon feels, always change it in time to prevent TSS.
Does the cheaper generic brand feel good? No leaking? Then don’t get tempted by shiny packaging and the promise of a silky smooth feeling. Not everyone can afford (premium brands) menstrual products. Want to menstruate ‘greener’? Then that’s a different story of course. In that case, you might also want to consider reusable menstrual products.
With or without applicator?
Some find it easy to insert a tampon, for others it’s a bit harder. Or maybe you don’t like to touch your vulva with your fingers? There’s a solution for this: the applicator. The tampon is the same as a regular one, but the applicator that comes with it doubles the size. This makes them easily recognisable: just look for a long box. In countries such as Holland and Germany applicator tampons aren’t very popular, whereas in the UK they’re a common sight and in the United States they’re the most frequently used type of tampons.
Tampons with applicators do cause lots more waste though. Not only the applicator itself (which is usually made from plastic, although there are also flushable cardboard applicators), but also the wrapping and extra production costs. A greener option is the reusable tampon applicator. Use, rinse, dry and store until it’s time for the next tampon change.
Organic or not?
It’s causing a lot of commotion: ordinary tampons would contain toxins and loads of plastics. Since there’s no mandatory ingredients list (unless you live in the state of New York), what exactly the tampons are made of remains a well-kept secret; quite strange for products that are worn internally. No wonder many new ‘green’ tampon brands are launched.
But don’t be fooled by an eco-looking packaging alone: real organic tampons are made from organic cotton (cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world and traces of those pesticides can be found in the final product) and bleached with hydrogen peroxide (instead of chlorine). There are also eco-friendly alternatives for the packaging. Environmentally friendly menstruating isn’t only better for your vagina, but also for the environment. However, it’s also more expensive.
Washable or not?
Yes, you read that correctly. There are also washable tampons. Simply roll them up tight, use some of the string to secure and insert like you would with a normal tampon. After use, rinse with cold water and then into the washing machine. Better for both the environment and your wallet. You’ll find them in the collections of the brands that also make washable pads. Attention creative menstruators: patterns can be bought on Etsy.com so you can make them yourself. Important: select the right material before you start DIY-ing. Ensure there are no loose fibres that can stay behind in the vulva/vagina and cause bacterial infections.
Want some more options? Other products for internal use are sponge tampons, also called soft tampons. Plus of course the reusable menstrual cup and the disposable menstrual cup. It’s also possible to use pads – washable or not – or period pants. And what about choosing to not absorb or catch the menstrual blood. That’s called free bleeding – and a totally different story. Period!