The ultimate guide: every period product you can buy, with pros and cons

4 min read

Greetings! Welcome to the second part in our grand guide to choosing the best period products for you. In part one we established that as far as we know, no one product has yet been invented that ticks every box for every person 100% of the time. It can be confusing and expensive to experiment, so many of us end up just sticking with what we know. The problem with that is that we often end up dealing with leaks, discomfort and inconvenience when we could simply be switching to a new product – or a new combination of products. We decided it was time to expand our horizons and take a look at all the options so we can figure out what really works best.

Gone are the days of the great tampons v pads debate — now we have pants, tampliners and even sponges

Before we get into the details of what to buy and when, let’s take a look at everything that’s available on the market. Below we’ve listed all the products money can buy along with a brief list of their pros and cons. You might be surprised by how many options are actually out there. Gone are the days of the great tampons v pads debate – now we have pants, tampliners and even sponges to experiment with. So here we go: a comprehensive guide to what’s out there to put in there (if you see what we mean).

Applicator tampons

Pros
  • Easy to position comfortably
  • Keep your fingers free of blood
  • Limit bacteria being transferred from your finger into your vagina
  • Range of absorbencies can be matched to your flow
  • Don’t bulk up your underwear
Cons
  • Wasteful (plastic applicators in particular are clogging up the oceans)
  • Can pinch your labia on application (take it from us)
  • Bulky to carry, can unwrap in your bag
  • Can leak onto your underwear
  • Need to change regularly for safety reasons
  • Tampons can dry out the vagina as they absorb all vaginal fluids, not just blood
  • (Small) risk of TSS
  • Can be forgotten

Digital (non-applicator) tampons

Pros (compared with applicator tampons)
  • Small and portable – stuff your bag full of ‘em!
  • Less wasteful than applicator tampons
  • You can buy them as part of a personalised mix here
Cons (compared with applicator tampons)
  • Often wrapped in plastic (although Callaly wrappers are recyclable)
  • Some people don’t like inserting with a finger, especially if you can’t wash your hands first

Pads

Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Can be changed quickly no matter where you are – you just need a bin, no tap
  • You can see and feel when you need to change – no clock watching
  • Bit of a plug but you can add them to a mixed box of everything you need here
Cons
  • Can make some people feel self-conscious about bulking and rustling
  • The ones with wings can be fiddly
  • Create a lot of waste – some pads (not ours) can contain 90% plastic or as much as 4 shopping bags
  • Can be uncomfortable and wet feeling
  • Can’t be worn for swimming or showering/bathing

Pantyliners/liners

Pros
  • Slim and comfortable for a lot of people
  • Available in different shapes to suit lots of underwear sizes
  • Give you a bit of extra protection without too much bulk
  • Yep, you guessed it, you can buy them from us here!
Cons
  • Particularly non-organic liners can irritate your vulva
  • Some people find them bunchy and annoying
  • Create extra waste
  • Can’t be worn for swimming or showering
  • The scented ones aren’t a good idea for your delicate bits

Tampliners

Pros
  • Contoured to your body, so the mini-liner doesn’t chafe
  • Two products in one, so you don’t have to buy several boxes
  • Clean to insert and wrap themselves on the way out – can be used anywhere
  • Online ordering and home delivery
  • Organic cotton so less likely to shed inside your vagina
  • You can see when you’re wearing one so less chance of forgetting them
Cons
  • Can’t be worn for swimming or bathing
  • Can take some time to get used to, esp working out how to pee
  • Need to change regularly for safety reasons

Night pads

Pros
  • Extra reassurance if you have very heavy periods
  • You can’t forget about them (!)
  • Safe to use overnight
  • Available in organic cotton
Cons
  • Can be uncomfortable and very bulky
  • Create a lot of landfill waste (see plastic stat above)

Menstrual cups

Pros
  • Reusable for up to 10 years, so low environmental impact
  • Can be worn for up to 10 – 12 hours at a time
  • Low-to-no risk of TSS
  • Cause less vaginal drying than tampon
  • Can make you feel more connected with your body
  • Relatively cheap as you only buy once
Cons
  • Can be messy
  • Not suitable for all lifestyles/scenarios
  • Some people find them tricky to insert and remove
  • Don’t work for all anatomies, eg if you have large fibroids

Period pants

Pros
  • Reusable, so less environmental impact
  • No need to insert or attach anything – low hassle
  • Stay in place comfortably – no moving or bunching
  • Easy and safe to sleep in
Cons
  • Relatively expensive to get started
  • Not necessarily the pants you want to wear
  • Awkward to change while out and about
  • Not machine washable
  • You need lots of pairs to get you through a whole period
  • Some people find they feel wet

Menstrual discs

Pros
  • Catch rather than absorb the blood, so not drying
  • Order online and get delivered
  • You can have sex wearing them
  • Positioning could make them suitable for people with vaginal prolapse
Cons
  • Disposable ones create lots of plastic waste
  • Can be fiddly to insert and remove

Cloth pads

Pros
  • Better for the environment as reusable
  • Often made by small, female-run businesses
  • Lots of nice designs available
  • You’ll never get caught without supplies
  • No sticky strips that can get caught on hair
  • No smelly bin filled with used disposables
Cons
  • Generally a bit bulkier than disposable pads
  • Need to be soaked/washed and dried in time for next use
  • Harder to find, eg not stocked in supermarkets or corner shops
  • Can move about in your underwear

Sponges

Pros
  • Natural material
  • Reusable so less waste
  • Can absorb a decent amount of blood
  • Available in a range of sizes
  • Last six months with proper upkeep
Cons
  • Require regular, thorough cleaning – can contain sand and bacteria
  • Can be tricky to retrieve
  • Can be even messier than a cup to remove
  • Questions over safety have been raised, with one recorded TSS case

We think that’s about it. Do you know of anything we’ve missed? Which are your favourites? Let us know on Instagram, and stay tuned for part three of our ultimate guide next week, when we’ll tell you which products work best for every flow. See you then. 👋

This is the second in a five-part guide to choosing period products that really work for you. You can read the third part here.
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Currents is a place where interested people with periods come to get the real lowdown on menstruation and bodies. We explain the things nobody else does, normalising every experience of periods no matter how weird it might feel. We’ll leave you informed, unashamed and ready to expect more for yourself.

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