Choosing the right period product can feel like a maze of options. From estimated costs to the environmental footprint and cosr effectiveness, we’ve gathered essential insights to empower your decision-making. Discover what suits you best for a more comfortable, safe, and eco-friendly period experience

Assuming you opt for single-use disposable tampons, the average amount you may be using across just one year is a whooping 240! The cost of period products are not just financial, we have to consider comfort, health, safety and also the environmental impact that our choice of period products have. While single-use disposable period products like pads and tampons make up the majority of the multi-billion pound market, reusable menstrual products are starting to become more popular…but what is right for you?

We believe that your health, comfort and what is within your means is the number one priority when choosing the right period product for you. You may have it figured out and your go-to products (which is great!), but in case you don’t or have been thinking about trying a new and perhaps more sustainable method that has come to market, we want to clear up what is available and give you the tools to assess whether these products are right for you.

 

Pads

Period pads, AKA menstrual pads or sanitary pads, absorb menstrual blood and provide protection against leaks. There are a variety of brands at different price points available, all of which come in various sizes and absorbances to cater to your particular flow and personal preference.

Pads are arguably one of the easiest sanitary products to use, with the simple peel and stick making them positioned for protection and coverage. They are soft and comfortable, providing a reassuring sense of protection throughout your period. Something to note is that some pads are fragranced, which is not ideal for the balancing of your Ph on your vulva and near your vagina so it may be worth looking at the pads you are using now for this. Ideally, we want to avoid fragrance down there, or those with sensitive skin!

It is essential that your pad is changed every 6 hours to maintain hygiene and prevent leaks. When choosing a pad you should consider your flow and the absorbance that will suit your needs. Think back to your previous periods and what the flow was like, use that as your guide. Lighter days call for thinner pads whereas heavy flow days will require larger and thicker ones.

Lets dive into single-use versus reusable pads:

 

Single-Use Period Pads

Single use period pads are likely the first period product that you tried and know all too well. They are very easy to use, easily accessible (they are in every airport, supermarket, chemist and health shop in every corner of the country) and come in different sizes or thickness due to absorbency requirements. In terms of price per unit, these take the cake with the average cost of a single pad being £0.60 ($0.77 US).

Recently, concerns have been raised for how processed single-use sanitary products are, especially single-use pads. Many of these products are made from synthetic materials like rayon, which is sourced from trees, but are processed in order to make the final product. Conventional cotton is also used in single-use pads, which are often bleached to make sure the cotton has the pristine white appearance. Superabsorbant polymers (SAPs) are used to hold the blood within the pad. Once again, SAPs are a synthetic material and unfortunately are not biodegradable. Whilst we do not aim to scare you or put you off, we do want you to be aware of the materials used within these products, and so you can make an informed choice.

Single-use period pads come in a range of sizes and absorbancies that will cater to your menstrual flow. Typically they will come in small, medium, large sizes and even offer extra large or overnight options which are designed for when you have a heavier flow or are using a pad overnight. Typically, the packaging will have an absorbancy rating on the front, which lets you know what type of flow is suitable for this pad to do its job; light, medium, heavy etc. Single-use pads do offer an option for everyone, whether they require minimal protection for a light flow or at the very end of your period, or extra coverage and absorption for the very first day or overnight.

BW RATING – Disposable Period Pad

  • Ease of Use 5/5
  • Potential Health Hazard 1.5/5
  • Cleanliness 3.5/5
  • Eco-friendly 1/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • Cost 4/5

Reusable Pads

Reusable pads are usually made up of different materials (cotton, bamboo, hemp and others synthetics) but as they are still in their infancy in the market, there is no standard material that is used. This is something we need to pay attention to when shopping. Reusable pads are more sustainable as they can be reused, but it can be a little tricky storing a used pad in your handbag when on the go. Period pads, whether reusable or disposable, need to be changed every 6 hours so within the working day you will need to change at least once (depending on your flow of course). Meaning you will need to have a method of keeping the used pad stored whilst you are not at home. This is worth thinking about and getting organised before heading out!

To get an idea of how to care for your reusable pad, here are the steps to clean it after use ready for next time:

  1. Rinse the pad in cold water (hot water can lock the stain in place, so cold is best)
  2. Drain into your sink or toilet
  3. Put the pad into a laundry bag and into the washing machine (this can be done with your usual laundry if you wish)
  4. The maximum temperature to wash reusable pads is 30 degrees with bio or non-bio detergent (whatever your preference) and some stain remover
  5. Air dry

BW Rating – Reusable Period Pad

  • Ease of Use 3/5
  • Potential Health Hazard 2/5
  • Cleanliness 2.5/5
  • Eco-friendly 4.5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • Cost 4/5

Comparison Table

Reusable
Depending on where you buy them from, they may have a popper for securing rather than glue Made of polyester
Rinse by hand and then throw in the washing machine
Store a used pad in a wet bag or container
Can be more absorbent depending on which one you buy
Less likelihood of developing a rash or allergic reaction to material
More cost effective than disposable in the long run
Single-Use
Uses adhesive substances to hold in place
Usually bleached in production and made of various materials such as rayon and non organic cotton
Easy to dispose in the sanitary bin
Slick and easy to store
Absorbency depends on which one you buy
Due to the materials, likelihood of developing a rash or reaction are higher
The most cost effective per unit

Tampons

Tampons are designed to absorb menstrual blood and vaginal secretions within the vagina before the blood comes out of the body. A tampon is held in the vaginal canal and will expand to the unique shape of your vagina. If inserted correctly, it should feel very comfortable and almost like it isn’t even there! Whereas if you haven’t quite got it right, you will feel where it is located and this can be unpleasant. There are a number of applicators available [clickable link], or you may opt to put a tampon in yourself. It is very important that the string attached to the tampon is hanging out of your vagina and available to pull out. If you are unable to pull your tampon out, or you forget you have a tampon in, you will be at risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) [clickable link]. We really recommend you familiarise yourself with TSS.

Similar to pads, tampons are normally sold stating different levels of absorbency. You will see that tampons for lighter periods tend to be smaller and thinner, whereas for the heavy flow they can be larger and thicker; stubby looking. Tampons were a game changer because these were the products that allowed us to be menstruating and go in water!

Single-Use Tampons

Depending on when you were born, the next period product that you probably tried out is a tampon. At first these were very fussy and definitely took some time getting used to but definitely the game changer when it came to period products. Single-use tampons are as easily accessible as single-use pads but sometimes they can be hidden on the lower shelves of the shops (boo that taboo!). On average a tampon needs to be changed every 4-6 hours, and will need to be disposed of in a sanitary bin. Single-use tampons are very compact and easy to store, so little forward thinking needs to go into this method.

There have been some questions over the years about the chemicals used in the creation of single-use tampons. Some women prefer not to use these products for that reason, as there may be a link to endocrine disruption, however research does identify this link and the chemicals and plastics that are used are currently thought to be completely safe.

BW RATING – Single-Use Tampon

  • Ease of Use 3.5/5
  • Potential Health Hazard 4/5
  • Cleanliness 4/5
  • Eco-friendly 1/5
  • Comfort 2.5/5
  • Cost 4/5

Reusable Tampons

Reusable tampons are a relatively newer option in the market and are made of various materials; ideally organic cotton. It is important for you to know that due to their novelty, there is little research into their effectiveness. The concept of a reusable tampon is centered on sustainability as they can be washed and used multiple times. Reducing overall costs long term and the environmental impact. The decomposition lifespan of a single-use tampon is between 500-800 years, whereas a reusable tampon is about 6 months; so in terms of being eco-friendly, this hits the mark.

Unlike in disposable tampons that come in compact sizes, carrying and storing a reusable tampon can be a challenge. It is recommended that you boil your disposable tampon for 10-minutes and let it cool down before inserting, which just is not practical for anyone on the move or in the office. Afterward, you are supposed to rinse the tampon and can wash it with your normal wash load; but preferably a cold wash. Then you must let the tampon air dry. Similar to the reusable pads, the time limit for a single reusable tampon is typically 6 hours, depending on your flow. The storage of a reusable tampon is once again worth considering before investing, to ensure a smooth and sanitary experience.

BW RATING – Reusable Tampon

  • Ease of Use 3/5
  • Health Hazard 4/5
  • Cleanliness 3.5/5
  • Eco-friendly 4.5/5
  • Comfort 3.5/5
  • Cost 2.5/5

Comparison Table

Reusable
More management per tampon
Ideally made of organic cotton
Rinse by hand and then throw in the washing machine
Store a used tampon in a wet bag or container when on the go
Equally as absorbent as single-use
Larger cost per unit
More cost effective than disposable in the long run
Less chemicals
Single-Use
May contain chemicals
Easy to dispose in a sanitary bin
Slick and easy to store
Absorbency depends on which one you buy
Cheaper cost per unit
Less cost effective in the long haul
More eco-friendly

Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups are made up of medical grade silicone or latex. They are more sustainable as they can be reused, but let’s address the elephant in the room…they can be a little messy at first, and the most challenging for on-the-go use. The menstrual cup broke the industry, being the most innovative alternative to traditional period catching methods, with the earliest cup coming to the UK market in 2001, but gaining more traction over the last up to 10 years. The first patent of the menstrual cup was in 1932 and is arguably the most eco-friendly and sustainable period product, with the average lifetime of a single menstrual cup being 10 years.

The cost of a menstrual cup varies, depending on size and ranging from £10 to £50 ($13USD to $65USD) per single unit; meaning this can be one of the biggest upfront costs needed for your menstrual product. The average female will menstruate for 40 years. As a cost comparison over this time, the expense of using single-use pads is over £3000, whereas for the menstrual cup it is roughly £280 (costs will vary)…pretty large margins, with the lifetime cost of a menstrual cup being a fraction of the price!

The application of a menstrual cup seems to be the biggest concern when discussed with females. The pinch or fold method allows the cup to be small enough to insert into the vaginal canal and against the cervix. Once in place, it will expand and open to fit the shape of your vaginal canal and be high enough up against your cervix to catch the blood and no leakages. You should not be able to feel the cup if inserted correctly, similar to a tampon. Some women may need a lubricant for application, so this is worth considering if you are typically dry.

A menstrual cup can be used between 4-12 hours, but here at Blossom Wellness we recommend no longer than 8 hours to reduce the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. To remove the cup, you will pull the base of the cup and then rinse under warm water before reinserting. There are no clear guidelines on how often the cup should be washed, but we recommend washing the cup daily with gentle and mild feminine soap or baby sterilising products, and then sterilised at the end of each cycle by boiling in water for 3 minutes.

Menstrual cups are the most eco-conscious way to manage your period. You can go swimming with a menstrual cup and are able to be active and live life with no worries of leaking when applied correctly. A real highlight is the potential to wear the cup for extended hours, longer than other period products. The consideration is the menstrual cup on the go, if you want to wear it for a longer period of time – great! If you are sticking to the recommended 6 hours, it may feel confronting, rinsing your menstrual cup in the sink at work or in a public bathroom sink. Some females will instead bring a bottle of water into the bathroom stall and rinse there, or another suggestion is to empty and simply wipe with a wet wipe. Whatever the method, there is definitely work to do to normalise this method!

BW RATING – Menstrual Cups

  • Ease of Use 2.5/5
  • Health Hazard  2.5/5
  • Cleanliness 2/5
  • Eco-friendly 4.5/5
  • Comfort 3.5/5
  • Cost 5/5

Period Underwear

Period underwear are designed as yet another alternative to single-use pads but offering the added comfort of the mechanism that catches period blood built into each pant. They are becoming increasingly popular, with popular highstreet brands coming out with their own versions, making them more accessible and offering different price points for us female consumers.

Similar to conventional fuller coverage underwear in looks, but made from layers of microfiber polyester which is designed to keep moisture and period blood away from the skin, which is then finished with a liquid repellent film. Then, the outer layers of the underwear are made up of your usual underwear materials, commonly cotton, nylon and lycra; all of which is important to consider if you are trying to avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals. It is also important to note that there have been a number of court cases against period underwear manufacturers for the products containing potentially harmful toxins (PFAS) which may be linked to adverse health outcomes

Period underwear come in different sizes and styles, usually similar to your typical trouser or small, medium, large size for your lower body. They are available to purchase in different absorbency levels like your pads. Similar to pads, you will feel the menstrual flow when using period underwear and are very easy to apply. Simply slip on and off like your normal underwear! There is no fuss with inserting or having to rinse anything in the sink on the go. It recommended to either hand wash your period underwear, or to put on a delicate cycle; some brands recommend on their own, others say you can wash them in with your normal washing load. If period underwear is right for you, we recommend popping them into their own wash bag before placing them into your washing machine.

Where period underwear really takes the cake, is the length of time you can wear them for. Most brands recommend at least 8-12 hours on average and the super absorbency underwear up to 24-hours. There is no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome with these products, so they seem to be in the clear in that sense. For hygiene purposes, and of course depending on your flow, we recommend wearing no longer than 8 hours. A very good option for overnight!

When it comes to cost, period underwear (AKA period pants), varies depending on the brand, style and absorbency level, with a single pair ranging from £15 to £35 (or $20 to $40) USD. Similar to the menstrual cup, this may initially seem like a higher upfront cost, but we have to think about the overall cost and long term savings. Over the 40 years of menstruation, single use pads can add up to over $3000 in expenses, while investing in some period pants could cost anywhere between $400-$600 over the same time period (depending on how many you buy, and the cost). Overall, they are a very cost-effective option in the long run and with their durability and reusability, period pants provide ongoing savings and contribute to reducing waste, making them financially savvy and an eco-friendly choice.

BW RATING – Period Underwear

  • Ease of Use 4/5
  • Health Hazard 2.5/5
  • Cleanliness 2/5
  • Eco-friendly 2.5/5
  • Comfort 4.5/5
  • Cost 4.5/5

Before you go

In the world of menstrual health, the choices are as diverse as our individual needs and preferences. As we’ve explored the array of period products, from disposable pads and tampons to reusable options like menstrual cups and period underwear, we know that one size does not fit all. It’s a matter of personal comfort, health, the environment, and cost that should guide your decision.

So, whether you’re a tampon enthusiast or an eco-conscious cup user, or if you’re looking to try something new, the key is to make an informed decision. Your menstrual health matters, and by choosing wisely, you can create a positive impact on your well-being and the world around you. Make the choice that aligns with your values and your body, and embrace a happier, healthier, potentially more sustainable period experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Read more about this topic

What are the different types of menstrual products available on the market?
There are a variety of menstrual products available on the market, from reusable products such as reusable tampons, period underwear and menstrual cups, to single use products like standard tampons and pads.
How do tampons and pads compare in terms of comfort and effectiveness?
A large part of this comes down to personal preference. Some women find that pads are more comfortable due to having no internal aspect, whereas other women find tampons easy to use and are very comfortable as when inserted correctly, you cannot feel the tampon at all. In terms of effectiveness, both are equally as effective as long as you are using the right absorbancy level product.
Are menstrual cups a better option, and how do they work?
They can be! Menstrual cups are made out of medical grade silicone and require you to insert into your vagina manually. It depends on the cup, but typically you will use the pinch method to get the cup into place. Then, the menstrual cup will expand and cover your cervix, where the blood will flow into the cup. To remove it, you simply pull on the tab that is at the bottom of the cup and then rinse and clean ready to use again.
What are reusable period products, and how do they contribute to sustainability?
Reusable period products are products that do not need to be thrown away after one use. An example would be a period underwear. These replace the common pad period product. Instead of using 4-6 period pads throughout the day and throwing them away for landfill, instead you can use 2 pairs of period underwear and pop them into the wash ready to for use again, rather than disposing of them every time.
How much do various menstrual products cost, and are there budget-friendly options?
The single use menstrual products are cost effective in the short term, whereas reusable period products are the most cost effective in the long term. Lets use an example. Lets assume that your period lasts 5 days.
What are the hygiene considerations when using different period products?
The number one consideration when using different period products is to ensure you understand how often they need to be changed. Read our article about period products here
Can the choice of period product affect a person’s health or increase the risk of infections?
The risk of infection increases if you are not changing your period products at the right time. Read more about this here. The other health risk that you need to be aware of, is Toxic Shock Syndrome, which if left untreated, can be fatal. Click here [clickable link] to go to our article which will tell you all you need to know about Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Are there eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives to traditional period products?
Yes, the menstrual cup and period pants are the most popular eco-friendly and sustainable period products right now, but you may also want to try reusable pads or tampons.
What are the pros and cons of each type of period product in terms of ease of use and convenience?
This is a great question! We answer all of this in our article Everything you Ought to Know. We also rate each period product on ease of use, health hazard, cleanliness, sustainability, comfort and cost. Click here [clickable link] to read!

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