If you’ve made a tampon run to the drugstore any time in the past couple of weeks, you may have seen nothing but barren shelf space staring back at you. Tampons have become affected by supply chain issues and increased demand (and, according to Bloomberg, inflation) in the U.S.
A Time article reporting on the shortage pointed out that because this is a problem predominantly impacting people who menstruate, while the majority of supply chain decisions are being made by people who don’t, it might not be seen as a top priority to fix.
If you’re looking for alternatives to the disposable feminine care products that are now hard to find at the drugstore, there are many — and many of them are reusable. (I personally use a silicone menstrual cup, which I find to be comfortable, sanitary and convenient, but there are other options ahead for anyone who for whom a cup is not appropriate.)
Peruse the tampon-alternative options ahead, just in case you can’t find that overpriced box of Tampax at your local drug store.
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A soft and flexible menstrual cup that can hold up to four tampons’ worth of blood
This incredibly comfortable and soft menstrual cup by Saalt is made with 100% body-safe medical-grade silicone, has a lifespan of up to 10 years and is my personal menstrual cup of choice. It can be worn for up to 12 hours, depending on your flow, and the flexible grip stem is completely undetectable. The bulb shape also helps to mimic the natural curves of your anatomy, and the reinforced rim is the perfect combination of firm and soft so I don’t have any kind of cramping or leaks. If you have previously experienced bladder sensitivity or cramping with cups in the past, Saalt also offers an extra soft option and one designed for teens as well. Each version is available in two different flow capacities: regular and small.
A breathable modal-cotton brief that absorbs your period
These breathable full-coverage briefs by Thinx, a brand at the forefront of period underwear, use a highly absorbent core lining to hold up to five tampons' worth of fluid. The lining has also been treated with an odor-neutralizing agent, and a moisture-wicking top layer keeps you dry. These panties sit lower, fit relaxed and are made with an upgraded and sustainable cotton blend that lasts and lasts. If you're skeptical about whether or not period underwear really work, read more about how they function and why other people are pleased with the results.
An undetectable menstrual disc for people who get cramps with cups
One thing to know about the difference between menstrual discs and cups is that discs are tucked beneath the pubic bone, whereas cups rely on suction to stay in place, which can possibly cause cramping for some people. Lumma’s ultra-thin and flexible disc is made with 100% medical grade silicone. Due to the wide and round rim design, it can capture a wide range of menstrual flows without leaking, and can be worn for up to 12 hours. The attached silicone string allows for easy removal and the disc is offered in three sizes to accommodate different cervix heights. And if that wasn’t enough, you can even have penetrative intercourse with discs in place.
A ten-pack of washable cloth pads made with charcoal bamboo fiber
Available in multiple lengths and absorbency levels, these reusable cloth pads have over 4,200 five-star ratings and are made of four different layers of washable fabric, including a waterproof bottom layer, that work to effectively absorb your period without leaving behind moisture or odor. Button snaps on the wings also keep each pad in place and prevent any kind of bunching. This 10-pack comes with a matching wet bag to make storing the pads between washes discrete and more sanitary.
A two-pack of 100% natural menstrual sponges with ultra-absorbent properties
For a truly natural approach to period care, you may want to consider these sustainably harvested sea sponges (yes, sea sponges) that work in very much the same way as a traditional tampon would. Renewably sourced from the Atlantic, Bahamas or elsewhere in the Caribbean, these medium-sized sponges have the equivalent absorbency of a regular-sized tampon and are reusable for up to three to six months or more. They are ultra-soft and durable, and are free from any kind of synthetic dyes or materials. You simply insert one, and once it’s absorbed as much as it can, you can remove, rinse it out and use it again.
A 14-pack of disposable soft discs that can be worn for longer than tampons
If the reusable aspect of these period products is giving you pause, then you might try this disposable version of a menstrual disc by Softdisc, which can still be worn for much longer and hold up to five super-sized tampons' worth of blood. Made from non-toxic and BPA-free plastic, these body-safe discs naturally control period odor and can be even worn swimming or during penetrative intercourse.