Pads or tampons? What is a menstrual cup? What about reusable period pants or pads? Time to learn what feminine hygiene product is right for you…

Choosing the best feminine hygiene product for you can be difficult, especially if you’re starting your period for the first time. There are so many options to choose from, with different shapes, sizes and absorbency levels to wrap your head around. We’ve put together the ultimate guide to help you learn more about the period products currently available, so you can make the best choice for you.

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Sanitary towels (also known as period pads)

Ultra towels, emptyperiod pads, sanitary towels – whatever you want to call them, most people have heard of this classic period product. You wear them inside your regular underwear to catch blood during your period. They are really easy to use, therefore it’s no surprise that they’re the most popular product available with 63% of women using sanitary pads with wings (which is more than any other type of period product1). They’re a great choice if you’ve just started your period. To use them, you simply unwrap the pad revealing a soft, absorbent side to wear against your body and a sticky side that keeps the pad fixed in your knickers. Simple!

When choosing a pad, it’s important to look at the absorbency level which tells you how much liquid it can hold. There are also different sizes available, such as regular and long. Some pads have ‘wings’ which means you wrap the towel around your underwear to help it stay in place, and this may help you to feel more secure. Make sure you experiment to find the one that feels the most comfortable for your body and flow!

Towels are an accessible and cost-effective option. On average, it costs just £35 a year for someone to use Bodyform towels, making them an affordable choice which you can easily find in the sanitary products section at your local supermarket!

How often should I change my sanitary towel?

You should aim to change your towel every 4 hours depending on your flow. However, some pads like night-time towels are specifically designed to be worn for longer and offer up to 10 hours of protection as you sleep. 

When changing your towel, just pop the used pad into the bin (never flush it down the toilet) and replace it with a fresh one! If you’re on the go without access to a bin, you can use Bodyform’s Roll.Press.Go to dispose of your pads discreetly and hygienically, wherever you go. Just roll your used pad and seal it in the easy-to-use wrapper. Then it’s completely secure and ready to be binned at the earliest opportunity.

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What are panty liners?

Liners (also known as panty liners) are designed for daily wear. They offer discreet and comfortable protection for everything from spotting to the lightest days at the start or end of your period. Panty liners are a commonly used product, used regularly by almost a third of women2. There are many different liners available so you will be able to find the right absorbency, fit and style for you.

Bodyform’s Daily Care range offers freshness light liners for people with incredibly light absorbency needs. They can be worn every day and can prevent you from staining your underwear. They are soft, comfortable and ultra-thin so you barely notice you’re wearing anything! There are even string liners that are shaped to fit snugly between your legs with a wider front so they stay in place, even while wearing string underwear or thongs! whatever undies you wear!

The step-up from these are absorbent liners, such as our Normal liners. They’re great if you need a little more protection, especially on the days leading up to, and after your period. If you wear dark coloured underwear, you might like to try our discreet Black liners, which are perfect if you prefer wearing black underwear!

Or how about our versatile Multistyle liners that have flexible sides which adjust to whatever type of underwear you’re wearing. So you can buy them safe in the knowledge that you can wear whatever undies you want.

Which Bodyform product is right for me?

Bodyform offers a range of ultra towels and liners that are designed to give you both great comfort and incredible protection every day of the month. 

Ultra day towels like our Ultra Normal have a unique curve-hugging shape as well as anti-leak walls, a fast-absorption core and an all-around barrier to give you Triple Protection, so you can be ready for whatever your day may throw at you.

Ultra night towels such as our Ultra Goodnight Wings XL are longer and have two sets of wings that keep them in place, even if you toss and turn in your sleep. They are more absorbent and can offer up to 10 hours of protection, depending on the one you pick.

Maxi towels are also available in both a normal and long fit. These towels have the same absorbency level as an Ultra towel, however, they are roughly twice as thick. Some people prefer the thickness of a maxi towel as it can make them feel more secure.

Outside of the core range, Bodyform also has a Puresensitive™ range that includes towels with zero common allergens, dyes and fragrances to minimise the risk of skin irritation, along with an extra gentle top layer that prevents rubbing or chafing.

If you want to feel secure every day, explore Bodyform’s Daily Care range of liners that keep you dry and fresh while giving you the protection you need. Light liners are perfect for when you want to prevent your underwear from staining, while Absorbent liners offer that bit more protection.

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Tampons

Tampons are inserted into the vagina to soak up menstrual blood during your period. The small, bullet-shaped cotton end absorbs the blood, while the string stays outside of your body so you can easily pull the tampon out when you’re ready to remove it. Some come with an applicator for easy insertion, while digital tampons are inserted just using your fingers. Tampons sit comfortably inside your vagina, and you shouldn’t be able to feel it there once it’s inserted. 

Tampons are particularly useful if you want to go swimming while on your period. You should change your tampon every 4-6 hours, although you can safely leave a tampon in for up to 8 hours. Toxic shock syndrome is sometimes associated with wearing tampons, but it is extremely rare and is not caused by tampons themselves! It’s important to be hygienic by washing your hands before and after inserting tampons, choosing the lowest absorbency to match your flow, and changing your tampon regularly.

How to use a tampon

Read the instructions included in the box when you want to use a tampon for the first time. It might be easier to start with a tampon of a lower absorbency that comes with an applicator, so it will be smaller and more manageable while you’re getting used to inserting it. 

  • First, wash your hands. 
  • Find a comfortable position – some women stand with their knees slightly bent, others find it easier to put their foot up on the toilet seat or bath. 
  • The most important thing is to try to relax! Hold the applicator by the grip marks using your thumb and middle finger with the string hanging downwards, breathe, and gently slide the applicator into your vagina at a slight upward angle until your fingers touch your body. 
  • Push the inner tube inside the outer tube using your index finger. This pushes the tampon out of the applicator and into the correct position in your vagina. 
  • Once the tampon has been released, pull the applicator out leaving the tampon string hanging outside your body, ready for easy removal and disposal.
  • Wash your hands when you’re done.
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Menstrual cups: A tampon alternative

Menstrual cups are a great alternative to tampons. You insert them into a similar position in your vagina. However, instead of absorbing blood like a tampon, menstrual cups collect it! They are small, funnel-shaped cups made from flexible rubber or silicone.

Menstrual cups are considered to be a more environmentally friendly option compared to a tampon, as you can reuse them for up to 10 years. You simply empty the blood your cup has collected into a sink or toilet, wash or wipe the cup then pop it back in! In-between periods, give it a thorough clean by boiling it in water for 5-7 minutes or using sterilising solution. Cups cost more than other mainstream period products, however, as you can reuse them they may save you money in the long run.

How to use a menstrual cup

If you have no problems inserting a tampon, then using a menstrual cup isn’t much harder! 

  • Wash your hands before you begin. 
  • A wet menstrual cup is a lot easier to insert than a dry one, so apply a little water or some water-based lube to the rim of the cup. 
  • Fold your menstrual cup in half, and hold it one hand. 
  • Insert it into your vagina as you would a tampon without an applicator so that it sits a few centimetres below your cervix. 
  • Once it’s in place, rotate it and release your hand. The folded cup will spring open and create an airtight seal that prevents leaks.
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Period panties and reusable pads

emptyReusable period pants (or panties) look and feel just like normal underwear. The only difference is that they have a special layer that absorbs blood so you can wear them during your period. With some brands claiming they are just as absorbent as 4 tampons combined, period pants are an all-day solution so you don’t have to worry about changing them.

There are different types of period pants for the different days of your period. Thicker, more secure underwear for heavy days and lighter options for light days – you can even find period thongs! There’s special period underwear to exercise, or to go swimming in – this option may be even better if you haven’t got the hang of tampons yet.

Reusable pads are like regular pads but instead of being single-use, they are designed to be washed then used again. They’re made from fabrics like cotton and bamboo, which are naturally absorbent and soft on your skin. They typically use wings and poppers to secure around your regular underwear. Just like regular pads, they come in different sizes and absorbencies.

Both reusable period pants and pads are more expensive than traditional period products, and they can be harder to source. As they are reusable, they are a more sustainable option. They can last for years if you look after them properly, potentially saving you money in the long run.

How to wash your reusable period panties and pads

As the name suggests, you need to wash reusable pads and underwear so they’re ready for your next period. All you need to do is rinse them in cold water soon after use, then pop them in the wash! Hot water helps bloodstains to “set” into the fabric, so put on a cool wash just to make sure.

It’s best to stay away from fabric softener as it can break down the natural fibres in your product. When in doubt, always follow the instructions given for your specific product.

How to choose the right feminine hygiene product for you

Once you’ve done your research and have a better idea of what you might like, the only thing to do is try it out! Though the most popular choice by far is sanitary towels with wings, everyone is different – the “best” product is the one that works for you. 

Remember you don’t need to stick to one method forever, or even for the length of a single period. All that matters is that you’re doing what feels good for your cycle and choosing the products that allow you to live fearless. 

For more guidance on making the most of menstruation, read our articles all about living with periods.

Sources

1, 2Feminine Hygiene and Sanitary Protection Products, Mintel, Jan 2019

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