The Hormone Diaries Part Eight: Which Period Products Should I Use?

Luckily, we now live in a world where there are a variety of period products available to us, so no matter what your flow or personal preference, there is bound to be something out there that is perfect for you. From more traditional products to some eco-friendly choices, I’ve summed up a range of period products for you in this post so you can see what works best for you.

flatlay image of tampons and menstrual cups on pink background

Types of period products

Applicator tampons

Applicator tampons are probably the most common type of insertable period product you will find. They are often recommended to teens and younger people who start their periods as they come in a variety of sizes and absorbancies. The applicator helps to guide the tampon into the correct position within the vagina, whilst the cardboard or plastic of the applicator itself can be easier to insert if you’re a bit nervous.

How to insert a tampon

Firstly, always wash your hands before touching down below, as infection can spread easily and trust me, the last thing you want is vaginal itching as well as your period. Make sure the string is hanging outside the tube, and if you’re using a plastic applicator such as Tampax Pearl, pull the smaller inner tube out of the bigger tube until you feel it click.

The easiest way to hold the tampon is with your thumb and middle finger. Insert the tip of the tampon into your vagina just a bit. You can then use your index finger to push the inner tube in. Aim up and backwards, as if you’re aiming for your lower back. You should be able to tell if it feels uncomfortable or not.

Once you’ve pushed the inner tube fully into the outer tube, gently and slowly pull out the applicator and that’s it! If the tampon doesn’t feel quite right, and it’s hurting, gently pull it out using the string and have another go with a fresh tampon. It can take a few tries before you get the angle right and get used to how it feels. Generally, if you can’t feel the tampon inside you, that’s a sign that you’ve got it exactly where it should be.

Non-applicator tampons

Non-applicator tampons, such as Lil-Lets, work in exactly the same way as applicator tampons, but you insert them using your fingers instead. They can seem scary at first, but many women prefer them as they feel it gives you a bit more control.

How to use a non-applicator tampon

Again, wash your hands first and then unwrap the tampon. Pull the string away from the bottom of the tampon until it is hanging free and untangled. Give it a little tug just to check it’s secure.

The technique for inserting a non-applicator tampon is basically the same as before, but instead of using your index finger to push a tube, you will use it to push the base of the tampon up into your vagina. Again, aim up and backwards towards the small of your back.

When inserting a tampon yourself, it may feel like you need to push it a bit further in that when using an applicator tampon. Again, you’ll know it’s in the right place if you can no longer feel it and it’s not causing you any discomfort.

diagram showing step by step how to insert a non applicator tampon

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Disposable pads

Disposable pads, also know as sanitary pads or towels, are also really common. For me, I used disposable pads for most of my teenage years as I wasn’t comfortable using tampons and they were better for my heavy periods at the time.

Disposable pads come in lots of different absorbancies and lengths, with different types for day, night and even different shapes for the type of underwear you’re wearing. They work by sticking in the bottom of your knickers and absorbing your period externally. Some disposable pads also have wings at the sides for extra protection and security. These fold underneath your knickers just o really hold the pad in place as you’re moving around.

You should aim to change your pad at least once every 6 hours on a normal flow day, but more frequently if you are heavier. You can normally tell by how “full” the pad looks when you go to the loo whether it needs changing or not, or sometimes you might feel a bit of wetness down below.

Reusable period products

When it comes to managing our periods, most of us rely on the two most popular and traditional options we’ve just discussed: lining our underwear with a pad or inserting a tampon. But with so many creative new innovations out there—including a few from women-owned companies—there are more alternatives than ever to traditional tampons and pads you might want to consider. And as an added bonus, the majority of them are reusable and/or eco-friendly too!

Menstrual cups

Menstrual cups are an increasingly popular period product. Menstrual cups sit inside the vagina, much like a tampon, and essentially catch and hold your period. They can be washed out and reused, with most companies recommending that you purchase a new cup every year. You can wear a menstrual cup for 6 to 12 hours, depending on how heavy your period is. This means you can use a cup for overnight protection.

woman holding pink menstrual cup

How to insert a menstrual cup

As with all period products, always wash your hands first. Before inserting the cup, it can help to use some water or water-based lube on the outer ring of the cup. This makes putting the cup in a bit easier when you are first trying.

Fold the cup in half, holding it in one hand with the rim facing upwards towards your vagina. Push the cup into your vagina, rim first, as you would with a non-applicator tampon. The menstrual cup should sit a little bit below your cervix. Once inserted, turn the cup so that it opens and creates and creates an airtight seal to prevent leaks. Once inserted, you shouldn’t be able to feel the cup and should be able to carry on as normal.

Inserting a tiny rubber cup into your intimate areas to hold period blood can be as strange a sensation as putting in a tampon for the first time. The good news is that once you get the hang of it (and cleaning it out), it’s much more eco-friendly than traditional tampons or pads, and it’s also much less expensive.

Reusable pads

Does what it says on the tin really. Reusable pads are basically the same as a normal pad, but they can be washed in the washing machine and reused time and again.

Reusable pads usually come in two parts: a liner and a liner holder. The liner goes inside the holder, which has wings that snap around the crotch of your underwear to keep it in place. They come in different sizes and absorbencies and are usually less irritating because they are made of cotton.

The initial cost of a reusable pad can be higher than disposables but will save you money over time as they can last for years., and earn you extra brownie points for being eco-friendly!

Period underwear

Period underwear is a fast-growing range of period product. Period underwear works by using multiple layers of microfiber polyester (super absorbent materials) designed to wick moisture away from the skin and to keep moisture from leaking. Companies such as Thinx have designed period underwear in a range of styles, from thongs to high waisted pants.

Again, whilst the initial cost of period underwear can seem a little steep, the products are washable and reusable so you can use them for years to come whilst helping to save the planet!

What period products do you use and why? Are you trying to have a more sustainable period? Let me know in the comments!





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  1. Zoey Gardner says

    I’ve been a user of pads and tampons (mostly pads) for my entire life, but I’m really wanting to switch over to using reusuable products. Thank you for sharing this great advice.

  2. Kim says

    I’ve always used pads on my period as I’ve never got on with tampons. Which is why I don’t think a cup would suit be either. I’ve bought a couple of reusable pads to try out though. 🙂

  3. Sarah Mark says

    I have always used disposable pads, tampons and menstrual cups have always scared me slightly! I have never come across period underwear before but what a great idea!

  4. Julia says

    This is such an interesting post to read as my latest post was also on period products! I’ve been using the menstrual cup for the last few months and love it, I found the transition easy as I’d always used tampons in the past but this is such a useful post! I never actually realised how many products were out there besides the cup, and disposable products! This is such a good reference

  5. Amy says

    I used pads through my teenage years because I just couldn’t get the hang of tampons but I’ve started using them more frequently now just because they’re so much easier. Your advice about how if you can’t feel it, it’s in place is spot on – no one ever told me that when I was first trying them and it would have saved so much hassle! Xx

  6. Hannah Fox says

    I absolutely love this post! Bit of a weird thing to say about period products, I know. But I hadn’t even considered reusable pads, but from your description I guess they are like reusable nappies?
    I haven’t been able to use tampons since having my first child (something to do with the angle of my cervix) so have relied on disposable pads, but with 1 of my 3 daughters regularly having periods (and the other 2 approaching) I’d hate to think of how much waste we’d be creating using disposable pads. I’m definitely going to try out the reusable pads myself and hopefully, we’ll all be using them 🙂

  7. katelyn | embark to explore says

    If I wasn’t on the pill I would be a pad-girl but my dilemma is they are so bad for the environment. That’s why I choose not to have a week off for my period – I can’t stand it anyway! yuck!
    I would love to try the menstrual cup but that things scares me so much! Surely it’s not comfortable? Maybe I’m dramatic lol!

  8. katelyn | embark to explore says

    If I wasn’t on the pill I would be a pad-girl but my dilemma is they are so bad for the environment. That’s why I choose not to have a week off for my period – I can’t stand it anyway! yuck!
    I would love to try the menstrual cup but that things scares me so much! Surely it’s not comfortable? Maybe I’m dramatic lol!

    • whatabigailsays says

      It can be a bit tricky the first time you try it, but you’d be surprised how comfortable they are! If they’re in the right place then you literally don’t feel it at all!

  9. Lia says

    Period underwear seems interesting- I will have a look into that! I like to use tampons. I used to be afraid of them and avoid them when I was younger but now it’s so much easier! Great post! Thank you!

  10. Gemma says

    I’m so glad you have talked openly about periods – in this day and age, I think it’s important to not shy away from topics like this and to consider the more eco-friendly options; I would definitely like to consider using more of these products.

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