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Tampons and maxis and liners. Oh, my!

So… you go to the store and wander down the menstrual product aisle. WHOA! There are more choices than there are lip glosses at Sephora! Shopping for lip gloss is way more fun, it’s true.💄 And we admit, picking out the perfect tampon is a little bit art, a little bit science. But it’s simpler than it appears, if you know the basics, and a few tricks. Plus, the more you shop, the more it will start to make sense. (And we highly recommend swapping with friends who use different products. It’s a great way to try other items.)

We hope this guide will come in handy for you!

Pads

Pads are a popular option especially when you first start to menstruate. They come in many absorbencies that can help when your flow is light or heavy, and during the day and at night. Maxi pads are more traditional and thicker than modern designs. Ultra thin pads have similar absorbency to their maxi counterparts but are less bulky and often contain newer technology. Pads are affixed to underwear and are used outside of the body.

Regular Maxi Pad

REGULAR MAXI PAD

This is like the vanilla of the pad world – always a solid choice without any bells and whistles. It’s a good place to start because you can feel its protection; it’s squishy with layers of cotton you can see. 

Maxi pads also come in other “absorbencies,” which tell you how much liquid they can soak up. If you are needing more protection you can try SUPER maxi pads. The most absorbent pads are often called EXTRA HEAVY FLOW or ULTRA.

ULTRA THIN PADS

ULTRA THIN PADS

Ultra thin pads are less bulky than regular maxi-pads but have the same ability to absorb moisture. Many find them more comfortable to wear than regular maxis, but every person is different. The larger pads might make you feel more secure, or remind you that it’s important to change often. Like regular maxi-pads, ultra thins come in a variety of sizes.

The most common are REGULAR and SUPER, which are pictured above. They sometimes have wings, on the sides, as these do, which provide a bit of extra protection for you, and your underwear!

OVERNIGHT PADS

If you guessed that overnight pads protect you overnight… you’re right! While you can absolutely use other pads at night, the ones labeled “overnight” are generally the more absorbent varieties to help prevent accidents while you sleep. (By the way, EVERYONE has accidents sometimes. Don’t stress. Blood usually rinses out with just a little effort. HERE are some tricks for tougher stains.)

Overnight pads are pretty much just “super” size pads. You can find them in REGULAR or ULTRA THIN, with a variety of absorbencies from SUPER to ULTRA.

Pad Tips & Tricks

COLORS – The colors on the packages are often an indication of the type and absorbency of the pad. This is not always the case, but this does work as a general rule. It can make shopping easier if you look for colors on the packaging or the wrappers of the pads themselves.

 

WINGS – Do not be thrown, these pads definitely cannot fly. 🤣 Seriously, the wings do come in handy. Simply peel off the backing and you now have handy little “wings” that wrap around and help secure the pad to your underwear.

THE 8-HOUR RULE – That’s the MAXIMUM you should wear a pad, regardless of whether you think it’s done its full duty. Bacteria can grow even if your pad is not soaked. But let your comfort be your guide; you may need to change much more often on your heaviest days.

WRAPPER INCLUDED – The outer plastic sheet is helpful in disposing of any soiled products. It’s a good idea to add a layer of toilet paper or tissue around the whole package… like a little present you give to the trash. 🗑

Tampons

Tampons are a great option for protection that is a bit more discreet.

They’re especially convenient if you’re swimming or very active.

Tampons, like pads, come in a variety of absorbencies. They are used inside the body, inserted into the vagina.

TAMPONS WITH AN APPLICATOR

TAMPONS WITH AN APPLICATOR

Tampons can be a great choice, but they can be intimidating at first. So take a look at THIS great article to learn how to use them.

Just like pads, there are different absorbencies. If you’re just starting with tampons you might want to try a SLENDER variety. They also come in REGULAR, SUPER and some form of super-duper, usually called ULTRA or SUPER PLUS.

You also need to choose the type of applicator. Generally they are made of plastic or cardboard. Your comfort and your budget will help you determine which works for you. It’s worth noting that plastic in applicators can take many hundreds of years to break down in landfills, while cardboard can decompose in a few months.

TAMPONS WITHOUT AN APPLICATOR

The applicator that comes with a tampon isn’t really necessary, it’s just convenient. You may prefer to use a product with less packaging or one that is smaller for tucking away in a pocket. (Each individual tampon in any pack, no matter the variety, should come sealed to keep it clean.)

Tampons without applicators also come in a variety of sizes, usually REGULAR and SUPER. Some have a tiny little cotton pocket on them that keeps you dry and clean as you insert it.

HERE is a step-by-step explainer about how to use non-applicator tampons from one of the leading brands.

Tampon Tips & Tricks

COLORS – Like with pads, it often can be helpful to narrow down the choices by the color codes on the boxes. Many brands use these colors to indicate absorbency:

COMPACTS – Many product companies make a “compact” version of some of their tampons. They are great to toss into a bag or pocket to make sure you are covered.

THE 8-HOUR RULE – Not just for pads! Tampons should never be worn longer than eight hours. You may have heard about infections and Toxic Shock Syndrome. If you want to wear a tampon overnight, make sure you put in a new one right before bed. If you anticipate you might sleep in, it’s best to choose a pad.

EASY GLIDE – It may be helpful to use a lubricant on the tip of the tampon as you are learning, or on lighter days.

* You should not practice with tampons when you do not have your period. Inserting or removing a tampon into your vagina when it does not have enough lubrication can be quite uncomfortable and can cause tiny tears in the tissue that can lead to infection.

Tampons

Liners

Think of these as mini maxis. They can be worn anytime of month when you just want a little extra protection. They are fine to pair with a tampon. Like pads, they are affixed to underwear and are used outside of the body.

These are PANTY LINERS.

Panty liners are pretty standard in that they won’t work on a heavy day, but any variety will add a little extra protection for you on a light day, when you are expecting your period to come, or when you just need a little reassurance when using a tampon. (And they go a long way in saving that fancy underwear you love.👙)

Liners generally come in REGULAR or LONG. And there are also ones in THONG size. (You go, girl!)

LINER TIPS & TRICKS ✨

ORGANIC IF YOU CAN- If you are going to wear liners a lot, try to find ones that have no scent or chemicals, which can be irritating, especially over time.

Panty Liners

Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups are generally made of latex or silicone, are inserted into the vagina, and rather than absorbing liquids, they catch them.

 

Most cups are reusable, over and over, for many years. They are relatively inexpensive and can save the user a lot of money, not to mention all the disposable product waste that won’t go to a landfill.

 

Menstrual cups are easily cleaned with mild soap (not antibacterial!) and water and are generally boiled after each cycle to sterilize and tuck away for the following month. Users say it takes just a little practice and in a few months the switch to cups is well worth it for health, financial, and environmental reasons.

 

Click HERE if you’d like to read one company’s instructions for use.

Menstrual Cup

Other Important Tips & Tricks

SANITARY DISPOSAL BAGS

You don’t have to get fancy, but you do have to make sure you throw away your disposable products safely.  Remember, they contain body fluids which can spread germs and leave an odor if not handled properly.  It’s perfectly fine to wrap used pads and tampons in toilet paper. Special bags are another great option.

WIPES

For when you need to get clean and feel fresh. They are made especially gentle for our sensitive parts and they come in discreet packages.

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