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