5 Tampon Alternatives (Because the Shortage Is Real, People)

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First came the baby formula shortage. Now, folks who get periods are battling with an unexpected tampon shortage across the country. For much of the year, the issue had been a buzzy topic on forums such as Reddit and Instagram. It wasn't until Time reported on it that the shortage went mainstream, with women across the nation cosigning that they too, couldn't get their hands on a box of tampons.

In fact, the situation is so dire that InstaCart just revealed that while searches for tampons have risen on their platform, fulfillment on those orders has dropped by 67 percent as the unexpected supply chain problem continues to leave store shelves understocked. Tampon suppliers such as Procter & Gamble have stated that acquiring the materials needed—such as cotton and plastic—has been costly, but assured consumers they're working to rectify the situation, per the New York Times. Exact dates weren't given.

With that in mind, check out these five tampon alternatives to buy when Auntie Flo visits, but you can’t get your hands on a box of tampons.

Buy as Much Baby Formula as You Need from One of the Only U.S. Companies Not Experiencing a Shortage

1. disposable Pads

Pros: Convenient, easy-to-use

Cons: High cost over time, not always eco-friendly

Tried and true and sure to get the job done each time, disposable pads are perhaps the number one tampon alternative. They’re affordable, easy-to-use and can be found literally anywhere—pharmacies, gas stations, bodegas, you name it. The main downside with disposable pads, of course, is that popular brands are not always environmentally-friendly. However, there are a ton of pads made of organic materials, you may just have to search a little bit harder if you’re in a bind.

Shop disposable pads: Always Ultra-Thin Overnight Pads ($6); Rael Organic Cotton Cover Overnight Pads ($7); FLO Organic Bamboo Combo Absorbent Pads ($8)

2. period Underwear

Pros: Reusable, great overnight protection, hold more than a tampon

Cons: Washing can be icky for some, may take long to dry

The idea of period underwear might’ve seemed strange when these innovative panties first hit the mainstream market, but so many women have found them to be a better alternative to tampons and pads not only because they’re comfier, but they’re environmentally friendly and can potentially save you some dough over time. Like tampons, period panties come with different absorbency levels and offer a wide variety of styles whether you’re lounging around the house and need a basic hip hugger or you’re headed to the gym so you need an athletic style panty to support you through your sweat sesh.

Shop period underwear: Thinx super hip hugger ($35); Knix Cotton Modal Super Leakproof Bikini ($30); Bambody Absorbent Panty ($15)

3. menstrual Cups

Pros: Longer wear time, super cost-effective, no odor

Cons: Changing can be messy, insertion may take time

Unlike pads, tampons or period underwear that do the job by absorbing blood, menstrual cups work by catching blood. The key to success with a menstrual cup is thoroughly following instructions for proper insertion, otherwise you’ll have leaks and/or spend the day feeling uncomfortable. The best part about menstrual cups is that once inserted, you don’t have to worry about changing them for ten to 12 hours. And the cleaning process is easy: Dump out the blood, wash with a mild, unscented soap and wipe it down with a perfume-, dye- and alcohol-free wipe.

Shop menstrual cups: Saalt Soft Cup ($29); Lunette Reusable Menstrual Cup ($51); AllMatters Organic Menstrual Cup ($28)

4. reusable Menstrual Pads

Pros: More environmentally friendly than regular pads

Cons: Takes long to dry, washing maybe unappealing to some

Not only are these a great alternative to tampons, but they’re also an ideal pick for people who feel more at ease with pads anyway. Reusable menstrual pads basically do the same job as disposable pads except they’re made of breathable cotton, hemp or bamboo and are often machine washable. However, they may not be the ideal choice when you’re out for a long day and have no way of washing them as they typically need to be changed every four to five hours.

Shop reusable pads: Rael Organic Cotton Reusable Pads ($35); Teamoy Washable Menstrual Pads ($26); Charlie Banana Reusable Feminine Pad ($23)

5. menstrual Discs

Pros: May minimize cramps, allows you to still have sex, long wear time

Cons: Insertion may take time

Like menstrual cups, menstrual discs also work by collecting blood, not absorbing it. However, there are some key differences between these two tampons alternatives. For one, discs are round in shape and do not cup the blood in order to collect it. But perhaps the biggest difference is in placement. Menstrual cups are to be inserted in the vaginal canal where tampons are also placed. Discs on the other hand, go up a bit further, into the vaginal fornix where your vaginal canal meets your cervix. You also have to be a bit more eagle-eyed when selecting these because not all menstrual discs are reusable.

Shop menstrual discs: Flex Reusable Disc ($35); Saalt Disc ($33); Cora Perfect Fit Disc ($39)

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Stephanie Sengwe

Resident Hufflepuff, Beyonce historian, self-proclaimed tea sommelier

Steph is a native of Zimbabwe who is both enamored and genuinely baffled by the concept of silent letters. From 2020 to 2022, she served as Associate Editor at PureWow covering...
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