Best is a subjective word that people may define differently. Is ‘best’ the most convenient option? The cleanest option? The healthiest option?
It’s all in how you see it. Let’s take a look at these factors and how they relate to menstrual cup vs tampon.
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What’s The Difference Between Tampons & Menstrual Cups?
A tampon is a small cylinder of cotton that is inserted into the vagina.
A tampon absorbs menstrual fluid and is removed after 4 to 6 hours and thrown away. After removal, a new one must be inserted each time.
- Small and discreet.
- Convenient, no cleaning, simply toss.
- Easy to find in stores or vending machines.
- Can use while swimming.
- Dries out the vagina as it absorbs both menstrual fluid and natural vaginal secretions.
- Disrupts the pH and flora balance of the vagina.
- Has a risk of TSS.
- The string can collect bacteria and pee which can migrate up into the vagina.
- It can be uncomfortable to wear for some.
If you’re a beginner to the tampon club, head over to my article on the best tampons for beginners, which also goes into detail about tampons in general (what they are, how to use them, etc.).
However, I think I have to let you know that, even though I’m a menstrual cup gal myself, I’d purchase only good organic tampons if there came a day I needed to use one.
So, first off, what it is…
A menstrual cup is a small silicone cup that sits just inside the vagina creating a seal and collecting menstrual fluid.
It is removed and emptied after 8 to 12 hours, cleaned and then reinserted. It can last, on average, 5 years.
Good options may be (and I’ve reviewed all of them because they’re actually good cups):
Of course, those are not the only good cups out there, check this article out to see some of the best menstrual cups in 2023!
But if you’re new to menstrual cups, I encourage you to read this menstrual cup comparison article, to know what’s out there, and what each brand of cup offers women.
- Invisible once inserted.
- Collects a large amount of fluid.
- It can be worn for up to 12 hours.
- Reusable and lasts on average 5 years.
- It can be worn before the period starts.
- One cup is all you need for your entire period.
- It does not dry out or change the balance and pH of your vagina.
- It can be worn during swimming or any other sport.
- Must be washed at each change.
- It can be challenging to learn to use.
- You may get blood on your hand using it.
Menstrual Cups vs Tampons: Which One is Better?
Ok, let’s lay it on the line. Menstrual cups are better for your health, better for your budget, and better for the environment.
The only place tampons win is convenience and ease of use, and even those are debatable.
Let’s take a look at these factors one by one.
Hands down, the cup is superior when it comes to health. A tampon is not selective in what it absorbs. On average 35% of the liquid absorbed by a tampon is natural vaginal fluid.
According to one study “Vaginal fluid exerts selective antimicrobial activity against nonresident bacterial species.”
This means vaginal fluid protects you and helps maintain a healthy pH in the vagina which helps your body fight yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and even TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome).
Ladies, you NEED healthy vaginal secretions. They help you stay comfortable and fight infections.
Products that dry up your natural lube can straight up hurt. If you have ever tried to insert a tampon while you are all dried out, or removed one on a super light flow day, you know this is true.
The average tampon user will use a box of tampons each cycle. The average cup user will use her cup for about 5 years.
The price of one cup is similar to the price of 3 or 4 boxes of tampons. The cup lasts for 5 years, and 3 or 4 boxes of tampons last about 4 months. See the difference?
The environmental cost of using a cup is the manufacture of the silicone, packaging materials, and the cost of disposing of one cup plus packaging material, every 5 years.
The environmental impact of tampons includes manufacturing (including using paper products and cotton), the packaging material (including plastic that goes around each individual tampon), the disposal of several wrappers each month into landfills.
You can see a lot more waste is generated, and tampons use more resources to manufacture.
Tampons are more convenient in that you can just toss the tampon and use a clean one.
For example, if you’re a swimmer, you’re probably going to go for one of the best tampons for swimming. Because you simply toss the thing out after your swimming workout session.
Easy peasy, right? Maybe.
Let’s say you are at a friend’s house for a dinner party. You need to change the darn thing, right at the worst time.
OK, so you head to the bathroom, awkwardly clutching your purse hoping no one notices.
You get there and wouldn’t you know it, the wastebasket is empty, and you have to throw this thing away. Ughhh.
So you bundle it all up and send it on its lonely way as the sole inhabitant of the trash can.
Then you just hope your friend’s curious little mini schnauzer does not want to investigate the deposit you left there in the trash can.
You could have avoided all of this by using a menstrual cup.
No need to schlep your purse to the bathroom, you already have your cup with you, in a place no one will ever see.
Simply empty the contents, give it a rinse, reinsert it, wash your hands and be on your way.
The dinner guests or that annoying schnauzer will be none the wiser.
Honestly, I love that tampons have given women the freedom to do things they were unable to do or uncomfortable to do before they were widely available. I think they were a benefit to the womankind.
But now that a healthier, less expensive, eco-friendly and many women say ‘more liberating’ option is available, it’s time for tampons to retire.
Ease of Use
OK, in the spirit of fairness it should be known that the first few times you use a tampon are very likely to be much easier than the first few months using a menstrual cup.
There is a learning curve to using the cup, but once women get past that, they say they (most likely, I hope) will never go back to tampons again.
To Sum It All Up
Nowadays, the debate is no longer tampons vs. pads. It’s menstrual cups vs. tampons or pads. So, here’s my personal rating for tampons and menstrual cups:
Tampon Rating: 6/10
Menstrual Cup Rating: 9/10
I may be biased since I’ve been using a menstrual cup for the past few years, but I truly think that menstrual cups are better than tampons in every aspect (health, money, environment, etc.).
I hope that this helped you decide which product is best for you when trying to decide the benefits of a menstrual cup vs tampon.
And secretly, I wish for you to just try a menstrual cup at least one time to know what the fuss is about.