Pads, panty liners, cups, cloth pads… there are plenty of period products out there to choose from. If you’ve picked tampons as your menstrual management companion, you’ve got another choice to make; applicator or non-applicator tampons or switch?
Before we go into the ins and outs of using the two types of tampons, have you thought about these questions?
- Do you know what absorbency level you need? Using one that has a higher level of absorbency than you need can not only be uncomfortable, but can increase the risk of TSS. We can safely say that that’s not something you want to risk getting. Always go for the lowest possible absorbency to match your flow.
- How well do you know your body? Everyone’s vagina is different. What works for people you know might not necessarily work for you. Bear this in mind when it comes to your period products.
- Have you researched how tampons work and how to use them? Once you dive a little deeper into the technicalities of tampons, you might be overwhelmed by the idea of using them or suddenly want to switch from one tampon style to another?
- Which brand will you choose? We’re not trying to be overly bias but ours are made from 100% organic cotton, are biodegradable and compostable – better for the environment and your body!
Once you think you’ve given it some thought, it’s time to check out the pros and cons of both applicator and non-applicator tampons…
Should I use non-applicator tampons?
Non-applicator tampons are inserted into your vagina using your fingers as a guide.
- Non-applicator tampons are the more affordable choice between the two, you’ll save yourself a little money every cycle.
- Non-applicator tampons are much smaller and easier to carry around.
- Being smaller means less packaging and waste, which is more environmentally friendly, especially if you’re using biodegradable, organic cotton tampons.
- You’re in total control of how a non-applicator tampon goes into your vagina, and can adjust how it sits based on what the most comfortable spot for you is.
- Using a tampon without an applicator is messier as you use your finger to insert. It has got to go right inside your vagina for it to fit in properly, meaning more blood gets on your hands.
- It takes a little bit more time and practise to familiarise yourself with your body to get a non-applicator tampon in smoothly. This can be seen as good practice getting comfortable with your body.
Should I use applicator tampons?
Applicator tampons are exactly the same as non-applicator tampons but instead of inserting the tampon directly with your fingers, they come with either a plastic or cardboard applicator designed to help with insertion.
- Applicator tampons help to do the hard work by pushing the tampon in for you. They’re arguably more comfortable and easier to use!
- If you’re new to tampons, using applicators is a safe way to know your tampon will be pushed in properly and securely.
- Using applicator tampons can be less messy as the applicator deals with the blood, rather than your finger.
- Applicator tampons are larger and use more materials, this means that there will be more waste overall.
- Applicator tampons tend to be more expensive because they are manufactured using more materials and the applicator accessory.
- Did you know about 20% of vaginas have a naturally retroverted uterus (where the uterus tilts backwards towards the spine instead of forwards)? Using an applicator can be more painful and inflexible to insert if you have one.
- If your tampon feels uncomfortable, readjusting the position means you’ll have to use your fingers, which makes the point of using an applicator tampon redundant.
There is no right or wrong style tampon to choose. An applicator is a great starter for using tampons if you’re a beginner to them or you’re just starting your period. There’s still a learning curve but it’s definitely easier to get to grips with.
If you’re thinking more consciously about your consumption, and are no stranger the realities of period blood, then a non-applicator tampon will be the right fit for you. You might also feel easy about which tampon type you want to use and switch it up to whatever is available!
Whichever style tampon you choose, make sure you have clean hands and take a minute to feel calm and comfortable before putting one in. Read this guide on how to put tampons in (with handy videos!).
Plastic in your tampon?
Conventional tampons contain plastic, meaning they’ll never biodegrade. Protect our planet by choosing organic and natural period products.
Make the switch today
Inserting a tampon
Once you’ve selected your tampon of choice, it’s important to make sure you know how to use your tampon properly. Firstly, wash your hands thoroughly with soap to avoid getting unwanted bacteria in or near your vagina. Then get into the best position to put your tampon in. Check out the rest of our guide on how to put a tampon in and prevent leaks.
Removing a tampon
You should change your tampon every 4-6 hours to maintain good period hygiene and reduce the risk of getting Toxic Shock Syndrome. When you’re ready to take your tampon out, go to the bathroom and wash your hands, and simply pull gently on the tampon string until the tampon is out. Remember to never flush your tampons, dispose of them in your bathroom waste bin instead!
Don’t be ashamed to talk to family or friends about your period – we all have them! They might have some words of wisdom or funny stories to share that’ll help with your choice. Or you can always message us on Facebook or Instagram if you have any period-related questions.
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3 thoughts on “ Applicator vs Non-Applicator Tampon: Which Is Right For You? ”
Non-applicator and it really annoys me that tampons are harder to find where natracare is stocked.
Hi. For years I used tampons and left the applicator inside without knowing.
Should I consult my doctor?? Is it a problem?
Hello, it might be a good idea to consult your doctor if you’re worried about this, if for nothing else then for peace of mind.
Tampons are used for menstrual flows to absorb the blood during the days of a period. Much like sanitary pads, they are a blend of rayon and cotton that collect any blood and fluid flowing out of the vagina. It’s important to note, tampons should only be used for blood and not vaginal discharge.
The tampon itself – absorbent material – sits inside the plastic or cardboard applicator at the tip near the open end. Tampons have an “outer” barrel – what holds the tampon – and an “inner,” thin tube used to push the tampon into the vagina. Once inserted, a cord extends out of the body for easy removal.
Tampons can also come without applicators and are inserted using the index finger. Young girls and teens generally find tampons with applicators easier to use when they begin their period.
Tampons come in various shapes and sizes with different levels of absorbency and are designed to hold from six to eight grams of blood. Depending on your flow, amounts of blood lost may vary and the tampon size you use will change.
Tampon sizes include:
- Lite (used for lighter periods either at the beginning or the end days of a period)
- Regular/Normal (generally used for heavier days)
- Super (Super and super plus are for the heaviest days of bleeding)
- Super Plus
How to insert a tampon
Inserting a tampon for the first time can be intimidating. Be sure to wash your hands and try to be as relaxed as possible, so as to make it easier to slide in.
- Sit on the toilet with your knees apart. Hold the tampon in one hand with the grip – middle of the tampon – in between your thumb and middle finger. Keep your index finger on the end of the thinner tube, where the cord extends.
- Using the tip of the tampon, open the folds of skin on your vagina and slide the entire barrel inside, angling towards your back. The tampon won’t go in smoothly and may be painful if inserted straight up and in.
- Insert it as far as your middle finger and thumb, at the grip – or middle – of the applicator.
- Once the barrel is comfortably inside, hold the grip and push with your index finger on the smaller tube to push the absorbent part of the tampon into the vagina. Push this until it meets the grip and your other fingers.
- Using your thumb and middle finger, pull out the barrel of the tampon, leaving the string to hang out. Do not pull the string! The tampon is inside and is attached to the string. You will use this to remove the tampon once it’s soaked through.
- Place the applicator back inside the plastic lining (or wrap in toilet paper) and dispose of it properly. Do not flush the plastic applicators.
If you can still feel the tampon, you can pull it out and try re-inserting a new one, pushing it up higher. If you think it may not be high enough, wash your hands and insert your finger to push it up further until you can’t feel it.
Removing a tampon
Change your tampon every four to six hours to avoid leakage and chance of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) – a potentially fatal bacterial infection.
When removing a tampon, sit over the toilet and carefully grab the string between two fingers, gently pulling out at the same angle you used to insert it. You may not be able to remove it if you are tense, so relax and pull slowly and steadily. Flush the used tampon when finished.
How do you know when to remove a tampon?
Tampons should be changed every four to six hours. It is important to change tampons often to avoid leakage and spotting.
Never leave a tampon in for more than eight hours to avoid Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). TSS is a very rare, but it’s important to be aware of signs and symptoms.
TSS is a form of bacterial infection that can be potentially fatal when using super-absorbency tampons or leaving them in for extended periods of time. Symptoms can develop quickly and include:
- High fever
- Low blood pressure
- Vomiting or diarrhea
Remove your tampon immediately and call your doctor if you experience signs and symptoms of TSS.
Why use tampons?
Tampons are small, pocket-sized and discreet for girls to carry before or during their periods. By controlling the blood before it leaves the vagina, tampons are often more comfortable than wearing pads on their underwear.
This makes them a preferred source for active girls or those uncomfortable wearing pads. Tampons are also convenient when swimming during your period.
Once you feel more comfortable with tampons, many women alternate between pads and tampons depending on their activities and flow of their period or wear tampons during the day and pads at night.
When choosing the period product you use during your time of the month, you may consider a lot of different factors — including comfort, sustainability, cost, and how long the product lasts without leakage. Because they’re easy to use (for most people), hygienic, and discreet, it’s no wonder that nearly 70 percent of people prefer tampons during their periods, according to HuffPost. Unfortunately, tampons — which are often bought wrapped in plastic, with plastic applicators — have a bad reputation of being one of the worst period products for the earth. While there are more sustainable menstrual hygiene options, like menstrual cups, many people don’t want to make the switch to a new product once they’re familiar with one. But, if you want to stick to tampons, you can still be environmentally-friendly by using applicator-free tampons.
“By going applicator free, you’re able to decrease your carbon footprint because you’re using products with less material,” Molly Hayward, founder of the organic menstrual product company Cora, tells Bustle. “Applicators are often made out of plastic, and while they’re only the size of a tampon, using them over your lifespan adds up in the same way that using plastic water bottles adds up and has a detrimental environmental impact.”
According to statistics provided to Bustle by Cora, menstruating people can go through nearly 16,000 tampons in their lifetime — creating around one hundred pounds of garbage just from plastic applicators alone. And the book Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation estimated people throw away up to 300 pounds of period-related garbage (think applicators and wrappers) in their lifetime, Slate reported. Since plastic can take decades, or even hundreds of years to decompose, there’s a chance those plastic applicators and wrappers will long outlive any of us who use them. Tampon applicators even pose a threat to marine life, due to pollution, and marine animals digesting the plastic period product.
Some people find using an applicator is still more comfortable or easier than inserting an applicator-free tampon, and that’s totally okay. If you still are concerned about being eco-friendly, switching to an applicator made from degradable material like cardboard, or to a reusable applicator ( like this one from DAME) can be an easy way to reduce your menstrual footprint while sticking with a routine that works for you.
Switching to applicator-free tampons may seem intimidating, but they are actually just as simple to use as regular tampons. “I think that some women are intimidated by applicator free tampons because they think that they’re difficult to use, but they’re actually really simple to insert, and very similar to using an applicator — except you’re able to have a bit more control since you’re using your fingers to place it in the most comfortable spot for you,” says Hayward.
Basically, to insert an applicator-free tampon, always start by making sure your hands are clean, and that you are relaxed. Then, while holding the tampon at the base, gently push it inside of your vagina. After that, use your finger to push the tampon into a comfortable position, and readjust if necessary. Simple as that! How do you know if you have inserted your applicator-free tampon in correctly? Hayward explains, “If you can’t feel anything and all you can see is the string, you’ve successfully inserted the tampon. Just be sure to wash your hands before inserting the tampon and relax.” While directions for inserting a tampon sans applicator are pretty straightforward, Hayward says it may take a couple attempts to get it positioned right. “Don’t feel discouraged if your first attempt isn’t successful, sometimes it takes a few tries to get used to a new product,” she adds.
Switching to applicator-free tampons is a great way to help the environment, and to make your period a little more green. Of course, your comfort during your period should be the most important factor in deciding what menstrual product to use. But, with a little practice and patience, applicator-free tampons could become your preferred product.
A tampon is a cotton period product designed to be inserted into your vagina and absorb your menstrual blood. Once inserted correctly (don’t worry, we’ll get into that) it sits so you cannot feel it and expands as it soaks the blood.
When it’s full, you simply pull it out (there’s a very handy string attached that makes this super easy), throw it in the trash, and insert a new one!
Is it safe?
Tampons are used by girls & women all over the world and they are completely safe!
That being said however, you do need to keep in mind that your vagina is the most absorbent part of your body. Think carefully about what you put in it! Many big brand tampons contain pesticides and synthetic materials which are likely to irritate your vagina.
Thankfully, we make tampons from 100% organic cotton. No nasty chemicals. No extra ingredients. Healthier periods!
We don’t cut corners when it comes to our products, so you can be sure that the
highest safety and hygiene standards have been adhered to in the production process.
The women on our team use them, so you can feel safe to do so too!
What are the benefits?
Tampons are great because they allow for so much freedom! Once you insert one of our organic cotton tampons, you won’t feel a thing! Zero irritations, zero wetness and zero discomfort.
Plus, because they’re worn inside the vagina, you can say goodbye to the sweaty, sticky and diaper-like feeling we sometimes get with pads (although our own LUÜNA pads are made with organic cotton which feels much softer on your skin).
You’re also less likely to experience any unpleasant smell because the blood remains inside the vaginal canal and doesn’t come into direct contact with the air until you change your tampon.
Once inserted correctly, tampons are essentially invisible: you won’t be able to feel it & people around you won’t see it! Wearing a bikini and going swimming during your period just got a whole lot easier!
Tampons allow for much more freedom and movement than pads. Exercising, swimming, dancing… the list of possibilities is endless!
Better for the Planet
Our tampons are made from 100% GOTS certified cotton. This not only makes them better for your body, but also for our planet.
Most big brand tampons end up polluting the Earth. Our tampons, on the other hand, are completely biodegradable and save the earth from soaking in unnecessary waste.
How does it work?
1. Unwrap both sides of the tampon & pull the string completely out
2. Place your index finger on the base of the tampon. Grip the tampon with your middle finger and thumb
3. Find a comfortable position. We suggest squatting or having one leg raised up and resting on the toilet
4. Gently push the tampon into your vaginal canal. Aim for the small of your back and relax your muscles
5. Push until you cannot feel it anymore, but remember to leave the string hanging out
6. Enjoy your day!
7. When it’s full, remove it by pulling on the string & throw it in the trash
Our LUÜNA tampons are made from 100% GOTS certified organic cotton. This means they’re free from pesticides, fertilizers, chlorine, dyes, dioxins and synthetic materials (which are sadly common in most big brand competitor products) 🙁
Don’t worry, the absence of these nasty chemicals doesn’t compromise their efficiency. Rather it makes them a much healthier alternative for your vagina! We’ve tested them to be sure they’re the best quality product possible – they’re SGS tested but most importantly they’re used & loved by the women on our team!
And because they’re designed by women, we understand that every period is different! That’s why we have two different absorbency levels (regular and super) to keep you leak free every day of your cycle!
Your questions (answered by us!)
Where are your tampons made?
Our tampons are currently made in Grosspostwitz in Saxony in Germany. We import them via Hong Kong.
What are your tampons made of?
Our tampons are made from internationally imported 100% GOTS certified organic cotton and contain 0 nasty chemicals.
How does the tampon work?
Tampons sit a the base of the cervix, and the top of the vaginal canal inside your body. They absorb the menstrual blood, before it comes into contact with the air.
What are the risks of using tampons?
Tampons carry a very small risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome or TSS. TSS is a rare, serious and occasionally fatal disease caused by fast breeding bacteria. TSS can occur in men or women but by using a tampon, and leaving it in too long, women can experience a slightly higher risk of contracting TSS. The likelihood of developing TSS are extremely low, a study by the University of Utah suggested around 1 in 100,000.
The symptoms of TSS are similar to flu- elevated temperature, dizziness and vomiting. If you are using and tampon and experience any of these symptoms remove your tampon immediately and seek medical attention.
Regular or super tampons? How do I decide?!
Regular tampons are better for a lighter flow and those of us who are new to tampons! They are slightly smaller so can be easier to insert and remove. Super tampons are more appropriate if you have a heavier flow.
You can use either- there is no hard and fast rule and your body may change over time, some women also like to use different options at different stages during her period- starting out with a super and switching to regular towards the end of her period. Best thing you can do is try them out and see what works best for you.
What are the advantages of tampons over pads?
Tampons have multiple advantages. Firstly, they are worn inside the vagina, so the sticky, sweaty feeling you can get when wearing a pad is not present. Additionally the blood is absorbed directly to the tampon inside your vaginal canal and therefore has no contact with the air and is unlikely to smell.
What’s more you can swim, wear a bikini or swimming costume, exercise and move freely with a tampon. It is not visible to anyone- and you should not feel it inside you if it is placed correctly.
Can I use tampons if I’m a virgin?
Yes you can. Using a tampon will not affect your virginity- only having sex will do that. But using a tampon can cause your hymen to stretch or even, in some cases, tear- this does not affect your virginity though- as some women do not have hymens or indeed they break some time before losing their virginity.
Are they designed for Asian women?
Anatomically Asian women’s vaginal canals are no different to women from other races, so tampons can be used by all women safely and comfortably. However, our tampons to have a rounded and tapered end to make them more comfortable and easier to insert especially for first time or less experienced tampon users.
If it’s your first time Tampaxing, we’re here to help! Putting in your first tampon can feel intimidating, but once you learn how to insert a tampon, you’ll find it’s not as weird or scary as you thought it would be.
Will the tampon fit?
Firstly, remember that your vagina is stretchy enough for a baby to fit through, so a tampon is nothing to worry about! Tampon sizes are based on the amount of fluid they absorb. If you’re not sure what tampon size to start with, try Regular – most women use this absorbency. If you want to start with the smallest tampon until you figure it out, try the Light absorbency. If your tampon leaks in just a few hours, go up a size. If your tampon is uncomfortable to change, go down. You can compare tampons and their sizes based on your menstrual flow here.
Will it hurt to put in a tampon?
It can definitely feel a bit strange, especially if it’s your first time inserting a tampon. The good news is that it doesn’t have to hurt – you are totally in control. If it’s hurting, there are things you can do to make it more comfortable. Keep reading!
Steps for how to insert a tampon
Step 1: Wash your hands
It’s always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water before and after you insert a tampon.
Step 2: Get out your tampon
Unwrap your tampon and make sure you know how it works. If you’ve never really looked at a tampon, it can look intimidating, but the tampon itself is actually inside the applicator. Tampons with applicators make it easy to insert the tampon into your vagina. Some tampon applicators are plastic, and some are cardboard, but both types of applicator tampons can be used safely. The applicator has a larger, outer tube that holds the tampon, a ‘grip’ area where you hold it, and a smaller tube at the end where the string comes out. The smaller tube is actually a plunger that you use to push the tampon out into your vagina after you’ve inserted the applicator. Have a look at this diagram of a Tampax Pearl applicator tampon to see each component.
If you’re using a Tampax Pocket Pearl tampon (which is in a smaller, more compact package), you’ll have to pull the plunger out until it clicks to make it work. If you don’t hear the click, the plunger won’t work to release the tampon from the applicator.
Step 3: Locate your vagina
We know you know where it is, but so many people have never really looked closely enough to know its exact position. Grab a mirror and take a look to make sure you’re familiar with your vaginal opening and where the tampon will go.
Step 4: Get comfortable and ready to put the tampon in
Find a comfortable position that lets you relax and still reach your vagina. Most people sit on the toilet or stand while slightly squatting to insert a tampon, but you can also try lying down or propping one foot up on a step or another raised surface (e.g., the edge of the bath). The most important thing is to take a deep breath and relax all your muscles – if you squeeze your bum or tense the muscles around the vagina, it won’t be as easy to insert the tampon.
Step 5: Set the tip
Hold the tampon at the grip (the smaller part just above the plunger) and place the tip of the tampon applicator at your vaginal opening.
Step 6: Use the right angle
Once the tip is in place, aim the tampon towards your lower back, not straight up. Your vagina doesn’t go straight up into your body – it actually sits at a slight angle. Finding the angle that’s right for you can help make it feel more comfortable to insert.
Step 7: Tip to grip
Now you’re ready. Slowly insert the tampon applicator from the tip, all the way to the grip. When you’ve inserted it far enough, your fingers on the grip will probably be touching your vulva (the external opening of your vagina).
Step 8: Plunge
Once you’ve inserted tip to grip, it’s time to use your index finger or your other hand to push the plunger all the way into the applicator and release the tampon.
Step 9: Remove the applicator
After you’ve pushed the plunger in all the way, pull the applicator (both plastic pieces) out. The string will be the only thing left hanging out of your vagina.
You did it! Once you’ve inserted the tampon, you’re done. Keep reading to learn how to remove it.
A pro-tip for inserting a tampon
If your tampon is uncomfortable and makes you feel like you need to waddle, it’s probably because it isn’t far enough inside your vagina. If that happens, just use your finger to push the tampon further up, which usually fixes it.
If you’re still having trouble
The most common reason people can’t get a tampon in is that they are inserting it at the wrong angle, or they get nervous and tense the muscles around the vaginal opening. But if you’ve adjusted the angle, and you feel pretty relaxed and you still can’t get it in, you should see a gynaecologist, as it may be something that requires treatment. Usually it’s one of two things:
Potential complication: your hymen
Your hymen may have a variation that makes it difficult to insert a tampon. The hymen is a thin and stretchy ring of tissue that surrounds the vaginal opening. Most hymens have a single opening in the middle that a tampon can easily pass through, but some have a very small opening or a septum (a band of tissue) that partially blocks the opening. If that’s the problem, all it takes is a very simple procedure that most gynaecologists do in the office after they numb the area, so you don’t feel it. It’s quick and easy.
Potential complication: vaginismus
The other reason some people can’t insert a tampon is because of a condition called vaginismus, which is when the muscles around the vaginal opening squeeze so tight that they won’t let anything into the vagina. These contractions are involuntary, meaning you don’t control them or even realise what’s happening. Most commonly, this condition develops after an injury or traumatic experience that may or may not involve the vagina. Vaginismus is not something you can control, but it is something that can go away with treatment. Again, this would involve speaking to your gynaecologist who could potentially advise you to work with a pelvic floor physiotherapist – they can work wonders in treating vaginismus.
Bottom line – there's help
If you have trouble inserting a tampon or if you have persistent pain related to insertion, you should always get medical attention from a doctor you trust. Don’t suffer in silence or be inconvenienced because it feels embarrassing. We promise you it’s not! Gynaecologists deal with these issues more often than you would think.
How to remove your tampon
Now that you have mastered how to insert a tampon, it's time to learn how to remove a tampon. When it's time to remove your tampon, first wash your hands. Next, get into a comfortable position, relax your body, and use your hands to locate the tampon string. Then use your finger and thumb to grip the string and pull it slowly out of your vagina. We know it’s tempting, but please do not flush your tampon. Tampons should be disposed of properly in with your household waste. After you have removed the tampon, remember to wash your hands.
That’s it! Now you know how to use a tampon.
Check out Tampax’s new step-by-step guide to tampons and watch super helpful videos from a partnership with Tyla:
Putting in a tampon can be tricky to figure out at first , but it gets easier with practice. One thing that can help is making sure you’re clear on exactly where the tampon should go. There are two openings in the vulva (a woman’s external sex organs) — the urethra and the vagina. Menstrual fluid flows from the vagina (the lower of the two openings), so this is where a tampon should go. Check out our Female Body Diagrams to see where the vagina is located on the vulva.
Most tampons come with a plastic or cardboard applicator, which makes it easier to slide the tampon into your vagina. Push the tip of the tampon into your vagina, hold the tampon’s applicator with your thumb and middle finger, and push in the back of the applicator with your index finger. You’ll know the tampon is in correctly when you’ve slid the smaller piece of the applicator all the way into the larger one . O nce the tampon is in, you can throw the applicator away. Some tampons are available without an applicator – you can push these tampons into your vagina with your finger.
Putting a tampon in your vagina shouldn’t be painful, but it may hurt if you’re not relaxed. You might find it’s easier for your muscles to relax if you insert a tampon while lying down. You can also try using slender or “light” tampons . These are usually thinner than “regular” or “super” tampons, which could make them easier to insert when you’re a beginner. You might also prefer to use a tampon with a plastic applicator, rather than a cardboard one.
Y ou probably won’t feel the tampon once it’s correctly inserted. Changing tampons frequently is a good idea. You can leave a tampon in for about three or four hours, or until it’s full, whichever comes first. If it’s been less than three or four hours, you’ll know it’s time to remove a tampon if it slides out easily when you pull the string gently.
If you still find inserting a tampon to be difficult and painful, you can ask someone you trust – such as your mother, older sister, or a friend — to help you. Read more about periods and tampons here.
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This week on the blog, we’re talking about tampons. When I got my first period, I strictly used pads because the thought of inserting something into my body seemed scary and nearly impossible. When it’s your first time using a tampon, it’s not the easiest thing on the planet. However, once I learned how, it became super easy for me to insert and I realized I like tampons significantly more than pads.
I find tampons easier for a few reasons: they’re easier for me to wear with a thong, they make swimming on my period stress-free, and overall they feel more discreet than pads. However, this is a personal preference – if you don’t want to try tampons, no problem! If you try tampons and still prefer pads, there’s no problem with that either. There’s no ‘right’ answer when it comes to tampons vs. pads – both are perfectly safe.
It’s always good to have options. If you’ve been wanting to use a tampon, but are too scared to try or don’t know where to start, we’re here to help! Here are the instructions to follow when inserting a tampon.
1. Get comfortable
So how do you put in a tampon correctly? Before we get into it, let’s do a quick anatomy review.
Your urethra is where pee comes out. This hole is not where your tampon will be inserted, because this isn’t where your period blood comes from. This opening is too small to fit a tampon, so you don’t need to worry about inserting a tampon in the wrong spot by accident.
Next up, we have the anus. This is the opening where your poop comes out, in your butt. A tampon could fit in this hole, but should never be inserted there (important for first-time users). A tampon is inserted into your vaginal opening, which falls somewhere in the middle of your urethra and your anus. I recommend taking a mirror and having a look down there to find where the opening is.
Alternatively, you could use your finger or a tampon to feel around for where the hole is. This sounds gross and unpleasant but it’s not, it’s important to know your body! Knowing where your vaginal opening is will make it much easier to know where to put a tampon.
2. Wash your hands
Your hands are getting very up close and personal with a very sensitive part of your body. Do you want dirt and whatever other bacteria has accumulated on your hands to end up in your vagina? NO! Give your hands a good scrub and you’ll be ready to get to business.
3. Insert the tampon
Read the instructions that come with your box of tampons. Not all tampons are exactly the same, so it’s important to know how to use the applicator if you’re a beginner. There are different tampon sizes: regular, super, super plus. Each size holds a different amount of blood, with super plus holding the most.
If you have a heavy flow or plan on leaving your tampon in for a longer amount of time, you may want to use super or super plus sizes. However, I recommend starting with a regular tampon until you’re comfortable inserting it. It’s the most slender and will be the easiest to insert into your body. It’s the best option if you’re just learning!
Next, get into a comfortable position. Some people sit on the toilet with their knees apart, some squat down and some prop one leg on their toilet seat or bathtub. Try out different positions and see what feels most comfortable for you. Next, place the end of the tampon applicator into your vaginal opening. You may need to use one hand to pull apart the lips of your vagina – the labia. But, if you followed step #1, you already know where your vaginal opening is.
Slide the outer tube of the tampon into your vagina until your fingers touch your body. The grip and the inner tube should still be outside the body. Refer to the image below if you’re not sure what the outer tube, grip and inner tube of the applicator is. You want the string to be facing away from your body, not towards you – the tampon and applicator should be held at a 45 degree angle.
Once you feel the tampon is comfortably positioned, hold the grip and push the tampon inside your body using the inner tube of the applicator. Once you’ve pushed the inner tube in the whole way, you can pull away the plastic part and voila! Tampon inserted.
4. Make sure you don’t feel any discomfort
Do tampons hurt? If the tampon isn’t inserted far enough into your vagina, you might feel a little discomfort, especially when you sit. But when a tampon is properly inserted, you shouldn’t notice it at all. If you’re finding it feels uncomfortable, you may need to insert the outer tube of the applicator further into your vagina before pushing in the tampon. However, always make sure the tampon string is always outside your body, as this is what allows you to remove the tampon. You can also wear a pair of leakproof teen period underwear with your tampon as some extra backup protection, just in case!
5. Changing your tampon
Next: tampon removal. You should aim to change your tampon every 4-8 hours. I personally change my tampon every time I pee, however you can pee with a tampon in – this comes down to personal preference.
When you’re ready to remove your tampon, get into the same position you found comfortable when inserting the tampon. Relax your muscles – removing the tampon will not hurt, so don’t be scared! Pull on the string of your tampon to remove it, and toss it in the garbage. They should not be flushed down the toilet as it’s bad for your plumbing and the environment.
Keep in mind, you might not get this right on your first try. We were all beginners once. For some it works on the first try, but for others it can take some trial and error. It took me a few months before I really got comfortable using tampons. If you’re having trouble, talk to a parent or trusted adult and ask them for help. There’s no shame in needing a little assistance when you first start using tampons!
If you’re worried about your tampon leaking or want to explore tampon alternatives, our Period Underwear is the perfect back-up protection against any unexpected leaks.
Disclaimer: The blog writers at KT are not medical professionals, and give this advice based on their own research and experience. If you have further questions or concerns, speak to a trusted medical professional.
Running a sustainable period care company is difficult. Just ask Afsaneh Parvizi-Wayne, the founder of Freda, a UK-based period subscription box that delivers pads, tampons, and liners to women and sources organic cotton and sustainable materials wherever possible.
One of the big problems she faces is reducing plastic in her products: Like in the US, women in the UK generally prefer to use tampons with applicators. Parvizi-Wayne estimates that when she launched, 70% of her customers ordered tampons with applicators, for which it is difficult (and expensive) to find a plant-based or biodegradable alternative. One UK company recently launched a Kickstarter for the first reusable applicator.
Market research in the UK shows that 60% of women prefer tampons with applicators. While in the US, Mother Jones reports that 88% of the tampons sold in 2015 were ones with a non bio-degradable plastic applicator, with sales of cardboard applicators significantly declining. Meanwhile, in Europe and other parts of the world where tampons are commonly used, so-called “digital” tampons (or applicator-less ones inserted with ones digits, or fingers) have outsold ones with applicators for decades.
Blog posts abound from American expats discovering, to their horror, that most tampons sold outside the US are the kind they have to “shove inside” with their own finger. And, from the other point of view, a Reddit thread entitled “Women of the US, why are your tampons so huge?” displays many people learning, for the first time, that applicators even exist.
So why is there such a split in the kind of tampon women use? In the research and development phase of building her company, Parvizi-Wayne learned it had to do with branding.
The first tampon as we recognize it today—with a telescoping cardboard applicator—was invented and patented in 1929 by American Dr Earl Hass. He then sold it to Gertrude Tenderich, a business woman who went on to start the company Tampax. By 1939, Tampax had set up a subsidiary in the UK, and the brand was largely responsible for introducing tampons (with applicators) to women in those countries until later competitors emerged. In the 1970s plastic applicators, introduced by Playtex, came onto the scene.
Meanwhile, in the 1940s in Germany, gynecologist Judith Esser-Mittag invented a digital tampon, called o.b, which gained popularity in western Europe. It wasn’t until the mid-seventies, that Johnson and Johnson (which then owned o.b.) introduced o.b. digital tampons to the US. By then, the applicator habit had been set.
As Sharra Vostral, professor of history at Purdue University and author of Under Wraps: A History of Menstrual Hygiene Technology, said, “It’s not that applicator-less tampons weren’t available in the States, it’s that Tampax became the predominate tampon company.”
Since she launched her company, Parvizi-Wayne says she’s seen a willingness in her customers to shift once they give a new product a try. She says that the fem-care space is often dominated by the idea that women will do whatever they were taught. When it comes to applicators though, she’s trying to prove that’s not the case by encouraging women to sample applicator-free tampons in their monthly box, free of charge.
“One of the things that stops new companies from entering the fem-care space is that we were all told research shows that women use products that their grandmothers used, that their mothers used—that they don’t want to shift,” Parvizi-Wayne says. “I try not to be prescriptive as a brand, but what has surprised me most is how women are prepared to try an alternative.”
Here at LOLA, we like to think we’re on the cutting edge of what’s new or interesting in health, wellness, and natural living. Over the past few months, we’ve tried everything from oil pulling to cupping, but recently, we tried something that hit even closer to home: non-applicator tampons. While most of us had used a non-applicator tampon, there were a few of us that never had. And if there are some women that work at a company like LOLA who haven’t tried non-applicator tampons, we’re positive we aren’t alone.
Turns out, we really aren’t alone — in 2015, only 6.5% of US tampon sales were non-applicator. Meanwhile, women in Europe, Australia, and Asia have been using non-applicator tampons for decades — with 60% of European women reporting that they actually prefer them.
Whether you’re trying to reduce the amount of plastic waste you create or just want a more compact option to throw in your purse when you’re on the go, read on to find out what we learned.
There’s a technique
Yes, we’ve been using tampons for decades, but we had to learn how to put them in without an applicator. Here’s our step-by-step guide:
First, you’ll need to wash your hands before you go to the bathroom. Unwrapping the tampon is easy enough — just find the seam on the blue tape and tear the wrapper off. That’s when things get different: the tampon string will be nestled up against the tampon, instead of being held separate by an applicator.
Hold the tampon with your thumb and forefinger and use your other hand to unravel the string. Hold the string taut and twist it several times. This will create a small dip in the bottom of the tampon, that serves as a natural place to put your finger as you insert the tampon to give you more control during insertion.
Next, use the pointer finger on your dominant hand to push the tampon into your vagina — you should insert it until you reach the base of your finger. This may feel too far, but as long as the string is still outside your body, you’re all set. And don’t worry — it’ll get easier to know your preferred placement as you continue to use non-applicator tampons.
Voila! You’re done!
We made some mistakes
It was a process of trial and error and we did some things that we really recommend you don’t do, and want to save you from making the same mistakes we did.
– When we said to push the tampon in the full length of your forefinger, we meant it. This feels like a lot. Do. It. Almost all of us made the mistake of not pushing the tampon in all of the way, and that just made for an uncomfortable afternoon.
– The first time you use a non-applicator tampon, try it on one of your heavier days. There will be more lubrication, so it’ll be easier to slide the tampon in without an applicator to help out.
– Do NOT forget to separate the string from the tampon before you put it in. One LOLA team member accidentally skipped this step… and had to go fishing for the tampon. (Rough.)
– Don’t be weirded out. Obviously using a non-applicator tampon can be a new and strange experience after using an applicator for a lifetime, but it’s really not a big deal to touch your own body
So there you have it. Everyone on the LOLA team has now used non-applicator tampons, and some of us are converts. If you’re thinking about using an organic non-applicator tampon, follow our tips to make sure you have a smooth experience!
Period shaming. Why are we still doing it? I think every menstruating person out there has probably dealt with a particularly nasty cycle at least once in their lives and some of us deal with crippling pain, heavy blood flow and emotional upset every single month. So I find it unfathomable that, riding our wave of eco-friendly activism, we’re still okay to shame each other about what type of period products we chose to use. Yes, some are clearly better for the planet than others, there’s the equivalent of 5 plastic bags in one pack of sanitary pads, but ultimately I believe that if you choose to use a reusable tampon applicator, as I do, that you shouldn’t be shamed for doing as much for the planet as you feel comfortable.
I’ve tried a menstrual cup, several different types and shapes in fact, and the result from my body is a resounding ‘no.’ I don’t want to be told that I haven’t tried hard enough, because I have, and so I’m happy that I can still experience my period in a more environmentally friendly and comfortable way with a reusable tampon applicator that means I never have to throw away an applicator ever again which, when there’s 9 applicators for every kilometre of beach in the UK, is a very good thing. Sure I could use my finger, but the vagina is one of the most absorbent parts of our bodies and I personally find pushing a wad of absorbent cotton into it on a very regular basis uncomfortable and sore. I was really struck by something I read recently in Maisie Hill’s book, Period Power:
She’s right, of course, we do have a weird hang up about touching ourselves. However I don’t agree that it’s the real reason for tampon applicators, in fact there are some countries where they don’t use them at all – not because women necessarily choose not to, but because they aren’t even on sale to buy. Australia and some Scandinavian countries simply just don’t sell them. In stark contrast to this, one American blogger, called HousewifeDownUnder, wrote in a blog post: “Tampons without applicators are just a no-go. it is so beyond disgusting that it doesn’t even bear thinking of.” Well, I’d argue that the female body is anything but disgusting but at the same time it highlights how influenced we are by the culture we grow up in and we shouldn’t be blamed for that or called bad feminists. The important thing here is to accept the different ways in which we all choose to experience our periods.