We've had a look at a number of period products on the market and shared the best ones for the environment, new starters and light or heavy flows.
Between the ages of 12 and 52, a woman who doesn't have kids will have about 480 periods, according to the NHS. So it's important that we ladies feel supported and confident with the best possible period products to help see us through our cycles and PMS symptoms.
When it comes to selecting our preferred period product however, there’s ‘no size fits all’ mentality with each one carrying different advantages to our individual needs.“Different products are better suited to different situations and most vary in size depending on how much you are bleeding,” says obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr. Ellie Rayner, founder of The Maternity Collective. “You might want to use one type of product throughout your menstrual cycle, or you might want to use different items for different situations, such as sleeping, exercising or whilst at work.” There's also an environmental factor that most will want to consider during menstruation, with some period products more eco-friendly than others.
With this in mind, we explored a range of classic period products and researched the best ones to benefit you and your period priorities.
What are the best period products?
Best period product for those with an active lifestyle: Tampons
According to consultant gynaecologist Miss Shirin Irani of Spire Parkway Hospital, tampons provide "greater freedom" to women during their menstruation.
“They may suit the more active woman who doesn’t want to give up swimming or the gym because of her period," she tells us.
There are two types of tampons on the period products market: applicator and non-applicator tampons. Non-applicator tampons tend to be cheaper, though the average cost of a tampon is between 3-25p. With a pack of 16 costing you about £2.
Gynaecologist Irani recommends tampons with applicators for “for first time users” as it helps to position the tampon in the right place.
Whilst these period products may be good for on the go, there is a rare health risk attached with tampons that Dr Ellie says you need to know about.
“It is really important that you change your sanitary product regularly as recommended to prevent complications like infection,” she tells us. “This is especially important for tampons, which should be changed every 4-8 hours to reduce the risk of a rare, but serious complication called Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).”
According to the NHS, this is a bacterial infection that can lead to the release of harmful toxins that can be potentially life-threatening to organs in the body. A high temperature, vomiting and diarrhoea, flu-like symptoms and a sunburn-like rash are common symptoms to be aware of. Whilst there are no figures on how many people get TSS from tampons, a BBC report said that around 40 people are diagnosed with the condition in the UK every year. And that an average of two people will die from it. The risk is therefore very small but notable when using tampons.
When it comes to buying your tampons we recommend seeking out ones that are made from organic cotton for their eco-friendly nature. The vast majority of tampons are made up of 6% plastic (not including their plastic applicator). They take a long time to break down and release harmful chemicals into the air when burnt. Plus most will end up in the sea, choking and causing harm to marine wildlife, which subsequently affects ecosystems.
In contrast, organic tampons are naturally biodegradable and don't contain chlorine, dye or perfumes. Brands like Natracare and DAME are two leading the eco-friendly tampon drive. With DAME also producing a reusable tampon applicator for those that are used to applicator tampons but want a plastic-free alternative.
Big brand Tampax have also produced an organic cotton tampon range with plant-based plastic applicators in a more eco-conscious move.
DAME's reusable tampon applicator prevents millions of plastic applicators going to waste. It also boasts self sanitizing technology for clean and easy use. The set includes a reusable tampon applicator, 3x DAME 100% Organic Regular tampons, 3x DAME 100% Organic Super tampon and a Zipable carrying pouch.
These non-applicator regular tampons are made from 100% organic cotton, are free from toxins AND are naturally biodegradable. They can be used on their own or with the DAME Reusable Tampon Applicator.
These tampons are made from soft certified organic cotton, and contain no plastic, no perfumes or dyes. They're also totally chlorine free and biodegradable too.
If you're a loyal Tampax fan, then it's time to make the switch to their organic cotton variety. They're much more eco-friendly than their usual range, with these applicators made from plant-based plastic and their 100% cotton material being biodegradable too.
Best eco-friendly period product: Moon cups
Moon cups or menstrual cups have been hailed as one of the best environmentally friendly period products on the market. Whilst they may cost about £15-£30 upfront, their reusable nature is sure to save you pounds in the long run.
"Switching to a menstrual cup can save the environment from approximately 16,000 tampons, panty-liners and sanitary pads in your lifetime, which can take between 500-800 years to fully decompose," says Stephanie Taylor, Founder and Managing Director of pelvic health company Kegel8.
They can be reusable for up to 10 years and can be worn for up to 10 hours whilst carrying a “a very low risk of TSS,” adds Miss Irani.
When shopping for your menstrual cup, be sure to choose one that's made from medical-grade silicone. This material is bacteria-resistant and is a good preventative measure to take against TSS.
It's also advised to check that your cup of choice doesn't contain the harmful synthetic chemical bisphenol A (BPA). Studies have shown that this substance disrupts our endocrine system (a series of glands that produce and secrete hormones around the body) and this can huge health implications on our metabolism, reproductive organs and brain function.
Brands like Mooncup and Intimina have menstrual cup period products that are made from medical-grade silicone and don't contain BPA. They're also marketed as free from phthalate, bleaches and toxins.
Mooncup is UK-made and contains no latex, dyes, perfumes, BPA, phthalates, plastic, bleaches or toxins. It's the original product that first entered the scene in 2002. Their cup comes in two sizes: Size A (for 30+ years old or after vaginal birth) and Size B (under 30 years old with no vaginal births).
Intimina's Ziggy Cup is also made from medical grade silicone and is BPA free. The bright pink menstrual cup is reusable and can worn during sex. It's flat-fit allows for absolute comfort and it's leak-proof double rim ensures a mess-free period.
Best for those new to periods: Sanitary towels
According to consultant gynaecologist Miss Shirin Irani of Spire Parkway Hospital, sanitary towels are "the original period product". They're both "easy to use and affordable too" she adds. With the average price of a pad ranging between 2-38p according to data from SanitarySaver.
The NHS suggests that sanitary towels are a good starter period product for young girls: “You might want to use pads for your very first period as tampons and cups can take some getting used to."
Like tampons, there’s environmental issues attached to disposable pads. As most towels contain polyethylene plastic (the sticky bit that attaches to your underwear) which is a harmful pollutant. They can also take 800 years to decompose and generate large quantities of greenhouse gases when burnt.
Because of this, reusable sanitary towels are now a widely available option. “These are all designed to be worn for a set amount of time and then washed after use and reused during your next cycle,” Dr. Ellie tells us. “This reduces plastic waste and can be a more cost effective option in the long run.”
Brand Rovtop have a 4.6 star rating on Amazon for their reusable sanitary pads, that are machine washable and made from antibacterial charcoal bamboo fibre.
If you're someone who won't consider a reusable sanitary towel, then opt for one made from a biodegradable material instead of plastic.
Big name brand Always have an 100% organic cotton range of sanitary towels that are biodegradable and boast the same quality and protection as their regular line. Whilst FLO have produced pads that are made with 100% organic bamboo, that feature biodegradable plant-based wrappers and are free from artificial dyes or perfume.
Get 7 reusable and colourfully patterned sanitary towels with a handy wash bag included. Made from antibacterial charcoal bamboo fibre, these pads are waterproof, super-absorbent, soft-to-skin and machine washable.
Whilst the average sanitary pad is up to 95% plastic, FLO pads are made with 100% organic bamboo certified by Oeko-Tex and Ecocert, all individually-wrapped in biodegradable plant-based wrappers. Even better, 5% of FLO profits go to charities supporting girls and women in need.
These pads are available in three sizes depending on your flow (light, medium, heavy) and are made from 100% organic materials, making them much more eco-friendly than regular sanitary towels.
Best period product for light flows: Period underwear
Curious about period underwear and its pros? These particular period products work well to absorb blood during the lighter stages of your menstrual cycle and are a reusable option boasting environmental benefits too.
“Designed to replace your normal underwear, these are an easy solution that are safe to wear on light flow days,” Miss Irani tells us. “They may not produce the fanciest pants for the fashion-conscious woman, but they are washable and reusable, so after the initial investment you could be saving money and the environment.”
Some big name brands have cottoned on to this newer period product trend, with Marks and Spencer and Holland and Barrett both selling a range in store. An average pair will set you back between £12-£30 (depending on absorbency level).
Those not wanting to spend much more than the average price on knickers should try M&S's light absorbency full briefs. Made from soft fabric with a three-layer gusset design, these £12 protective pants will absorb a light flow near the end of your period. Whilst Modibondi is a company that specialises in bladder and period underwear, whose French-cut briefs boast a 4.6 star rating out of 226 reviews.
Finally, Thinx have developed period-absorbing training shorts that are perfect for light flow days when you're wanting to get active. You'll find these are a much more affordable and comfortable option than a sanitary towel. They're also reusable and so better for the environment too.
Marks and Spencer's period pants have a three-layer gusset design that draws moisture away from the body, with an absorbent, anti-odour middle layer and a protective outer layer. They're also made from stretchy Sumptuously Soft fabric for extra comfort. Plus they're washable and reusable to help reduce waste.
These high-leg briefs are suitable for moderate-heavy flows and are available in this stylish and comfortable 'French Cut' fit. Made from breathable Modifier Technology – they're super-slim (3mm), super absorbent, and have a stain and bacteria fighting lining for modern periods, bladder leaks and discharge.
These training shorts are perfect for anyone with a menstrual cycle. They're super absorbent - claiming to hold the equivalent of up to 5 tampons. And are perfect for wearing to the gym too.
Best period product for heavy flows: Organic cotton tampliners
Callaly have released a relatively new period product known as a ‘tampliner’. It’s a concept that combines an organic tampon and mini-pad in one. And is 95% biodegradable too.
The idea is that any blood not absorbed by the tampon is caught by the pad, saving your underwear from blood strains and any mess. And it's this double protection that makes this one of the best period products during heavy flow days.
A pack of 16 (8 Regular, 4 Super, 4 Super+) will cost you £8, so they are notably pricier than regular tampons and pads. Yet their biodegradable nature does make them greener than their plastic counterparts.
This organic cotton tampon combined with a soft mini-liner is a new period product on the market. Providing mess-free insertion and removal, it works with any underwear from thongs to boxers, and cleverly wraps itself on the way out. Oh and it's 95% biodegradable.