What's the difference?

Cup and tampon.jpg

The movement towards using cups has grown significantly over the past few years. There are many reasons girls and women are choosing cups over other products. Being more environmentally conscious and reducing cost are the main ones. But what’s the actual difference between the two?

Both collect menstrual blood and are inserted inside the vagina, and both need to be watched for Toxic Shock Syndrome (more on that later) - but that’s where the similarities end.

Cups are made from medical grade silicone, so while they can’t be recycled, if looked after they can last years.

Most tampons are made of a mixture of cotton and rayon (there are many companies now that offer 100% organic cotton varieties) and they last four to eight hours. Some companies also offer biodegradable tampons but most mainstream tampons are not biodegradable.

So, which ones are better?

There’s no ‘better’ really. It comes down to personal preference. Luna strongly believes girls should use products that make them feel comfortable.

Convenience:

Tampons:

Some girls prefer tampons because they’re easy to carry around. You can leave them in your bag for ages, use them and they’re fine. You can also use applicator tampons, which helps insert them, this is especially popular with girls who have just started their first periods.

While more expensive in the long run, the upfront cost for tampons is cheaper than the upfront cost of a cup. However, in the long run cups will win the race on price.

Cups:

Cups are convenient because you can leave them in for long periods of time, much longer than tampons. Up to 12 hours. But they’re more high maintenance to clean, the bonus being the environmental brownie points you get. Cups are great if you’re out at a festival or going for a day-long hike because you don’t have to worry about changing them. They’re also great for sleeping because you can sleep through the night without having to change them.

Disposal:

Tampons:

Some tampon brands are biodegradable (it will state this on the packaging) and some offer cardboard applicators over plastic applicators. However, all need to go into a landfill. Please never flush tampons or applicators down the toilet. While they could block drains, more harmful effects are if they’re introduced into waterways - rivers, open seas etc.

Cups:

Cups if looked after properly have a long shelf-life. But it’s important to clean them regularly and keep them dry. Unfortunately, once you need to replace a cup, the old cup can’t be recycled.

Personal care:

Tampons:

Tampons need to be changed every four to eight hours to prevent Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). When your flow is heavy this is easy because you need to change them anyway. However, this because slightly more problematic when your flow if light as you might not be prompted to change them that frequently.

Girls need to practice a high level of personal hygiene during their periods. Change underwear daily, wear cotton (breathable underwear) and shower daily. Using fresh, clean towels will also make you feel clean.

What’s TSS?

Is a rare and very dangerous bacterial infection that enters the bloodstream. You can get it from cups and tampons. Tampons adsorb fluid very well, i.e. blood, which in rare cases if not changed regularly can create an environment for bacteria to grow.

For cups, the bacteria can grow on the cup before it’s inserted, which is why you need to sterilise them in boiling water after each use. For tampons and cups, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream via miniature cuts in the vagina that are caused by dryness and also insertion.

Cups:

If you’re a cup user it makes good sense to have a few in circulation. Because you need to sterilise them after each 12-hour use, so it’s good to have a spare handy.

Best practice is to sterilise them in boiling water for 10 minutes, you can do this over a stove. Simply place the cup in a pan and bring water to the boil.

Kelly Gregor