Feminine hygiene and vaginal health are more than just keeping your vaginal area clean; it is also about choosing the best products during your monthly menstrual cycle.
Feminine hygiene products not only serve a purpose for menstruation, but they can also aid in keeping your vagina free from odors and irritation. This is what makes choosing the best feminine hygiene products so important.
What are Feminine Hygiene Products?
You use feminine hygiene products both during monthly menstruation as well as part of everyday vaginal care. Feminine hygiene products help keep your vagina clean, odorless, and free from irritation when used regularly as part of your daily care routine.
Feminine hygiene products include tampons, sanitary pads/sanitary napkins, panty liners, menstrual cups, period underwear, feminine wash, and feminine wipes.
When it is not your monthly menstrual cycle, you can keep your vagina clean through routine feminine care that consists of using feminine wash while you shower or bathe.
Different Types of Feminine Products and Why They are Important
Feminine hygiene products fall into one of two categories: menstrual products or personal hygiene. These are essential feminine hygiene products that will help make the menstrual cycle as functional as possible.
You insert tampons made of cotton into the vagina to absorb menstrual blood, fluids, and discharge during menstruation.
When inserting tampons into the vagina, you use an applicator that holds the cotton tampon. cardboard or plastic materials make up the applicator of the tampon. Cardboard applicators are made to be flushed when discarded while plastic applicators are made to be thrown into the trash.
When a tampon is inserted into the vagina, the applicator pushes the cotton tampon deep into the vagina so that the menstrual blood is absorbed as soon as it passes from the uterus and through the cervix. When the cotton tampon absorbs the menstrual blood, it expands to ensure that it can hold as much as possible before having to be removed.
Tampons should only be inside your vagina between 4 and 8 hours as you could potentially develop toxic shock syndrome (TSS) when wearing a tampon for longer than 8 hours. Toxic shock syndrome occurs when bacteria from the tampon produces a toxic substance that gets into your bloodstream.
Toxic shock syndrome can cause organ damage and death if left untreated. According to the FDA, “While TSS is rare today, the risk is higher if you use more absorbent tampons than needed or wear a tampon for longer than recommended.”
Sanitary Pads/Sanitary Napkins
Sanitary pads, also called sanitary napkins, are feminine products that collect menstrual blood and discharge externally as it leaves the vagina. Sanitary pads are made with an adhesive backing so that the pad can stick to the fabric of the underwear and keep it in place while moving around.
Some pads have wings on each side of the pad to help keep the pad in place. These wings have an adhesive backing and wrap around the bottom of your underwear to ensure the pad stays in place.
The size of the pad you choose depends on the flow of your menstrual cycle.
Light-flow pads are smaller, thinner, and hold less fluid. These are pads you would use near the end of your monthly period or if you are one of the lucky ones who only have light periods with low flow.
Medium-flow pads are regular size pads that will hold more than light-flow pads. They are used in the middle of your menstrual cycle when the flow is steady but not too heavy or too light.
Heavy-flow pads are large, thick pads that hold the most menstrual blood. These are pads you would want to wear overnight or in a situation where you may not be able to get to a bathroom quickly, such as while traveling.
Pantyliners are similar to sanitary pads as they serve the same purpose in absorbing menstrual blood, fluid, and discharge from the vagina. Like low-flow pads, pantyliners are extremely thin and hold very little fluid.
Pantyliners are perfect for those times when your menstruation period is ending, but you still have a little discharge that you don’t want to cause you to ruin your panties or seep through to your clothing.
Menstrual cups are bell-shaped reusable feminine products that contain your menstrual blood in the cup after it is inserted into your vagina. Because they are reusable, menstrual cups are safer for the environment.
The menstrual cup is made of a medical-grade silicone rubber that makes it easily pliable and conforming to the body. To insert the menstrual cup into your vagina, pinch two sides of the cup together and then insert. When you release the sides of the cup, it will retake its shape and form an air-tight seal in your vagina that is ready to catch the menstrual blood as it is released.
Menstrual cups can hold up to 2 ounces of menstrual blood and should be emptied twice a day. To empty your menstrual cup, carefully pull the menstrual cup out of your vagina while sitting on the toilet. Because of its air-tight seal, it may take a few moments to get the cup to release. Carefully take your index finger and pull the cup away from the wall of your vagina to release the seal.
Period underwear or period panties are leakproof underwear that is made of a combination of fabric and plastic. This combination of materials allows the underwear to safely and functionally absorb menstrual blood without leaking or causing odors.
Period underwear is reusable and machine washable and should be immediately washed after use to prolong the lifespan of the underwear.
Personal Hygiene Products
Feminine wash is important to use to clean the vulva of your vagina because it is gentle and does not disrupt the pH balance within your body. Your vagina has good bacteria within it, so using a harsh soap can throw off the pH levels in your body and cause bad bacteria to overrun your vagina.
Do not clean the inside of your vagina for this reason. Instead, clean the vulva (the clitoris, hood, and vulva) using a safe feminine wash and warm water.
You can use feminine wipes during menstruation or regularly. Feminine wipes are specifically made to be gentle and safe for the vaginal area. Feminine wipes not only help protect the vagina from infection daily, but they also help reduce odor and irritation.
Feminine wipes are flushable and can be used when going to the bathroom during a menstrual cycle or as-needed.
How Can I Get Better Hygiene Down There?
To get better hygiene down there, you will want to make sure you are practicing good hygiene. To do this, you will need to implement a daily hygiene routine to follow. Good hygiene is more than brushing your teeth twice a day; it means taking care of yourself from top to bottom.
Practice good hygiene by showering daily to rid your body of allergens, germs, bacteria, and other pathogens that may find their way to you. During this time, make sure that you are gently cleaning the area of your vagina with warm water and a gentle feminine wash. Do not wash the inside of your vagina; only focus on the outside.
In addition to showering daily, make sure you are also taking care of your area down there when using the bathroom. Make sure you wipe from front to back when going to the bathroom. Wiping incorrectly will bring toxins from your rectum into your vaginal area and cause bacteria to grow and infection to set in, such as a yeast infection or urinary tract infection.
Another way to ensure you have good hygiene down there is to always pee after sex. Peeing after sex will excrete any bacteria that may have found its way into your vagina during sex, preventing a urinary tract infection from setting in.
Are Feminine Hygiene Products Safe?
The FDA approves and tests feminine hygiene products. As stated on WebMD, “The FDA considers tampons and pads medical devices and classifies them based on the amount of risk they pose. The least risky is class I, while the riskiest are class III. Tampons are class II devices… pads are class I or II generally depending on whether they have any fragrance.”
Cotton tampons are inserted directly into the vagina and come in direct contact with the blood. Cotton tampons contain remnants of chemicals that are used in bleaching the cotton of the tampons during the manufacturing process. These chemicals are called dioxins and have an overall low health risk.
An alternative to these bleached and potentially fragrant cotton tampons are organic tampons.
Organic tampons are made from organic cotton. This means the cotton has not been treated with any insecticides or pesticides, resulting in a natural and chemical-free product. Further, the cotton is not bleached or injected with any fragrance, making them free from any chemical that cotton tampons may come in contact with.
Buyers Guide to the Best Feminine Hygiene Products
This is where you get to decide what the best feminine hygiene products are for you. Some people prefer as little maintenance as possible, making tampons or menstrual cups the right product for them. Others may not feel comfortable inserting a feminine hygiene product into their body, making period panties, or pads the right product for them.
To decide the best feminine hygiene products for you, we have created a buying guide to help you with the process.
Ask Yourself These Questions
How much time do you have?
First, you need to consider what your day-to-day routine looks like. If you have a job that keeps you on-the-go for hours with little time to sit down, you will want to choose a product or products that require little maintenance. This means you will not want to rush to the bathroom every hour to change out a pad. For this reason, a menstrual cup or absorbent tampon will be the best choice.
Are You Comfortable Inserting a Product Into Your Body?
Next, you should consider if you are comfortable inserting a product into your vagina that may include small traces of chemicals. Because of the bleaching and manufacturing process, tampons pose a low health risk when used.
Additionally, menstrual cups are made of silicone rubber and have gone through a manufacturing process as well.
If you are comfortable with inserting a product into your body that has been manufactured and has an overall low health risk, then tampons or a menstrual cup should be your choice. Otherwise, a pad or period underwear where no manufactured item is entering your vagina will be your best choice.
What to Avoid When Choosing Feminine Hygiene Products
Perfumes and fragrances may sound like a great concept for fighting odor, but keep in mind that they can also be irritants if you are sensitive to smells or fragrant chemicals. For this reason, you will want to avoid any feminine hygiene product that is scented or fragrant.
- Think about how often you will have to deal with the product (changing, disposing of, etc.)
- Consider your monthly flow – will you need a lot of protection, just a little protection, or somewhere in between?
- Check to see if the product is scented
- Invest in organic tampons to avoid all forms of chemicals
- To be environmentally conscious, use a reusable menstrual cup or period underwear
Top Brands You Can Trust
These brands have been tested by the FDA and have a variety of products for any application you need. Each of these brands prides itself on creating a quality product for all types of flows during your monthly menstrual cycle.
Where to Buy the Best Feminine Hygiene Products
Many brick-and-mortar drugstores will have products you are searching for, like tampons, pads, and pantyliners. These stores include CVS, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, and Target, and will have tampons, pads, and pantyliners in all sizes and flow absorption you may need.
Specialty feminine hygiene products that are new to the market, like menstrual cups and period underwear, are mostly found online. Amazon is the best source for both of these items. Just make sure that you read the information on the product, such as the size of the underwear or the material the cup is made out of.
Like many essential products, most local stores and pharmacies are sold out of many feminine hygiene products. Luckily, Essential Goods keeps an updated list of products and shows you when they’re back in stock on Amazon. You can check them out below and sign up to our site to receive notifications on when products are back in stock.