Tampons Vs Pads – what’s the difference?

If you’ve ever paid a visit to the ‘Feminine Hygiene’ section of the supermarket, you’ll know that there are more types of sanitary product than there are Kardashian/Jenner/Hadid siblings put together.

There are mini tampons and regular tampons and super tampons. Applicator tampons and non-applicator tampons. Pads with wings, pads without wings. Maxi pads, night time pads and unicorn pads that make your period look like a rainbow and turn your hair really shiny (ok, these aren’t a thing – but a menstruating gal can dream).

The whole thing is a bit overwhelming, and let’s face it, there’s enough risk of shopping errors during your period as it is (how’d those eight bags of Minstrels get there?) without sanitary gear adding to the confusion. But never fear, we’re here to break it down for you.

So seriously, what’s the difference?

Pads (also known as sanitary towels or sanitary napkins) are made of absorbent material that you stick, via an adhesive strip, to the inside of your underwear. Some have extra material on the sides called ‘wings’ that you can fold over the edge of your knickers to make sure your pad doesn’t slip around while you’re busy slaying all day.

Tampons are also made of absorbent material, but compressed into a small cylindrical shape and inserted into your vagina like a fancy plug. Some tampons have applicators, which help guide the tampon into place, whereas others you can insert with a clean finger. Tampons may take a bit of practice to get right, but when they’re inserted correctly you shouldn’t be able to feel them at all (like, AT ALL).

Many girls start out using pads because they’re a bit simpler to use and then progress to using tampons when they want to exercise or go swimming. Others swear by pads for every occasion, all their lives. And some start with tampons and never look back. All these options are totally safe, it’s just important to work out what’s right for you and your body.

TL;DR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • Pads (AKA sanitary towels or sanitary napkins) are made of absorbent material that you stick, via an adhesive strip, to the inside of your pants.
  • Tampons are also made of absorbent material, but compressed into a small cylindrical shape and inserted into your vagina. Some tampons have applicators, whereas others you can insert with a clean finger.
  • Try a few different options so you can find a product that you’re comfortable with and an absorbency that works for you. Dassit.

Riiiiiight, but which one should I use?

Figuring out your sanitary wardrobe can be overwhelming – but DO NOT PANIC. All this choice is actually a good thing, as it means you’re more likely to find a product or a combination of products that works for you.

The best way to decide is to shop around. Try a few different options so you can find a product that you’re comfortable with, with the absorbency powers you need right now.

You might want to use different products for different times of your cycle. A lot of people find their period is heavier during the first few days and then tapers off, so you might want to use a more absorbent ‘super’ tampon or pad for those days and then a regular tampon or pad for the rest of your period – or mix it up with tampons for heavy days and pads for lighter days. Think of it like pick ‘n’ mix, for your period.

(You could also buy some actual pick ‘n’ mix, while you’re at it.)

Image: Katie Edmunds

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