In an Effort to Be More Sustainable, I Tried Applicator-Free Tampons — Here's How It Went

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The year is 2020, and it seems that everyone is looking for ways to be more sustainable. But unless you're opting for a menstrual cup (which is a great option, though not for everyone), making your period more environmentally friendly can be challenging. Even some organic tampons have plastic applicators, which aren't biodegradable — and when you consider how many tampons you'll use over the course of your life, the numbers add up quickly. So, the question remains: how can we live with our tampons while still trying to help the environment?

For me, the answer lies somewhere between forgoing them completely and piling single-use plastics into a landfill on a monthly basis; so, I decided to try applicator-free tampons. Like you I assume, I wasn't totally sold on the idea at first, but here's a breakdown of my experience so far.

Finding the Right Brand

Like any other product you would put into your body, I wanted to make sure that whatever I chose was safe and effective. After a recommendation from a close friend and reading online reviews, I settled on the O.B. Original Nonapplicator Tampons Multipack ($6). I know that my flow can be somewhat unpredictable, so I wanted to have different levels of absorbency on hand — and to my surprise, this multipack ended up being much cheaper than my usual tampons. The brand also offers organic applicator-free tampons, sold separately in either Regular or Super packs.

My First Impressions

I'll admit, I was a little intimidated by what I found when I opened the box. Without the applicator, tampons themselves are alarmingly small. As in, holy cow, how do we not lose those suckers?! Each tampon was individually wrapped and looked like a little bullet.

Fortunately, the instructions were simple: wash your hands, remove the thin layer of cellophane, move the string around to help enlarge the base of the tampon, insert your pointer finger between the cotton layers, and just shove it up there! (Naturally, you should wash your hands after as well.)

My Thoughts After Using the Tampons Consistently

Once you get over the fact that applicator-free tampons are much more of a hands-on experience, they're really not that bad! Their compact size made them very discreet to carry (you'll have no trouble fitting these in your smallest purse), the application process was simple (it's awkward at first, but it gets better), and the tampons held up as I went about my day, workout and all. Switching to applicator-free tampons may not be for everyone, but the idea, and this brand, specifically, get my stamp of approval.

Though this isn't a completely sustainable solution, it's one small step toward lessening my impact on the environment. And who knows, maybe this small reduction in plastic waste will actually make a difference in preserving this beautiful planet for the next generation.