The Best Menstrual Cups for More Affordable, Sustainable (and Cleaner!) Periods
The best menstrual cup is the one that's right for you—but a little know-how could help you shop. Here are some great options for your next period—plus, insight on how to pick a menstrual cup, from OB-GYNs.
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Is it time to try a menstrual cup?
Maybe you’ve been thinking that after years of using tampons (as 70% of menstruating people do, as data from the Duquesne University School of Nursing suggests), it’s time to give more sustainable period products a go. Duquesne’s data adds that on average, an individual has their period for around 38 years, which equals about 456 months to manage your period, give or take.
Multiply that by how many days your period lasts and how many times you reach for a fresh tampon, and our basic math tells us a woman would wear almost 7,000 tampons in her lifetime. Several online sources have said a single cotton tampon takes around six months to decompose—but the plastic wrappers and applicators? Sigh…yep, if they’re plastic, they’ll most likely years longer than that.
Add to this the weekend’s reports that supply chain issues are affecting the availability of some tampon brands. Seriously: can we just take the hassle out of this monthly routine? With doctors’ advice, we can. The use of menstrual cups is a growing trend, with the hashtag #menstrualcup receiving 1.2 billion views on TikTok. Katie Diasti, the founder of Viv (we’re fans of the Viv cup!), reports that since the brand’s January 2022 launch on Amazon, the company’s seen 30 percent month-over-month growth and a 200 percent increase in sales of Viv menstrual cups—their highest-selling product.
And, Diasti suggests a Viv cup can hold as much as five tampons, be used for up to 12 hours, and last up to 10 years (saving you $1400 over that decade, on average).
All of the above are just a few reasons it’s encouraging to see more eco-friendly period products, like menstrual cups, growing more mainstream.
What beginners should know about menstrual cups
If you’re ready to try out a menstrual cup, Marco Mouanness, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist and fertility expert at Rejuvenating Fertility Center in Westport, CT, advises trying a menstrual cup can take some trial and error. It’s wise to anticipate that a little experimentation might be required to find your perfect fit. “Get familiar with your anatomy,” Dr. Mouanness tells The Healthy @Reader’s Digest. “It might take a bit of time, but when you find the fit, it will be worth it.”
Sandy Dorcelus, DO, an OB-GYN at NYU Langone Hospital in Long Island, NY, offers similar advice. “Do your research and practice inserting and removing it,” she says. “They all function pretty much the same way.” (If you’re not sure exactly what that entails, here’s how to use a menstrual cup. And, adds our senior health editor, it might be worthwhile to try your test-run when you’re not menstruating to make insertion a little less frustrating and messy.)
Beyond the basics of application, another point worth noting is that it seems in general, menstrual cups are safe for your health; though there are some nuances to keep in mind. One 2019 meta-analysis published in The Lancet Public Health found that five of the 3,319 participants (0.15 percent) of women said they experienced extreme pain or abrasions, with the same percentage reporting instances of toxic shock syndrome. Further, six women, or 0.2 percent, reported rashes or other allergic reactions. This study also highlighted how important it is to be aware of the risk of wearing a menstrual cup if you use an intrauterine birth control device. (Read Can a Menstrual Cup Displace an IUD? A Doctor Says It’s a “Growing” Concern)
However, the researchers found that the use of cups did not appear to adversely affect vaginal microflora levels overall.
What to consider before buying a menstrual cup
Check the material
As The Lancet study points out, Dr. Mouanness wants readers to make sure you’re not allergic to any of the materials in the product. Ideally, look for a product that offers assurance it’s made of medical-grade materials and doesn’t have BPA chemicals from plastics, nor substances like dye. Read the fine print before purchasing.
Choose a cup that is easily removable
Opt for cups that feature rims, loops, or grips, Dr. Mouanness suggests. This may make it easier to insert and remove the cup. (Trust us.)
Some menstrual cup brands offer as many as three sizes: a small size for women under 30 or those who have never borne children, another for women with average period flows, and a larger size for women over 35 who have given birth, as they might be at risk for heavier bleeding than younger women or those who have never given birth, Dr. Dorcelus says.
Dr. Mouanness adds that some brands may offer narrow or wide option, and you might want to consider buying more than one size menstrual cup to use at different points in your monthly cycle.
The best menstrual cups
We took a look at the most popular and highly-rated options to share details on the material, size options, and features that make them worth trying. Besides Viv (which we love for its use of toxin-free materials and the brand’s eco-friendly products like bamboo pads and liners, organic tampons with plant-based applicators), here are some options to consider.
Flex Menstrual Cup
This disposable menstrual cup from Flex is ideal for beginners. It features a pull tab, reminiscent to a tampon string, so you don’t have to worry about the cup being stuck. Plus, it’s 100 percent silicone.
If you’re nervous about trying menstrual cups with a manicure, one 5-star review says the Flex cup could be for you. “This specific design from Flex allows me to use it with ease despite my long nails,” Adriana wrote. “I am able to easily hook onto the little loop on the end and slide it out carefully. … I like to have long nails and that is not a problem with the Flex cup.”
Saalt Soft Menstrual Cup
A vegan and cruelty-free period cup that’s easy to use? Sign us up. This cup from Saalt has a flexible stem so it’s easy to remove. The cup is 100 percent medical-grade silicone and comes in different sizes.
If you’re looking for another reason to give this brand a try, the company provides improved period care and educational opportunities to women and girls in need, for every purchase.
And if you’re worried about comfort, Saalt’s cup could be your best option. After experiencing issues with another brand, 5-star reviewer Y wrote, “Right off the bat, it was easy to insert in/out even though it was a bigger size, and felt so much more comfortable. I tested out even going to a pretty intense exercise class and it was great. It was the first time in my life feeling so comfortable exercising hard on my heaviest day. That’s quite impressive. I’m so glad I didn’t give up on it and found the right cup.”
(Check out these vagina health tips.)
June Menstrual Cup
The June Menstrual Cup is also a 100 percent silicone option. The shorter stem of this cup makes it easy to grip and less irritating. Plus, marks on the cup help you track your flow to know if your period is changing and coming to an end.
June sells an original cup as well as a mini cup and a firmer option, too.
Lena Menstrual Cup
This reusable silicone cup from Lena is made in California. Like some of the other options, Lena offers more than one size, so you can opt for the appropriate cup.
Another bonus is that the post-consumer packaging is recyclable, chlorine-free, and printed using vegetable-based inks.
Venus Menstrual Cup
If you like their razors, you may like their menstrual cup. This period cup from Venus is 100 percent silicone and is free of BPA, latex, and phthalates. Plus, it’s manufactured and packaged in the U.S.
And 71 percent of more than 1,000 Amazon customers give this cup a five-star rating. It comes in small, large, or in a two-pack.
For a heavier flow, the Venus cup is a strong contender. One 5-star review from yassi331 reads, “I saw the Venus and thought I’d give it a try. I was quite skeptical—many brands say ‘for heavy bleeding’ and yeah, they don’t last more than a few hours. This blew away my expectations. I was astounded how I was able to get through most of the day without having to switch it out.”
(Learn more about common period problems.)
Intimina Ziggy Cup
This reusable menstrual cup from Intimina is popular, in part because the design is specifically so that people can wear it during sex. It features 100 percent medical-grade silicone and a leak-proof double rim. Plus, it has more of a flat fit than a cup-like fit, which might feel more comfortable for some people.
Reviewers are singing the praise of Intimina cup’s unique shape, too. 5-star reviewer Emily_Oz95 wrote, “It’s much easier to insert than a traditional shaped menstrual cup and much easier to remove than I thought it would be. I’ve had no leakages so far and because it’s shaped like a disc there isn’t that uncomfortable feeling of the ‘handle’ or “grip” of a menstrual cup digging into you from the inside.”
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