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One afternoon when I was in fourth grade, the girls were whisked away to watch a video about periods, pads, and tampons. That's about where my public education on menstruation began and ended—a secret discussion that boys couldn't be privy to. It was, from that moment forward, ingrained in us that it is somehow embarrassing to get your period.
It isn't, of course, and some of us at WIRED talked at length about our period flows and habits. Long before pads and tampons were available, people simply bled into their clothes or used homemade flannel cloths if flows were particularly heavy. Women often stuffed rags that were then washed and reused later (hence the phrase “being on the rag”).
Now there's period underwear, menstrual cups, reusable pads, applicator-less tampons for less waste, and even subscription services to get products delivered to your door every month. We tested a bunch of new products to find the best budget- and eco-friendly alternative methods, as well as ones that just made that time of the month more comfortable. These are our favorites.
Updated January 2022: We've added more period underwear and menstrual cups we like. We've also added more information and updated prices throughout.
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Senior associate editor Adrienne So and reviewer Louryn Strampe also tested and contributed to this guide.
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