Here’s What It’s Actually Like To Use A Reusable Tampon Applicator

Courtesy of Kyli Rodriguez Cayro/DAME.

The standard tampons, pads, and panty liners that can be found at most drug stores are not so great for the planet. According to a 2017 Stanford Magazine article, around 7 billion single-use tampons and 12 billion pads are thrown away each year in the U.S. alone. What’s more, as Kath Clements, campaigns and marketing manager for Mooncup, a menstrual cup brand, told Bustle in 2018, "Just one of us uses on average 11,000 throwaway tampons and pads in a lifetime.”

The environmental impact aside, single-use period products are really expensive. On average, according to HuffPost, tampons and panty liners can cost you upwards of a thousand dollars over the course of your life. Not to mention, as Mother Jones reported in 2016, some plastic applicators could contain BPA and phthalates, which are substances that can interrupt normal hormone production.

Menstrual cups, period underwear, and washable pads are just a few of the notable sustainable period products, but none of these are for tampon users. As someone who prefers tampons, I wanted to try a reusable applicator to see if I could make my period more sustainable without sacrificing my comfort. Enter D: A reusable tampon applicator created by DAME, an environmentally-friendly menstrual product company that’s based in the U.K.

“We saw a need to provide these [people] with a product they feel comfortable with, but in a much more sustainable way. By making a small switch to a D, [people] can have a huge impact on the planet,” Celia Pool, the co-founder of DAME, said in the Feb. 2019 press release.

I was never able to comfortably make the switch to a cup, or other reusable products. As someone who has endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and extremely painful periods, the last thing I want to do on my period is fumble around with an unfamiliar product. I don’t want be worried about consistently boiling a menstrual cup, or washing a pair of undies over and over again; I’d rather be able to put in my tampon, without any unnecessary physical stress worsening my cramping. That’s why, after I originally wrote about D in 2018, I knew I had to get my hands on the reusable applicator once it hit the market.

I was sent the D reusable applicator, which comes in a cute storage tin, and includes small bag for travel. It currently costs $32.91 on DAME’s website, plus $8 for shipping outside of the U.K. I also received two packs of DAME’s organic cotton tampons — which will run you just under five dollars for a pack of fourteen — to test out with D. When reading over the information that came with the D applicator, the first thing I noticed (and loved) was that the product is made with medical grade materials and polymers. Meaning, the applicator is hygienic, self-sanitizing, and does not have to be boiled after a cycle to stay free of bacteria, unlike most menstrual cups.

The directions for inserting the D applicator are straightforward as can be. All you have to do is put any size tampon into the top part of the applicator, and push it all the way in with the base end. Then, you simply pull the D applicator out as you would a normal plastic applicator. Since it's self-cleaning, all you have to do after use is rinse the D applicator off, wipe it down with toilet paper, and place it back into the tin case or travel bag.

I used D throughout the course of my last period (which lasted around five days) to test out its effectiveness. While I was expecting there to be a learning curve, the D applicator is the easiest reusable period product I’ve ever tried. The first time I tried it, the tampon got stuck in the very end of the D applicator. But I quickly realized this was because I hadn’t quite pushed the base up enough when inserting the tampon — you should be close to snapping both ends of the applicator together. While D seemed to be a tad larger than your typical disposable applicator, it’s not uncomfortable whatsoever; it is comparable to a super plus-sized plastic applicator. DAME’s reusable applicator was smooth, and definitely left my skin feeling less irritated than cardboard applicators and disposable plastics have in the past.

Courtesy of DAME

The key to using the D applicator, I found, was to make sure to push both the top half of the applicator, and the base in as far as they would go. After just a few tries, I found the switch from disposable applicators to the D applicator was pretty effortless. There was a lot less hassle, and a lot less waste. I even noticed I was burning through fewer tampons during my period. The only downside I noticed with this menstrual product was that, on occasion, the applicator didn’t place the tampon in as far as I would have liked it to; I had to use my finger a handful of times to push the tampon into a slightly more snug position. (I’ve also experienced this problem with disposable applicators, so it wasn’t a nuisance.)

Throughout my period, I didn’t miss my store-bought tampons at all. In fact, it was way simpler to just carry around the D applicator with me in the travel pouch, along with different-sized tampons that also easily fit into the same pouch. Overall, using the D applicator wasn’t much different than using a plastic applicator, but I felt better knowing I was saving money and reducing my environmental footprint.

After trying the D applicator, it’s safe to say I won’t be going back to regular applicators any time soon. Standard period products can harm the earth, hurt your wallet, and may even mess with your hormones. However, DAME’s D applicator provides an affordable, eco-friendly solution for all the common period-related concerns.