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In case you missed it, tampons and pads aren’t the only period protection options out there. Alternative period protection flooding the market couldn’t come at a better time, as recent tampon shortages means it might be harder than usual to find your brand of choice on shelves. Menstrual cups offer lots of benefits that their counterparts don’t. First and foremost, they’re reusable, a notably more sustainable alternative to tossing tampons and pads in the trash. (In fact, some of them can last up to 10 years.) A clinical study confirms that eco-friendly menstrual products are safe and effective.
Byrdie Reviewed & Approved
Our best overall pick is Hello Cup, which is designed by a registered nurse and made from medical grade thermoplastic elastomer (meaning it is silicone-free). We also love that it comes in several sizes, including a low-cervix option. For a more affordable pick, consider the Intimina Lily Menstrual Cup One, which is great for beginners due to its soft, foldable construction. Made from medical-grade silicone, this option lasts 10 years.
Menstrual cups are also considered more safe to use than tampons. Because they collect blood rather than absorb it, they reduce the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, says Dr. Stephanie Culver, an OB/GYN, and the staff gynecologist at Pandia Health. Finally, they can hold way more fluid than a tampon or pad can, meaning you can wear them for much longer, oftentimes up to 12 hours. If you’re a little hesitant about the idea, we get it: “Women may shy away from using menstrual cups due to the perception of the difficulty of insertion and removal. Slower uptake of its use may likely be due to impatience of getting the hang of using one,” says Culver. The point being, it can take a little practice and time to acclimate to one, but it’s worth the effort. (In fact, one recent data analysis, found that approximately 70% of participants across 13 different studies wished to continue using a menstrual cup.)
Here, the menstrual cups that doctors recommend.
Best Overall: Hello Cup
Created by a nurse
Cup has the potential to stain
Both Culver and Dr. Jessica Shepherd, a Chicago-based OB/GYN, and the Chief Medical Officer of VeryWell Health sang the praises of this pick. Culver likes that it comes in several different sizes—extra small, small/medium, and large—and that there’s also a great starter kit for beginners. (There’s a very helpful sizing quiz online if you’re unsure which one to go with.) Shepherd points out that the wider and tapered stem is different than that on other cups and makes removal easier. It’s also unique in its design, the cup was created by a nurse, and it's the only silicone-free pick on this list, made of a medical-grade, thermoplastic elastomer.
Material: Medical-grade thermoplastic elastomer | Sizes: 3 | Color: Varied, based on size
Best for Beginners: Flex Cup
Black color isn’t the prettiest
“This is great for beginners,” says Culver. “It has a velvety feel, which makes it comfortable to wear and easy for new users to acclimate to, plus a soft pull tab that makes the removal that much easier,” she explains. (So much so that the brand says removal feels like removing a tampon.) We also appreciate that it comes in both slim and full-fit sizes. It’s a favorite of Dr. Lisa Masterson, a board-certified OB/GYN in Santa Monica, California as well. “I love the pull tab, it’s great for beginners and made of a soft, medical-grade silicone,” she says.
Material: Medical-grade silicone | Sizes: 2 | Color: Black
Best for Beginners, Runner-Up: Cora The Easy-Does-It Cup
Doesn’t come with a storage case
Grover likes this choice because of its smart design. “There is a finger indentation for easier placement, as well as a tapered and textured base for effortless removal,” she explains. She also likes that it can last for up to a decade, and that the company gives back to those in need.
Material: Silicone | Sizes: 2 | Color: Clear
Best for a Heavy Flow: DivaCup Menstrual Cup
Holds a good amount
Includes a storage case
Suction aspect can feel weird at first
“The DivaCup is one of the best known menstrual cups and is very good at holding a lot of blood,” says Shepherd. “It has a hollow stem, which makes it easier to collect blood and other tissue which many women who have heavier bleeding may experience,” she explains. It comes in three sizes (all of which correspond with various flow levels, as well) and also includes a convenient case for storing it when it’s not in use. “The flexibility in size helps with reduced leakage and ensures a more comfortable and secure fit,” adds Dr. Monica Grover, a double board-certified gynecologist and Chief Medical Officer at VSPOT who also recommends this one.
Material: Medical-grade silicone | Sizes: 3 | Color: Clear
Best for During Sex: Intimina Ziggy Cup
Can be worn during sex
Can only be worn for 8 hours
Only comes in one size
“It’s one of a kind in that it is the only cup that can be used during intercourse,” says Grover. Credit a flat fit design (it’s technically a disc, rather than a cup) and its super thin silicone material that makes it both very comfortable to wear and a good choice if you want to have sex while you’re on your period.
Material: Silicone | Sizes: 1 | Color: Pink
Best for Comfort: Saalt Soft Menstrual Cup
Comes in pretty colors
Slightly more expensive than some others
Specially designed for those with a history of bladder sensitivity, cramping, or just those who don’t like the feel of firmer cups, this one is softer than most. “It’s very gentle and is made of ultra-soft, medical-grade silicone,” says Masterson, who puts this on her list of top picks. We also love the pretty colors it comes in, along with a pretty travel case, too. Although this choice is a bit pricier than other options, we think the medical-grade silicone justifies the cost.
Material: Medical-grade silicone | Sizes: 2 | Color: Purple, blush, gray
Best Drugstore: The Honey Pot Menstrual Cup
Only lasts for one year
Pick up this cup during your next Target run. It’s one of Grover’s favorites, who likes that it comes in two different sizes for different flow levels. It offers 12 hours of protection and can be worn overnight as well. The wallet-friendly price tag is just an added bonus.
Material: Medical-grade silicone | Sizes: 2 | Color: Pink
Our best overall pick is Hello Cup, which is silicone-free and touts a unique design that makes for comfortable wear and removal. We also love that it comes in several sizes. Those who prefer a stem-free pick should try the Nixit Menstrual Cup, a shallow disc that conforms to your body, while the Intimina Lily Menstrual Cup One is a nice affordable pick that’s also great for beginners.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Stephanie Culver is a board-certified OB/GYN in private practice and the staff gynecologist at Pandia Health.
- Dr. Jessica Shepherd is an OB/GYN practicing at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is also the Chief Medical Officer of VeryWell Health.
- Dr. Lisa Masterson is a board-certified OB/GYN in private practice in Santa Monica, California specializing in obstetrics, gynecology, infertility, adolescent gynecology, family planning, and weight management.
- Dr. Monica Grover is a double board-certified gynecologist specializing in women’s sexual health. She is also the Chief Medical Officer at VSPOT.
What to Look for in a Menstrual Cup
According to Shepherd, this is one of the most important things to look for, as it can dictate not only how well it fits for you, but also how much blood it can hold.
How Well It Folds and Opens
Shepherd says that folding the cup and making sure that it’s easy to do that (as well as making sure that it stays open once it pops open) is a good thing to check.
How do you choose the right type of menstrual cup?
“It really should be specific to the needs of your menstrual cycle and also your anatomy since everyone is different,” she says. You also want to make sure you’re not allergic to the materials the cup is made of, she adds.
How long should you use a menstrual cup each time?
“Because menstrual cups simply collect blood instead of absorbing it, the risk of TSS is pretty low, however, it’s still good to have good menstrual hygiene and remove and clean it after every eight to 12 hours at most,” suggests Shepherd.
How do you clean a menstrual cup?
Shepherd underscores the fact that it needs to be cleaned after every use; you can do so with warm water and mild soap, no harsh cleaning chemicals, she says. Also important: Make sure it’s completely dried before re-inserting it, as moist areas can harbor bacteria.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Since she hasn’t yet hopped aboard the menstrual cup bandwagon, she relied on expert intel and tons of reviews and consumer input when researching this article.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any menstrual cups from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.
van Eijk AM, Zulaika G, Lenchner M, et al. Menstrual cup use, leakage, acceptability, safety, and availability: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Public Health. 2019;4(8):e376-e393. doi:10.1016/S2468-2667(19)30111-2