The First Reusable Tampon Applicator—Here's What an Ob-Gyn Thinks

This could be a big win for Mother Nature.

If you ever stop to think about how much plastic women throw away just from using tampons every month, you might feel guilty enough to apologize to the planet. It's not that we want to create waste, of course. But disposable tampons have been the most convenient way to keep that time of month in check.

Thinx has solved this period problem with their sustainable menstruation-related product: the first FDA-approved reusable tampon applicator, which they've branded the re.t.a. It's made of BPA-free, medical-grade materials and is compatible with most applicator-free tampons.

The reusable applicator doesn't actually come with tampons. All you have to do is pick up some tampons that don't have disposable applicators (you know, the ones that are just the cotton part), put the tampon into the re.t.a, and insert as you always do. Instead of trashing the applicator, however, wash it and put the cap on to store it for future use.

We're all for sustainable period gear. But we were curious about what an ob-gyn would think about it from a sexual health standpoint. So we reached out to Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn at the center for obstetrics and gynecology at Orlando Health in Florida. Dr. Greves tells Health it would be hard for any doctor to say yay or nay to this product because research on the safety of reusable tampon applicators is lacking. It was approved by the FDA, which certainly required some vetting, she says, but there's no data available through the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The Thinx website says that cleaning and handling instructions come with the package. Still, Dr. Greves has some concerns about keeping the reusable applicator sanitary. "Blood is the perfect medium for bacteria growth," she explains. If you don't clean the applicator properly, it could attract bacteria in large enough numbers to give you an infection when you reuse the applicator the next time.

However, because the FDA approved it, there must be an adequate cleaning method, she adds. Just make sure to follow the directions very carefully. If you decide to give the re.t.a. a go, Dr. Greves recommends keeping your regular tampons on hand as a backup for the first few days, just until you're sure the reusable applicator doesn't cause any irritation.

There's just one other catch: It's a little pricey. You can buy the re.t.a. on the Thinx website for $60, but don't forget, you're going to need to buy the actual tampons too. A pack of 40 applicator-free O.B. Pro Comfort tampons is under $10 at many retailers and on Amazon. However, the product is often out of stock.

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