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Nothing is more daunting than your first time perusing the menstrual product aisle. There are so many period products out there, and as any older-sibling figure that menstruates will tell you: what works for one person may not work for you! While that quest for the “right” product becomes less scary over time, it remains frustrating: one method might hurt to insert, another may feel like a diaper, and a third might seem totally perfect, until you wake up with a yeast infection. Every body, every product, every cycle is different –– And with so many variables and so much potential for pain and discomfort, it is no wonder so many people dread their time of the month.
It is this exact dread that Lauren Wang, founder of Flex menstrual products, hopes to address. One morning over Zoom, Lauren takes me back to 2012, when she hosted a series of dinners out of her 400 square foot San Francisco apartment. After enough group conversations about menstruation, sex, and sexual wellness, Wang began to notice a pattern: “People just hate their periods. Full stop. One week out of every month, they’re dreading that week, they feel like it’s something they have to suffer through.” Throwaway phrases and euphemisms like “‘the curse,’ and ‘this is just your cross you have to bear,’ and ‘it’s part of being a woman’” began to frustrate Wang. “I thought that that was really sad, that we spend a quarter of our lives menstruating and that we hate it so much.” At the request of her party guests and their ever-growing grapevine of friends, she decided to do something about it.
While designing an easier-to-remove iteration of the menstrual cup, Lauren started hearing requests for a long-lasting, disposable product, a “step between a tampon and a cup.” Years later, the fruits of her labor are here: the Flex Disc and the Flex Cup. I tried them both. Here’s what I think:
I love my period. I think it is a nice way to be grounded in time, I like having an excuse to indulge my sweet tooth, and I am not squeamish about blood or goo. I’m not too heavy, I'm mostly regular, and I don’t get cramps (I know, I’m sorry, I’ll stop). Everyone has their thing (or things) that make their cycle uniquely challenging. For me, it’s yeast infections. Ever since I was 18, putting anything up there throws my pH into a tizzy. This was one of the pain points Lauren had in mind when creating the Flex Disc. It’s made of 100% medical grade polymer that will not disrupt your natural pH. It’s also hypoallergenic, and made without latex, BPA, or phthalates. Aside from free-bleeding, the Flex Disc has been the only menstrual product/method that has not left me with some sort of bacterial infection afterwards. Which is perfect, because I can’t keep running to my doctor for fluconazole.
Perhaps the most viral of claims about the Flex Disc is that it allows for “mess-free period sex.” While period sex can be great (thanks to increased libido, plentiful lubrication, and cramp-relieving orgasms), cleaning up afterward can be a hassle. Unlike tampons or cups which sit in your vaginal canal, the Flex Disc goes right at your cervix, making it possible to have mess-free sex or self-love sessions without having to remove it first. After a quick test, I can confirm that no towels or sheets were harmed in the process! And though my partner could feel the actual disc once or twice, we adjusted accordingly and it was not uncomfortable for him in the slightest.
The discs are disposable and easy to insert and remove, making them a great option if you will be using public restrooms, where a sink might not be at an arm's reach. During a long day or after strenuous physical activity, I did find that the disc sometimes slipped out of place. Though it was fairly simple to readjust, I think the disc is a perfect option for a more long-term, stationary activity like traveling.
Technology wise, cups have always been my preferred product for my periods. They’re budget-friendly, hold more blood, and are far more sustainable than single-use tampons. I only stopped because cups were the worst for my yeast infections. As far as cups go, the 100% medical grade silicone Flex Cup was much less irritating to my pH, and was more comfortable overall than other soft cups I’ve used in the past.
It was smooth, fit great, and I did not need to change it more than once a day on my heaviest days. The best part? Zero leakage! The pull tab also allows for very clean, easy removal––a much shallower learning curve for anyone new to soft cups. My one note: due to the technology of the pull tab, you cannot trim it down at all. If you have a low cervix, the length of the stem might cause some discomfort. Otherwise, this is a great option for people who like reusable cups but have trouble reaching up there to break the seal and remove.
If you are someone who menstruates, chances are you’ve tried many different products –– or at least have experienced all the messy, embarrassing, compromising situations that come with using your Chosen One. No single product will be a one-size-fits all answer to the ever-complex process of menstruating. The best we can do is strive for better options. And that’s what Flex is all about: providing menstruators with thoughtful, safe options to help make their cycles a little bit more comfortable. Rather than putting pressure on myself to find one thing that will work for me forever, it’s nice to have these two new products to utilize when it makes the most sense. Whether it be a road trip, a quickie, or, a long work day, Flex has made it so that I don’t need to plan too much around my period. I’m prepared for whatever comes my way.
My final bit of wisdom: if you’re in a position to send someone this text, do it: