If you’ve landed on the menstruation side of social media, you’ve likely heard about a new period cup with an applicator — and the internet has thoughts. So let’s talk about it!
First, What’s A Menstrual Cup?
If you’re uninitiated, a cup is a reusable period care product and a great alternative to tampons and pads. They collect menstrual blood rather than absorbing it and are most commonly made from medical-grade silicone — making them extremely easy to clean and sanitize. With proper care, they can last ten years (that’s more than one hundred period cycles!)
Cups hold 5x as much liquid as tampons, on average, and in recent years the size and shape options seem endless. It would be an understatement to say that they’ve come a long way (and boomed in popularity) since they were first invented in the 1930s.
Wondering which menstrual cup is best for you? Take The Cup Quiz to be matched!
Menstrual Cups With Applicators
Is it a better way? The idea behind cup applicators is to address insertion worries (a common barrier for those on the fence about trying a cup) by helping to ensure proper cup placement in the first place.
So, game changer or a gimmick? I won’t make you wait for my verdict! No, I don’t think it’s a gimmick, but I also don’t think everyone needs one. Applicators for menstrual cups have a place and undoubtedly fill an accessibility gap. Still, I don’t believe that the average person will find it to be as helpful or necessary as they might initially think — and because of that, I have some concerns about the environmental impact of applicators. Now, let’s take a look at a couple of applicator options.
Enna Cycle Cup & Applicator
The Enna Cycle cup is the first to market with a menstrual cup applicator (and as of Feb 2023 the only one available for purchase.) Enna hit the menstrual cup scene in late 2016 and is available in three sizes. It’s a soft, flexible cup with an applicator similar to typical plastic tampon applicators. Their applicator is slim and holds the folded cup in place for insertion.
The applicator is firm but petite, and most similar in size to a tampon.
- The applicator’s shape is meant to hold the cup when folded. Its petite size makes it usable for most people.
It is available in three sizes and one firmness.
- Three sizes are a great range to help meet a variety of needs. I haven’t tried this cup, so I can’t speak to the firmness.
The applicator looks like it should work with most cups.
- The cup is held in place between two tines and looks like it should work for a range of different cups.
CupUp is a universal menstrual cup applicator invented in 2021 by Danish company CupUp. It appears to currently only be available to ship within Denmark and sells for 159 DKK which is roughly $23 USD. I will definitely update when I get more information on this.
The applicator is firm but simplistic in design and should work with most cups.
- The applicator’s shape is very simplistic and meant to hold the cup inside when folded. I haven’t had a chance to try this yet
Sunny Cup & Applicator
And now, for what most of you are here for, the Sunny Menstrual Cup. Sunny is a period care company that unveiled its design in early 2022 and saw viral success leading to a slew of pre-orders while the product was still in development.
You may notice that I do not have them linked here, and that is because the product has been in pre-order for nearly a year. The estimated dates have moved further out than previously stated and the end is pretty far off as of their January 2023 update. As a rule, I don’t promote crowd-funding campaigns to my community because there is a lot of uncertainty when brands are in development. Helping people have a positive experience is very important to me. I also find the term pre-order to be less transparent than I feel comfortable with in relation to this stage of design and development.
All of that said, Sunny’s cup, applicator, and progress look promising, and they have done a good job facing and answering questions and criticism. Current estimates for fulfillment are the Summer/Fall of 2023.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about their applicator! I had the pleasure of speaking to Drew Jarvis & Logan Crispin of Sunny Cup. They answered my very blunt questions with ease and were still kind enough to send me a prototype last Fall. I cannot stress enough that this is not a final product, but here are my thoughts:
Their cup is super soft and flexible, but currently available only in one size and one firmness.
- The size isn’t extremely large or small, so I think it will work for most people. I consider it large enough to accommodate a medium to heavy flow.
- The cup firmness is very soft. I personally love that, but if you know you need a medium or firmer cup, this may not be for you.
The applicator is quite firm and a bit large.
- The size of the Sunny applicator is meant to accommodate the cup, and it also happens to make room for the cup to open more easily. That said, it is quite wide. This may be fine for some, but others may find it far too large/uncomfortable.
- Without lubricant inside the applicator, I found plunging the applicator to require considerably more hand strength than I expected.
- Because the applicator I have may not be the final design, I hope that this is being addressed for the final product.
The applicator may or may not work with other cups.
- Sunny states that their applicator will not work with other cups. I tried it. I would not say that’s entirely true. I tested a lot of cups, and it actually works with many of them. You may need to choose a different fold, but there is a chance it’ll work with a cup you already love. The labia fold worked well, even for some larger cups. The image below is a bin of cups I used with their applicator. I found that it generally worked so long as the cup didn’t have a super thick rim or particularly thick overall body. It’s also worth noting that it worked with discs, too.
Again, the design of the Sunny Cup is promising. I appreciate the ingenuity and the openness of conversations on their social platforms. I look forward to trying out their final product, sharing my personal experience, and seeing what kind of an impact it makes on the period space!
Are Menstrual Cup Applicators Necessary?
I believe that applicators can fill a gap in the physical accessibility of menstrual cups and what can be a difficult insertion process for some. I also believe the necessity of applicators for the general public is up for debate. Here are some of my thoughts as they pertain to the average cup user.
- The tampon-like applicator may encourage some people to try a cup. This is an obvious benefit.
- It requires extra steps.
- You still have to fold the cup, insert it into the applicator, and then insert it into your vagina.
- Both the applicator and cup will need to be washed. Concern about sanitation is something I often hear, so I see this creating another potential barrier.
- Additionally, you may have to use a lubricant inside the applicator, on the tip, or both. Lubricant is typically something few people need for their cups.
- The cup still needs to be manually removed.
- The cup may still need to be adjusted to ensure proper placement and prevent leaks. However, according to Sunny Cup co-founder, Cindy Belardo, they “found that there’s a much higher success rate for the seal forming without any additional maneuvering or adjusting with your hands.”
- Ultimately, I’m just not sure these extra steps are a process that most people will stick with long term. Of course, I could be wrong, but if long-term adoption of the applicator doesn’t happen, that’s quite a bit of unnecessary plastic pollution hitting landfills. And if numerous surveys have taught me anything, it’s that the environmental impact of cups is the #1 reason people ultimately switch.
These are just my initial thoughts. I’d really love to hear yours. Feel free to share them below or email me. I’d love to consider your points of view for future reviews and coverage.