Last Updated on December 18, 2020
My love for the Diva Cup means it’s time to review exactly how I’ve handled my period for more than a decade—most of which I spent traveling the world. I think all females, travelers or not, should consider using menstrual cups as there are very few circumstances under which the right menstrual cup is not a perfect alternative to pads and tampons . Even if you’re just in the fact-finding phase of determining how a Diva Cup works, and searching for unbiased menstrual cup reviews, this post is for you.
I started using a menstrual cup long before it became trendy, when you could only buy them at a co-op. I was in the throes of planning my year-long round the world trip back in 2008. My cousin implored me to buy a Diva Cup—one of just a couple mainstream brands available. I’ve never looked back. Her first words of advice to me, however, hold true now: Start learning how to use a menstrual cup months before you need it—there is a steep learning curve! That said, it’s worth it. Let’s dive into how a Diva Cup works, how the Diva Cup stacks up versus newer brands (I now use a Loulou cup most months), how to clean your cup (even when traveling), and advice to overcome the learning curve.
Review: My Diva Cup Verdict?
The Diva Cup is the most useful thing I pack when I travel. Using a menstrual cup gives me the confidence to go straight from a long bus ride to an epic hiking adventures. It never leaks. I’m never forced to schlep bags of tampons.
It just works.
The Diva Cup is one of the most useful things I took on my trip around the world, even though I had a rough start and nearly gave up on using a menstrual cup. It was messy and not good—I thought my menstrual cup was stuck inside. But within just one period cycle, I had figured it out. It started working after I spent a couple of days practicing (on low flow days). I’ve tested several brands over the years now, reviewing how the Diva Cup compared to others with different shapes and sizes.
There’s no single answer: Yes, Diva Cups work. But also, you many need a different menstrual cup brand. Let’s dive into why that might be the case.
What is a Menstrual Cup?
Menstrual cups are eco-friendly “natural feminine hygiene alternatives” that sit inside you (like a tampon, but lower) and collect your menstrual fluid. Menstrual cups like the Diva Cup and Loulou Cup are made of medical-grade silicone, and each is about the size of a shot glass. When a menstrual cup is inserted correctly, the rim of the cup forms a seal against your vaginal canal. Once sealed, it takes care of business. The menstrual fluid flows into the cup, then you pull it gently out and dump the liquid into the toilet or sink. These cups fully replace tampons and pads.
The Diva Cup and Loulou Cup, specifically, fall under the larger umbrella of silicone menstrual cups. There are now many different brands as period cups have gone more mainstream—so many that it’s hard to know which menstrual cup is best for you. Every menstrual cup brand represents a different aspect of sizing, shape, and color, but they all work the same way.
How Do Menstrual Cups Work?
At its most basic, each menstrual cup is a small rounded cup made of pliable, foldable, and soft medical-grade silicon. All menstrual cups hold about an ounce of liquid—slightly more or less depending on the brand and size. Having a hard time imagining it? It’s about the size and shape of a shot glass, but with a small tail to help pull it out once inserted.
Menstrual cups like the Diva Cup work by collecting menstrual fluid inside the “shot glass” interior. The premise of the entire thing is that you fold the cup in half and insert it much like a tampon. Once inserted, the cup opens into the full circle again and then forms a seal. With a tampon, cotton absorbs your menstrual blood. Cups work because the seal ensures that your blood is collected in the cup.
Then you pinch the end of the cup and pull while you are over a toilet, tip the cup into the toilet, and flush it all away. You then wipe or rinse it out and reinsert. In this way, you actually have only one thing that you need each month: your cup. (Note: Always pinch before pulling as you need to break the seal, otherwise it creates a vacuum-like effect as you pull—that can cause serious issues).
The only downside to using a menstrual cup is the learning curve. When I first used the Diva Cup, it took me until my third period using it to have no leaking and messiness … and I cursed it the whole time during my first two months. This hilarious Hairpin article is a good read. Or you can check out the many, many thousands of often frank and sometimes wince-worthy reviews on Amazon. Although it was rough going at first, I’m a decade in and now there isn’t a menstrual cup out there that I can’t make work.
Menstrual Cup Reviews: Which Cup is Best?
Women come in different shapes and sizes, but the nature of the silicone means that most brands tend to work for most women. Some cups have a wider circular rim to ensure that you can form a strong seal if you’ve birthed a child, while some cups are shorter for women with shorter vaginal canals. But generally, menstrual cups are similar in size and shape, and they all work on the same premise of creating a seal so that the blood flows into the cup until you can dump it into a toilet or down a sink.
How to Pick the Right Menstrual Cup
- Think about sizing first. Every major menstrual cup brand offers two-to-three sizes: teen, pre-childbirth/under 30, and post-childbirth. The sizing is not hard-and-fast though; it’s a recommendation based on what will likely best fist the circumference of your vaginal canal, as well as the length of your canal, and even the volume of your flow. So, adapt the recommendations to your own circumstances and knowledge of your own body. Only by comparing menstrual cups can you determine where each brand falls on the spectrum. Not sure about which one is right for you? Not all of us know if we have a long or short vaginal canal or a low cervix, so this post helpfully breaks down the options and which work for different women, and this site is a trove of information (overwhelmingly so).
- Know thyself and your sensitivity. It was slim pickings in the early years on brands, but now you can even select the firmness of your cup. All reputable menstrual cups are made from medical-grade silicone, but some are softer than others, making for a more pleasant experience as you’re wearing it. The Diva Cup is actually far firmer than other brands. Until I tried the Loulou cup, I didn’t even realize a soft cup could still just as effectively form the seal. The firmness may make no difference to you, or a lot of difference—I can feel the pressure of the Diva Cup on my bladder more than the Loulou cup, and for teens or those who are very sensitive the softer cup may prove a … well, softer … transition to a menstrual cup.
- Acknowledge you may need to try more than one brand. When readers email concerns, it’s usually distress that they simply can’t get their menstrual cup to fit comfortably, or to reliably form a seal. Don’t give up! You may simply have picked a brand that is not ideal for your body.
- Loulou Cup: This company is a newcomer out of France and the cup is completely lovely. The first time I tried a very soft silicone cup it was a bust (looking at you Lily cup), but Loulou’s soft medium turquoise is a dream to use and more comfortable than any cup I’ve previously tried. (I love it enough that I asked for a discount for readers, and you’ll receive 10% off at checkout if you use “alittleadrift10′ on your order).
- Diva Cup: The first cup I tried and one that has worked well for me for years (I use the larger size). The are an OG brand and have not tweaked the design at all. Which they should. I have two key complaints with Diva Cups. First, the stem is hollow, which makes fully sanitizing it very hard. Also, the clear silicone eventually turns a permanently unpleasant color no matter how well you clean it. And note that if you have a weak bladder, the firm pressure from this cup may also cause an issue.
- Lunette: Consensus seems to say that the Lunette works well for those with a short vaginal canal or low cervix. I have a long vaginal canal, so I give this recommendation based on my petite best friend, who has used this brand for more than a decade and deeply loves it.
I have tried other brands over the years, but as of 2020, I go with the Louou cup every month, and I have my older Diva Cup as a backup. (That said, I still tend to use my Diva Cup overnight on my heaviest flow day because it’s one of the largest volume cups on the market).
Best Menstrual Cup for Teens?
The rising popularity of menstrual cups means that the major brands (and some new ones) have released teen versions of the cups in just the past few months/years. Teen cups are usually thinner and shorter, sometimes also featuring softer rims and a gentler experience for her lady parts. They are designed for those sub 18, and there is no bottom number—if your daughter has her period and can comfortably wear one, then she can also safely wear one. Although Diva Cup has a size 0, I actually recommend the soft turquoise LouLou in size small, it will be a far gentler introduction to using menstrual cups. Other than that, FemmyCycle is pretty popular, too.
How to Use Your Cup (Washing, Inserting, Etc)
- Try it out before your trip! You’ll be thankful that you’re in your own clean bathroom while you discover the learning curve of using a menstrual cup.
- It’s not for the squeamish. Inserting and removing the Diva Cup means you get a little more “invasive” than you have to with tampons, if you catch my drift. If you read cup reviews, this is a big factor for many people. You will be all up in your own business, to be frank. But you’ll also learn to understand your cycle better and get pretty good at using the cup without much issue.
- That “twist” mentioned is the most important part of the process—that’s what ensures you have a good seal. That, and the holes at the top of your menstrual cup—you must to clean the holes between uses (just squeezing around the rim while under water cleans them out easily).
- When they tell you it sits lower than a tampon, it’s SO true. Really low, make sure it pops open, then twist—it’s like magic. But, you definitely have to practice before it becomes second nature.
- How to clean your menstrual cup. Pack a mild soap. Originally, I brought a small container plain, unscented liquid soap for use as a body wash and a cup wash. Now, I’ve use Cetaphil facewash religiously for years and it’s also a proven safe washing liquid for your cup, meaning you get a twofer by packing it. Or you can buy a mild wash from the company itself or handy sanitary wipes, too. Be sure to have a cleaning routine down pat before you leave—often that means having a sterilizing cup for a final deep clean each month. Generally, I lightly wash and rinse during my period and I give the cup a deep cleaning at the end before storing it for the next few weeks (unless I’m in a place with no potable water). Note: Using anything but mild products and water degrades the silicone, so it’s better to just wipe with toilet paper and use water until you get back to your mild soap if you’re out and about.
- Buy at your local co-op or natural foods store, or online—at last check Diva Cups sell for less than $35 and the Loulou cup with sterilizer is under 40 euros. This is far less than the close to $200 annually women spend on feminine hygiene products.
After using a menstrual cup for over a decade now, I swear by it. Within a year it had shortened my period from eight days to four, and lessened my cramping/PMS symptoms to a number of hours now, not days. It’s worth the awkward transition and it’s just plain healthier for your body. I’ll never go back to pads and tampons.
5 Reasons to Use a Menstrual Cup
1. You can wear your cup for 10 to 12 hours.
Life can get busy, and it’s handy when at work or while traveling to have longer stretches between finding a bathroom. As a long-term traveler, using a menstrual cup meant I was safe on the neverending 10+ hour bus rides, and on long, long days trekking across Nepal. Unlike reports, you can actually get TSS from a menstrual cup, but it’s incredibly rare. Most menstrual cup brands are safe to have in for up to 12 hours, but recommendations say you should aim for under 10 hours.
2. You can wear it before your period.
Menstrual cups don’t dry out your lady parts like cotton-blend tampons, so you can start using at the first signs of your period (although period panties are also a great option!). If I knew that I might start my period in the middle of a 10+ hour bus ride, I could use my Diva Cup before my period even started. Bottom line, it saved me from potentially embarrassing situations on treks like bleeding through clothes.
3. You can swim with menstrual cups, and really any activity.
You can live your best life with a menstrual cup, truly. You can swim, cycle, travel, dance, hike, bike, run, camp—there is no limit. Each and every one of those activities is possible to execute without worrying about if you’re going to embarrassingly bleed on yourself. Using my Diva and Loulou cup liberated me from trying to plan major outdoor activities on non-period days—I knew I could head out on a six-hour bike ride without searching for a bathroom, or wondering all day if I was leaking.
4. Reusable products mean always having what you need with you.
Whether that means heading to work or school, or leaving on a long travel day, you can easily have everything you need with you. My cup was the only thing I had to bring on my round the world trip (well, soap too) to handle my period.
5. It’s green travel and oh-so good for the environment.
Waste is a huge issue for countries all over the world at every level of the socio-economic spectrum. This is doubly true for travelers visiting countries without effective waste management systems in place. In the West, we sometimes overlook that single-use pads and tampons don’t breakdown easily, and they clog toilets and landfills. A menstrual cup and period panties allow you to lighten your eco-footprint just a tad—your period business won’t linger in faraway rivers and forests long after you leave. Menstrual cups are reusable for up to a decade and there is nothing else you have to buy to use with it. Plus the non-BPA medical-grade silicone is far safer for your lady-parts than the surfactants, adhesives, and additives used in tampons and pads.
Menstrual Cups are brilliant and anyone comfortable with their body should give it a try. But beyond anyone, I consider it essential for women travelers, truly :-)
And don’t take my word for it—look around online. Many women have also gone on the record about their love (and learning curve) with menstrual cups. And very important is that once you get a Diva Cup, or any menstrual cup, you are now a part of a community of women who have already figured it out; they’re normally right on with their suggestions so head to the internet if you need advice. Your new cup will come with very explicit tips and pictorial instructions too! There are tricks to help it work better, and some brands are better for petite women, teens, or women with specific vaginal canal issues.
Shoot me an email if you have any other questions, or better yet, leave a comment. And if you’ve tried the Diva Cup (or any menstrual cup that you love), share your experience in the comments! If you haven’t tried it yet, just go poke around the Loulou Cup page, read the reviews, and see what it’s all about—if it looks good for you, readers receive 10% off at checkout if you use “alittleadrift10′ on your order.
Disclaimer: I receive compensation if you use some of the affiliate links on this page, but my reviews are genuine and I’ve bought my own menstrual cups for years—I first shared this detailed review as an ode to my Diva Cup back in 2009.