I used tampons until I was 19, but I don't anymore for reasons of health, pollution and money. Mainly, your regular bleached, rayon tampons (Playtex, Kotex, Tampax, OB, whatnot) freak me out, and the happy hippie unbleached cotton ones are stupidly expensive (even more so than regular tampons).
My mum used OB brand tampons, which have no applicator and are designed to expand "all around" instead of lengthwise like the Playtex and Tampax kinds. They also have a gauze casing that is sleek and minimally chafing (I've never had any trouble except when very dry). I liked these and used a combination of sizes until I was 19.
I don't actually know how to work a tampon applicator. The one time I had to use a borrowed applicator tampon, I ended up just pushing the tampon out of the applicator and putting it in with my fingers.
Besides not minding inserting tampons with my fingers, I disliked the idea of consuming applicators. They seem like a lot of waste, and require a lot of extra packaging. Applicators are way bigger than the tampons themselves. The disposability of the tampon didn't bug me until recently because it was at least having its usefulness used up and I didn't realise there was really an alternative.
I never really worked out how long I could wear a tampon without leakage. It changed constantly anyway, depending on how heavy my particular period was, and what day of my period I was at, and whatever. Usually I would check on myself a lot for the first tampon, and note how long it lasted. This would be a guideline for the next one. Hooray for common sense.
Being lazy, I mostly used higher-absorbancy tampons so that I could change them less often. It is actually strongly recommended to use the lowest absorbancy that you can get away with, so that your tampon doesn't suck up all of your vaginal lubrication along with your menstrual blood. Besides making a vagina dry, this can leave it open to infection and is the main stupid thing you can do to increase your chances of getting a toxic shock infection, and of making any TSS infection you might get anyway much more serious.
Only recently, I read about women who used more than one tampon at once for greater absorbancy. I thought this was rather more clever than my occasional practice of making uber-absorbancy tampons out of rolled up toilet paper. Meanwhile, higher absorbancy is a danger factor for TSS. Safety vs. convenience. I'm not sure whether the absorbancy issue is one of tampons being left in too long if they are overly absorbant or if it is simply the volume of blood they can hold that is risky.
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