Using Tampons in Australia

If you are squeamish about the subject of menstruation, you should stop reading now. And possibly seek therapy.

I’ve written before about some of the little differences and a couple of the big differences between America and Australia. Here’s another one that for some may be small, but for me is huge. Australia has a shocking lack of selection in tampons.

Fortunately, I’d heard about this before I traveled to Australia and I took a stash with me, but when I ran out, I was forced to see for myself. I went to both major supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, as well as several drugstores. The first thing I noticed is that while supermarkets and drugstores in the U.S., not to mention giant retailers such as Target, have as much as an aisle dedicated to feminine hygiene products, Australian retailers have a maybe a foot-wide section on a two or three bottom shelves. The second thing I noticed is that I didn’t know what I was looking at. The packaging of tampons, even familiar brands such a Carefree, Kotex, and Tampax, is not very descriptive. I couldn’t tell if they were scented (I prefer unscented) or get a good sense of the absorbency levels. The third thing I noticed is that only one of them, Tampax, said “Applicator Tampons.” So, the rumor was true; Australian women use tampons without applicators. Suddenly Australia seemed just a little bit less civilized.

As I picked up the box of Tampax Applicator Tampons with sad resignation, another devastating realization set in. This is the only option for applicator tampons. And they’re cardboard. Similarly, I found it impossible to find suitable pads.

I expect that I won’t always be able to find my favorite brands in Australia and I can live with that for the most part, but this is unacceptable. The tampons and pads that I use aren’t just a matter of comfort and convenience, but of necessity. I have a heavy and prolonged menstrual period and these Mickey Mouse tampons and pads in Australia just don’t do the job for me. I need my Tampax Pearl Ultra tampons and Always Maxi Overnight pads to get me through the night. The whole affair is messy enough and there’s just no way I’m going to resort to these mini-tampons that are better suited for Halloween decorations. The Australian version of the overnight pad, which I think is either a misunderstanding or an example of Aussie humor, works fine for my light days, but light absorbency tampons even with cardboard applicators are seemingly impossible to find.

I’m truly baffled as to why there is such a poor selection of tampons in Australia. There’s only one benefit to the tampon without applicator: it produces less waste. I’m happy to make up for my plastic waste of Tampax Pearl by recycling and buying recycled products, using re-usable shopping bags, composting, and not owning a car. The ease, comfort, and cleanliness of applicator tampons that you slip right in can’t be beat. But it isn’t just the applicator issue, it’s also absorbency. Regular and super is all I seemed to find and super wasn’t all that super. It seems like the shops down under cater to the middle part of the spectrum and women on the lighter or heavier ends are just out of luck.

This week I shipped a six-month supply of my favorite pads and tampons to Australia. That was the best $70 I’ve spent this month.

About the featured image: Aiming Low


106 responses

  • Let me know if you have any trouble on the receiving end with shipping that stuff… I’m curious.

    As for pads… I don’t have heavy periods, so the overnight pads have never been an issue for me. I wonder if you could find something that is designed for post-pregnancy that would work for you? I’m not sure where you’d get them since I’ve never looked, but perhaps an online pharmacy sells them.

    Also, for super absorbency tampons with plastic applicators, I’ve discovered that some of the Libras do come with plastic applicators, but they are compact, so when you look at the box, you think that because it is so small, it must not come with applicators. But they do! It’s this box: http://shop.discountdrugstores.com.au/product/156718

  • This is hilarious as I too noticed the lack of decent applicators! I recently spent some time in Canada, and returned to WA with about 200 really good tampons! The Aussie method of using your hands is awful.

  • Hi,

    I am Swedish, lived in the UK for many years and am now settled in Melbourne with my Australian husband. I personally don’t like applicator tampons but I can understand your frustration. What I have a problem with though is the absorbancy. In Australia I have only managed to find the average (usually in a pink box) tampon and no “super plus” or similar for the day of the heaviest flow. In Europe there is at least two higher absorbancy versions. I really wonder what Aussie women do? Being European from the start I would presume that their periods are much like European women’s. I ship tampons from the UK (Lil-Lets) which is frustrating…I haven’t managed to find the reason for this? Is there an “absorbancy law” that stops Australia from selling the high absorbancy tampons? Have you got any idea why?

  • **Warning, TMI: I am amazed that an entire country full of women is completely ok with the whole non-applicator tampon experience. What to do with your bloody finger afterwards? How do you pull up your pants? Sorry, I just don’t get it. Yuk. I too came with a massive supply and always stock up when visiting the States.

    • And you know what’s extra weird about this? That so many Aussie homes have the toilet in one room and the sink and bath in another so you can’t even wash your hands immediately. I really don’t understand how Aussie women carry on.

  • I’m an Aussie and have never used an applicator. I’m still civilised. In the US I buy o.b brand without and applicator. Here mostly Cottons.

    In my experience it isn’t that messy. How much blood ends up on your applicator? I’ve never had any trouble with absorbancy so my cycle sounds quite different to yours. (Almost no flow overnight)

    You can always wipe your finger with some toilet paper until you walk the 10 steps or less to the bathroom sink.

    • It sounds like you may have a light cycle. When it’s heavy, it can be very messy. The expression ‘bleeding like a stuck pig’ comes to mind. Thanks for your comment, Kacee!

  • Therese: Yes, that’s correct!! When the Australian health regulations for tampons were written, the committee was concerned about the risk of toxic shock. Thus, the rules mandate a maximum absorbency for tampons sold in Australia.This is why you cannot get anything bigger than “Super” tampons!! The rules also stated that it must say in the packet you shouldn’t wear a tampon for more than 4-6 hours, and should use a pad rather than a tampon at night!

  • I do think that your description of our sanitary need selections in Australia is just a bit exaggerated because I sometimes find myself confused at the 3 metre shelf-high stock of tampons and pads at the supermarket here. Anyway, I stumbled onto this article since I find that I have a lot of trouble with Tampons. I’m a teenage girl, and I’ve been using pads since I started, and the worst part is, I used to train with a swimming squad. There have been so many embarrassing calls by my mother to the coach saying that I didn’t know how to use a tampon! I went to the U.S with my friend’s family, and she bought a pack of U by Kotex tampons which were exactly the same as ours here in Australia, but with a handy dandy plastic applicator. But by the time she showed me, we were already at the airport ready to head back to Australia. I’ve thought about this for so many cycles, and just recently my friend from school told me that we DO HAVE PLASTIC applicator tampons! I haven’t tried them yet, but LIBRA makes them, and they’re called the LIBRA GIRL APPLICATOR TAMPONS. Here is a link: http://www.lovelibra.com.au/products/the-libra-collection/libra-applicator-tampon-regular-pack-16/ They’re marketed towards teenagers, but that doesn’t mean not everyone can use them! I can’t wait to go get some and hopefully know how to use them. I hope that was helpful.

    • Hi Jessie! We definitely shop at different supermarkets, haha! I can see how the current selection could be confusing to someone who is new to tampons. It does take a bit to find exactly what’s right for you. I’m sorry you’ve had such a hard time on your swimming squad. I’m sure you’ll get the hang on tampons. There’s really nothing to them; just remember to breathe and relax.

      Thanks for the tip about Libra. I see they also have Super with applicator. I do think the tampon situation in Oz is changing. Recently, ALDI has started carrying Tampax Super with applicators. That’s a good sign.

      Thanks for your comments!

  • Hi Cosette, I totally agree with you! I am actually online at the moment emailing all of the Australian tampon companies to find out whether they would consider bringing out a Super-Plus size tampon (which is the size I use in South Africa) as I can’t make it longer than 2 hours using the Australian Super size. It is even worse at night as would have to get up atleast twice to change my tampon and pad to prevent leakage. I recently went on holiday to South Africa to visit family and brought a stash of Super-Plus tampons back with me but only have 2 boxes left!

  • Hi Cosette,

    I have had a very helpful reply from one of the leading brands which reads as follows:-

    “Thank you for taking the time to contact us at xxx.

    These are not allowed to be made or sold in Australia or NZ due to the strict guidelines and regulations. These standards are the highest in the World and are not able to make a Tampon that absorbs more than 14g. I believe this has to do with Toxic Shock Syndrome.
    I have had a look at the Super plus tampons and they absorb between 12-15gm.
    I have passed your feedback on to the Marketing team for future reference and sorry that we are unable to help with your request. ”

    What a pity….but a very helpful answer :)

    • Hi Tanya. Thanks for taking the time to write to the tampon companies and post the reply here. Therese and JanieB mentioned before that Australia’s strict regulations may be the reason why we’re not seeing high-absorbency tampons and it’s good to see some confirmation of that. I guess I’ll keep bringing them over from the U.S.

  • ugh I am having a similar problem, lived in New Zealand my whole life (similar to Aussie, limited range of applicator tampons.) I didn’t get my period for a number of years while on the depo injection, but now I am off it, my period is very different to how it used to be. Plus I now have OCD and can’t cope with using my fingers. I find Tampax useless as I tend to leak around the sides, so even a super tampon can be only partially full but still leaking. Libra have a girls tampon, but at age 30 I am doubtful they will work. I am currently looking at ordering different products online from the US or UK to find a brand that suits better, but the postage is a killer!

      • good to know, didn’t know they did tampons! but at around $1 per tampon, sometimes more…!!!! I’m going to look into other options!

  • Haha, I have the opposite problem. I assumed non-applicator tampons were normal but here in Spain they don’t exist. I bought some (applicator ones) from the pharmacy the other day and was with an American friend…only then did I realise that non-applicator ones didn’t exist there either.
    But I agree with Kacee….we’re not uncivilised! (I’ve noticed that sooooo many Spanish women don’t wash their hands at all after using the toilet and this is obviously far worse.) You just need to wipe your finger afterwards and then wash your hands. There are mini tampons for people with lighter flow…I suppose we just don’t cater for those with really heavy flows.
    Australia seems to be a lot stricter than other countries on a lot of things…Toxic Shock Syndrome, SunSmart for skin cancer protection, wearing helmets when riding bikes, not drinking and driving (there are Booze Buses everywhere) but they’re all concerned with safety (and I’m proud of that!)….

    • I have no words about the hand-washing issue; just ew. There does seem to be a lot of officialness in Australia. I think some of that is good, but some also seems excessive. I think much of it is concerned with safety, but there’s also some profiteering going on. Thanks for your comments, Kate!

  • I think there’s something conspiratorial about maintaining low-absorbency tampons. More are used = profit. I wonder where the figures regarding toxic shock syndrome come from.

  • Wow, I’m amazed to find this blog!!! I thought it was just me being very fussy! I’m from the UK and live in Western Australia, and must admit when I first experienced issues for finding UK equivalent products I naively thought that my old favourites will eventually make their way across the shores along with Bisto Gravy and Double Decker chocolate bars :) . However, I’ve been here for 13 years now and still to this day always stock up on tampons and sanitary towels on every visit back to the UK or get family to bring supplies. It’s only just dawned on me after reading your blog how absurd this is to be still be doing this fourteen years later. In that time period there is still no product (that I’ve seen anyway, and I still have to buy products here in emergencies) available here that can rival the Tampax Pearl Applicator tampon or the Always Ultra Thin Pads (with wings and lockaway cotton feel absorbency layer). The pads in particular just do not compare to Always, they might have wings but they either lack absorbency, or they are very thick, or the lockaway absorbency layer feels like plastic. With regards to tampons, I haven’t tried the Libra ones yet, but will do, however I have to confess I find Libras statement hilarious and slightly condescending at the same time, as they are described as ‘Training’ tampons. Maybe I’ve got the wrong end of the stick, but I see the applicator as a matter of personal ‘Choice’, not inexperience! In anycase, I’m amazed to see that this issue affects a number of women here from many different backgrounds, so surely its time for Australia to revisit their absorbency regulations and join the rest of the world, toxic absorbency risks and female hygiene technology is not the same as it was 10-15 years ago! Thank you for writing this blog :)

    • I continue to be amazed at how this subject resonates with so many women. It’s my most popular blog entry. Tampons of all things.

      Susan, I agree with you on so many points especially that using applicators is a matter of choice not (in)experience. For a product that is designed specifically for women, there is a lot of oversight of our unique needs. Tampons and pads are not a one-size-fits-most kind of product. I do wish Australia would revisit the laws. As you said, the technology has changed and the reality is the number of TSS cases is quite small.

      Thanks for your comments!

  • I’m wondering if perhaps Australian women are less tolerant of super-heavy flow and prefer to get the issue corrected medically if possible? I know quite a few women who use contraceptive pills and the Mirena to help, or who have had surgery for fibroids, etc that is causing the heavy flow. Personally I’ve never had an issue finding a suitable product to use here, even post-partum. I do however much prefer applicator tampons and which that more brands would consider manufacturing them.

    • I can only speak to my case. My period is very heavy and it always has been. I’ve had three OB-GYNs in my life. One of them ordered a number of tests for me just in case, but all was normal. I just happen to fall at the heavier side of the spectrum, but still within the normal range. There’s nothing to correct. It’s true that some forms of contraception can help, but the pill hasn’t in my case. I’m not sure if I’m a good candidate for Mirena. Interestingly, my mother also had a heavy period (and she used the IUD). My sister’s is very light. She has two girls, one with a light period, the other much heavier. Go figure. Thanks for your comments, Melissa!

  • Hey Cosette, I have always used non-applicator tampons (Libra tapered). I have never had any concerns using such products, however I do agree it so essential to be diligent in changing these items regularly and to be careful with hand washing when using these items! In my opinion our view is formed based upon what we grow up with; I only recently tried applicator tampons for the first time (Tampax) and perhaps due to my own inexperience with such products I was quick to judge them as inadequate in absorbency and tricky to insert -after reading this post I may continue to explore other brands from overseas with an open mind.
    Thank you for sharing your perspective, this an issue that concerns all women so I also agree that brands should consider to offer more choice for Australian consumers, after all we all have different bodies and different needs.

    • In addition to our perspective being formed partially by what we grow up with, I’ve found that many women develop a fierce loyalty to certain brands of tampons or pads. When you finally find what works for you, that’s what you want to keep using. When you move to abroad, you have to give up certain brands for others; that’s just inevitable. I’m certainly willing to try other brands if they offer the absorbency I need. Sadly, they don’t due to Australia’s strict safety standards. I really just don’t understand what Aussie women with heavy periods do. Thanks for your comments, G!

  • I have only just moved to Australia from the UK and didn’t realise that I should have brought a year’s supply of super plus plus plus tampons with me! I am having the worst period experience since I was about 14! There is a warning on UK tampon boxes never to use more than 1 tampon at a time which I always thought was ridiculous but it actually makes sense here! Need to order some extra fat absorbent foreign tampons from abroad me thinks!

  • Hi everyone, I just thought I’d let everyone know that my coles (geelong area) have just starting stocking the real tampax pearl tampons, from my memory they have regular, super and something else, and they’re plastic applicator. They’re a bit more then $8 a box. :) Although I tried out the libra applicator tampons and from my really heavy flow the regulars worked better then the tampax ones! The doctor suggested I go on the pill but I decided is try tampons first, as I was using just pads! :)
    Hope I helped!

  • My periods suddenly became heavy after living in Australia for 3 years. For the last decade, I have been unaware that higher absorbency tampons were available in Europe (Germany) and the USA. My doctor has been treating me as someone with unusually heavy periods and has been wondering what we are going to do about it. I am not anemic and the only problem is that I cannot participate in sports for the first three days of my period, I have to duck out of meetings suddenly, unable to explain to important people why I have to dash out of the room and I think twice about going places where I may not have immediate access to a lavatory. All this because we do not have higher absorbency tampons available in Australia.

    When I started to inquire about why we don’t have higher absorbency tampons here, one pharmacist told me that he gets many women asking for higher absorbency tampons and he advises them to use two! Has it been proven that women in Australia have higher rates of TSS than the rest of the world? We cannot have access to the right tampons, but we are allowed to get into a car and drive! I find it insulting that a few individuals can have such an impact on so many. I think we should campaign for change. For anyone interested, I bought Super Plus OB tampons in Germany which have been marvelous. Super Plus OB tampons in the USA though are only the equivalent of Super in Australia. I’ve ordered a pack of Ultra OB tampons from the USA to see how they compare to the Super Plus German ones.

    • Charlie, I sympathize. Your period sounds even heavier than mine. I’m usually just out of it for one day. I think wearing two tampons sounds dangerous and uncomfortable. I haven’t done any research and I think your question about whether Aussie women are more prone to TSS is valid. I do wonder what led to the government deciding that higher absorbency products should be kept out of the country. I think women know when they need to change their tampons and can be responsible for their bodies. You may be right; it might just be time to campaign for change on this. I’m going to look into it.

  • Sorry, it’s making pretty upset the more I think about this today. We are allowed to drink to our heart’s content, smoke, what else? But we cannot make an informed decision to use the right absorbency level of tampon??? This is so incredibly insulting. How many people are dying from unhealthy life style choices? How about we take sugar off the market?

    • I wonder if there’s more to it. It doesn’t make sense for Australian government to ban the import of high absorbency tampons on the basis that it could cause TSS. While it’s true that high absorbency tampons increase the risk, lower absorbency tampons can cause TSS also if you leave them in long enough.

  • I am a 20-year-old Aussie whose had her period since she was 10. Before I speak, I must say that calling Australian women uncivilised for using non-applicator tampons is a bit dramatic and unnecessary. I’ve always had a heavy period and I never had a problem using super non-applicator tampons. And im an absolute clean freak. Of course I had to change them often and make sure hands were washed thoroughly but even with a heavy flow you never get a massive mess all over you or anything because as the tampon slides up it sorta of wipes the sides of the vagina and your finger doesn’t get anything on it. If my flow was extemely heavy and I needed more protection I would just wear a pad with the tampon as well. After a few years of this I decided I was sick of it all and went on a contraceptive pill to reduce the amount I had and to stop my terrible period pain. Since then, all I use is Super U by Kotex non-applicator tampons and that’s it. It’s convenient, simple, better for the environment, and just as clean as anything else if you’re a hygienic person so I won’t be judged on that.

    • Hi Nic. Thank you for your comments. I’m sorry you may have felt judge by this entry. I was being cheeky; I don’t actually think Australia is uncivilized for lack of tampons. I also hope you understand though that your experience is just that, your experience, and other women’s are different. So please be careful with those if-then and prescriptive statements and your own judgement of others.

      Your version of heavy is different from mine. Super absorbency tampons are not enough for me during the heaviest day of my flow. I need Ultra absorbency, which I need to change every hour and I wear it with an overnight pad (sometimes two), and it is very messy, but I can’t purchase Ultra absorbency in Australia because the law here has decided I’m not responsible enough to use it properly. As I mentioned before, I too am on the pill, but that hasn’t altered the flow of my period, and according to the three doctors I’ve seen, I’m at the heavier end of the period spectrum, but still within normal range.

      I’m glad the matter is convenient and simple of you; it isn’t for me nor for many other women.

  • On this ever emotive topic…I’ve been looking into why the Australian tampon industry is geared towards lower absorbancy, non-applicator varieties and it is definitely based on current recommendations for reducing the risks of Toxic Shock Syndrome:

    1) Using lower absorbancy tampons will mean you have to change your tampon more often – thereby reducing the risk of leaving the tampon in for too long.

    2) There are concerns that using applicator tampons means you are at greater risk of scraping the vaginal walls, which could cause tiny abrasions where bacteria can grow.

    It’s interesting that other countries don’t think these potential risk factors for TSS are worth placing restrictions on tampon types. However, I’ve yet to find statistics on whether Australian women have lower incidences of TSS than other countries due to their tighter regulations.

    On a separate note – I’ve just bought a menstrual cup to try out in the hope that I can avoid using tampons ever again!

    • I haven’t seen any stats either, but I don’t get the sense it’s a big problem. Every package of tampons in the U.S. comes with a warning about TSS. I would like to see more variety in Australia. I think women can decide for themselves and be responsible for their needs.

      Let me know how it goes with the cup. I’ve heard good things about it.

      • I’ve started using the JuJu cup http://www.juju.com.au/ which is made in Oz. Was a bit apprehensive at first but it’s made periods so much easier. You have to empty it far less often than you’d normally change tampons – I have a med flow and can get away with doing it in the morning and night and not at all during the day. $ saved on tampons is a bonus too. I’m a big fan now and been telling all my friends about it!

        • Thanks for the tip, Kelly. I have some friends who use similar products and I’ve considered them. I’ve wondered if they can handle my heavy period. Thanks for your comments!

    • I have seen those in lower absorbency. I think I’m going to give them a try for my lighter days. Thanks for your comment, Lilly (one of my favorite names!).

  • Haha (awkward laughter) I can relate very well to what you’re saying and wish I’d read this blog before moving Australia from the UK a few months ago… Australian feminine product producers seem to be very good at marketing, with nice colours, cute little facts on the wrappers and funky websites and facebook pages. But the products, I suppose, are just several years behind development compared to Europe and the USA. Still, when I compare even Australian pads with the pillow-like things I somehow put up with when I first started having periods in the mid-1980s (I recently came across a long-forgotten stash in my childhood home) one cannot really complain too much!!

    • Tampons and pads have certainly come a long way. I recently saw the Radiant series from Tampax and was like, whu? I feel anything but radiant during my period lol.

  • Great post :) I just wanted to let you know that Tampax Pearl in Australia now! And also U by Kotex has made applicator ones as well! So now we have, Libra, Tampax, Tampax Pearl and U by Kotex. :)

    • Claire Clinch on

      Oh yippeee! I’m an Aussie and all I really see is Tampax applicator. Drives me nuts not having any other chooice but that.

      Great blog post. I agree. I absolutely adoooore applicator, but I’ve had to use the same brand for 13 years… :| it’s about time other brands have released applicator options. Will take a look in the different supermarkets and suss it out. (I’m also lucky I have a light flow so at least that is suited to the market).

      • I think it may depend where you live. I belong to a couple of expat groups and sometimes an American woman will say her local store has started to carry them. They’re nowhere to be seen in my neck of the woods. I just want to see more choices – applicator, non-applicator, and various absorbency. Thanks for your comments!

  • I am so glad I found your blog! I am moving from Seattle to Melbourne in 3 weeks (for work) and will be there 6-12 months. I’ve been reading through your posts for the last hour and am so happy to have stumbled across this particular post! Like you, I have a terribly heavy period and after reading this, I know to bring a stockpile of supplies with me. There is nothing worse than a heavy period without the right supplies. This article was a lifesaver. Thank you!

    • Glad it could be useful, Emily! I’m seeing more Tampax with cardboard applicators, but plastic and high absorbency products are still nowhere to be found.

  • I’ve just spoken to the ACCC and they tell me that the lack of tampons with an absorbency between 15g – 18g in Australia is purely a marketing choice by tampon suppliers. It seems that women in Australia will need be be made aware that these products do exist outside of Australia and that it is up to suppliers in Australia to stock them. I spoke with Johnson & Johnson Australia who tell me that they used to have a product of this absorbency on the shelves but they found that there were women leaving the product in longer than they should have (they should be using lower absorbency tampons and changing more often). They also said that there was not enough demand for this product. I have tried to find a contact number for Cottons, but you have to send them a query online. Please could everyone spread the work where they can that we need to make suppliers aware that there is a demand and that many women don’t even know that such products exist. I have found that Coles are very responsive these days to customer feedback that they receive online. They may make queries with suppliers if they feel that they can sell a product. Meanwhile I purchased Johnson & Johnson’s O.B Ultra tampons online from Amazon.com. These are the similar absorbency to the German J&J O.B Super Plus.

  • Ask them to keep the price in line with other popular tampon brands so that they don’t try to charge us more.

  • I am a 21 year old Australian and believe we have more than enough selection available, I even sometimes find it overwhelming with too much choice – I’d hate to image what it is like in America if you feel we have very little in comparison.

    I have never used an applicator to insert tampons, I do not see this as being uncivilised, I believe it makes Australian women more advanced as they are capable of inserting a tampons without using an unnecessary tool.

    I have no problem with anyone’s opinion but it seems that only foreigners have any problems with Australia’s female hygiene selection. Maybe you should look at it from another perspective – that you have been over indulged in your country. Australians are laid back and easy going, we don’t care for scented tampons or applicators. It doesn’t make us uncivilised or simple, it just means we like only whats necessary and we make the best of what we have.

    • As I’ve mentioned before, comments about Oz being uncivilized due to its tampon selection are meant to be tongue-in-cheek and not taken seriously. But I stick by everything else. As far as I’m concerned, what’s necessary for me is not available here and, until it is, I’ll continue to get it overseas.

  • No it’s not only non Australians that have a problem with our feminine hygiene selection! I have found as I have gotten older and my periods have changed and become much much heavier, the products that are routinely available do not adequately do the job. There is far too little variety available and the lack of applicator tampon options is appaling. I prefer applicator tampons too! What’s wrong with having more choice?

    We aren’t all the same, and the little “U by kotex” mini’s just don’t cut the mustard for some of us. No matter how cute the packaging. I am getting to the point where Im going to have to purchase from overseas.

    For a while Big W sold tampax super plus (which I would stock pile) and now all they have are the little tampons in the cute boxes…This Aussie isn’t happy to “make do” and I suggest neither would you if you were changing tampons hourly.

    • Thank you for your comment, Bren. It’s much appreciated. It’s not often I hear an Aussie woman voice similar concerns about feminine hygiene products here.

  • Honey Brown on

    TIPS

    1. Learn how to improvise – life in general will be a lot more…positive.
    2. Super heavy flow = maternity pad
    or = double tampons (one under the other)
    or = tampon plus pad
    3. Recycling is great if everyone does it, but they don’t, and it still produces emmissions!
    3. Wash your hands after you go to the toilet!!!! The blood won’t make a difference then.
    4 Handbag suitable wet ones and a ziplock bag – because life is full of messes, not just the bathroom.

    P.S. Most public toilets in the US have separate handbasins, so anyone from there should be accoustomed to this. None of my 5 Australian homes have had separate toilet/handbasin – it is a very poor design in a home and is certainly not a fail that is isolated to Australia; it occurs even in large modern houses in the US.

    • I don’t know about doubling up on the tampons, but I have learned to carry wet wipes and a baggie everywhere I go now. That’s definitely good advice. You mention the hand basins and, funny enough, I’ve been to a number of people’s homes where they don’t have a waste basket in the toilet. I don’t get that one either. Thanks for your comments!

  • I’ve just had a reply from Cottons and they say that it’s about sales. The stockists such as Coles etc, want to be shifting as much of a product as they can without it sitting on the shelf for a long time. I prefer using Cotton tampons because they’re said to be safer for higher absorbency tampons, perhaps if we were to ask Coles to stock Cottons in Super Plus, they might make a change. I’ve noticed that Coles do add products to their range when I have requested them to. If women want a product available we have to be prepared to do a little leg work to make things happen, that’s how we got the vote. People power does work and it’s encouraging when you know you’ve been part of something which makes life better. Come on ladies! :-)

  • Hi Cosette. It’s my tampon campaigning day as you can see ;-) I had another reply from Cottons and they say that there’s no proof that cotton tampons are safer, it’s just some women’s preference. Anyway, I’m glad they were honest about that. They do think that creating a demand at our local super markets for super plus (15g-18g) might encourage super markets to stock the products.

  • great blog
    i’m an Aussie too – and am extremely annoyed at the lack of choice for tampons.
    I always bought tampax super plus (older packaging because I discover tampax has undergone a revamp), woolworths and coles stopped stocking the tampax super plus – i discovered it at a ‘supermarket Chemist’ (a Chemist Outlet store) to find this ‘supermarket chemist was bought out by Chemist Warehouse. To my shock and horror Chemist Warehouse no longer stocked my Tampax Super Plus :( only tampax Super [which is only 11g] and tampax regular [which is 8g]
    So by Carefree, U, Meds, Moxi comparison > tampax Super is the equivalent of a Regular in the Carefree, U, Meds and Moxi brands… > tampax Regular is the equivalent of a light in the other brands *its all wrong*… lol
    Tampax Super Plus is the equivalent of a Super in the Carefree/U/Meds/Moxi brands of 14g… but i find Tampax Super Plus more effective (followed closely by Moxi)…

    So it now looks like I’ll have to order online. hmmph.not happy.

    I’m annoyed at the ‘this is what we stock, so these are your options’ mentality of merchandising in supermarkets these days.
    I asked at WW when they stopped stocking tampax Super Plus, why they no longer stocked them > their answer? because we didn’t sell much of it…

    apologies for the novel ;)

    • Hey there! Thanks for your comments. So, am I understanding this correctly, that the absorbency levels are available in other brands, but they have a different name? I recently purchased the Sleeper Overnight Pads from Moxie and I laughed when I opened one and saw it. It was like a regular pad and looked very small next to my Always Maxi Extra Heavy Overnight Pads with Wings. I considered taking a side-by-side comparison photo lol.

  • having the opposite problem. I like the small size of non applicator tampons (easier to discretely carry around) and there’s nada to be found in the great white north. BTW a teenage girl in queensland died at a swimming carnival from TSS, from leaving a tampon in too long, which would explain the low absorbency thing. The maternity products might help you out more but I never had any trouble with spillage using Australian products. Also, that like of sanitary bins in North America grosses me out completely (the cleaner has to change the bag! poor cleaners!), I guess it’s all a matter of what you’re used to : ).

    • Indeed, non-applicator tampons are harder to find in the US. I think the major brand for non-applicator tampons is OB. I also have a number of friends with light periods that use alternatives like sponges and cups. The issue of TSS is one of education. Punishing thousands of responsible girls and women across the country due to a minute number of TSS-related deaths is unfair and nonsensical. I was not a huge fan of those sanitary bins, but now I feel grateful for them and miss them. So many bathrooms I go enter in Oz have no wastebasket at all! I find it utterly perplexing and I’m not thrilled about having to store my soiled items in my purse until I find a wastebasket or get home. Thanks for your comments, Sarah!

      • the only time I’ve had to store anything of that nature is when I’ve been at friend’s houses, or I’ve been in the bush. I don’t think I’ve ever had that problem in a public toilet in Australia, my experience has been that there is a sanitary bin for these types of items in at least one of the stalls next to the toilet, sometimes demarcated by a sticker on the front of the door. It’s alot more hygenic/safer then shoving it in a open paper bag on a wall (which still totally does my head in), but I’m glad that you don’t put it in the wastebasket (I used to be a cleaner : D). I guess I’m from the nanny state side of things in that I’d rather have low absorbancy products on the shelves so that someone else’s family doesn’t have to deal with the loss of a loved one through their inexperience, but I can also understand that other people have different needs. Thanks for the tip on the OB brand!

  • I don’t use tampons but the same goes for the pads here! There are no choices and no super absorbency pads! In Sweden where I come from I used Always ultra thin every time. Comes in many different absorbancies and the best of it all- you don’t feel it. It is super dry while still being “airy”. I have tried all different sorts here and they are of very poor quality, most of them have a wet feeling and don’t breathe. Yet they are thicker than the Always ultra thin. Even the Libra version in Sweden is better than the Libra here… Why? My period is so much heavier now after my two children that I really need good protection. Anyone knows of a way of buying Always ultra thin pads on the net?

    • Jen, I love and use the Always brand too. Like my preferred Tampons, I bring them back with me from the U.S. I don’t have any online resources, but maybe another reader will. Thanks for your comments!

  • I was recommended by my gynae to have a hysterectomy due to heavy periods but recently discovered OB Supers while on holidays in Dubai – wow – what an improvement on what we’ve got on offer here in Oz! Does anyone know how I can get a hold of them online? Also concerning as have had lots of friends resort to surgery for the same problem when all they may have needed was a more absorbent tampon!

  • As an Australian (with a (very) heavy flow) I can see where you are coming from, however I don’t have the same issues as you. I HATE applicator tampons with a passion, one of the reasons being I have more control over insertion with my finger. I like to know exactly where my tampon is inside me (haha). So much so that I was warned before I went to America for 4 months of your favouring of applicators and brought a 5 month supply of my favourite non-applicator tampons and pads with me. Just goes to show each to their own.

    I personally don’t find it disgusting or uncivilised to insert a tampon using my finger, I just wipe it off with some toilet paper and head straight to the sink to wash my hands. Suck it up, a bit of blood never hurt anyone. I have leant to carry a small squeezy bottle of hand soap in my purse for those unfortunate occasions where the public toilet has no soap (That IS disgusting).

    I can understand your frustration on not having the super super absorbent ones, I just change my tampon more regularly and wear a tampon in conjunction with my night pad overnight. I know people think this is dangerous but (TMI) I once left a tampon in for 48 hours by mistake and I never even got a slight fever. I was convinced to do it when a girl at camp said she left one in for two weeks and only just began to show signs of TSS. I’m not telling everyone to do it, but it works for me and I’m willing to take the risk so I don’t leak all over my sheets and ruin them. As it is the super tampons we have here are almost to wide for me, they sometimes hurt to put in so I use the regular as often as I can, especially if I am in a position to change them very frequently. I can see the positives in having more of a selection, especially for those like you who need to greater absorbency. I’m all for 15g-18g tampons even if I’ll never use them, but like many Aussie women my thoughts on applicators is they are unnecessary rubbish. Your finger is much more environmentally friendly and smaller tampons are easier to hide (I even carry them in my bra on a night out). Easy peasy.

    It all boils down to personal preference, sticking things up your fanny is a very personal thing done at a time of the month when many women are in a rather precarious state of mind and emotion. You like what you like and when you can’t get it, it can be soul crushing and/or rage inducing. I just had to send a six month supply of U by Kotex to the USA for a friend who ran out, she said she wanted to bow down to me and kiss my feet. We all lean a lesson here; Women are passionate about their hygiene products.

    • Don’t worry about the TMI level; this post and the comments are well beyond that now, haha.

      When your period is as heavy as mine (and it sounds like yours might be), you’re going to get blood on your hands. There’s no avoiding that and I’m not squeamish about it. My preference for applicator tampons is just that, a personal preference based on what I’ve known all my adult life. I don’t have a problem with non-applicator tampons and I probably could use them if I could find the absorbency I need. I’ve often thought that if I had a very light period, I would try the Cup or even cloth pads.

      The real issue for me is the lack of selection not only in tampons, but in pads as well. I simply can’t get the tampon and pad absorbency I need here. I currently use Tampons Ultra on my heaviest day and I have to change it hourly. Even though I wear TWO pillow-like pads along with my tampon to bed, I still have to get up two or three times in the night to change.

      I would always advise people to be safe and use products as they are intended, but the reality is that TSS is rare. According to the CDC, in the USA, tampon-related TSS affects approximately 0.001-2% of menstruating women per year. I imagine that number is even smaller in Australia. TSS just doesn’t seem like a good reason to explain the lack of selection.

      Thank you for your comments, Clare!

      • Oh lordy! Do I feel sorry for you! It sounds like your flow is heavier than mine, and I thought mine was bad! With the smaller selection we have to remember that Australia only has a population of 23 million (about the number of Americans who are unemployed or 3 million less than the population of Texas), and only half of those are women. From there probably only half are menstruating and again only a third of those (or less) will have a heavy flow, so that is only approximately 2 million people who would purchase these products. And then we have to remember that not every woman uses tampons. In the grand scheme of things Australia is a TINY market globally when it comes to these products, they’d lose more money than they made on them…which is a pity for those who need them.

        • Yes, I completely agree. I toss it up to a lack of demand. I think a lot of American expats, especially those of us in big cities like Melbourne or Sydney, forget that Oz just doesn’t have the massive population of the USA.

  • Hi,
    can anyone tell me some reputable brands of applicator tampons that can be shipped from US to Perth Aussie.
    I have only used the applicator tampons, and to my horror can not find any Tampax ones in store ( are they discontinued I fear ??? )
    I have bought some Libra brand to try, but will be very concerned as there are only the two and if Tampax gone only one brand Libra in Aussie.
    How appalling, as I can only use applicator and due to a horrid and painful past will not use pads. I have a pad phobia ( only kidding, they are unclean and sooo uncomfortable)
    PLEASE HELP
    Trac

  • Love you blog Cosette
    I like you have a very heavy flow and I used super plus plus a pad and have to change every 2 hrs for the first 2 days, now I cant find any shops that stock the super plus my local IGA used to but now don’t…ggggrrr wearing a pad is abs awful…just had to order online frm Your Discount Chemist, free shipping and not over prices yyyaaa, lived here for 7yrs and cant believe I cant get them anymore :(

  • the website I found was http://www.yourdiscountchemist.com.au free shipping and only $4.95 a box for super plus, so I order lots…
    I also emailed thro to Tampax and asked “why we cant buy them anymore here in Perth” they said it was a “financial viability as not selling so have been discontinued:….:(

    • Thanks for that resource, Di! That’s one reason I’ve heard given for why stores don’t carry them – the demand just isn’t there.

  • I live in Hong kong. I grew up in Hong Kong, though im half asian half white, I never was taught to use a tampon, like not even from my textbooks when i was still in school. And i never felt the need to try a tampon. But now im a grown woman and after ive tried my first time using a tampon, i felt super cool especially in summer. Since i sometimes have to work at the airport apron, its extremely hot where i experience the worst weather of all time, i surely need a tampon to keep my downstair fresh. But i dont know if i actually have very heavy flow or what, when its my heaviest flow days, i have to change my tampon almost every hour, i dont know if its normal or not but when im using pads i can change it every 3- 4 hours. And there arent many choices of tampon brands in hong kong, ob and playtex are the only brands sold in all supermarkets and drugstores here. And i never find an ob with an applicator, so i always go for playtex. And its kinda difficult to insert the tampon in without an applicator, i always have to put some vaseline on to help slipping it in… am i a bit weird? But yeah, why are tampons so bloody expensive??? I got a box of playtex with 18 tampons, 9 regular flow and 9 heavy flow, it costs me 40 hong kong dollar, which is around 5 australian dollar i guess, for me its really expensive coz its like few times more expensive than pads. And i still cant find any cheaper tampons that can be shipped t here. Why are we suffering from these?!?!

    • Hi Jess. You sound pretty normal to me. Many women experience one or two days during the middle of their period where it is heavier. OB is a non-applicator brand so you’re best sticking with Playtex or Tampax (my favorite) if you can find it. And I totally agree with you that they are expensive, everywhere really. I’m not sure there’s any way to get around that one. Thanks for your comments!

  • I dont have my period yet but I wanna stock up we get nothing here we have to search for week to get applicator tampons and when we do their cardboard

  • I wish I had known about this roughly 3 weeks ago! I just moved to Melbourne and just before my period was due to arrive went searching 3 different stores to find some pads and applicator tampons. I was naive to think that my Always Infinity pads and Tampax Tampons would be easily available here in Australia. After my relentless search, I started crying (probably the hormones kicking in) because I could not find anything with an applicator. My Australian husband could not understand what the big deal was. That’s men for ya!

    I finally found a bunch of Kotex Super tampons and pads. Although compared to my usual Always Infinity I feel like I am wearing pads from when I first got my period at 13 (about 15 years ago). Nothing can compare to the Always brand.

    I will now have to get my sister to ship me over a year supply.

    I am glad I am not the only one feeling this way as a newcomer to Australia.

    • Hi Melissa. Sorry you had such a hard time! Libra is an Aussie brand that offers applicator tampons, but they’re not readily available everywhere. I just bought Libra Goodnight Pads at Aldi this week and those are pretty good. I continue to get my stock from the USA, however. Welcome to Melbourne and thanks for your comments!

    • Thank you for this; I’ve never heard of it before. It’s a neat idea. Not all pads and tampons are created equal so it would be great to see theirs before committing to a plan.

  • Hey Cosette! This is so funny! It was nearly the same thing I blogged about! I moved from Vancouver to Australia and on a standard run to the pharmacy was horrified to find the selection of tampons to be missing applicators! In fact I even went and asked the pharmacist (a woman) if there were any with applicators (Was I looking in the wrong place??) And was told that “no applicator tampons existed!” Anywhere? At all?! I further queried? Nope. I was blatently told we “don’t have any like that in Aus.” It was 6 months before I came across some of the cheapy tampax ones in an IGA and bought every last box on the shelf in a panic.

    Too funny! Anyways! Love your blog! I’ve been pouring through it over the last couple of days. We sure see things the same way. I admire your boldness for writing about some of the thornier issues!

    • Thank you, Di! That was one unfriendly or ill-informed pharmacist. Applicator tampons certainly do exist in Australia (at least, they do in Melbourne), but they are harder to come by. I think it’s Libra that makes applicator tampons. They seem to be stocked sporadically. I’ve seen Tampax at my local Aldi once and a couple of other local shops, but they don’t always have them. When they do, it’s usually with the cardboard applicators and regular absorbency.

  • I am an Aussie and totally agree with you about the lack of absorbency with tampons. I have to wear tampons and pads during my heaviest days which is so frustrating. I wear nighttime pads or maternity pads overnight and no tampon b/c I am worried about TSS but find it hard to sleep with that wet feeling. I am going swimming at the pool tomorrow and was looking for an alternative as I’m worried about leakage with my super tampons. Was glad to stumble across your post to find there are better options out there but annoying to hear they have to be bought o/s. Sounds like we are behind the times with this issue.

    I also agree with you regarding waste bins in toilets. Public toilets are usually good with sanitary bins but I don’t understand why people don’t have them in their toilets at home. What are we supposed to do with our used ones??? Arrrghhh

    • It is surprising to see how many people don’t have waste bins in their bathrooms. I’ve learned to carry little plastic bags in my purse along with wet wipes for my hands. Thanks for your comments, Bronwyn (I love your name!).

  • I’m a fifteen year old Australian girl and I got my first period when I was twelve. I started out on pads and then moved to tampons, though I prefer to use pads now as I don’t like to risk my life over them.
    Toxic Shock Syndrome, or TSS, is a rare but potentially life threatening illness caused by toxin-producing bacteria. It occurs when a tampon is left in for too long (you can have a tampon in for no more than six hours), or when the tampon sticks to the vaginal wall and causes tiny scabs when removed.
    Ultra-absorbent tampons have, in the past, been shown to increase chances of TSS. I’m not sure why, but maybe because people feel like they are able to leave their tampons in for longer (?)
    Applicators can scrape against the vaginal walls. This is obviously a cause of TSS (more than large scabs). Also, I don’t imagine vaginal wall scraping is particularly good for your body.
    Having said this it probably seems like I don’t like tampons at all… but I do! I’m a stickler for rules and even though tampons are easier, I avoid them these days (plus, school lasts six hours and if I’m volunteering in the canteen I wont be able to change it…ew).
    Just wondering, do pads and tampons cost less outside of australia? I’ve always wondered because I travel a lot but obsessively stockpile sanitary products before I go- just in case!
    :)

    • I don’t know, Kate; that’s a good question. In general, I find life in Melbourne more expensive than life back in Miami. Of course, the wages the higher, but if everything is twice as much, I’m not sure I end up with any more money in my pocket. I’ve started doing more shopping online because there are products that even with the shipping costs from overseas, it’s still cheaper to get that way than buying locally. Thank you for your comments!

  • Well, a few things.
    - yes I’ve heard there is a law for the absorbancy level.

    - how long do you keep your pad/tampon on???? Your supposed to change it every 2-4hrs. If you can’t get through that without needing to change, lemme tell you something: you Americans have serious issues with your flow. We’re always told everything in America is oversize.. guess that’s true. Maybe its the unhealthy lifestyle & food you guys have that’s messing it up.. and it may not be unhealthy by your standards, but by ours? From the stories ppl I know who’ve been to America have told me? Yeah, it is, no offence.

    - there are other tampons with applicators.. just cuz it doesn’t say it out front doesn’t mean it doesn’t have one. I don’t use tampons, but I’ve heard Libra has plastic applicators. Just read the back.. it should say.

    - the women’s beauty section or whatever the hell its called isn’t ‘that’ small here. But a whole isle in America? Wowwz, what for, is that really necessary?

    - less civilised huh? Have to disagree with that. But then if having an abundance of super sized everything is your version of civilised then sure, you can call us that. But we don’t need it nor do most of us like it, so we’re fine like this :)

    P.S. Sorry if I came across as rude or anything… I tend to sound that way sometimes when talking online. So no offence intended :)

    ~ born ‘n’ raised in Australia :)

    • Well, a few more things then.

      According to Tampax, a tampon should always be changed every 4-8 hours (and you should always use a tampon with the least amount of absorbency needed). On my heaviest day, I have to change it every hour. I don’t speak for other American women, but I can assure you that I do not have any issues with my flow.

      Americans have some unhealthy habits. Having lived here in Melbourne for nearly two years now, I don’t see that Melbournians are significantly healthier. Following your logic, my flow should have lightened since I have adapted to your allegedly healthier lifestyle and am eating your healthier food. But that’s not the case. I don’t know what you are basing your assumptions on and suggest you do a little more research or, better yet, actually travel to the USA and find out for yourself.

      Yes, Libra offers applicator tampons. This has been mentioned in the comments. It’s a good option for some women, but not for me because they don’t offer the absorbency I need.

      I don’t know if an entire aisle dedicated to women’s feminine hygiene products is necessary, but I certainly appreciate the choice – choice that is not available to me here.

      As for the comment about being less civilized, as I’ve mentioned about a dozen times above, it was meant as tongue in cheek. If I really thought Oz was less civilized, if I didn’t like it here, I wouldn’t live here. Just as I don’t speak for all American women, you don’t speak for all Aussie women. I’m glad you are able to find what you need and are satisfied, but if you read the comments above, you’ll find a few from Australian women wishing they had more choices too. This isn’t about nationality. It’s about choice and letting women make informed decisions about their bodies.