I’m coming up on my 25thish anniversary of my first visit from Aunt Flo. And over that those 2.5 decades, I’ve had the same exact routine every month: tampons and pads. I wasn’t necessarily looking to spice things up in that department, but when I saw the ads on Facebook for a free trial box of FLEX disposable tampon alternatives, I figured, why not give them a try?
And then share every sordid detail with the entire Internet.
So, here’s how my tampon-free week went, so you can see if making the switch is right for you.
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FLEX: What is it? (No, really.)
Okay, so let’s get straight to it. The FLEX disc looks a like a very large condom with a thick but flexible band around the outside. (Oh, the jokes.) It sits just past the vaginal canal in the vaginal fornix — go ahead, Google that — where it catches, rather than absorbs, the blood from your menstrual flow.
(I’ve never used a menstrual cup, which they offer, but the FLEX disc is a similar idea to that though much smaller and — from what I hear — a lot more comfortable. It sits farther in, which is designed to help cut down on cramping.)
The FLEX disc designed to be leak-free for up to 12 hours and hold up to 6 teaspoons of liquid. Which, by the way, is good since the average woman menstruates about 3 tsp. in 24 hours.
It claims to be hypoallergenic, with no natural rubber latex, BPA, or phthalates, and is said to have zero chemicals or toxins like most tampons have. It’s doctor-approved and made to not alter your pH balance in your vagina. And, it was designed by women. Well, that sold me.
Related: Keep a close eye on your period — and your fertility — with the Clue period tracker app
At this point, I feel like it’s important to give you way TMI about my period, so that you have a context for understanding whether you think these would work for you too.
So here goes:
On days 1 and 2 of my period, it’s the real deal. I typically go through 3–5 super tampons, and I absolutely need to have a overnight liner on too. All day long.
Days 3 and 4 are lighter, but I still use 3–4 regular tampons with a liner. By day 5, I can get away with 1–2 tampons and/or a liner and be okay.
On my heavier days, I do tend to be a little clotty too.
Whew, glad we got that covered.
So, the question is, did it work?
FLEX: Putting it to the test
I was a little nervous putting the FLEX disc in for the first time, because it’s basically the exact opposite of what I am used to with a tampon. Instead of sliding it in and up, you’re sliding it in and down.
Seriously, this is one of those instances where a picture speaks a thousand words, so see for yourself on the step-by-step “how it works” page on the FLEX website. Essentially, you want it positioned so that it blocks off the vaginal canal, catching all the blood.
Since there’s no string on the FLEX to pull it back out, I had mild heart palpitations that my dinner plans that night would be cancelled and I’d be in stirrups in the ER with some doctor using forceps to get it out.
But that didn’t happen.
Once the FLEX was in, I couldn’t feel it at all!
I did go ahead and wear a liner, though, because I was a little dubious. The package said it works for up to 12 hours, so when I put it in around 7:00 that morning, I left home without any backup supplies.
This was a mistake.
By mid-morning, I felt uncomfortably wet. I thought maybe it was just the way the FLEX collected and held your blood, basically like a dam in your nethers. But when I went to check…let’s just say I was glad I’d put that liner on as backup.
When I removed the FLEX, I realized the fatal flaw in its design. You have to put your finger all the way up your vaginal canal to hook it over the edge of the device and pull it out. I was knuckle deep. When I came out of the stall, it looked like I’d been part of a murder scene. Not an ideal situation, when you’re in a public bathroom. At your kids’ school.
Related: What we think about THINX Period Underwear: An honest review, with ALL the details.
Just a friendly warning: don’t change your FLEX anywhere near those white sheets.
But I stayed the course, and kept using FLEX. By days 3–4 of my period, the device did work a little better on those lighter days, although I continued to use a liner too.
FLEX: The bottom line…meh.
From the pretty packaging to the chic press photos, you’ve got to love them for trying to make periods glamorous. I mean one of their selling points is that you can enjoy “clean” sex during your period with the FLEX disc in.
(I did not try this.)
For me however, I would call this a Facebook Ad purchase fail. My free trial pack required me to sign up for a subscription you can cancel at any time, and I promptly did just that.
The good news is, you get a pack to try for free! So, you may want to test it out for yourself to see if they work for you, since every woman’s body is different — and they have plenty of rave reviews from users. I’d love to hear about your experiences.
But, if I may, let me recommend you go ahead and stash some tampons and pads in your bag too while you’re trying out FLEX discs. You know, just in case.
You can get your free sample box of FLEX Ring disposable tampon alternatives from their website.
More reviews from our Damn You, Facebook series:
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What we really think about THINX period underwear
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If you’ve got a product you’ve seen everywhere and you’re curious about, hit us up and we might try it! Email email@example.com.
thanks for the detailed review. I’m a fan of menstrual cups but the idea of the flex freaks me out a bit! might give it a go if it’s free though.
They used to have something on the market years ago called Instead. It looks like pretty much the same thing. I used them in the past and found that they were really comfortable (more so than tampons) but super messy to remove. I have not had success with menstrual cups. I can’t get them placed correctly so they are really uncomfortable. And then you have the murder scene when you remove those as well…ugh. Menopause, take me now!!!
I was an avid menstrual cup user for years, and was very happy with that option (though I found it necessary to always wear panty liners to catch small leaks. I pre-ordered Flex before it hit the market, then had to wait so long to get my box that I ended up letting it sit in a cabinet for several months. When I finally tried Flex, I had mixed results. It didn’t seem much better or worse than my menstrual cups. After a few months of use, I ran across a post about leakage with these types of products. I had never understood before how women were able to wear them without back-up protection, because though Flex and menstrual cups caught the majority of my flow, there were ALWAYS leaks. After reading the post about leakage and some tips and tricks to resolve typical issues, I went on the flex site and re-read the instructions from the perspective of someone who had been using the product for a while. I found that I was often not inserting the device correctly, nor was I ever checking that it was correctly placed. It was like a light bulb went off and I’ll never have to sit in the dark again. I LOVE Flex. Yes, it can be messy to insert and remove, but it is so worth it because of how comfortable and reliable it is. I have found that it is easier to insert and remove than menstrual cups, and I always hated how my menstrual cups turned a dark and dingy color after a few months (and it was impossible to get them to return to a clean looking state, despite multiple cleaning methods). I will never use tampons again, and the memory of pulling dry or semi-dry tampons out of my body still makes me cringe, even years after my last experience with that nonsense.
I would recommend trying Flex for the first time when you have access to a private bathroom, as well as wearing at least a panty liner as back up for the first few times. And read the directions! Before you use Flex, and again and again if you are still having issues. The biggest issue with Flex (and menstrual cups) is that you really need a sink nearby to wash them before you put them back in, so trying to empty or adjust Flex in a public restroom can be a bit of a disaster. Still, I can’t say enough good things about this product.
Kelli, thanks for your perspective and the comparison to menstrual cups. That’s really helpful! Flex are meant to be disposable — although, I guess you could wash them if you wanted. I just tossed mine.
How do you check if it’s inserted right? I feel like I get it in correctly but not sure if I tucked it correctly? I hope it is
Ha! I know… it’s tricky. FLEX has some videos and diagram tutorials on their site you can follow to be sure you’re doing it the way they’ve described
Now they’re charging $15 For a trial. No more free ?? I was willing to to give it a go! I’ve got mixed feeling now to ponder on a bit before making any monetary plunges.
Same here. I would give it a try for free but not for $15. The idea is intriguing.
How much time does it take for a menstrual disk to degrade? It is disposable, how can it reduce waste …
I just began using Flex about two months ago and I could not be happier. I’ve been on Nexplanon now for about 4 years (I got it replaced once, don’t freak out) and I’ve had to deal with the common side effect of ridiculously long periods. I am on my period sometimes for up to 75 days. That starts to get REALLY expensive if I’m just using tampons, not to mention to added concern of TSS because I’m literally always wearing them. It’s difficult to remember to take it out every night before I go to sleep. In addition to that difficulty, having a healthy sex life when you’re on your period for 3 months at a time is very difficult task.
When I first tried Flex, I had an issue similar to one I had with Nuvaring several years ago. Warning, TMI ahead. After removing it for the first time, I noticed something protruding from my vaginal opening. I worried about it for days, thinking I had had a uterine prolapse. I found out that it was nothing to be concerned about and since it didn’t hurt, I eventually ignored it. That issue aside, the best part about Flex hands-down is the fact that it can be used during sex on your period. I was scared to try it at first, but I got brave one day and (after wearing one for 5 hours on a relatively heavy day) got down and dirty with my S/O without even warning him. Afterwards, I asked him if he felt it. His response was, “felt what?” That’s when I knew that Flex was perfect for me. In addition to this awesome bonus, I can put Flex in at 8PM right after dinner and not worry about it until I wake up for work the next morning. I also have accidentally worn it for 16+ hours (they’re right, you do forget you’re on your period) and woohoo I didn’t get TSS and die. Plus I have gone through 24 of them in a month without a single leak. Flex. Is. AWESOME.
No such thing as TMI here – thanks for sharing so much helpful info!
I really, really wanted to like FLEX. Used it for three cycles, I insert it correctly but it always leaks pretty heavy for me, to the point where double pantyliners are soaked through and my underwear is stained even after a couple of hours. I watched the videos and communicated with customer service but it just isn’t working for me.
Me as well. I’m so disappointed
Thank goodness I thought I was alone. There are so many videos and tutorials and I have tried it all. It’s so messy and constantly leaks all the time. Plus I sit all day at my desk job, so i dont have a chance. Super disappointed.
I tried flex and tried and tried. I don’t know why but it leaks terribly for me. I have watched the video and adjusted to the point of soreness. So disappointing
I have had the same experience with major leakage for two cycles and have tried everything I can think of to adjust it and make sure it’s positioned properly. It only works for me on light days. I have been searching for others who experienced this to make sure it wasn’t just me. I’m starting to wonder if some women’s anatomies just don’t work well with it. I never have this problem with the menstrual cup because of the seal that is created on the cervix. I really liked the idea of it. Just don’t know how else to troubleshoot it.
These are a newer version of the instead cups which are disposable rings. You can find them at any pharmacy and save in shipping. Does the same thing and you save money! Don’t see why all the hype about an old product with a different name and lot of marketing. Only difference is a expensive subscription box.
Flex is a fail for me. The selling point for me was the promise of mess-free period sex. There are better products that do the other things that flex does, but mess-free period sex was appealing. However when i tried it, it broke the condom. Forget whether or not they can feel it, if friction breaks the condom, it’s a no-go. So no more flex. Just went back to messy period sex. Much better.
I am so curious to try Flex but I have really heavy periods which makes me think I won’t benefit from them because my flow is too heavy. I notice the Flex U.S. store does versions for heavy periods if you go through the ‘will Flex work for me’ questions. But I live in the UK and can’t seem to find the heavier period versions on the UK site!
The article was ON POINT.. it works on Light days, my heavy days are VERY HEAVY and it leaked and did not hold up on heavy days..and removing it on those days…just like the article states..”murder scene” ..its good for women who don’t have a heavy flow but if you use Super or Super plus tampons & your changing those 3-4 times during your 8 hours of work… the Flex isn’t going to work.