'I thought, you know, there must be a better way to do this, especially because [menstrual cups] were invented in the 1930s.'
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on June 17, 2022. It has since been updated.
The menstrual cup has risen in popularity as a reusable, affordable and sustainable alternative to pads and tampons. However, many people are hesitant to make the switch given that the cups need to be inserted by hand. Sunny, a period care company, has now introduced an ingenious solution to this drawback by designing an innovative applicator for their menstrual cups. Speaking to BuzzFeed, co-founders Cindy Belardo and Drew Jarvis explained that they realized—from personal experience and talking to others—that the difficult insertion process was a common barrier for many.
"I thought, you know, there must be a better way to do this," Jarvis said, "especially because they were invented in the 1930s." Together, they came up with a "better way" by creating the Sunny menstrual cup and applicator, which are now available for pre-order and expected to launch by the end of 2022. As for whether the Sunny applicator works with other menstrual cups, the answer is no. But, with good reason. "One of the cool things about the Sunny cup itself is that it's made out of a super soft, flexible material, and it's actually thinner than most other cups are, so it fits inside the applicator. Other cups are a lot thicker and a lot more rigid, so to make an applicator that would deploy a cup [of that size] would be [beyond most] people's comfort level," Jarvis explained.
Those familiar with menstrual cups will know that they must be properly inserted to prevent leakage. "[Leakage] was one of the biggest user errors that we've seen in past research with menstrual cups," Belardo revealed. The Sunny team addressed this issue by designing the applicator to help form a seal when the cup is inserted. "One of the great things about the applicator is that it actually helps form the seal by itself. You can always double-check by pinching the base, but—through our research and development—we found that there's a much higher success rate for the seal forming without any additional maneuvering or adjusting with your hands," she added.
So what makes menstrual cups so much more affordable and sustainable than pads and tampons? Aside from the fact that menstrual cups usually last for at least a year, an individual can wear a menstrual cup for up to 12 hours (depending on the flow) as it holds two to five times more liquid than a tampon. Furthermore, in their lifetime, an average person spends more than $6,000 on tampons and pads. To make matters worse, 7 billion tampons and 12 billion pads are discarded annually, most of which end up in landfills and oceans, contributing to plastic pollution.
A menstrual cup, on the other hand, can be reused for years with proper care—washing it with soap and water between uses and boiling it between period cycles. Meanwhile, the Sunny menstrual cup and applicator have received an overwhelmingly positive response. "I love using reusable menstrual products, but the one I have doesn't insert easy. I am buying one of these once I have the [money]," commented one TikTok user. "I love this idea! I’ve always wanted to use mine but could never figure out a way for myself to insert," wrote another.
According to Jarvis, Sunny also focuses on period poverty and menstrual education. "A huge part of being in a period space is not just selling a product; it's educating people. It's making people comfortable about having the conversation in the first place," she said. To this end, the company tackles common questions, provides context and answers user-submitted questions about menstruation through its social media handles and blog. "We always leave our email at the bottom," Belardo added, "so people can reach out. We want this to be a co-creation process."