The concept of a menstrual cup applicator has been around for decades, but so far they’ve seen little innovation or success.
The ill-fated brand Tassaway filed for the first menstrual cup applicator patent in 1968. One of the scariest parts of switching to a menstrual cup is the process of insertion. Brands are still looking to create menstrual cup applicators that make insertion as easy as tampons.
But in my opinion, the more exciting use case for menstrual cup applicators is the accessibility they might provide for users with various disabilities or access and reach difficulties. Let’s compare the different menstrual cup applicator brands and styles in the embedded video below, or keep reading.
I’ve tried all of the different menstrual cup applicator styles and can share my thoughts along with insertion demos in the video.
Menstrual Cup Applicator Brands Compared
For this post and video, I’ve sourced multiple brands of menstrual cup applicators. Until a year ago there were few options – Fleurity from Brazil, Enna Cup and Applicator (not included) from Spain, and CupUp from Denmark. Recently the Amazon Only brand Pixie released the Pixie Cup Applicator. This year also saw a knock-off of the Sunny Cup Applicator become available to white label via Alibaba. And of course, as of just this month (October 2023,) the earliest customers who pre-ordered the Sunny Cup Applicator over a year ago have now received their product.
Pixie Cup Applicator and other ‘Clothespin” Style Cup Applicators
The Amazon-only brand Pixie introduced their version of a menstrual cup applicator. Their applicator resembles other brands such as the Fleurity and Enna versions (not available in the US.) I do appreciate that the applicator pieces stay together on the Pixie version.
How to use: The applicator works by holding the cup closed. It works with certain folds and cup styles and is not completely universal. I reviewed a very similar menstrual cup applicator by Fleurity and had mixed success.
Probably the hardest part of using a clothespin-style cup applicator is getting the folded cup to securely fit and stay folded. There is a pretty high amount of dexterity and hand strength needed for this part. While it says you can use a C Fold the only fold I have had continuous luck with in this style of applicator is the Punchdown Fold, or 7 fold, or triangle fold.
Does the Pixie Applicator work? Maybe. If you have the right combination of cup style and firmness that successfully works in combination with this applicator it can functionally keep the cup folded and help with insertion. You may still need to manually adjust the cup to help it open and seal after inserting it with the applicator. When I tried the other clothespin style applicator I often needed to help it open and sometimes it inserted the cup more sideways than straight.
This version of a clothespin-style applicator added a secondary feature that took inspiration from the Cup Buddy menstrual cup removal tool. The plunger of the applicator features a scoop, intended to be used to help remove the cup. I’ve reviewed the Cup Buddy product in the past and this functions essentially the same way.
CupUp Menstrual Cup Applicator
CupUp is a “push pop” tube-style menstrual cup applicator designed and sold in Denmark. It is another universal cup applicator meant for multiple brands and sizes of cups. That said, the user will need to only use cups with a pronounced rim. On paper, I liked the idea of this applicator and there is some well-thought-out design intent going on. It’s very simple, just a small tube with a hole and a slightly larger tube with an opening on both sides, but I see exactly what they were going for.
How to Use: The CupUp will come assembled – one tube sits inside the other. You must fold your cup perfectly in half, a C-Fold, and pull the outer tube over the cup while it sits with the base/stem against the top of the inner tube. Push the outer tube up until it meets the top rim of the cup. Insert the tip to a comfortable depth (it doesn’t need to be super deep, but try to get the full cup’s length inside) and very slowly push the inner tube which will push the cup out of the tube and into your vagina.
Does it Work? Yes. I found this version more effective to insert a cup than a clothespin style and it was much easier to put a folded cup into. That said, I still needed to insert a thumb and finger to open the cup manually.
The Missile aka the Imposter Sunny Cup Applicator
Of course, there is already a knockoff of the Sunny Cup Applicator. Although to be fair, this extremely large Alibaba find is really more of an absurdly large copy of the tampon applicator. Made of TPE and the size of a giant cucumber that would make you blush, this product is making the rounds on DTC dropshipping brands on Amazon, TikTok, and Instagram. I won’t add a link because this is not a brand or product I can endorse.
How to Use: Fold your cup in a C-Fold, push it into the opening at the base of the applicator. Insert the plunger and keep holding it in place while you insert the missile, I mean applicator, into your vagina. You likely need lubricant and to say a small prayer. Gently push the plunger of the applicator which will push the cup out through the slightly malleable, but still quite stiff, top of the applicator.
Does it Work? I mean, yes if you consider pushing the cup out of a top success. Is it pleasant to use is more the question in this case. Considerable force might be needed to push the cup out even when using lubricant. It is the largest of the applicators and the size increases from the tip towards the barrel so the deeper you insert the larger it gets. Like with others, when I tried the missile I still had to manually assist the cup to help it open and seal after inserting it.
The Sunny Cup Applicator
The “forever on pre-order” Sunny Cup and Applicator is now hitting mailboxes slowly but surely. Said with full admiration for the commitment to the team who have faced a lot of hurdles for this launch, I am ready to get this over with. Never have I had to wait this long for a product from the date of purchase to shipment. Look for a full review later on when I have a period. The Sunny Cup Applicator is not a universal product. The Sunny Cup Applicator only works with the Sunny Cup. The applicator is larger than a SUPER ULTRA tampon applicator but it’s not obscenely large. The tip of the applicator measured to about 26 mm at the widest. It was thoughtfully designed to work with a cup that was made with thinner walls to squeeze into an applicator that isn’t the size of a missile. And, hey, it is a cute design.
How to Use: First, you need to perform the ‘Sunny Cup Fold” which is essentially an Origami fold that needs to be very tightly kept together. While keeping it very tightly folded, insert it into the open side of the Sunny Cup Applicator. Insert the applicator’s pusher and keep it held while you insert the tip of the applicator up to the green tip. Gently and slowly push the applicator’s plunger to then push the cup into your vagina.
Does it Work? Mechanically the Sunny Cup Applicator works pretty well. It takes practice to get the cup folded tightly and inserted. Decent pushing force is needed to move the cup through the applicator but it does insert the cup for you. So far, I have also needed to manually open the cup after using the applicator to insert it.
Emm Cup and Applicator
Emm Cup is still in development on its menstrual cup design and applicator. It has been in the works for quite some time and is slated, per their socials, for a 2023 launch. Until it is available for purchase this is still a concept.
Like the Sunny Cup and Applicator, the Emm Cup and Applicator are meant to be used together. The Emm Cup Applicator will not work with other brands. Based on the design of their cup you can see why – it’s an accordion folded design that resembles a lampshade mixed with a Shuttlecock. The cup claims to be a “one size fits all” based on this accordion concept design. Unlike any other applicator and cup, this will work with its own app and the cup tracks aspects of your period. It’s certainly a more “techy” design, a good or bad thing depending on who you ask.
Since this isn’t out yet in the wild I don’t have instructions or an opinion on how it works (yet.)
Fillow Menstrual Disc Applicator
Another product to mention that you can keep your eyes peeled for is the Fillow Menstrual Disc Applicator.
This brand is currently developing its concept for full manufacturing and release. The FIllow Kickstarter successfully ended earlier this year. The product idea is promising and since I did back the product there have been optimistic updates that make me believe we will see this product shipped out next year.
The Future of Cup Applicators
Hopefully, this comparison video of every menstrual cup applicator was helpful. It feels like the reusable period products industry wants to shift towards an “easy as tampons” approach. Thus far I don’t see any cup applicators truly hitting that mark. And the marketing of most of these devices makes them look far easier than reality. Isn’t that always the case with everything, though? Clever video editing can make any product look easy and fast! That is why I tried to leave clips of using each menstrual cup applicator uncut in this video as much as possible for viewers at home who want to understand how they work. It’s what happens after the cup exits the applicator that matters – did it even open?
If you can use your hands and your only motivation for an applicator is to avoid your own body/blood I would urge you to work through that if you can. Using your hands and your sense of touch are a huge part of successfully using a menstrual cup. I do have hope that we are in the early stages of improved applicators that do what they market themselves as doing. For now, it still feels easier and faster to use your hands if you have the ability to do so.