Which tampons are the best?
For monthly protection, 70% of American women use tampons. Tampons are discreet, convenient, and don’t interfere with active lifestyles. Their popularity is evident when cruising down the feminine hygiene aisle at any grocery or drugstore, where there are endless brightly colored boxes of them.
With so many options, it can be hard to choose. Plastic or cardboard applicator? Sport or organic? To learn more, keep reading our shopping guide, which includes reviews of a few of our favorites at the end. Our top pick is the Tampax Pearl Multipack, which provides tampons for light, regular, and heavy days in one pack.
What to know before you buy tampons
Types of tampons
Most tampons are made of cotton or rayon — or a blend of both. We recommend looking beyond marketing designed to appeal to certain lifestyles or preferences (like “sport” or “silky”) and instead consider what type of applicator the tampon has, and identify which type works for you.
Cardboard applicator: Traditionally, tampons used cardboard applicators. While they’re not as smooth as plastic applicators, they are biodegradable (better for the environment) and often bargain-priced. However, they can be uncomfortable to insert for some women. Organic tampons, which are more eco-friendly, typically come with a cardboard applicator.
Plastic applicator: Many women opt for plastic applicators due to their durability, so they won’t get bent out of shape in the bottom of a purse or during insertion. They feature a smooth, streamlined exterior that’s gentle and glides easily when inserted. They aren’t, however, the most eco-friendly option because they will eventually wind up as landfill waste.
Extendable applicator: Typically made from plastic, extendable applicators telescope to full extension when you’re ready to insert. This means that while packaged, tampons with extendable applicators are half the size of regular tampons, which makes them more discreet and compact. Make sure the applicator is fully extended and has clicked into place before inserting.
Digital (no applicator): Designed to be inserted with your finger, digital tampons have no applicator at all. This type is popular in Europe but is catching on in the U.S. because it’s an eco-friendly option that cuts down on waste. Organic tampon brands often offer a no-applicator option. This minimalistic design is the most compact out of all the types. However, there’s a learning curve when it comes to insertion.
What to look for in quality tampons
Size: Tampon size correlates with menstrual flow. The bigger the size, the higher the tampon’s absorbency. Tampons come in light, regular, super, super plus, and ultra sizes. Even if your flow is light, it’s essential to change your tampon every four to six hours (or eight if overnight) to reduce the risk of toxic shock syndrome, a serious bacterial infection associated with tampon use. For this reason, don’t size up just because you want to change your tampon less often.
Organic: Organic tampons are made from 100% cotton and don’t contain synthetic materials like rayon. They are free of chlorine bleach, which creates the carcinogen dioxin, though they are bleached with peroxide. Organic cotton is also free of pesticides and other agrochemicals, which can disrupt your hormones.
Multipack: Flow may vary on different days of the menstrual cycle, which is where a multipack comes in hand. Multipacks contain different sizes of tampons all in one box, so you don’t have to shell out money for or clutter shelf space with separate boxes. Multipacks generally offer a combo of light, regular, and super-sized tampons.
A box of 36 tampons ranges in price from $4 to $15. Organic tampons are the most expensive, costing between 35 to 75 cents a tampon. The least expensive tampons have cardboard applicators and cost between 12 to 14 cents a tampon.
Can I wear a tampon while I swim?
A. Yes, in fact, this is one of the benefits of using a tampon versus a menstrual pad. You can swim in a tampon without it showing or leaking. Be sure to change your tampon once you’re done, though, because chlorine from a pool or bacteria from a body of water, can cling to the string and result in irritation or an infection.
What are some other benefits of using a tampon instead of a pad?
A. Because tampons aren’t bulky like pads, they can be worn with a tight-fitting outfit without showing. Also, they’re fitted internally so you won’t experience unpleasant wetness or stickiness that you would with a pad. They’re also preferred for sports and workouts, especially if you choose a sports tampon that offers 360-degree expansion (not just width-wise), extra leak protection (like skirting), and higher absorbency (because exercise can increase menstrual flow).
What are the best tampons to buy?
Our take: This trusted brand offers innovative design to combat leaks in three levels of absorbency.
What we like: Multipack includes light, regular, and super-absorbent tampons. Unique LeakGuard braided string redirects leak back into the core. Plastic applicator features no-slip grip.
What we dislike: Not the most compact design.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top tampons for the money
Our take: An affordable multipack for active lifestyles offering comfortable protection so you don’t have to slow down.
What we like: Pack of 50 tampons includes regular and super absorbency. 360-degree protection expands to fit form and reduce leaks. Smaller string offers discretion for the pool.
What we dislike: Harder to remove because of shorter string.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
Our take: A chemical-free, eco-friendly tampon that follows the strictest standards for purity.
What we like: Best choice for consumers sensitive to chemicals or fragrance. Made from 100% organic cotton. Absorbs better than conventional tampons containing rayon.
What we dislike: Cardboard applicator doesn’t glide easily during insertion.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Ana Sanchez writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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