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The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Tampons

A comprehensive guide to help you get through the maze of tampon options with confidence. 

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Tampons

We understand that navigating the world of menstrual products can be overwhelming, but fear not, we've got you covered. 

We'll walk you through everything you need to know about tampons, helping you make informed decisions that cater to your unique needs. From understanding different tampon sizes and features to finding the perfect fit for your body, we're here to ensure your period is as comfortable and hassle-free as possible. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Tampon


When using tampons, it's important to choose the right absorbency level. You’ll want to find one that best fits your flow. 

If your tampon absorbs too much, it can cause discomfort and irritation. If it doesn't absorb enough, you might experience leaks and messes. It's best to choose a tampon that lasts 4-6 hours without any leaks, especially during the first couple of days when your flow is heaviest. 

Most brands offer different absorbency levels to choose from: 

  • Light holds up to 3mL of fluid
  • Regular holds up to 5mL
  • Super holds up to 12mL

Some brands offer “Super-Plus” or “Ultra” which can hold up to 18 mL of fluid. 

Applicator type

There are a few different applicator options to choose from depending on your personal preference and eco-consciousness. 

  • Plastic Applicators: These tampons come with a smooth plastic applicator that allows easy insertion. The applicator allows for a more controlled placement of the tampon, making it a great choice for those who are new to using tampons. 
  • Cardboard Applicators: Cardboard-applicator tampons function similarly to their plastic counterparts, providing a user-friendly insertion process. Cardboard is biodegradable and recyclable, making it a more eco-friendly option compared to plastic. 
  • Applicator-Free: Also known as "digital" or "non-applicator" tampons, these tampons do not come with an applicator. Instead, they require manual insertion with your fingers. While this method might take a little practice to get used to, it significantly reduces waste since there is no applicator to dispose of. 


Now that you know about the applicator options, let’s talk about what materials make up the actual tampon. 

Did you know the FDA regulates tampons and their materials? They cleared cotton or rayon–or a blend of both–for safe tampon ingredients. Rayon is a semi-synthetic material made from plants or wood pulp that’s favored for its high absorbency.

Tampons that aren’t 100% organic cotton go through a bleaching process that may leave the tampon with traces of unwanted chemicals and fragrances. Since the vagina is such a highly absorbent area of your body, you may want to look into what is in the tampons you use. 

Best Tampons for Beginners

Getting your period is a huge milestone in every woman’s life. It can be a bit intimidating when trying to figure out what hygiene products to use. 

Pads are a safe and easy option for beginners. But after a while, they can get uncomfortable. If you’re ready to use a tampon, start with the lightest tampon option. Some brands even make a junior/teen option that is slimmer and easier to insert. 

If you're new to using tampons, starting with a small size and an applicator can make the whole process a lot easier and more comfortable.

One fantastic option for beginners is Playtex Simply Gentle Glide tampons. With a smooth and rounded applicator, they go in effortlessly. Plus, they've got excellent leak-preventative absorbency, so you can feel confident and worry-free during your period.

Best Budget Friendly Tampons

Tampons can be expensive. Just because you have a period doesn't mean it should break the bank.

If you’re looking for a cheaper option, try the generic brands of tampons from any department store. The cheapest generic brand comes from Walgreens at $0.09 per tampon.

Walgreens and Walmart both offer the use of an FSA (flexible spending account) or an HSA (health savings account) for buying tampons or pads.

Another option is to get non-applicator tampons. They come with a learning curve–you have to use your finger as the applicator–but they tend to be a bit cheaper. o.b. Original Non-Applicator Tampons are the most affordable according to the Krazy Coupon Lady.

Pro tip: Get a free sample from U by Kotex just by requesting it from their website!

Best Plastic Free Tampons

Did you know it takes one plastic applicator about 500 years to decompose in a landfill? If you want a plastic-free tampon, there are options! 

There are applicator-free, cardboard, and even reusable applicator tampons. It’s all about finding one that suits your values and style.

A popular eco-friendly option is & Sisters Organic Cotton Eco Applicator Tampons. They are 100% organic cotton with cardboard applicators. They have zero plastic and zero bleach–plus they biodegrade faster than a banana! 

Maybe you’re not ready to ditch the applicator, but you still want to reduce your carbon footprint. Check out the reusable applicator by DAME. The DAME Reusable Applicator Set is made from medical-grade, antimicrobial materials that you can easily clean and store between uses. 

Best Tampons for Heavy Flow

Having a heavy flow can be quite the challenge! You want a tampon that can keep up without constant changes, leaks, or discomfort.

The tampons with the largest absorbency level usually hold up to 18 mL of fluid. If you’re looking for a reliable option, Tampax Pearl Super Plus or Ultra tampons are highly rated and come with a “LeakGuard Braid” to prevent leakage from ruining your favorite undies.

We know an active lifestyle calls for extra support. Playtex Sport tampons are available in Super Plus or Ultra size and boast a triple layer of Flexfit technology, making them a fantastic pick for workouts, swimming, or any other activities you love.

If you notice heavier bleeding than usual, don't hesitate to set up a chat with your gynecologist. They're the experts who can provide personalized guidance and ensure your well-being.

Tips for Safe and Comfortable Use

Speaking of well-being, one of the most important factors to consider when using tampons is changing them regularly. Leaving a tampon in for an extended period can lead to the risk of developing toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS is a rare but potentially life-threatening condition caused by certain strains of bacteria. We should note here that according to one of O Positiv's medical advisors, Dr. Lloyd (OBGYN), only half of reported cases of toxic shock syndrome are due to menstruation, and the highly-absorbent tampons that were linked to most TSS cases were taken off the market in the '80s. That said, you should still be diligent about reducing your risk!

The symptoms of toxic shock syndrome can be severe and may include high fever, sudden low blood pressure, a rash resembling sunburn, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, and confusion. If you experience any of these symptoms while using a tampon, it's crucial to remove it immediately and seek medical attention promptly.

To reduce the already-low risk of TSS, follow these guidelines for safe and comfortable tampon use:

  • Choose the right absorbency: Select a tampon with an absorbency level that matches your flow. Using a higher absorbency tampon than needed may increase the risk of TSS, as it can lead to prolonged wear time.
  • Change it frequently: Aim to change your tampon every 4 to 8 hours, even if your flow is light. You may need to change it more frequently if you have a heavier flow. When sleeping, consider using a pad or menstrual cup for overnight protection.
  • Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands thoroughly before and after inserting or removing a tampon to reduce the risk of introducing harmful bacteria into the vaginal area.
  • Alternate with other products: Consider using a combination of tampons and other menstrual products, such as pads or menstrual cups, to give your body a break from tampon use.
  • Be aware of symptoms: Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of TSS and be vigilant. If you experience any signs of TSS while using tampons, seek medical attention immediately.

Remember that TSS is rare, and millions of people safely use tampons every day. By following proper tampon usage guidelines and being mindful of your body's needs, you can use tampons comfortably and confidently during your period. However, if you have concerns or questions about tampon use or experience discomfort, don't hesitate to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and guidance.

If tampons are not your thing, there are plenty of other options to choose from in this day and age. To explore other options, check out our blog on the best and worst period products.

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