Are Organic Tampons Actually Better Than Regular Tampons?

Organic cotton tampons have become readily available in recent years. Find out whether they're a healthier alternative to standard tampons.

Hand Holding Cotton Tampon
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While you may have previously associated the word "organic" with food, over the past few years, organic tampons have entered drugstores. And their arrival may have you questioning whether traditional tampons are somehow harmful.

As with food, though, the answer to whether organic tampons are "better" isn't a simple yes or no. Truth is, not all organic tampons are created equal. Before you toss all your regular tampons, find out the details on organic tampons, including whether they are better for your vaginal health and/or the environment.

Are Organic Tampons Better for Your Health?

Organic tampons are typically made of 100 percent cotton and are free of fragrances and dyes that are sometimes in traditional tampons, according to Stephanie Hack, M.D., ob-gyn and host of the Lady Parts Doctor Podcast. Specifically, organic tampons are made with organic cotton, i.e., cotton that was grown without the use of herbicides or pesticides. While non-organic, 100 percent cotton tampons exist, most conventional tampons are a blend of cotton and fabrics such as rayon, says Dr. Hack.

Of course, you're probably more concerned with whether those nuances have implications for your health. While some people attribute decreased cramping and lighter flows to swapping their tampons for organic options, there's no scientific evidence to support that switching to organic tampons can affect period symptoms. Anyone reporting less intense period symptoms as a result of switching tampons is likely experiencing a placebo effect, says Dr. Hack.

You may have been seeing cautionary videos about titanium dioxide, an ingredient that's sometimes included in both conventional and organic tampons, on TikTok lately. "Titanium dioxide is a chemical found in trace amounts in tampons and menstrual products, used to make whites appear brighter," says Dr. Hack. And regular tampons may additional contain trace amounts of "herbicides like glyphosate, a popular chemical in weed killers, [which] have been inconsistently linked to cancer and liver and kidney damage in animal studies," she continues.

However, the main concern that's been setting off alarm bells when it comes to these chemicals is their ingestion through food through food, according to Dr. Hack. "The amount of these chemicals found in tampons and menstrual products is significantly less than the amount [people] ingest and and even less gets absorbed by the vagina. There is not enough evidence at this time to suggest that the amounts present in tampons are dangerous," she says.

Are Organic Tampons Better for the Environment?

Organic tampons' biggest advantage may instead be their environmental impact, but some options are more planet-friendly than others, says Ashlee Piper, sustainability expert and author of Give A Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet. "Some — not all — organic farming practices mean that less water is needed in the [cotton] growing process," she says. (Finding out what farming practices a brand uses often requires reaching out to the company for answers, she says.)Plus, the cotton used in organic tampons is grown without herbicides and pesticides that may find their way into surrounding water and soil, potentially harming organisms such as insects, fish, and birds.

"From a packaging and waste standpoint, however, not all organic tampons are 'better' — plastic applicators and wrappers generally cannot be and are not recycled, so the waste impact can still be the same," says Piper.

Single-use menstrual products — organic or otherwise — are a major contributor to waste. "The stats show that the average menstruator will use anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 disposable menstrual products in a lifetime," says Piper. "Plastic applicators and wrappers, synthetic, non-biodegradable fabrics, like tampons made from cotton and synthetic materials blends," end up in landfills or waterways, she says. "Studies have shown pieces of menstrual product plastics [can end up] in wildlife, and of course, these plastics can become micro and nano-plastics, which assimilate into waterways, food, and air."

If you prefer using tampons, it's best to go with an option with minimal packaging — this includes applicator-free and wrapper-free options in compostable containers and boxes, says Piper. Better yet, options such as menstrual cups, washable period underwear, and reusable pads can be more cost-effective while also creating less waste. And due to current supply chain issues, these options may also be more reliable and accessible, says Piper. Furthermore, you'll be forced to contend with the "tampon tax" — a sales tax on essential products — less frequently if you decide to opt for reusable products, points out Piper

So, Are Organic Tampons Better or Just Good Marketing?

The one advantage that regular tampons have over organic tampons is probably their price point,according to Dr. Hack. Organic cotton tampons often cost more than non-organic options, so deciding which to go with may boil down to your budget for personal care products.

Whether you choose an organic tampon or not, the main concern is that you use the product safely, stresses Dr. Hack. That means wearing the tampon for no longer than eight hours and using an absorbency no higher than what you require, which will lower your risk of developing toxic shock syndrome, she says.

So while some organic tampons have advantages over traditional tampons, they aren't universally superior. Above all, you should choose the period products that work best for you.

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