Written by Grove Collaborative

Are organic tampons better? Our guide to natural tampon alternatives.

Last Updated: October 1, 2020


Our organic tampon guide breaks down the info you deserve to know around the products you're putting in your body — and the footprint they leave behind.

Here at Grove Collaborative, we’re big believers in the power of natural products — both for ourselves and for the planet. But we know making the switch can be daunting, especially if you’re accustomed to conventional products and are new to the world of natural, eco-friendly alternatives. That’s why we’ve created Beginner’s Guides to Natural. Each week, we’ll give you a primer on the ins and outs of transitioning to a natural version of a common household item, plus a few of our favorite brands for making the switch. Let’s get to swapping!

Tampons: convenient, inexpensive, easy. And if you’re one of the estimated 33.4 million US women who uses them and have already explored transitioning to natural products in other areas of your life, you might be wondering if it’s worth it to make the switch to organic tampons. Does it really make any difference whether or not your tampons are organic? And are conventional tampons that bad? We’ll help you decide if these feminine hygiene products are the next things you should swap for natural alternatives.




Organic tampon basics

Are organic tampons better for you?

Making the switch from conventional to natural period products makes sense when you consider that your vagina is one of the most absorbent parts of your body. Conventional (nonorganic) tampons are usually made out of a bleached and whitened mix of synthetic rayon and “regular” (aka grown with pesticides) cotton. They often also contain dyes and chemical fragrances (unfortunately, we can’t be more specific, because there’s currently no law requiring manufacturers to list what goes into their tampons), which then go into you. That’s pretty concerning, considering that the vagina is comprised of highly-absorbent mucus membrane tissue, and that there have been no studies testing the safety of these ingredients when used long-term inside someone’s body.



“Tampon users use around 11,000–13,000 tampons in their lifetime, so what’s in these products really matters,” says Meika Hollender, co-founder and president of Sustain, a feminine care and sexual wellness brand that offers certified-organic tampons in a range of sizes. “That’s the equivalent of a tampon inside your body for a total of six years.”

Are organic tampons eco-friendly?

When you choose sustainable, organic tampons, you’re using a product made with certified organic cotton — free of hazardous chemicals and dyes, and grown without the use of toxic pesticides — that’s produced under safe factory conditions. And organic tampon applicators are usually crafted from BPA-free plastic or primarily plant-based plastic, or from 100% biodegradable and compostable cardboard.

What are alternatives to plastic tampon applicators?

Most conventional tampon brands rely on nonbiodegradable, landfill-clogging plastic applicators (although applicator-free options are available). Organic tampons, like their conventional counterparts, also come in designs with and without an applicator, but there’s generally a more eco-friendly focus to what makes up those applicators. For those who prefer the ease of plastic, brands like Sustain and Seventh Generation use recycled and/or plant-based plastic, and Cora also uses plastic applicators that are BPA-free. And Natracare offers a biodegradable cardboard applicator.

Did you know?


Some tampon users think a product labeled “100% cotton” is a healthy choice, but “100% cotton” is not the same as organic cotton. Processed cotton is often treated with the pesticide glyphosate, a known carcinogen. “Certified organic cotton” means no pesticides. So there is a huge difference between 100% cotton and 100% organic cotton.

Tampon size guide: Finding the right fit

Light

For lighter periods, which tend to occur on the first or last days; a great option for tweens and tampon newbies.

Regular

Generally used for the second, third, etc. days, regular are a tried-and-true option.

Super and/or super+

For your heaviest days of bleeding or when you need a little extra protection.

Did you know?


Tampon sizing actually refers to absorbency (more material = more absorption). Most are designed to hold six to eight grams of menstrual fluid, and the size of your tampon depends on your flow.

What are good natural alternatives to tampons?

Menstrual cups

Also called period cups, these eco-friendly alternatives to tampons and pads are also better for your body, the planet, and your wallet. Research shows that switching to menstrual cups saves more than 90% of the cost and the plastic when compared with conventional period products.

Period underwear

Looking for undergarments that do double duty? If you’re looking for extra protection on heavy flow days or full protection on lighter days that don’t require a tampon, period panties offer stylish, comfy protection that doesn't rely on any single-use plastics. And you can sleep in them!

Organic tampon FAQ

Are organic cotton tampons really better?

Conventional cotton is often called a dirty crop: More than 15% of the world’s pesticide use and 25% of the world’s insecticide use goes into the production of conventional (nonorganic) cotton. Growing cotton organically is better for the health of cotton farmers, field workers, and processors, as well as for the earth. If you’d rather not eat an apple sprayed with pesticides, wouldn’t you rather use tampons free of rayon, dyes, pesticides, fragrance, and petrochemical superabsorbents?


Can you get toxic shock from organic tampons?

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare, life-threatening condition caused by certain strains of bacteria. No matter what type or absorbency level of tampon you use, be sure to follow current advice on how often to change your tampon in order to reduce your likelihood of acquiring TSS. When in doubt, go with the lowest level of absorbency you need for four to six hours.


Do organic tampons shorten your period?

According to Dr. Daniel M. Breitkopf, an Ob/Gyn at the Mayo Clinic, probably not. Your flow is the amount of uterine lining your body sheds, so external factors like your tampon (organic or not) are unlikely to change your flow.


Looking for more sustainable swaps and other eco-friendly switches you can make at home? Grove has you covered. From timely topics such as our handwashing and hand sanitizer breakdown to evergreen primers like our introduction to period underwear, our handy guides are here to answer your most pressing questions. And let us know if you have any organic tampon questions (or share your own tips for making the switch using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to take organic tampons or other eco- and body-friendly period products for a spin, explore Grove Collaborative's feminine care selection.

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