You might be a creature of habit who has bought the same type of tampons since your teenage years, or you could spend 10 minutes in the aisle of the pharmacy contemplating which tampons to buy every single time you need to restock (we get it: There are *so* many options these days). Or maybe, you fall somewhere in between. Either way, it’s important to stay informed on the latest in the wellness world, and today we're here to keep you up to date on menstrual products. Should you be using all-natural tampons, or is the non-organic style perfectly fine?
Some say non-organic tampons can be harmful to your health, but is this actually true? We wanted to get an accurate verdict, so to find out, we reached out to two board-certified gynecologists who know best. Keep reading for all you need to know on all-natural tampons and whether you should make the switch.
Meet the Expert
- Ebere Azumah, MD, is a board-certified OB/GYN and public health professional. In 2019, she co-founded Love Your Menses, an organization that works towards menstrual education and equity with a focus on underserved BIPOC communities.
- Stephanie Hack, MD, is a board-certified OB/GYN with special interests in health education and women's health advocacy. She practices community outreach alongside her clinical work, and she shares insights via podcast, blog posts, and more as the Lady Parts Doctor.
What Are Organic or All-Natural Tampons?
All-natural tampons are made from organic materials, such as cotton, and are free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are a group of chemicals found in many different products and may have adverse health effects, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
“VOCs in tampons can be absorbed in the vagina and then transported into the bloodstream and affect our bodies with repetitive exposures,” Dr. Azumah says.[BK2]
How All-Natural Tampons Are Different
Organic tampons are typically made of 100% cotton. Meanwhile, non-organic tampons can be made of cotton, rayon, or both. Non-organic tampons may contain dyes, fragrances, bleaches, or even trace amounts of pesticides.
Risks of Using All-Natural Tampons
There aren’t any known risks to using organic or all-natural tampons. However, many people believe that they prevent toxic shock syndrome from occurring, which isn’t necessarily true. “This rare, but serious, condition can occur regardless of whether you are using organic or regular tampons,” Hack says.
If you spend any time on wellness TikTok, you’ve probably seen at least one post proclaiming that some tampons—both organic (or all-natural) and non-organic—contain a chemical called titanium dioxide. But is titanium dioxide in tampons something you need to worry about? Dr. Hack explains to us that titanium dioxide is a chemical found in trace amounts in tampons and other menstrual products, and it’s used to make the white color of the products appear brighter. “Dioxin is a byproduct of titanium dioxide—it’s been shown to be carcinogenic and to disrupt hormones in animal studies when ingested.”
But there’s little scientific evidence showing how titanium dioxide affects the human body. One study found that titanium dioxide can be harmful and result in lung cancer when ingested, but there isn’t much other information right now to support that titanium dioxide in organic or all-natural tampons could be harmful to humans. Additionally, the amount of titanium dioxide in tampons is likely small. Long story short: “There is not enough evidence at this time to suggest that the amounts present in tampons are dangerous,” Dr. Hack says.
All-Natural Tampons vs. Non-Organic Tampons
Deciding which type of tampon to use is a matter of personal preference. “At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that non-organic tampons are harmful to your health,” Hack says. There’s also no evidence to show that all-natural tampons are better for your health.
That said, Dr. Azumah points out that using organic tampons decreases the amount of VOC compounds absorbed by the body. Some people also report experiencing less menstrual pain when using organic tampons, but there isn’t a lot of science to back this up as of now.
Dr. Azumah says that if someone has the means and the choice to shop for and use all-natural tampons, they should consider doing so, as it decreases the risk of exposure to VOCs. Reusable menstrual cups and pads are other options for those who want to avoid tampons entirely. That said, she believes everyone should choose what is best for them based on factors like finances, family history, and long-term health goals.
The Final Takeaway
In the debate between non-organic and all-natural tampons, it’s a toss-up. Using organic and all-natural tampons reduces your exposure to VOCs as well as dyes, fragrances, bleaches, and other ingredients, though the long-term effects of this exposure are unclear. And despite all the chatter on social media, there isn’t any scientific research to support claims that titanium dioxide in tampons is harmful to health.
If you have questions about what type of tampon to use, don't hesitate to make an appointment to speak with your gynecologist about it. While at the end of the day, which menstrual product to use depends on what you and your provider think is best, it’s important to make tampon safety a priority, including not using tampons for more than eight hours at a time.
Ding N, Lin N, Batterman S, Park SK. Feminine Hygiene Products and Volatile Organic Compounds in Reproductive-Aged Women Across the Menstrual Cycle: A Longitudinal Pilot Study. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2022 Feb;31(2):210-218. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2021.0153. Epub 2021 Sep 3. PMID: 34491105; PMCID: PMC8864434
Footnote: K.P. Lee, H.J. Trochimowicz, C.F. Reinhardt, Pulmonary response of rats exposed to titanium dioxide (TiO2) by inhalation for two years, Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, Volume 79, Issue 2, 1985, Pages 179-192, ISSN 0041-008X