Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
As if having your period wasn’t already enough to deal with every month (the cramps, the mood swings, the bloating), adding insult to injury is the fact that having great products to help you handle the monthly occurrence isn’t necessarily a given. And that holds especially true when it comes to tampons. While seemingly pretty basic, the good news is that there’s been a recent onslaught of innovations that have revamped the category and made the choices out there more varied than ever before. When it comes to choosing a tampon, it really comes down to a matter of personal preference. “Base your choice off of what feels best for your body and your menstrual flow,” advises Alyssa Dweck, MD, a gynecologist in Westchester, NY, and Monistat ambassador.
Here, the best tampons to choose from.
Best Overall: Lola Organic Tampons
If you’re part of the growing number of women who are more and more cognizant of what tampons are made of, you’ll be happy to know that these are made of 100% certified organic cotton. Even the applicator is BPA-free, as well as super compact, and there’s a size for every level of flow, too.
Best for Beginners: Tampax Pearl
For those who have been hesitant to get on board the tampon train, these are a choice pick. An anti-slip grip at the base of the applicator makes them extremely easy to insert, even for newbies. Plus, they’re both fragrance- and chlorine-bleach-free, and clinically tested for safety.
Best for Swimming: Playtex Sport
As the name suggests, we love these for days that you’re going to be super active, including in the pool. The unique FlexFit technology creates complete and total protection so you never have to stress about leaks, and also ensures the tampon moves with you as you move, making this one of the most comfortable options we’ve ever tried.
Best Budget: L. Organic Cotton Tampons
Despite the wallet-friendly price tag, these have all the same great features as some pricier picks, think organic cotton, and a compact, BPA-free applicator. While there are only two levels of absorbency, we appreciate that they’re clearly distinguished by different colored wrappers. Also nice: For every product you purchase, one goes toward a woman in need.
Best Plastic-Free: Rael Organic Tampons
If you’re trying to eliminate plastic, for whatever reason, but don’t love applicator-free tampons, here’s the solution. The applicator on these (certified organic, responsibly-sourced, Texas-grown) cotton is made of plant-based materials. You get the same ease of use, without any plastic involved.
Best Applicator-Free: Cora 100% Organic Cotton Non-Applicator Tampons
If you are comfortable going sans applicator, try these tampons. A rounded tip makes manual insertion surprisingly quick and easy, and, unlike some other applicator-free options out there, even this string is made of cotton. Reviewers rave not only about the ease of application, but also the impressive absorption.
Best Menstrual Cup: Saalt Soft Menstrual Cup
Yes, this technically is not a tampon, but menstrual cups are having a major moment. Plus, when it comes to minimizing environmental impact, this completely reusable option can’t be beaten. We like this particular one, made from an ultra-comfortable, medical-grade silicone that fits nice and snugly, and can even be worn for up to 12 hours.
Best Organic: The Honeypot Co. Super Organic Bio-Plastic Applicator Tampons
Byrdie Editor Holly Rhue is just one of many women who sing the praises of these tampons. The organic cotton used is free of pesticides, chemicals, chlorine, and dyes, while the applicator is made of a soft, sugarcane-derived material that makes insertion comfortable and easy (as does a textured grip at the base and a full-length withdrawal cord).
Best for a Light Flow: O.B. Organic Tampons
For a lighter flow, these are choice. They’re comfortable and easy to put in and take out and can be used for up to eight hours, great on days when your flow is lighter. Just keep in mind that some find them not be quite as absorbent as others, hence the part about them being good for a lighter flow.
Best for Heavy Flow: U by Kotex Click Compact Tampons
For the highest level of absorbency, these super plus tampons expand comfortably to stop leaks in their tracks. Although small in size, all you need to do is pull the lower part of the tampon until you hear a click, and then you can insert it.
There are all kinds of great new tampons to choose from these days. The Lola Organic Tampons are our all-around favorites, made of organic cotton and with a BPA-free applicator, and available in a variety of absorbencies. Those who prefer to go applicator-free should consider the Cora 100% Organic Cotton Non-Applicator Tampons, while those who are very active will appreciate the mega-comfortable and leak-free Playtex Sport. Check out The Honeypot Co. Super Organic Bio-Plastic Applicator Tampons, too, unique in that they boast a sugarcane-derived applicator.
What to Look For In a Tampon
Dr. Dweck says she recommends avoiding tampons that contain fragrance since fragrance can disrupt the pH of your vagina and increase the risk of yeast infections and/or bacterial vaginosis. In related news, she adds that organic cotton options may be a good pick for those who have very sensitive skin.
While it’s ultimately a matter of personal preference, Dr. Dweck recommends using the least absorbent size based on your particular flow, to make insertion and removal more comfortable.
Applicator or Non-Applicator
Again, totally your call, according to the doctor. It’s all about what feels most comfortable and easy for you.
How do you use tampons?
“A tampon is gently inserted into the vagina to absorb menstrual flow. It can be inserted manually or with the help of an applicator,” says Dr. Dweck. Once it’s in, the tampon should have a snug fit and be comfortable, she adds.
Do tampons expire?
Indeed they do. Dr. Dweck recommends checking the expiration date before using one (listed on the packaging), especially if it’s been sitting in your bathroom cabinet for a while.
How long should you leave a tampon in?
Eight hours is the absolute max, says Dr. Dweck. “Toxic Shock Syndrome is rare, but a potential result of using a tampon that’s super absorbent or in place for a long duration. Common symptoms of TSS, such as high fever and a red rash, under these circumstances, should prompt medical attention,” she cautions.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She also frequently covers health and wellness.
Meet the Expert
Alyssa Dweck, MD, is a gynecologist in Westchester County, New York. She’s co-authored three books, and has a special interest and expertise in female sexual health.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough tampons from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.