Norton Hurley

How to Choose a Tampon

Choosing the right tampon is very important for ensuring you are protected from unwanted leaks and comfortable. But how do you know which one is best for you? 

Many women default to using what their friends or family have used, but this may not be what is best for your individual needs.

 When choosing a tampon, keep these questions in mind:

What tampon absorbency do I need?

A good rule of thumb is to start with light or regular absorbency (this is the lightest level available). Every woman experiences different flows at different times during their period so you may have to vary which you use over time.

  • You’ve picked the right absorbency if your tampon is still dry near the string after 3-4 hours.
  • You need to go up in absorbency if the blood has soaked all the way through the tampon down to and sometimes even including the string.

 Tampon absorbency is usually available in:

  • Light - for lighter days or girls just beginning to use tampons.
  • Regular - for normal days when you're not quite done yet.
  • Super & Super Plus- the heaviest absorbency for the heaviest days.

What tampon size do I need?

Some women may not need a high absorbency but instead a larger sized tampon to fit their anatomy.  Typically, the higher the absorbency, the larger the tampon.

Be careful when choosing a tampon size:

  • If the absorbancy level is too high for your flow, the tampon will stay drier overall, which can irritate the vaginal canal.
  • If the right absorbency level for you does not fit your anatomy (meaning the tampon is too big or small to fit in your vaginal canal comfortably and do its job) then tampons may not be the best option for you.

This is often true for teenagers or very small-framed women who have not had a vaginal birth.

What type of tampon applicator should I use?

Tampons come in 3 general categories when it comes to the applicator: plastic, cardboard, or no applicator at all.

The applicator aids in inserting the tampon into the vaginal canal, so choosing which is best for you depends on which one is most comfortable/easy for you to insert.

a tampon with a plastic applicator

Image: A tampon with an applicator.

 an organic tampon without an applicator

Image: A tampon without an applicator.

The plastic applicators tend to slide in the most smoothly and are great for new tampon users. Cardboard applicators are a bit more difficult to insert, so suited better for the experienced user. The advantage is that they are cheaper and more environmentally friendly than plastic ones.

The cheapest and most sustainable option is the tampons without an applicator at all. Tampons without applicators are the most difficult to insert, but veteran tampon users can insert them without difficulty using their fingers. 

Tampons without applicators are extra travel friendly as they are much easier to conceal in even the smallest of purses. Also, they’re environmentally friendly because they don’t use plastic!

Should I use a tampon if I'm very active?

Tampons are a great option for women who lead an active lifestyle (especially swimmers!) because they provide protection from leaks without having to wear a pad. 

If you are not an avid tampon wearer, they are a great option to wear during your exercise session, then switch to a maxi pad afterward.

One thing to keep in mind is the length of time you plan to be on your hike, swim, or other activity.

If you are not able to change your tampon at least every 4-8 hours, then it’s safer to use a pad as wearing a tampon for a long period of time can increase your risk of toxic shock syndrome.

Should I use a scented tampon?

Some tampons have perfumes that help with odor control, however, these may irritate sensitive skin.  There are a variety of different fragrances as well as unscented varieties that won't irritate the vaginal canal.

If you find your tampon is uncomfortable for some reason or you notice an itching or burning sensation, remove the tampon immediately and opt for the fragrance-free versions for the future.

What tampon shape should I use?

Not all tampons are created equal.  Advancing technologies have produced great results in wearability and absorption by implementing new shapes to the traditional tampon.  Different shapes help when you are moving, swimming, running...etc.

So, how do you know which shape is best for you? 

The packaging on most products lets you know what they’re optimized for (like a cylindrical shape for swimmers, or a shape that opens like a flower to keep the tampon secured during high impact workouts).

These are usually called “sport” tampons.  One thing to keep in mind is that when you remove the tampon, certain shapes may not slide out so easily. 

If you find it uncomfortable when you remove your tampon (and it's not caused by the tampon being too dry) consider trying a product that has a different shape to it.

Consider Your Age

One last thing to consider when choosing the right tampon for you is your age and hormone levels. 

Many women lose the natural lubrication of the vaginal canal after menopause or a hysterectomy.  This can make it harder to insert the tampon.

If you are experiencing this, try a tiny bit of lubrication directly on the applicator. There are even pre-lubricated applicators offered by certain brands. 

The same may be true for young users.  If you find it difficult or painful to insert your tampon, don't be discouraged!  There is an option out there for all of us, it just sometimes takes a bit of patience to find it.

Still not sure what tampon you should choose?

Email us! We’re happy to help: webteam@nortonhurley.com