“Make the switch to natural feminine care!” If I had a dollar for every time that subject line made its way into my inbox over the course of the last year, I’d be a rich woman—one who could probably afford all the organic tampons that are constantly being advertised to me. Google “organic tampons,” and you’re met with dozens of results, most of them adorably packaged and with the option to receive them delivered to your door monthly. Like other wellness trends, the organic tampon market seems to have erupted into a full-blown industry overnight, leaving us all wondering whether we should make the switch for the sake of our vaginal health.
After the zillionth email suggesting I go green down under, I decided to find out what all this hype was about. We all already know that organic diets and skin care routines are beneficial to our bodies, but does it really matter whether or not we keep things au natural in our vaginas? The short answer: No, it does not.
"There is zero science which shows that there is any harm in using a standard tampon, and there is zero science that shows that there is any benefit in wearing a so-called ‘natural’ tampon,” says Lauren Streicher, MD, the Associate Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. “This is marketing. There’s absolutely no reason for women to spend the extra money.” No doubt tampons are already expensive enough—not to mention the so called “tampon tax.”
Around the Internet, other experts agree: “There’s no data to show that organic tampons are any safer or that there’s any advantage to any of the claims made by organic tampon companies,” San Francisco Bay Area OBGYN Jen Gunter, MD, told Self.
Dr. Michael Fitch, who spoke to Cosmopolitan on the subject of organic tampons, said that “because the vagina is a thin mucus membrane, it absorbs toxins and chemicals more easily than your outer skin. For this reason, women might prefer to use organic tampons to limit exposure to pesticides, dyes, and toxins.” Still, though, he admitted it’s unclear how many toxins can be absorbed from tampons in general. More research is needed.
It should also be noted that toxic shock syndrome (TSS), that life-threatening infection that is linked to tampons, is not caused by what your standard tampons are made of. It's caused by the overgrowth of bacteria from wearing a singular tampon, organic or not, for too long.
According to Dr. Streichner, women have been misled to believe that there is a benefit in organic tampons, when there is nothing out there to back it up. "It’s very clever marketing,” she confirms. “Everybody has this idea that ‘natural’ means 'safe,’ but arsenic is natural. And is arsenic safe?” No. No, it is not.
Instead of switching to organic tampons in the name of vaginal health, if you really want to try your hand at some of those adorably packaged lady products, do it for the environment instead. Unlike the plastic applicators in traditional tampons, most of the organic cotton ones are biodegradable. Or, just save yourself the headache and go applicator free.