We carry them around in our cooters for hours, but do we know anything about them (apart from the fact that you can’t flush them)? Tampons are not like cereal – you can’t exactly find the ingredients on the side of the box. In this episode, Madge the Vag pulls out all the stops and investigates what exactly is in a tampon, whether it’s organic, regular, or scented.
So what are tampons made of? “Usually they’re a mixture of both cotton and rayon,” says OB-GYN Dr. Ashley Bartalot. “There are some that are 100% cotton, but most of them are a blend.” If you’re worried about how safe these fabrics are to your vaginal well-being, fear not, as there are significantly less risks associated with tampons today than in previous decades.
“The rayon that they use now is not the same rayon that they used back in the 70s and 80s,” says Dr. Bartalot. “That was associated with higher risks of dioxene contamination. The dioxene was originally coming from the bleaching process, using chlorinated bleach. Now, with the FDA regulating tampons, they’re no longer using chlorine to bleach tampons. It’s more bleaching with hydrogen peroxide.”
But what’s the point in bleaching in the first place? “If you have a dark wood, and then you’re trying to see if there’s blood or how much blood is on there, you’re not going to be able to tell. White versus red is pretty contrasting in color.”
It makes sense that all tampons would be bleached for visibility purposes. What, then, differentiates organic tampons from regular tampons? “Cotton can be treated with certain pesticides,” says Dr. Bartalot. “An organic cotton is not treated with those same pesticides.”
When it comes to scented tampons, Dr. Bartalot isn’t a big fan. “You don’t know who’s gonna respond to what – you’re adding something that’s not natural. If the pad is scented, it might irritate the outside of the vagina, the vulva area. If it’s a tampon, it could irritate the mucosa of the vagina.”
Read more of our health and wellness-related content here.