Health

Here's What Your Vagina Actually Thinks Of Your Tampons

Since you can't exactly ask it, we checked with a few doctors instead.

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When it comes to your vagina, you're probably pretty careful what you put in there.

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Which is a good thing, obviously. Your vagina is awesome and doesn't need to be irritated or disturbed by anything that can potentially piss it off.

AND you may have noticed some new all-natural or all-cotton tampons on the market lately.

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Take for instance the new brand LOLA, which offers tampons that are 100% cotton, all-natural, and biodegradable. They list all the ingredients on the box, and they deliver, like Seamless for your period. Or Seventh Generation tampons, made from organic cotton. That sounds awesome! Yay for nothing sketchy going in your vagina!

Except..then... wtf is in other tampons? And is it hurting you?

The short answer: Nope, your vagina does not care if your tampon is 100% cotton or not.

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BuzzFeed Life spoke with two board-certified gynecologists for more info: Dr. Lauren Streicher, author of Sex Rx, and Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine.

Both doctors agree that the tampons currently on the market are safe and FDA regulated. Whether you feel most comfortable with your tried-and-true brand or a new all-cotton one is totally your call — but they don't differ in terms of safety or absorbency. Here's what you really need to know:

So what's actually in most tampons? Usually cotton, rayon, or both. And that's fine.

While not all brands have all the ingredients clearly listed on the box, you should be able to find that info on their websites. In an email with BuzzFeed Life, a representative from Procter & Gamble (makers of Tampax tampons) confirmed that its tampons are made of cotton and rayon. They have a thin fabric over wrap made of polyethylene and polypropylene, which are materials used in many hygiene products and surgical products (like other tampons, pads, and sutures).

"Tampons are regulated by the FDA as medical devices and are therefore required to meet the strict safety expectations of the FDA," a Procter & Gamble representative told us via email. "Our products and the materials they are made of are thoroughly evaluated for safety before we put them into the marketplace."

The website for O.B. tampons says O.B.'s tampons are made of rayon with a polyester string. They also have a polyethylene/polypropylene film. Kotex tampons are made from cotton and rayon, according to the company's website.

This cotton-rayon blend is common in tampons, and it's totally safe.

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The fear that rayon is bad may come from dioxin concerns a while back, says Minkin. Dioxins refer to chemical compounds that are thought to be harmful. Since rayon is made from cellulose fibers from wood pulp, the manufacturing process used to involve a bleaching method with chlorine, which could produce dioxins. BUT that bleaching method isn't used anymore. From the FDA: "Rayon raw material used in U.S. tampons is now produced using elemental chlorine-free or totally chlorine free bleaching processes." Their studies of tampons found only trace levels of dioxins, which wouldn't pose a health risk.

And there's no evidence to suggest that rayon in tampons would increase the likelihood of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). So rayon is totally fine and safe in your tampons. No worries.

Plus, the FDA regulates tampons to be sure that no weird stuff is happening in there.

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In fact, the FDA issued a patient alert earlier this year just to address tampon concerns. The alert confirms that the FDA does regulate the safety and effectiveness of tampons, and there is no evidence to suggest that there's harmful stuff in them.

Apparently there were some rumors of asbestos in tampons to make you bleed more and therefore buy more tampons (seriously, what). But...no. According to the patient alert: "FDA has no evidence of asbestos in tampons or any reports regarding increased menstrual bleeding following tampon use. Before any tampon is marketed in the U.S., FDA reviews its design and materials. Asbestos is not an ingredient in any U.S. brand of tampon, nor is it associated with the fibers used in making tampons. Moreover, tampon manufacturing sites are subject to inspection by FDA to assure that good manufacturing practices are being followed."

OK, but all natural and all organic has to be better, right?

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In terms of safety, no, there's no evidence to suggest that. "There have never been any scientific articles which have shown that any chemicals in tampons are in any way detrimental," says Streicher. "The buzzword 'natural' is used as often as possible because people have a level of comfort with that." But there are lots of "natural" things that shouldn't go in your vagina. Like wild flowers. Or arsenic. Just because something is natural doesn't mean it's better, at least as far as your vagina is concerned.

So use whatever period products you feel like!

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Maybe that's the tampon brand you've been using for years, or a pad, or a menstrual cup, or a new 100% cotton option. They are all safe and fine for vaginal use.

Casey Gueren is a senior health editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Casey Gueren at casey.gueren@buzzfeed.com.

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