Skip to Content

Are tampons or pads better?

This is a common question that many menstruators ask themselves. Both tampons and pads have pros and cons, so it often comes down to personal preference. However, there are some key differences between tampons and pads that are worth considering when deciding which is better for you.


One of the main factors when choosing between tampons and pads is how much flow you experience during your period. Here’s a quick overview of the absorbency of each:

  • Tampons: Designed to absorb flow when it’s inside your body. They come in different absorbency levels (light, regular, super, super plus) to match your flow.
  • Pads: Designed to absorb flow as it comes out of your body. They also come in different thicknesses and lengths to match light, medium or heavy flow.

Generally, tampons offer more absorbency options for heavier flows. However, you can layer pads or use overnight/extra-long pads for added absorbency. Pads tend to be more absorbent overall than regular tampons.

Comfort and Fit

Both tampons and pads aim to give you leak-free protection, but they have different fits:

  • Tampons: Inserted internally into the vagina, so you don’t feel them once in place. The fit is customizable based on the absorbency you need.
  • Pads: Worn externally and held in place by your underwear. They can sometimes feel bulky, but many modern pads are ultra-thin for more comfort.

For some, tampons provide more comfort because they can’t be felt when correctly in place. Pads can sometimes cause chafing if they are bulky between your legs. However, pads feel more secure to some users since you can see that they are correctly in place.


Both tampons and pads offer convenience, just in different ways:

  • Tampons: Small and discreet, so easy to carry around in your bag or pocket. Require access to a bathroom to change them since they are inserted.
  • Pads: Bulkier than tampons, but you can change them whenever needed without a bathroom. Some find pads easier to use overall.

Tampons can be more convenient when you’re out and about, since you don’t have to fully remove your clothes to change them. However, you do need a bathroom to insert a new tampon which can be limiting. Pads allow you to change your protection as needed, but carrying extras and disposing of used pads requires more planning.


Cost can also be a deciding factor when choosing between tampons and pads:

  • Tampons tend to cost a bit more per unit than pads.
  • However, you may end up using fewer tampons overall since you change them less often than pads.
  • Tampons and pads both come in different size/absorbency options at different price points.

Many people find they spend about the same amount on tampons as they would on pads. However, those with light flows may find tampons more economical, while those with heavy flows may get more for their money with ultra-absorbent pads.

Health Risks

Some health risks to consider when comparing tampons and pads:

  • TSS risk: There is a very small risk of developing Toxic Shock Syndrome if tampons are left in too long. Proper use minimizes this risk.
  • Infection: Both tampons and pads carry a low risk of causing vaginal infection if proper hygiene isn’t followed.
  • Chafing: Dryness and chafing is sometimes associated with pad use. Switching to ultra-thin pads can help.

While tampons carry the most serious risk in terms of TSS, it is quite small at around 1 case per 100,000 menstruators. Proper tampon use and hygiene minimizes any health risks associated with both products.

Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of tampons versus pads is worth considering:

  • Tampons are generally more environmentally friendly, producing less waste over your whole cycle.
  • Disposable pads generate a lot of plastic waste from their outer sheath and packaging.
  • However, organic cotton tampons and pads are more sustainable options.

While no disposable product is great for the environment, tampons tend to have less overall impact. This is especially true if you choose plastic-free organic options. Reusable cloth pads are the most eco-friendly alternative.

Swimming and Exercise

Your level of activity can influence your choice between tampons and pads:

  • Tampons may offer more freedom for swimming, sports and other activities.
  • Pads can feel bulky and tend to shift during exercise or water activities.
  • But tampons also carry a slight risk of leakage if dislodged by movement.

Overall, tampons provide more protection and discretion for swimming, exercise and physical activity. But they may not be right for those sports that carry a high risk of knocking the tampon out of place. Pads are a less secure option for active sports.


Your preferences for overnight use may also impact your choice between tampons and pads:

  • Pads are generally recommended for overnight use, as there is no TSS risk.
  • Overnight pads are longer to provide more coverage while lying down.
  • However, some users prefer tampons at night since they can’t feel them.

Health professionals advise using pads overnight to reduce any risk of TSS. For heavy night flow, an overnight pad paired with a tampon during the day can help provide full coverage. Wearing tampons overnight is not recommended.

Roundup of Pros and Cons

Here is a quick summary of the main pros and cons of tampons versus pads:

Tampons Pros Cons
  • More absorbency options
  • Comfortable, can’t feel when in place
  • Convenient for outings and activities
  • Produce less waste
  • Require bathroom access to change
  • Slight TSS risk if left in too long
  • Can be expensive over time
  • Not recommended for overnight use
Pads Pros Cons
  • Visible protection can feel more secure
  • Change on the go without bathroom
  • Recommended for overnight use
  • No TSS risk
  • Can feel bulky and uncomfortable
  • Not ideal for swimming and exercise
  • Produce more waste
  • Potential for chafing


When choosing between tampons versus pads, there are a few key factors to consider:

  • Flow – tampons offer more absorbency, but pads work well for heavy flow
  • Comfort and fit – tampons are discreet, pads feel more visible and secure to some
  • Convenience – tampons are great on-the-go, pads allow changes anytime
  • Cost – tampons tend to cost more but may last longer per use
  • Health risks – small TSS risk with tampons, change often; chafing occasional with pads
  • Environmental impact – tampons produce less waste overall
  • Lifestyle – tampons suit an active lifestyle better

There’s no definitive answer to which product is better overall. The choice between tampons versus pads is personal, based on your individual needs and preferences. Many people use a combination of the two products at different times of their cycle. Focus on what works best for your body to have a comfortable, convenient, and leak-free period experience.