BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page if you decide to shop from them. All products were independently selected by our editors, and the prices were accurate and items in stock at the time of publication.
I have been using tampons since I was 12 years old. That’s roughly 17 years. If we’re assuming that women use around 20 tampons per cycle on average and menstruate every month, that would equate to over 4,000 tampons used thus far in my life. So it’s safe to say that I am experienced in this area.
I’ve tried most of the major players at this point — Tampax Pearl, Playtex Sport, lights, regulars, supers, super pluses, cardboard applicators, pocket-size retractable applicators, applicator-less, and the list goes on.
Inserting a cardboard applicator feels like a cat is clawing its way into my vagina, and it’s impossible for me to get an applicator-less tampon situated comfortably. Up until recently, as long as I had a plastic applicator, I wouldn’t complain.
Tampax Radiant specifically have been my go-tos in my adult life, and they worked perfectly well when I was on hormonal birth control with highly manageable periods. I always found them to be comfortable, though I was really sold by the little sticky tab on the wrapper that allows you to slip the applicator back inside after insertion, dare I disgust anyone by throwing a naked used applicator into a garbage can. The Radiant “CleanSeal Wrapper” system felt more environmentally friendly than my previous method of wrapping applicators in wads of toilet paper prior to disposal, so I stuck with them.
Then came my copper IUD era, and suddenly regular Radiants were not cutting it. Super plus Radiants were not cutting it. On my heaviest day, I cannot be away from a bathroom for more than an hour without bleeding through. Seriously. I forgot to bring a super tampon with me to SoulCycle and, by the end of a 45-minute class, bled through one of the regular Lola tampons they keep in the bathrooms.
As people who menstruate, we take so many precautions to hide the fact that we bleed. We discreetly slip menstrual products from purses into our sleeves before heading to the bathroom at school or work. We don’t wear white. We work through pain. We wrap evidence in toilet paper. When I started bleeding heavily, I grew more and more stressed about how I’d be able to keep up the charade.
I’m not a fan of wearing pads or period underwear, especially while out and about during the day. Most menstrual cups are a risk with my IUD, plus the whole question of how you empty and rinse them in public bathrooms weighs on me. Tampons have always been my clear favorite, the obvious choice, but bleeding through them is a very uncomfortable feeling, appearances aside.
Finally, after over a year of struggling to manage my periods with the same old tampons, I decided to test out three new-wave tampon brands with allegedly innovative designs and better materials. I’m aware that part of the problem is simply my flow, and that once any tampon is filled to max capacity, you’re going to start bleeding through. However, the majority of times that I bleed through, I remove the tampon to reveal a solid amount of white space. The hope is that there are some tampons out there that will at least fully absorb before leaking.
Each of the companies I tried offer subscription options so that you can have your preferred period products automatically delivered every month, with a slight discount for subscribers. I got combination packs to try regular and super options and took note of cost, eco-consciousness, and other supposed perks that set them apart from the likes of Big Tampon.
However, when your period is getting in the way of your life, the priority is absorption and leak protection.
Keeping in mind that every body is different and my experience may give zero insight into your own, here are my very thorough reviews.
I knew of August period care products through content that its Gen Z founder posted on TikTok. She had a moment of semi-virality, from what I remember, and then the brand sort of faded away. However, my memory did serve me correctly in that the tampons have a design that differentiates them from traditional brands — they open axially, “like a pair of angel wings.” August claims this to be the best fit for the true shape of your vagina. I could not describe to you the true shape of a vagina (which is problematic in itself) so I’m trusting the brand’s expertise.
August tampons are made from 100% organic cotton, including the string. They’re free from toxins, chemicals, fragrances, pesticides, herbicides, rayon, deodorants, dioxins, and dyes. They’re also hypoallergenic. The applicators are smooth tip, long BPA-free plastic, apparently for easier insertion, and the wrappers feel like thicker-textured, almost vinyl-like plastic.
Of course, the brand is also conscious of its footprint and emphasizes that it only sources sustainable materials from ethical manufacturers. It takes measures to lower its carbon footprint, and use carbon credits to offset its emissions. Aesthetics are 10/10. All of that is great and much appreciated but would be useless to me if they didn’t feel good and work well.
Insertion was a piece of cake. The applicator is sturdy and indeed long. I had no issues getting the tampons in, even when things were a bit slippery. And I couldn’t feel them at all once they were in. The biggest test for the August super tampon was a volleyball game I had on the evening of my heaviest day. I put it in around 6:30 p.m. before leaving my apartment. The game was at 7 p.m., and I completely forgot it was there despite running and sprawling and truly putting my body on the line for my team.
We lost after 45 minutes of rigorous intramural playoff volleyball, but it was a win for August tampons. When I visited the quaint community center gym bathroom at 7:50 p.m., there was no leakage, and it was almost completely full with only a tiny bit of white space upon removal.
There were a few instances when I did see white space, and yet some blood had saturated into the string, but I never had a serious leak. Overall, I’m pretty sold.
You can build a customized box of August period products on its website. Mine with 16 super and 8 regular tampons was around $14.
Rael does much more than just period care, which I knew because I’d used its pimple patches. I liked the patches, a good sign for the brand, and noticed that it advertises its tampons to have “leak locker technology,” which promises to protect for up to 8 hours at a time and keep “fluids locked in the core for added security.”
Again, they’re made with certified organic cotton in a comfort-fit design that expands widthwise for supposedly better, faster absorption, and BPA-free plastic applicators. Individual tampons are packaged in sustainable paper wrappers.
I honestly had no issues with comfort or leaking while wearing Rael tampons. I could not feel the regular tampon whatsoever through a pretty intense strength and conditioning workout, and there was no leaking, but it was on one of my lighter days.
My qualm, however, is related to the applicator. At first, I liked that it was made from a thinner, more flexible material so that you can squeeze in the part you grip when inserting. But when I got to heavier days and things got slippery, I had two incidents where I could not get the tampon fully out of the applicator and ended up having to throw it away. The thin paper packaging also worries me slightly because it’s not completely uncommon for something to spill inside my bag that would fully soak through and potentially damage the tampon.
The applicator issue is what would mostly deter me from continuing to use Rael, particularly on heavier days, but for comfort and combatting leaks, I rate it highly.
You can buy a 32-count combination pack of Rael tampons on Amazon for around $14.
Through my extensive tampon research, Viv was the only other brand I found that specifically advertised a unique design for better comfort and leak protection — that same axial opening.
Its aesthetic is simple but cute, and it makes all the same toxin-free, chemical-free promises. The withdrawal strings are dipped in a paraffin emulsion to make them moisture-repellant, the applicators are a BPA-free, plant-derived polyethylene, and the core, cover, string, and thread of the tampons are all certified organic cotton.
In my opinion, the Viv applicators looked and felt pretty identical to the August ones, which is a good thing since they made application quick and easy. There’s even a satisfying click once the tampon has landed safely. I was slightly annoyed that the individual wrappers do not indicate which are the regular and which are the super in the combo pack, but I was able to figure it out and mostly remember (yellow wrapper is regular, green wrapper is super). What the wrappers do have are little arrows that point you in the right direction for opening, so you’re not touching the part of the applicator that goes inside you.
As expected given the similar design, the tampons were comfortable and protective. I put in a Viv super tampon first thing on my heaviest day, and though the string was partially saturated, I did not bleed through for the hour and a half I kept it in. There was some white space, and I felt like I narrowly avoided a disaster by swapping it when I did, but nevertheless it was a smooth experience.
You can buy 16 Viv tampons from Viv for around $9.