How to decide between pads and tampons?

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How to decide between pads and tampons

Pads and tampons are two of the most popular ways to deal with period blood (if not the most popular) and for good reason: they work, and they work really well. However, deciding which one you should use can be tricky, because the ‘right’ choice is different for everyone, varies according to the protection you need, and depends on what makes you feel most comfortable. The solution is definitely not one-size-fits-all. Going to the beach? Take a tampon. Just had a baby? Maybe use a pad. Here, we lay out all the different factors to consider when deciding between tampons vs pads.

  • What is a tampon?
  • What is a pad?
  • What are the safety risks?
  • What’s best for your flow?
  • How to use
  • Usage and comfort
  • Active lifestyle
  • Light flow to heavy flow
  • Knowing when to change
  • Overnight use
  • Safety

What is a tampon?

A tampon is a small, cylindrical bundle made of cotton, rayon or a blend of cotton and rayon. You insert it into your vagina with an applicator, or if it’s a non-applicator tampon, you can just use your fingers. A tampon absorbs menstrual blood before it has a chance to come out of your body. It’s fully inside your body with the exception of a small string (which is there to help you pull the tampon out). It’s invisible protection and virtually undetectable – and if you’ve inserted it properly, you won’t feel that it’s there, which is ideal when you have your period and want to be comfortable. Just remember that you shouldn’t wear a tampon for more than eight hours.

Tampons come in different sizes because your flow changes every day; you should match your tampon absorbency to your flow. Tampax offers a range of five absorbencies, from light to ultra, to enable you to smoothly remove your tampon on your lightest days and to give you the ultimate protection on your heavy days. Another major perk is that tampons are only small, so you can easily stash a few in your bag or purse for on-the-go protection – perfect for when your period sneaks up on you or you want to be a life-saver when a friend is in need. Check out Tampax Compak and Pearl Compak tampons, which offer full-size protection that fits in your pocket.

What is a pad?

A pad is made of absorbent material that sticks to your underwear and can be worn day or night. Like tampons, pads come in a variety of sizes dependent on your flow. Using pads is really easy, but they aren’t for everybody. Since they are worn outside your body, people often complain about feeling wet, being self-conscious that it looks like they’re wearing a nappy, and the stress of constantly checking for leaks. Some pads are thinner and shorter, whereas others are thicker and longer; it all depends on your individual preference and protection needs. Not sure what size pad you need? Take our online quiz to find your fit.

What are the safety risks?

There aren’t many safety risks that come with the use of pads or tampons. Tampons are associated with an increased risk of menstrual toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare life-threatening medical condition that occurs when normal bacteria in your system release toxins. Anyone can get TSS, but half the reported cases of TSS are associated with women using tampons. It’s not to be taken lightly – possible symptoms include a high fever that comes on suddenly, low blood pressure, a sunburn-like rash, vomiting or diarrhoea, confusion, muscle aches, headaches and seizures. So, if you’ve been wearing a tampon and experience any of these symptoms, get to the hospital ASAP and make sure you tell the doctor you were wearing a tampon. Always wear the lowest absorbency for your flow and never keep your tampon in for longer than eight hours.

What’s best for your flow?

This really depends on a few factors, as well as your personal preference. If you’re torn, check this chart to compare the different benefits. Don’t forget that you can even wear a pad and tampon at the same time – it all comes down to personal preference.

How to use


Pads are external, so all you have to do is stick it onto your underwear. Done!


Tampons need to be inserted inside the body. (Here’s a handy how-to.) Once you’ve inserted your tampon, it’s undetectable.

Usage and comfort


Pads are worn externally – just put them in your underwear. Some women prefer pads because they can feel them, which reassures them that they’re protected. Other women don’t like that feeling and compare it to wearing a nappy.


Tampons are worn internally, which means you need to be comfortable inserting, wearing and removing a tampon from your vagina. Many women say this gives them an invisible experience since they don’t feel anything, but other women just aren’t comfortable using tampons.

Active lifestyle


Pads can be worn for almost any activity. It all comes down to what’s most comfortable for you. If you’re going swimming or feel self-conscious about a pad being visible when you’re in activewear, consider using a tampon instead.


Tampons can be worn for almost any activity or with any outfit since they’re worn internally. It’s all about what’s most comfortable for you. They’re a great option to use when you want to go swimming on your period.

Light flow to heavy flow


Pads come in a range of sizes for your unique shape and flow. Pick the size you need based on the type of underwear you’re wearing and when you’re wearing it – day or night. If you don’t know your size, use the Always MyFit Quiz to find out.


Tampons come in five sizes to help give you protection on your heaviest days and comfort on your lightest. Your flow changes every day, so your tampon can too. Pick the lowest absorbency that matches your flow each day.

Knowing when to change


Simply check your pad to see if it is full or not. Did you know that 60% of women wear the wrong size pad and can experience leaks? If that’s happened to you, try the next size up to get up to 20% better coverage day or night.


This can be a bit tricky since they’re worn internally. It takes practice to get a good feel for your flow. If your tampon leaks after just a few hours, go up a size. If your tampon is uncomfortable to change, go down a size. We recommend changing your tampon every 4-6 hours; use for up to eight hours maximum.

Overnight use


There are pads designed for overnight use, so if you want to sleep in, turn off your alarm and do your thing.


Day or night, tampons can be worn for up to eight hours. They stay in place no matter how much you toss and turn.



There are no known health risks associated with using pads. Just make sure you change them regularly, as wearing a wet pad for long periods of time can cause mild skin irritation. You can still get TSS when you’re using a pad, but the risk is the same as not using any feminine hygiene protection at all.


Tampons can absolutely be used safely – just remember that they can increase your risk of TSS, so know the symptoms and what to do if you think you may be experiencing any.