Women's Health

3 min read

What Is Tampon Fibre Loss?

The Truth About Shedding And Bacterial Infections

If you’ve ever used a tampon, or read the back of a tampon box, you’ll likely have heard of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)—a rare but potentially fatal bacterial infection associated with tampon use. However, not many people are aware of a much more common issue with tampons: fibre loss. 

Fibre loss happens when a tampon sheds inside the vaginal canal and leaves behind small pieces of filament (fuzzy bits that look like faux fur). Most fibre loss is caused by the friction of inserting and removing the tampon.

Although the vagina is a self-cleaning organ, it's not able to flush out all that fibre build-up, which can end up near your cervix. This can lead to pathogen colonisation and can cause vaginal infections like thrush and BV—two common (yet equally unpleasant) conditions.

What do the experts say? 

“The issue with fibre shedding is that the potential breeding grounds remain after the tampon is removed, and gives bad bacteria more of a chance to get established,” says Dr. Harry Baxter, Daye’s resident female health expert. “This has impacts for TSS risk but also for issues with your vaginal microbiome. As with anything vaginal microbiome-related, there isn't a magic bullet, but as we learn more and more about good and bad vaginal bacteria, we are learning more and more about the importance of products that don't give bad bacteria any head-starts.”

Fibre loss is such a common issue that doctors and nurses have often had to remove fibre build-up in patients before being able to conduct exams like cervical screening. "Fibre loss is why I stopped recommending tampons to my patients," says Dr. Dimitar Georgiev, an OBGYN with 20 years of practice. "In fact, I actively dissuade them from using tampons," he tells Daye.

“My concern as a gynaecologist is that the residual fibres are a nidus for bacterial overgrowth and they will absorb blood and fluid which was intended to be expelled along with menses,” adds Dr. Melanie Bone, an OBGYN and member of Daye’s Medical Advisory Board. “This might impact the microbiome, might change the pH, and ultimately impact the delicate bacterial balances in the vagina.” 

So, how do you know if your tampon is guilty of fibre loss? Dip an unused tampon in a glass of water, wait a few moments, and you’ll start to see fibres falling away from the tampon. To check if an organic tampon sheds fibre, rub the surface and you’ll see how even the slightest pressure will cause fibres to shed. Now think of how long tampons usually stay inside of your vaginal canal… Yeah, not cute. 

What are tampons made of?

Mainstream tampons are either made of rayon, a plastic which is often treated with chemicals such as dioxin and phthalates, or non-organic cotton, typically grown using pesticides and herbicides, and then bleached with chlorine. Sometimes they’re made with a mix of the two, but because of the way the materials are woven, they’re both prone to shedding. 

Organic tampons, on the other hand, are made of natural cotton fibres. Surely they’re the healthiest option, right? While organic tampons don’t contain plastic (definitely a bonus), they’re still not risk-free. Build-up of organic cotton fibres can still put you at risk of vaginal infections. Luckily, the Daye tampons have a protective sleeve made entirely of cotton fibres bound in a way that interlace without the risk of shedding. 

Tampon manufacturers aren’t legally required to disclose the ingredients found in their tampons. Why? Because the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) classifies tampons as a “cosmetic/toiletry product”, meaning they don’t have to comply with the same regulations and manufacturing guidelines as medical devices. So whether or not you’re using mainstream or organic tampons, you really can’t know for sure what’s inside them, and therefore inside you. 

It’s also important to note that the tampon manufacturing process doesn’t include a sanitisation step at any point. This means bacterial contamination can be found on the surface of your tampon. 

We conducted microbiological analysis on both organic and mainstream tampon brands (both bought from the supermarket), and found they were contaminated with candida albicans, E. coli and Staphylococcus (the bacteria responsible for TSS). Not only do we lab-test every batch of organic cotton fibres we use for chemical and bacterial residue, but we also produce our tampons in a pharmaceutical grade cleanroom, and sanitise them in their final packaging. So when you open a Daye tampon, you can be sure it’s as clean as can be. Thoughts on making this the industry standard? 

What is a protective sleeve? 

A protective sleeve is a veil that is wrapped around the core of the tampon to reduce fibre loss, and is often made of melted plastic or cotton. When tampon manufacturers caught wind of the fact that fibre loss was becoming more of a concern, some of them (not all) started adding protective sleeves to their tampons. Protective sleeves are typically pressed onto the tampon with heat, which can rub off during insertion and removal. 

Daye tampons use a permeable cotton protective sleeve made through a process called hydroentanglement, which means the sleeve is non-woven. But most importantly, Daye’s protective sleeve is sewn on, so it stays put the whole time.

TL;DR

  • Fibre loss refers to when tampons shed inside the vaginal canal, causing fibre build-up that leads to vaginal infections. 
  • Fibre loss is common with both mainstream and organic tampon brands. 
  • Daye tampons are sanitised, tested for chemical and bacterial contamination, and have a sewed-on protective sleeve that prevents fibre loss.

If you've ever experienced vaginal infections as a result of tampon fibre loss, don't worry—you're not alone. Share your story with us on Instagram or email hello@yourdaye.com. 

Illustrations by Erin Rommel. Erin is the founder of @second.marriage, a Brooklyn-based brand, illustration, and design studio.

Written by Liv Cassano. Liv is the Editor of Vitals, follow her at @liv_css.

BV Cleanroom Pharmaceutical-grade TSS

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