You might have noticed that it’s been increasingly difficult to find your go-to brand of tampons at the store lately. I recently sent my husband to our local CVS to buy a box, and even equipped him with pictures of the specific type I wanted. When he returned with a totally different product than I had asked for, I chalked it up to him not looking hard enough…
… but he actually did try to find the right tampons. They were just nowhere to be found. The shelves were nearly bare, and they haven’t been in stock since thanks to the current tampon shortage.
Product shortages are nothing new at this point, with supply chain issues impacting everything from baby formula to fuel prices, but that doesn’t mean that they’re any less important or panic-inducing when they happen.
So what can you do if your favorite tampons are nowhere to be found? Experts at Good Housekeeping Institute have reached out to representatives at tampon brands for insight as to what the tampon shortage is all about. And our Textiles Lab analysts have tested period products of all kinds – from organic tampons to menstrual cups to period underwear and swimwear – and have shared some tampon product alternatives in case your store shelves are empty.
Why is there a tampon shortage?
During the global pandemic, supply chain issues have impacted the production and delivery of all sorts of products, but not all products are created equal. Some products, like tampons, are necessities, and to the over 800 million people who menstruate on a daily basis, life can’t really move on without them.
Tampon shortages are the result of a conglomerate of issues happening throughout the supply chain. Time reported that Procter & Gamble, owner of popular period product brands Tampax, Always and L., is struggling to source the raw materials needed to produce tampons, and that the company is having a hard time transporting the raw materials to production facilities and then transporting the final products to their retail locations. Along with these issues, some tampon manufacturers are experiencing staffing shortages in their factories, which can impact production time and turnaround.
Bloomberg shared that inflation has led to a 9.8% increase in price for a box of tampons and an 8.3% increase in price for a pack of pads in the last year. The current global shortages, in addition to inflation, are making it increasingly difficult to find period products, especially at reasonable prices. According to the Journal of Global Health Reports (JOGHR), many menstruating people have been experiencing period poverty, or a lack of access to affordable period products. Tampon brands are now able to sell their products for even more because of the rules of basic economics – demand for tampons is still high while supply is low.
What does Amy Schumer have to do with it?
Procter & Gamble spokesperson Cheri McMaster recently told Time that the reason there is low supply of tampons from the company’s popular brand Tampax is the fact that they started working with comedian Amy Schumer for their ad campaigns in 2020, which has caused demand for Tampax tampon products to boom.
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In response to being blamed for the tampon shortage, the comedian joked on her social media, “Whoa I don’t even have a uterus” (She had it removed because of her struggles with endometriosis). However, other popular brands like Playtex are also missing from store shelves, so it’s highly unlikely that Amy Schumer actually has much to do with it.
When will the tampon shortage end?
Procter & Gamble told Good Housekeeping, “We can assure you [the tampon shortage] is a temporary situation,” and added that it is currently producing tampons 24/7 in its manufacturing facilities in an attempt to meet consumer demand. P&G shared that it is working with its retail partners to ensure that its period products are available in stores. The company also claims that the availability of period products in stores has already “significantly increased” in comparison to a few months ago. But as of right now, there’s no guarantee as to when the tampon shortage will come to an end.
What can you do in the meantime?
There are a few other products you can consider instead of your usual tampons. Here is a breakdown of period product alternatives:
- Menstrual cups: Menstrual cups are a sustainable alternative to tampons. They’re small cups made of medical-grade silicone that are inserted close to the cervix and collect blood and uterine lining from your period. However, unlike tampons and pads, they are not absorbent, so they can be emptied, washed and reused. Our top-tested product is the Lena Reusable Menstrual Cup.
- Period underwear: Period underwear are another more sustainable option that look just like regular underwear but are designed with an extra layer of material that absorbs blood and prevents leaks. You can wear them without any other period protection or as reinforcement for heavier flow days. They can be washed and worn again and again. Need a good brand? We suggest Knix Leakproof Bikini.
- Organic tampons: Some tampon brands are in more demand than others and are facing stronger shortages. There are many organic tampon brands on the market that aren’t yet as well-known as other brands but still produce high quality products that you may be able to find in stores. Some brands like Lola even offer subscription services so that you never have to worry about running out. Top-tested product: O.b. Organic Plant-Based Applicator Tampons
If you decide to use an alternative tampon, pad or menstrual cup, be sure that you follow all brand instructions regarding insertion and application to the reduce risk of discomfort or toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and to ensure your health and safety.
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