You probably have never really thought about when tampons were invented, or even who invented them. Why would you? We’ve been fortunate enough to have never really known a time where tampons weren’t a thing. But, up until 1929, the prevalent method for women to deal with their period each month was with bulky pads, usually made of some type of thick cloth. As you can imagine, those weren’t really the most convenient or comfortable ways to manage your monthly flow. Imagine walking around with what felt like a diaper stuffed in your underwear. Not fun. Which is where we came in. While tampons as we know them today were invented in 1929, it wasn’t until 1934 when our fearless female founder bought the patent and started a female-led and female focused company. Tampax has been educating and empowering women to live life without limits since then. Tampons, have revolutionized how we deal with our periods. From introducing a product that helped women join the workforce in the 1930s to normalizing conversations around women's health and period care, Tampax has a long history of game-changing moments that promote well-being.
Keep reading to learn some of the most fascinating moments in Tampax (and tampon) history.
Where It All Began
An inventor patents a new kind of period product made of compressed cotton with a string in the center and housed in a paper tube. And so the “modern-day” tampon was born.
Taking Care of Business
Enter a Denver-based female entrepreneur who purchased the tampon patent and set about building a female-led, female-focused company to produce, market, and sell tampons. At the very beginning of the business, she was actually hand-sewing the tampons herself before scaling to machinery.
Tampax Gets Its Big Debut
Our female founder officially starts selling the first Tampax tampons, launching this new invention to the public. She was also the driving force behind marketing what had been a taboo topic up until that point in history. The result of her efforts was the very first Tampax ad to appear in a magazine, welcoming women to a “new day for womanhood” with “sanitary protection worn internally.”
Tampax University Is Now in Session
World War II pushes more women into the workforce, and the need for reliable, limitless period protection becomes a driving force in the popularity of tampons. Tampax responds by creating our own formal education program to teach women about tampons and the best way to use them.
In 1941 Tampax established the company’s first educational department. The women educators became known as the ‘Tampax Ladies,’ traveling to colleges and schools, as well as trade shows and conventions. Also in 1941, at the New Brunswick Plant, Tampax produced cotton bandages and surgical dressings for the U.S. military alongside the tampon assembly lines.
Following World War II and with the help of millions of women entering the workforce, Tampax had become so in demand that we had to expand our production facilities and build new ones around the world to keep up, as more and more women learned just how convenient tampons were.
The Tampon Boom
While still dominating the tampon game, competition starts to get fierce as companies like Playtex, Kimberly-Clark, and Johnson & Johnson debut their own versions. Magazine ads focus on how tampons are discreet and let you wear whatever you want when you’re on your period. In 1972, tampon ads are shown on TV in the U.S. for the first time ever, marking a major milestone towards normalizing period talk and bringing more awareness about tampon options to women across the nation.
Tampax Begins TSS Education
Tampax began an educational campaign discussing both Tampax tampons and Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) to educate women on the effects, symptoms, and treatment options. Learn more about Toxic Shock Syndrome Causes, Symptoms and Treatment options.
Tampax Breaks TV Taboos
In an effort to break a crazy taboo, Tampax uses the word “period” in one of our TV ads, a revolutionary move at the time. It was all part of our mission to stop people from making women feel ashamed or embarrassed about a perfectly natural function of the female body.
50 Years of Living Life Without Limits
Tampons were named one of the “50 small wonders and big deals that revolutionized the lives of consumers.” We like to think Tampax had a part in that, considering we celebrated our 50th anniversary that same year and boasted a market share of over 60 percent at the time.
Re-Inventing the Tampon
After being acquired by Procter & Gamble, innovation became an even greater priority. Tampax conducted extensive research that concluded, contrary to popular belief, that a woman’s vaginal cavity was not cylindrical — meaning conventional cylinder tampons may not be as effective at stopping leaks. (Fun fact: a vagina is actually flat like the shape of a sleeping bag) Tampax used that data to ultimately lead to the creation of a new tampon featuring widthwise expansion.
The Next Big Thing in Period Care
That groundbreaking new tampon was Tampax Pearl, which debuted in 2002 with a plastic applicator and rounded tip; it was an immediate success. In addition to an easy to insert plastic applicator, Tampax Pearl was designed with FormFit expansion to gently expand to fit her unique shape. That, plus a LeakGuard braid to help stop leaks before they happen, made Tampax Pearl up to 100% leak free to help women be worry free on even their heaviest days.
Even More Convenient
Based on the popularity of Pearl, Tampax continued to evolve and innovate, introducing new technology and variations. We teamed up with Always to create Radiant, a collection of tampons, liners, and pads. The new Tampax Radiant packaging introduced the first resealable wrapper for quick and easy disposal of the applicator — no more of that awkward wrapping it up in toilet paper nonsense.
Tampons Get Tinier
Next up was a full-sized tampon in a pocket-sized applicator for on the go protection. We’re talking fits in a micro bag, or even your wallet.
Go With the Flow
Did you know that you can use different tampon sizes depending on your specific period flow? Tampax worked to spread the word on this common misconception— and that only Tampax Pearl tampons have five absorbencies (Light, Regular, Super, Super Plus and Ultra), so you can find the best match for your changing period flow. Not sure how to find the right size? Use our guide for picking the best tampon sizes for your flow.
The Future Is Limitless
Tampax recommits to making period conversations as normal as periods themselves, so we all can feel educated, empowered, and limitless every day of the month.