There's a tampon shortage in the US. Here's what you need to know.

There's a tampon shortage in the US. Here's what you need to know.
Amy Schumer in a tampon ad.Business Wire/AP
  • Supply-chain issues are causing a tampon shortage in pharmacies and supermarkets across the US.
  • Procter & Gamble suggested the shortage began with a tampon ad campaign featuring Amy Schumer.

It's not just baby formula that's scarce on store shelves. Tampons are in short supply in the United States right now.

As CNN reports, manufacturers and top retailers have acknowledged the shortages after people posting on internet forums wondered where all the tampons had gone.

The exact reasons for the shortage are hard to identify. Companies that produce tampons are pointing to supply-chain issues as well as increased consumer demand.

A Procter & Gamble spokesperson told Time that a Tampax ad campaign featuring the comedian Amy Schumer was so successful the company's tampons flew off the shelves. According to P&G, tampon demand went up almost 8% over the past two years after the Schumer ads began airing in July 2020.

But Playtex and O.B. tampons are also in short supply, and P&G said on April's earnings calls that raw-material sourcing is a problem. One major brand, U by Kotex, told Today that it is not facing a shortage.


Is Amy Schumer's popularity really the cause of empty shelves at the drugstore?

Insider reached out to P&G and asked if the company is sticking with the claim that Amy Schumer's ads caused the shortage. P&G didn't address that question but sent the following statement:

"We understand it is frustrating for consumers when they can't find what they need. We can assure you this is a temporary situation, and the Tampax team is producing tampons 24/7 to meet the increased demand for our products. We are working with our retail partners to maximize availability, which has significantly increased over the last several months."

Experts say the shortage — and the impact it will have on people who menstruate, as well as the overall industry — is more complicated than that.

The cost of supplies used to make tampons have risen over the past year. As Bloomberg reported, oil prices are about 70% higher than last year, leading to rising costs for the petroleum-based polymers needed for some tampons.

And just as Russia's invasion of Ukraine impacted the availability of plastics and absorbency materials needed for tampons, it impacted cotton. Both nations are major exporters of fertilizer, which is needed to grow cotton, CNN reported.


What happens now?

Factory workers in the Tampax plant in Auburn, Maine, are working around the clock to get Tampax tampons back on the shelves, according to P&G, but the manufacturing is so far behind the demand that it hasn't helped consumers just yet.

Having a period has never been so expensive. The cost of a pack of tampons rose 9.8% over the past year and pads are up 8.3%, according to Bloomberg. Analysts on USA Today's podcast suggested it will be months before the tampon supply gets back to normal.

That means people who are used to Tampax tampons with plastic applicators may become more interested in alternative solutions, like menstrual cups and free bleeding, in the coming weeks. The tampons may disappear, but our periods will not.