Using a tampon has long required a menstruator to fit themselves into one of very few boxes (light, regular, or super). But menstruators are not a homogenous bunch. They have diverse anatomies, purchasing values, and identities, and now, the tampon landscape is changing to reflect that reality. New tampon brands are reimagining the old standard so that it feels, looks, and works better for its users and for the environment, too. In 2023, we’ll toss the one-size-fits-all tampon and insert something fresh in its place.
The menstrual tampon has seen only small, gradual changes since Tampax patented the “modern tampon” design—a familiar-looking bullet of compressed cotton with a string in the middle, inserted with a cardboard tube—in the 1930s. According to historian Sharra Vostral, PhD, history professor at Purdue University and author of Under Wraps: A History of Menstrual Hygiene Technology and Toxic Shock: A Social History, you can blame stigma and sexism for this stymied progress. “Up until now, we’ve seen the wholesale dismissal of the vulva, vagina, and cervix—the active not-knowing about this physiology and anatomy—by the medical profession, and the very active cultural dismissal of it, too,” she says. (Case in point: In her book Under Wraps, Dr. Vostral writes that “in order to perfect the size of the cotton plug, [the male physician who invented the tampon] felt no compunction to measure the cervix or vagina because he had ‘seen so damn many of them’ that he felt he got the gist.”)