Everything Incontinence

Depend Incontinence Products: A Brief History

Kimberly-Clark paper mill in
Niagara, Wisconsin, 1942
Image credit Wikipedia

For more than 35 years, Depend has been helping people manage their incontinence. During that time, the Depend name has become nearly synonymous with incontinence products.

It's easy to see why because nearly half of all disposable adult incontinence products come from the Depend brand. So, let's take a look at how they began and how it's become the amazing brand it is today.

General Background Information

You may know this, but Depend incontinence products are made by the Kimberly-Clark Corporation. This brand was founded in 1872 and ran paper mills, its original and long-running business market.

As time went on, Kimberly-Clark began to produce many personal products, including the first disposable sanitary napkin called Kotex, the disposable napkin Kleenex, disposable baby diapers called Huggies, and notably, Depend adult diapers.

Although Kimberly-Clark's final paper mill closed in 2012, Kimberly-Clark's other products remain some of the most popular and beloved on the planet. Now, about a quarter of the world's population uses their products daily in 175 countries across the planet.

Early History of Depend Incontinence Products

Kimberly-Clark started selling Huggies Diapers in 1978. Then, in 1984, they introduced a similar product for adults, Depend. Depend incontinence products were first marketed under the conform brand. Unlike Proctor & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark was quite successful marketing their adult diapers with their Depend products. They used television ads portraying very active adults or a celebrity promoting their leak proof diapers for adults.

The first adult diapers were actually introduced by Proctor & Gamble, the makers of Pampers disposable diapers for babies. Disposable baby diapers started being sold in 1961 and were quite successful. Disposable adult diapers would not be introduced for a while due to the difficulty in marketing a product of such a sensitive nature. 

Before the invention of disposable diapers, adults and even children would use cloth diapers that needed cleaned regularly and then reused. During this period, adults continued to have limited access to disposable incontinence products, but luckily this would change.

Proctor & Gamble introduced an adult diaper called Attends Incontinent Briefs in 1978. They had little success in selling them beyond hospitals. However, another company would soon attempt to enter the market.

Kimberly-Clark Enters the Market

Kimberly-Clark started selling Huggies Diapers in 1978 at the same time their rival Procter & Gamble was struggling to attract customers to their Attends products. Then, in 1984, they introduced a similar product for adults, Depend. Depend incontinence products were first marketed under the Conform brand.

Unlike Proctor & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark was quite successful in marketing their adult diapers with their Depend products. They used television ads portraying very active adults or a celebrity promoting their products. This helped show customers that adult incontinence is an ordinary condition no one should be ashamed of and proved a very successful tactic.

Depend’s Product Features

Depend Incontinence products for adults were introduced in 1984, effectively starting the market for adult Diapers. Depend began with a test product consisting of liners that were held on by elastic belts. The liners could be purchased in either regular or extra absorbency. 

Following this, Depend Shields were introduced and were meant for moderate to heavy incontinence. They came in regular and extra absorbency. As the best adult diaper manufacturer, Depend continuously improved their product. In 1985, Depend introduced fitted briefs. These were intended as heavy-duty leak-proof diapers for adults with heavy bladder incontinence as well as bowel incontinence.

By 1987, every variety of Depend adult diapers came in two different types of covers, either plastic or non-woven covers designed to imitate cloth. Additionally, they came in a range of sizes and with plastic covers of a light green color. At this point, packaging was simply large, simple cardboard boxes. 

These early Depend were very nearly the only adult incontinence product on the market and were certainly the best adult diaper of their time. However, they used padding very similar to disposable baby diapers and had not changed much to account for an adult's needs.

Product Improvements

In 1988, Depend changed, and they began using an Absorb-Lock core which becomes a gel when exposed to moisture, further preventing leakage. This advancement significantly improved Depend and made its way into baby diapers as well.

By ten years later, Depend had introduced another option to their lineup, disposable Pull-Up Adult Diapers. At this point, these adult diapers were made to simulate cloth with an absorbent strip passing down the center of the product with two size options, medium and large. These diapers were for light-duty, and Depend warned they were not suitable for nighttime protection. 

Finally, in the 2000s, Depend briefs revamped their appearance to white with a green tint, making the appearance that we know today.

Modern Developments

Following the start of the new millennium, Depend introduced more specialty adult incontinence products such as the Depend Booster Pad, the Depend Poise for women, the Depend Male Guard and incontinence pads with belt. These added more options to strengthen other Depend incontinence products or to use with regular underwear.

For decades, Depend, like other adult incontinence products, were unisex with no gender-specific products. But in March 2009, this changed, and Depend introduced Depend Underwear for Women and separately Depend Underwear for Men, providing leak-proof diapers for Adults designed for the needs of both genders.

In 2012, Depend began shifting their marketing from the elderly to a slightly younger market, primarily baby boomers, in recognition of the fact that about half of incontinence products are sold to those under fifty. This coincided with the release of new products designed slimmer and to resemble briefs. These were the men's product Real Fit and the women's product Silhouette. 

Depend's began using younger celebrities and sports stars to model their product and even host the "Drop Your Pants for Underawareness" concert. This was intended to raise awareness of the shame many undergo as a result of incontinence. 

Recently recognizing the need for another nightwear option, Depend introduced the Night Defense. This was released with a women's option in 2016 and a men's in 2019.


Depend has been one of the most trusted providers of adult incontinence products for half of a century. Depend products are trusted by millions across the globe to provide leak-proof incontinence protection for adults.

Depend's parent company Kimberly-Clark has grown from a single paper mill founded in 1872 to a multibillion-dollar company serving a quarter of the world's population. So, the next time you pick up one of Depend's products, take a moment to think about how far the maker of one of the best adult diapers on the market has come.

- Written By

Sarah Johnson

Aging in Place Expert
Sarah Johnson is an Aging in Place Expert with extensive experience helping seniors remain independent and comfortable in their homes. She has specialized knowledge of how to help elderly individuals stay healthy, safe, and happy as they age. Sarah is passionate about providing quality care for aging adults, allowing them to remain in their homes and enjoy the highest quality of life.