It’s only been a few years and already period pants have had quite the makeover. We’ve become so switched on about the damage single-use period products are causing to the planet, that we have certainly been paying attention to ways we can be more sustainable to help protect it.
Reusable period pants have grown in popularity and have become more stylish, subtle and most importantly affordable. Not only have we learned that traditional single-use period products, like tampons and sanitary towels, contain materials that take thousands of years to decompose, but they are also a large contributor to plastic pollution in the ocean.
Now, more than ever, we’re looking to brands to provide us with period care options that go beyond menstrual cups and reusable sanitary towels, and the more sustainable the better. Tara Chandra, FLO's co-founder and 'SHE-EO', says: ‘According to the Women’s Environmental Network, a single pair of period underwear can replace 100 or more disposable pads or tampons.’
And considering the average menstruating person may use up to 11,000 disposable period products over their lifetime that could have quite an effect on the amount of plastic pollution.
How do period pants work?
For those of us who have been lifelong fans of tampons, it can be hard to make the switch, but it’s all about investing in the right pair of period pants for you and your flow as there are plenty more options than there used to be. Those who already use sanitary towels, you’re already in the right ballpark, again it’s knowing your flow and the light, medium and heavy options that several brands like FLO, Wuka and Modibodi, have on offer that make choosing period pants a whole lot easier.
Chandra explains, ‘Period underwear is designed to be worn like normal underwear, the difference is in the ‘magical gusset’! The gusset is made of three protecting layers: a wicking layer, an absorbent layer and a bottom cotton layer (Flo’s are made from BCI cotton). The wicking layer pulls your blood into the absorbent layer keeping you dry throughout the day and the bottom layer holds it all in place. We found that most people use one pair during the day and one during the night, but it all depends on your menstrual FLO.’
Can you wear period pants all day and how often should you change them?
Many of the products on our list of best period pants have enough absorbency that matches approximately 2-3 tampons worth of blood. When you compare that to your own flow and product usage you will likely only need one pair for the day and one for nighttime.
If you experience overflow, like 1 in 2 people who menstruate do, then it’s always wise to have a backup, but as Modibodi reassures with its product, ‘Our Modifier Technology™ is leak-proof moisture-wicking, absorbent, stain and odour resistant and is an amazing back up to ensure you never have to fear a period leak.’
SHOP: Best period pants for light, medium and heavy flow, overnight and exercise
SHOP: The Best Period Pants And Underwear
Best period underwear for heavy flowHolding up to five tampons' worth or 45ml of blood, these super heavy flow period pants from Thinx have had rave reviews from those who say they no longer worry about sleeping or leaking during the day with a heavy flow. The full-coverage fit is made from Thinx's eco-friendly Modal Cotton and we love the double layer design. Size: XS-4XL Best for: Heavy and overnight Review: "These are ridiculously comfortable, I could hardly tell they weren't regular underwear. They kept me safe overnight, no unfortunate, messy, sad mornings. I highly recommend them if you have a heavy night flow or issues with leakage through the day."
Best period underwear for medium flowNever have period pants looked so pretty. We'd lounge around in these all the time and show them off to our partners, they come in such cute colours. Ohne's classic cut for that everyday underwear look is made with luxuriously soft modal for silky smoothness and breathable elasticity. It's ultra-absorbent holding 15ml or two tampons' worth of blood, odour-eliminating and very comfy. Size: XS - 3XL Best for: Medium flow Review: "I bought a few pairs of period pants from different places to compare and see what I liked. Ohne were the only ones that seemed to be offering a range of fun colours, and theirs are definitely the softest/most luxurious feeling. They also arrived in the most empowering and fun packaging! I was a bit nervous about buying a pair that weren't black but I haven't had any leaking issues. I got a medium (which I usually am in everything), which fits well but is a little looser than some of the other makes. However, I've realised that medium actually fits me quite nicely when I'm feeling bloated. Will be buying more!"
Best period underwear for light flowThese seamless period pants are ultra-thin, super smooth and truly invisible, ideal for light flow and incontinence. They're made of lightweight nylon and are super stretchy, so if you feel the bloat your pants won't be too tight nor will you see any VPL thanks to the seamless design. The breathable fabric keeps things nice and cool, and built-in tech absorbs moisture and prevents leaks, holding up to two tampons' worth of blood for up to 8 hours. Size: XS-2XL (UK 6-22) Best for: Light flow Review: "I wanted to buy a selection of period underwear from a few different places to try out but after finding these so comfortable I can't see myself going elsewhere. Love the seamless and soft material and perfect fit."
Best period underwear for sleepingFLO partnered with Netflix show Sex Education to release period-proof pants that feature dual sizing and are reusable, washable, comfortable and absorb up to five tampons' worth of menstrual flow. The hipster style briefs are made with Better Cotton Initiative cotton, via the global cotton sustainability initiative and are certified by PETA. Size: UK 6-14 Best for: Heavy and overnight Tried and tested by Grazia: "I've always wanted a different option for sleeping during my periods, rather than waking up in the middle of the night to change a tampon or feeling uncomfortable wearing a pad. These hipster style briefs are so comfortable that I didn't feel that worry that I'd leak on my bed sheets, especially thanks to the built-in protection."
Best period underwear for exerciseLook, we wouldn't blame you if you wanted to wear these as a pair of gym shorts, they look that good. But these boy short period pants are ideal for working up a sweat without worrying your fave gym leggings may get stained. There's a comfy wide logo waistband, sporty mesh panels, longer legs that won't ride up, and anti-odour and antimicrobial treatments to keep you feeling (and smelling) fresh while you run, spin and gym. There's also an active thong and brief version from the same Puma collection. Size: XS-2XL Best for: Medium to heavy Tried and tested by Grazia: "If you don't want to break your gym routine or exercising lifts your mood when you're on your period, these Modibodi x Puma pants will be your saving grace. I have a light flow so felt comfortable knowing that my stomach wouldn't be cramping and bleeding heavily as I jumped up and down on the gym floor. I did feel a little bit warmer around the crotch area, however, the usual sweat patch that appears as though I've wet myself was nowhere to be seen so a win-win really!"
Best period underwear packWho said period underwear had to be plain and boring? Modibodi has totally reimagined what it means to be on your period, allowing you to still feel sexy and comfortable. The Sensual collection includes a high waist and luxe lace trim in burnt orange, pink, black and more. Select your chosen 5- or 7-pack designs for each day of your period, or select individual pairs as well as other designs like high leg french cut, boy leg, or full briefs all available in light to heavy flow. Size: XS-6XL Best for: Light to heavy Tried and tested by Grazia: "I really enjoy wearing full briefs pants anyway, so these pants are really a bit of me. The extra lace trim doesn't show up too much underneath clothes which is often why I tend to not wear lace undies, and the material is just soft and comfortable. I think having the options within a pack when I'm unsure how heavy my period is going to be is really helpful, as I can switch between heavier and lighter pants."
Best period underwear for swimming Period product brand WUKA designed period bikini pants that you can wear to the pool, sea or even wild swimming. Thanks to the clever aquaphobic fabric that prevents water from passing through, it keeps the absorbent gusset separated from the pool or sea water. The brand also recently launched its first Period Swimsuit and the innovative design allows wearers to fully relax when swimming, hanging poolside or even at the spa, safe in the knowledge that they will remain completely leak-free Size: XS-6XL Best for: Light to medium flow Review: "Another wow from us for WUKA! My daughter is a competitive swimmer and uses the swim briefs under her training suit. They do not show through and work perfectly. Following training, she goes straight to change into her Midi Briefs, just in case the Swim Briefs leak, but there is no need to worry, as there is no leakage. Another perfect product!"
Best period underwear thongs We never thought it would be possible to wear a thong and feel protected during our periods. But here we are. Thinx has adapted our favourite skimpy underwear to make us feel comfortable on our light flow days. Some shoppers have said they use additional protection like a cup or tampon just to be safe in case their periods aren't quite over, but it's fantastic to still have the option of no VPL. Size: XS – 4X Best for: Light flow Review: "It's ideal for those 'will I get it?' days and the 'thank god it's almost over' days. Even on my heavy days, I wear them with my cup to avoid leakage."
Best budget period underwear Where would we be without M&S underwear? The high street store has long been providing us with classic pants and bras, so of course it makes sense to include its offerings for period underwear. M&S are the cheapest option on the list, so perfect for those looking for more affordable period pants or that like to stock up with plenty of options for every menstrual cycle. The cotton-rich briefs are made with a three-layer gusset that draws moisture away from the body, with an absorbent, anti-odour middle layer and a protective outer layer. Size: UK6-28 Best for: Medium-Heavy flow Review: "Brilliant! Never used period pants before but very impressed! They hold your tummy in nicely (which is what you want when you feel bloated) and are super comfy. I like that the padding comes up high at the front. Didn't cope as well when I flooded in a couple of occasions, but mostly they worked really well."
Best period underwear for style Gorgeous, sexy and cool, that's how we'd feel wearing the Pantys period underwear. We're obsessed with the chic designs that include sheer panels, ribbed trims and bold colours. They come in a range of flows from light to heavy all while being one third of the thickness of a standard pad, so they look and feel like normal underwear. Size: XS – 3XL Best for: Light, medium and heavy
Best period underwear leotardIf you're a dancer or favour a leotard for exercise or other activities, then this genius bodysuit from Thinx will solve the dilemma of what to wear underneath because you won't need to. The versatile one-piece absorbs your period and wicks moisture just like any period underwear with the built in absorbent gusset — so you can skip/dance/run without worrying about leaks.Size: XS-4XL (some sizes are out of stock)Best for: Light to mediumReview: "It fits nice and feels secure. Very comfortable to be active in."
Will my period pants leak and can I still wear additional protection?
Modibodi says that its period pants ‘can be a total replacement for disposable feminine hygiene products (panty liners, pads, tampons) or can work in conjunction with them’. So don’t feel like you must make an either/or choice here. It’s all about deciding what is best for you, what you’re comfortable with and knowing what days your flow will be heavy or light.
Modibodi also reassures its period pants and leak-proof underwear wearers that you won’t feel wet during your period either, ‘Modibodi has been rigorously and scientifically tested against all other reusable and disposable leak-proof products on the market and we are proud to say that we are the driest available. This means that providing you match our absorbency with your flow then you will remain dry and protected.’
Period pants are also great for those who suffer from light to moderate bladder leaks or light incontinence as they work to wick moisture away and keep your feeling dry and odour free.
How do you wash period pants?
To make your period pants last longer, it's better to first rinse them in cold water in the sink under a running tap, but do not leave them to soak. Then, as with normal underwear and your gym gear, because they are made of delicate material a gentle, cold 30-degree wash without fabric softener will wash them thoroughly. Do not tumble dry, instead hang them on a clothes airer and once dry pop them in your underwear drawer.