7 Period Underwear Brands to Try Instead of Tampons and Pads
Take a moment to think about how many tampons and pads you've gone through in your life. You probably can't even wrap your mind around the amount of disposable period products you've bought, used, and tossed in the trash since your teens. Women spend an average of $1,773 per year on tampons alone, according to Pandida Health.
Not only are they costly (and add up over decades of use), but they're also not kind to the environment. In the United States alone, around 12 billion pads and seven billion tampons are thrown out every year; combined with their packaging and wrapping, they generate more than 200,000 metric tons of waste, according to AllMatters. Oh, and plastic and non-compostable materials can take 500 to 800 years to decompose, Eco Femme reports. (Related: 11 Sustainable Activewear Brands Worth Breaking a Sweat In)
So, if there was a long term alternative that cost less, was more sustainable, and still got the job done, would you jump on it? Luckily, such a solution exists: period underwear.
7 Period Underwear Brands to Try:
What Are Period Panties?
Just like tampons and pads, period underwear absorbs blood while you're menstruating. However, unlike sticking a tampon up your vagina — and remembering to change it before the eight-hour mark or worrying about toxic shock syndrome — or wearing a restrictive pad, which can feel like a glorified diaper, period panties are as comfortable as the regular underwear you wear every day.
"You put period underwear on and go about your day; machine wash, air dry, and repeat," Senior Director of Customer Experience at Thinx, Alice Warren, tells Shape. "Most people can put them on in the morning for all day wear without worrying about stopping to change a pad or tampon." Conveniently, many brands offer a range of styles from thongs to briefs, so you don't have to sacrifice your preferred panties fit either. (Psst, period-friendly activewear exists, too.)
How Does Period Underwear Work?
So, how exactly do period panties work? "Inside the underwear gusset [that pocket in the crotch] are layers that wick moisture, control odor, absorb your flow, and prevent leaks," Warren explains. "They have a patented design and period-absorbing technology that absorbs your period, all the while keeping you dry and odor-free — so you don't have to worry about feeling wet."
Plus, unlike tampons and pads, which are immediately thrown away after use, most period panties can be reworn for several years, which cuts back on waste. "There are seven billion tampons thrown out each year, most of which have applicators," Warren says. "Switching to [period underwear] helps eliminate the amount of period waste that goes into the oceans and landfills."
Also, some period underwear brands like Rael and Period are made with sustainable materials that eliminate waste entirely. So, period panties are better for the environment, better for your wallet, and just as effective. (Related: Thinx Launched the First FDA-Cleared Reusable Tampon Applicator)
Period Underwear Brands Worth Checking Out
Need more convincing? If you're considering ditching your tampons and pads for period underwear, check out seven of the best brands to try below. (Related: These Bamboo Period Panties Are Half the Price of Popular Brands)
Thinx is one of the most popular period underwear brands, and it's also available at Nordstrom. Warren explains exactly what makes them special: "Thinx offers five absorbency levels [lightest, light, moderate, heavy, super], with the super absorbency holding up to five regular tampons' worth," she says. "Since our undies are measured by absorbency, we recommend completing our Know Your Flow Quiz to see which undies will work best for you for all-day wear."
Along with a variety of absorbency levels, Thinx period underwear comes in a range of styles including hiphugger, boyshort, cheeky, high-waist, french cut, and thong. What's more, the company also has a line for teens and tweens called Thinx (BTWN).
Thousands of reviewers rave about the period underwear, claiming zero odor or mess. "I was skeptical going into this but this is an AMAZING product," one shopper wrote about the hiphugger. "No leakage and no smell. It is SO comfortable and I just can't believe that I didn't do this sooner. Never going back to pads ever again."
Buy It: Thinx French Cut, $25, was $35, shethinx.com
Not only do women turn to Knix underwear as a solution while on their period, but new moms opt for the absorbent alternative postpartum, too. Knix period panties include a triple layer technology that holds anywhere from six to 12 tablespoons of blood, sweat, or pee, so you can flow freely without worrying about leaking — even on the heaviest days of your cycle or while experiencing postpartum urinary incontinence. With styles ranging from full-coverage boxer briefs to thongs, and sizes XS to XXXXL, Knix has a fit for every panty preference.
"I ALWAYS leak when I sleep when using pads," one customer explained. "And I'm just speechless that this underwear did not leak. I was extremely doubtful at first that it was leak-proof but when I tried it on day one of my period, I was obsessed. I'm never buying pads ever again. This is truly a great investment."
Buy It: Knix Super Leakproof Bikini, $25, was $30, knix.com
Switching over to Saalt period underwear won't just be better for your bank account, but better for the planet, too. The panties are made with recycled water bottles, so you can feel good about opting for zero-waste, sustainable underwear. And they feel good — as in, silky soft — too. Plus, Saalt gives two percent of its revenue to young girls in need of period products and menstrual education, which is just as important as being environmentally-friendly. Choose between six styles including hipster and bikini, all with either pretty mesh or lace detailing.
"I don't mind getting my period at all anymore because I don't have to carry around supplies and worry about leakage," said one shopper. "Love that it's zero-waste and overall just simplifies the hassle that already comes with getting your period."
Buy It: Saalt Leakproof Thong, $29, saalt.com
Proof isn't only recommended for periods, but for other common kinds of leaks experienced during maternity, postpartum, workouts, and after sex. The underwear is made with a quick-drying lining that absorbs moisture and keeps you feeling dry, antimicrobial fibers that reduce odor, and a soft, breathable fabric that feels comfortable and secure.
One shopper raved, "I'm OBSESSED with the Proof thong — I bought a bunch to wear under my workout clothes for a little extra protection, but I ended up using them throughout my period. The absorbency guide says they replace a tampon, and I have a light to moderate flow, so these are perfect for me."
Buy It: Proof Period & Leak Proof Thong, $25, nordstrom.com
Modibodi period underwear, which also works well for postpartum and maternity needs, ranges from super-light absorbency (translation: equal to one tampon) to heavy-moderate (an impressive three tampons). But there's also a heavy-overnight pair that can hold up to four tampons' worth of blood, and even a 24-hour pair that can absorb up to 10 tampons — perfect if you're traveling all day, on a long trek, or camping.
You'd never know that these Modibodi french cut panties are made for your period, either. Shoppers love the super flattering high waist and the lace details that add a sexy touch. "Comfiest period ever in these," one shopper claimed. "The high waistline sucks in the bloat without being uncomfortable at all. Care-free period. Kind to the planet. Period pants that look and make you feel sexy! 100 percent recommended!!!"
Buy It: Modibodi Sensual French Cut, $22, was $31, us.modibodi.com
Free of harsh chemicals and made with organic cotton, Real period panties are the real deal. The stretchy bikini style is breathable and soft, just like your typical underwear. However, unlike your everyday panties, this pair instantly eliminates moisture and odors so you can feel dry and fresh all day long. FYI, Rael only has the one style of period underwear, so if you're a thong or boyshort lover, you'll need to opt for a different brand.
"An absolute life changer!!!" one shopper wrote. "I never felt this comfortable during my period. I (almost) can't wait for my next period just so I can wear them again, yup that's how much I love them. Comfy, no leaks, no smell, not bulky, holds my first day flow like a pro, affordable, aaaand saving the planet, heck yea! Why did I wait so long to buy them?"
Buy It: Reusable Period Underwear, $20, getrael.com
More than 9,000 Amazon shoppers give these period panties a five-star rating, comparing them to more expensive brands and calling them "secure," "comfortable," and "leakproof." They're made with a smooth and strong bamboo fabric (hence the name) that provides a cool and breathable feel, and the absorbent layer holds up to two tampons worth of fluid, so you can wear them for hours at a time. They're ranked the best-selling maternity panties on Amazon, so you can rest easy knowing they're super-absorbent and eliminate odor.
"I deal with PCOS and endometriosis which make my periods HEAVY for the first 3-4 days," shared one customer. "I ordered two pairs of these underwear and two pairs of the kind with the white waistband (from the same manufacturer). They absorbed better than a pad, were comfortable, and the top layer stayed dry. Amazing."
Buy It: Bambody Absorbent High Flow Period Panty, from $15, amazon.com