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You many be wary of period pants - not wanting to trust a piece of fabric to keep you comfortable and feeling dry - and we completely understand that. But the arguments in their favour are compelling.
Period pollution is a serious, growing concern within the UK. The average woman uses over 11,000 disposable menstrual products within their lifetime: that adds up to some serious environmental damage.
Disposal of those sanitary products – tampons, pads, and applicators, generates 200,000 tonnes of waste each year in the UK alone. Most pads are made of 90% plastic, meaning they will take up to a thousand years to decompose in landfill.
Meanwhile, some 2 billion tampons are flushed down the toilet in the UK each year – a serious contributing factor to the 370,000 sewage blockages that occur every year.
It’s a grim picture, and answers the question neatly why people are looking to more sustainable solutions for period protection and hygiene, such as moon cups, biodegradable sanitary towels, or the increasingly popular period pants.
Best period pants at a glance
- Best for nightwear: Thinx Boyshort
- Best for seamless comfort: Wuka perform seamless midi brief medium flow
- Best for serious absorbency for heaviest days: ModiBodi Sensual Hi-Waist Bikini
- Best for the cutest option around: Smoon Period Pants
- Best for a budget option with great eco credentials: Wuka Basics Hipster
- Best for holding your stomach in: Flux Hi-Waist Underwear
- Best for teenagers and fresh starters: ModiBodi Hipster Boyshort
- Best for comfy lounging: Thinx Sleep Short
- Best for swimming: ModiBodi Swimsuit One-Piece
- Best for a cool look: Thinx Super Hiphugger
What are period pants? How does period underwear work?
Period pants are pants are made from a super-absorbent, odour-eliminating fabric, and double layered. The top layer – close to your skin – is a moisture barrier, designed to keep you comfortable. The second, outer layer, works to prevent leakages. There are high absorbency period pants or ones designed for lighter days.
When should I wear them?
You can wear them all day (or overnight) – on average they’ll hold about two tampons worth of period flow, though you’ll find there are different pants for different stages of your cycle. Then, they’re able to be washed as you would regular underwear, and wear them over and over again. The gusset is thicker than a regular pair of pants, but otherwise they are essentially normal underwear.
Most women tend to start with wearing period pants on a low flow day, to grow comfortable wearing them, then shift to permanent wear – though there are pants designed to deal with every level of flow.
Pleasingly, they’re considerably more stylish than you might imagine – certainly a lot better looking than wearing a standard sanitary pad, and more comfortable. The odour elimination technology is impressive, too, for those of you concerned about the potential for smell.
We were sceptical, we have to admit: and don’t blame you for being, too. After all, period spillages are awkward, uncomfortable, and embarrassing. The idea of relying on pants seemed nerve-wracking at first, but we’ve trialled a fair few pairs now and been delighted at how absorbent the good pairs can be, leaving us with no strange smell or leakages. It’s pleasing to have a period product that can be washed and reused.
We will say that we tend to wash ours swiftly after use – we’d advise you to do the same. Rinse them in cold water once you take them off, and avoid fabric conditioner, as it can affect the absorbency.
Here are the best period pants available in the UK
Best for: seamless comfort
Absorbency: 2-3 regular tampons. Colours: black
We’d like to pay these period pants the ultimate compliment - these undies are so comfy we’ve been known to wear them even when we’re not menstruating.
Their seamless pants are silky soft, feeling so comfy you’ll forget you’re wearing them, and offer great protection, depending on which flow absorbency you chose (light (one tampon’s worth), medium (two-three tampons’ worth) or heavy (up to four tampons worth).
They’re also genuinely seamless - they didn’t show under a body-con dress or jeans. A winning pair.
Best for: serious absorbency for heaviest days
Absorbency: 4 super tampons. Colours: black and ‘palmy days.’
These high waisted pair are seriously absorbent: you can use these comfortably on your heaviest days without worry, in our experience. That means overnight wear, and heavy discharge. They look much more stylish than you’d expect a pair of practical underwear to.
Their moisture wicking works well, too, so you don’t have to worry about blood smears. The lace trim is so pretty: recommended for looking and feeling good on days 1 and 2.
Best for: the cutest option around
Absorbency: 3 super tampons. Colours: red, verde, beige, blue, navy, pink.
We loved these: so adorable we’d happily wear them as briefs any time of the month. Seamless, stylish, in a range of jaunty colours and allowing just the right peak of cheek: they’re certainly the fashion winners for us.
Better yet, then, they perform brilliantly at their dedicated task, able to handle serious flow days and not resulting in any odours.
A real winner.
Best for: a budget option with great eco credentials
Absorbency: 1-2 regular tampons. Colours: black
Wuka come with some serious sustainability credentials. They’re certified by the Better Cotton Initiative, who only use cotton produced by farmers devoted to environmentally sound practices.
Cheaper than other options, this pair worked well for eight hours, with an important caveat: these are not for heavy flow days – they can’t handle that much liquid.
They’re cute and useful for regular days, however.
Best for: holding your stomach in
Absorbency: 4 regular tampons. Colours: black.
You either love the aesthetic of hi-waist underwear, with its hint of Bridget Jones, or you don’t – we’re a big fan, and these look a particular form of chic, holding in your stomach, but nevertheless bringing the style with their mesh sides.
We used these during a punishing bicycle ride, and they managed to contain our flow with aplomb – no leaks, no smell. They form a nice line under clothes, too – no VPL, so all in all, a very good contender for the best performing pair we tried.
Best for: teenagers and fresh starters
Absorbency: 3 regular tampons. Colour: peace out.
If these had existed when we were a teenager, it would have seriously improved our early experiences with menstruation.
A delightful alternative to bulky pads or awkward tampons, anyone next to their period will be comforted by having an easy to use option that doesn’t appear at all conspicuous. Comfy, too.
Best for: comfy lounging
Absorbency: 3-4 regular tampons. Colours: black
We will say we were surprised – between this and the Boyshort – how comfy Thinx is to sleep in.
The jersey material is super-soft, and we liked how these sat low-rise on the hip for comfort.
They’ve quite a thick weave on the gusset, but that provides added protection. We love the look: very cute and casual. They last the distance on a regular night, we found, without leaving the bedsheets looking like a crime scene.
Best for: swimming
Absorbency: 2 regular tampons. Colours: black and blue.
Ideal for swimming, these are water resistant, so will keep you clean and comfortable for regular or light days.
Best for: a cool look
Absorbency: 3-4 super tampons. Colours: black, dusk, blue.
Great for wearing with jeans, and impressively absorbent. The chevron design on the waistband is cool, too.