If you have a womb and you have periods, it’s likely that you’ll menstruate on average 450 times in a lifetime. That’s a lot of bleeding. And, while we’re used to paying above board for tampons and to stuffing extra pads in our backpacks, just in case, recent years have seen more innovations broaden our options when it comes to dealing with it. Period pants have been steadily gaining fans and market value for some time now – but are they really any good? Are they comfortable? Can you trust them to do the job?
I set out to find out. In a pseudo-scientific effort, I’ve tried out some of the market leaders. Most underwear designed for menstruation on the market uses similar technology – a layer of fabric that wicks moisture away from the surface, so that you don’t feel… icky, then a layer of microfibre that slows the movement of the blood so that it doesn’t leak through. The final layer is usually a moisture-resistant fibre that won’t allow the blood to soak through to your other clothing.
So, how did it go? I did a diary of a working-week in period pants. And the results were intriguing…
WUKA founder Ruby Rau says: “The concept for WUKA started when I was teaching in a school and sharing my experience of using sari rags when I was younger for my period and I had a problem with things moving around. Then I thought, why not make pants that have the pad included? WUKA are slightly thick but they completely replace tampons or pads [even on heavy days], unlike other products.”
Appearance: black cotton hip-huggers. Ruby sent me two options, one thick and one thinner pad, but I needed the heavy-flow ones for day one. The chunky pad is a bit alarming, but you don’t notice it under jeans or thick trousers. I wouldn’t wear a LBD with these, though.
Absorbency: I wore them to bed and they were completely leak-proof!
Technology: the inner black fabric is only made in the UK. It is mostly used for underground cabling systems to protect the cables from liquids – if it’s good enough for BT, it’s good enough for your period. The top and bottom Lenzing ® MicroModal fabric is made from beech tree, which is super-sustainable because they don’t take too much water, and biodegradable.The heavy-duty pad holds four tampons’ worth of blood – which is more than any other pants on the market.
Care: cold wash with the rest of your dark wash or wash on their own at 40. A pair of pants will last 20-25 washes.
Fit and feel: I could feel the pad on my bum and the cut of the legs seems tight, so the seam rubs round the top of the front right leg, which made me walk a bit like John Wayne. They have a big gusset and cover a lot of the bum area, which meant they were perfect for full bedtime coverage.
Other products: they also make a lighter pad for less heavy days, with a slimmer pad – these are better for daywear. They have just launched bralets, and £1 from each one sold goes to breast-cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel.
Overall: what makes them amazing for heavy-flow days also makes them a tad unflattering. These are the best pants for overnight on a heavy day, but I wouldn’t choose to wear them on a long walk or during exercise, because of the super-tight elastic.
Other info: the heavy coverage pants also cover endometriosis flow, post-partum discharge and incontinence. They are really hardcore pants.
THINX £28-£32 plus P+P/tax
THINX CEO Maria Molland says: “The mission of THINX is to create the most innovative period solutions that empower our people and sustain our planet, while breaking taboos about menstruation and reproductive health everywhere.”
Appearance: quite stylish black high-waist knickers, with translucent side panels. The higher-absorbency pant has a visible pad, the low-flow pad is virtually invisible.
Absorbency: they say they act as a backup when your flow is heavy, but I used them alone on a medium-flow day and had no leaks, though I did need to change my underwear for the evening.
Technology: moisture-wicking, anti-microbial, absorbent, leak-resistant.
Care: a bit of a faff – hand rinse, then cold wash only.
Fit and feel: these felt a bit tight on the tops of the legs initially, but then I got used to it and forgot about it.
Other products: they have a sister company called Icon, which makes pee-proof pants. There’s also a period-sex blanket – no jokes about long shag-piles, please – which helps you avoid staining when you’re on your period and in the mood.
Overall: a good balance between looking nice and working hard.
MODIBODI £21-£25, plus P+P / tax
Appearance: these look the most like normal, everyday knickers. Comfortable cotton with a lace top. The pad is slim, but still visible. 5/5
Absorbency: I was on a medium flow. No leaks. They lasted until bedtime. 4/5
Technology: moisture-wicking, antimicrobial, absorbent, leak-resistant. Merino wool, bamboo and microfibre.
Care: cold wash only
Fit and feel: I went for a seven-mile walk in these and forgot I was wearing them. They were just like normal pants.
Other products: I also tried their plain black swimming costume, which was very comfy, I had no leaks and the fabric dried very fast, so I didn’t have a dripping wet swim-bag.
Overall: top marks.
Knixwear £18-£20 plus P+P / tax
Appearance: seamless stretchy nylon and Lycra knickers with a cotton gusset in a range of colours. These are probably the most stylish period pants. The pad is invisible but, unlike the other pants, the pad technology only covers the crotch and doesn’t extend to cover the bum.
Absorbency: I’d stick to medium-to-light days with these – they hold two tampons of blood.
Technology: moisture-wicking, odour-proof, seamless.
Care: cold wash.
Fit and feel: ideal for activities and workouts, as they are very stretchy and comfortable.
Other products: bras, tops, socks and shorts.
Dear Kate, £30 plus P+P / tax
A spokesperson for Dear Kate says: “Our products are 100% fabric with no plastic layers or films.”
Appearance: you can choose from hipster, high-waisted or thong in a range of colours.
Absorbency: two tampons’ worth – intended for mid-to-light days or as backup to other sanitary products.
Technology: antimicrobial, breathable, leak-resistant. Microfibre polyester to trap blood and a nylon/Lycra outer layer with a liquid-repellent coating.
Care: cold-wash only.
Fit and feel: comfy!
Other products: stylishly patterned leggings to keep you fresh during exercise.
Overall: best for inbetweeny days when your period is ending or as backup to other products.