While once upon a time, the term “period pants” might have meant your ugliest – but most comfortable – pair of knickers to throw on during your period, it now means something a little more advanced. In recent years, the number of menstrual care brands launching or adding period-proof underwear to their line-up has been growing.
As well as being a vital step towards reducing waste and looking after the planet, it also makes sense for businesses, after all there’s a growing demand from consumers. “Reusable sanitary protection saw a rise [between 2018 and 2019] in usage whilst disposable products saw a decline,” explains Emilia Greenslade, research analyst at Mintel. This was largely down to the rise in concerns over the environmental impact of plastic, she says.
Although this increase in interest is good news, there’s still a way to go, with Greenslade pointing out that usage of reusable products is still dwarfed by the large numbers opting for disposable pads and tampons. But, consider this statistic: a single pair of period underwear can replace 100 or more disposable pads or tampons, according to the Women’s Environmental Network.
What women and others who menstruate choose to use during their period is completely individual and it’s understandable that period pants might not work for everyone. However, we urge you to give them a try if you’re curious, and even more so if you’re dubious. Before we tried our first pair of period pants, we were too, and now they’re the first thing we reach for when those tell-tale period cramps come calling.
Like traditional knickers, there’s a variety of options out there, from high waisted and bikini to boxer style shorts and even thongs. As everyone’s flow is different, we’d advise experimenting, if you can, with different absorbencies, as well as trying them out for different activities (e.g. overnight, going out, during exercise). Plus, there’s no shame in mixing it up with other menstrual products – some prefer wearing period pants throughout the whole time they’re bleeding, whilst others will opt for them when at home and then use a menstrual cup or tampon at other times.
In terms of the upkeep, you should be rinsing them out under cold water after use before popping them in the washing machine along with other laundry. Two things to remember though: firstly, don’t use fabric conditioner, as this can adversely affect the materials and absorbent layers, and secondly, zip them up in a mesh bag if you have one to hand – just for added protection. Then simply air dry.
So whether you’re a seasoned period pants user or looking to add a pair to your underwear drawer, here’s our round up of the best period pants on the market. As well as seeing how they performed whilst we were on our flow, we considered look, feel, cost and how they washed, dried and fitted into our life.
The best period pants for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Wuka perform seamless midi brief medium flow: £21.99, Wuka.co.uk
- Best for bloating – Hey Girls super soft red cherry period pants: £18.95, Heygirls.co.uk
- Best for feeling sexy – Pantys bikini: £30, Pantys.com
- Best budget period pants – Love Luna black period bikini knickers: £10, Sainsburys.co.uk
- Best for overnight – Modibodi sensual hi-waist bikini: £24, Modibodi.co.uk
- Best for light flow days – Cocoro classic essence grey: £17.15, Cocoro-intim.co.uk
- Best for comfort – Thinx hiphugger lace and stretch-organic cotton period briefs: £32, Selfridges.com
- Best for heavy flow days – Flux high waist heavy flow: £28.95, Fluxundies.com
Wuka perform seamless midi brief medium flow
Sizing: 2XS - 3XL
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: WUKA’s range of period pants look fab, feel great and we’re big fans. While there are some excellent options in its offering, its seamless midi brief, which was launched earlier this year, is the real stand out piece. Silky smooth, they hug your body without digging in and offer the security you’re after in a period product.
What’s really great is that they really are seamless and don’t show under clothing – even under tight fitting options such as skinny jeans or a satin slip skirt. The pants, which are made from recycled nylon generated from old plastic bottles, come in three flow absorbencies: light (one tampon’s worth), medium (two-three tampons’ worth) or heavy (up to four tampons worth).
Founder Ruby Raut, an environmental scientist who grew up in Nepal, is also hugely passionate about eradicating menstrual shame, period poverty and looking after the planet. As well as partnering with charities such as Surfers Against Sewage, Days for Girls and the Hygiene Bank, Wuka and Ruby are campaigning to end the government’s 20 per cent VAT charge on period underwear.
Hey Girls super soft red cherry period pants
Best: For bloating
Sometimes you just need a big old pair of pants when you’re on your period, and ones that’ll sit comfortably over your bloat. Step in a UK brand dedicated to helping tackle period poverty, Hey Girls: its super soft red cherry period pants were like a gentle hug across our swollen belly.
They’re a high-rise design, so we preferred to wear them at home either for bed or in our loungewear as they peeked out of our jeans (yes, even the high-waisted ones), but they’re the pair we’d reach for on those days where the cramps and water retention are getting you down. They also have a high absorbency and can hold up to five tampons’ worth. Plus, they’re a joyful cherry red colour in, what is often, a sea of black, navy and grey period pants. We also liked that they were pretty quick to air dry once washed.
Founded by a mother and her two daughters, Hey Girls is a business with a charitable mission too: for every product sold, it gives one away to girls and women in the UK from low-income families.
Best: For feeling sexy
Sizing: XS - 3XL
Founded in Brazil three years ago, this period underwear brand is known for its sexy styles, and good news, they launched in the UK earlier this year. Founders Emily Ewell and Maria Eduarda Camarg were inspired to start the business in a bid to combine innovation and sustainability to improve quality of life for women. It also takes its environmental objectives seriously (they’re a certified B Corp company), with each pair of pants coming packaged in a small cardboard box that has a detailed breakdown of the product’s carbon footprint on it. The brand also claims to be the world’s first clinically tested period underwear.
Its entire range of period underwear is worth checking out, especially if you like your underwear on the skimpier and lightweight side. We’re big fans of the bikini style, which is a bestseller and comes in pink and red options. Silky and sexy, they’re a gorgeous addition to the lingerie drawer.
We tried the blush pink shade and were impressed by how much the pants felt like a regular pair, being ultra slim. Given this, we preferred wearing them on lighter flow days and found them perfect for when we were coming to the end of our period.
Love Luna black period bikini knickers
Best: Budget period pants
One of the cheapest reusable period pant brands on the market, Love Luna have a simple but effective range of products available both online and in store at Sainsbury’s and online at Asda. This is great to see as so often people stock up on their period products during the local supermarket shop.
Instead of using disposable menstrual products that will outlive your great-grandchildren (an ordinary sanitary towel or tampon could take 300-500 years to decompose), Love Luna urges those with periods to embrace the reusable options they have on offer. As well as bikini, midi and full brief options, the brand has just launched a breathable bamboo and cotton mix brief. The bikini knickers are a great basic option to have in your undies drawer.
They also have four layers of protection, a soft microfibre finish and hold the equivalent of two to three regular tampons. At £10, they’re a great budget buy.
Modibodi sensual hi-waist bikini
Best: For overnight
Sizing: XS - 6XL
These hi-waist bikini period pants by Aussie brand Modibodi have been raved about by thousands of the brand’s fans. They’re loved for their absorbency, dry feel and for delivering on the promise of no leakages. Their heavy-overnight absorbency means they can hold the equivalent of up to four tampons worth, while the comfortable feel of the 95 per cent bamboo viscose material means they’re just the ticket for a restful sleep.
We liked how even after wearing overnight and on heavy flow days, we were left feeling dry, thanks to the breathable Modifier Technology and merino wool in the lining, which fights bacteria, smells and stains. We also like the fact that Modibodi have such an extensive and inclusive range of products, from a maxi 24 hour option, which are great for shift workers, to detachable bikini pants that are highly useful for those who struggle to change regular underwear.
Cocoro classic essence grey
Best: For light flow days
Sizing: XXS - XXL
This number one menstrual pant brand in Spain has quite the success story: founded by four women in Barcelona, its initial crowdfunding campaign generated eight times the value of sponsorship it had targeted. Cocoro launched in the UK late last year and we tested a few options from its range.
The lightweight Cocoro classic essence grey has quickly become a staple in our underwear drawer and is used on both light flow days and during non-period times too. It’s a slim design and we liked how it could be worn easily under clothing. Although it’s labelled as suitable for a moderate flow, we thought it worked best on lighter flow days.
Cocoro designs its menstrual pants in Barcelona and manufacture them in workshops located within the city and Maresme area. We like that in doing so it collaborates with local suppliers and distributors to promote small businesses and reduce their carbon emissions.
Thinx hiphugger lace and stretch-organic cotton period briefs
Best: For comfort
Sizing: XS - XXL
US brand Thinx are a big player in the reusable period underwear market. The brand released new products this year which included a line with more accessible pricing and period-proof activewear. As such, there is an awful lot to choose from when it comes to Thinx’s collections.
We were impressed with the comfort and ease of its hip hugger lace and stretch-organic cotton period briefs though. With a gusset made of 95 per cent Oeko-tex certified organic cotton (plus elastane in the body fabric for stretch) they make for a pair of really comfortable and smooth-feeling period pants that are moisture-wicking and absorbent, holding up to three tampons worth. The high waist and elasticated mesh waistband mean they stay nicely in place too, without digging in or rolling.
Flux high waist heavy flow
Best: For heavy flow days
Sizing: XXS - 4XL
If you think heavy flow days require unflattering baggy knickers, then take a gander at these from Flux. Its popular high waist heavy flow model holds up to four tampons worth and ticks a lot of boxes in terms of comfort, style and support. We love the high waisted design with the mesh side panels, which give a nice bit of va va voom to the knickers. We’re also big fans of the super soft micro-modal fabric on the inside and how fresh these kept us even on our heaviest days.
Flux is also dedicated to being as sustainable and ethical as possible: it uses Oeko-tex certified materials in its pants, recycled cardboard in its packaging, is vegan friendly and doesn’t test on animals. It also gives back to someone in need with every purchase and has donated to some great charities, including Mermaids, the Independent Domestic Abuse Services and Freedom 4 Girls.
The verdict: Period pants
We love our Wuka seamless midi briefs and highly recommend them for their silky soft feel, absorbency and how they eradicate any fears of VPL.
Hey Girls’ mission to help those in need is also worth highlighting and its cherry red pants are a comfort on days when you’re feeling really bloated. It’s also worth commending Love Luna for making a budget-friendly pair of period pants to make reusable menstrual products more accessible.
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For more kind-to-planet period products, try our best reusable sanitary pads
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