In 2015, the feminine hygiene company first brought period underwear to the collective consciousness with a viral subway ad campaign that was very nearly for using the word “period” along with images of grapefruit and raw eggs. Since then, the menstrual underwear market has evolved to offer more brands, styles, and sizes than ever, from minimalistic thongs and briefs to lacy, date-night-worthy numbers.
Aside from comfort and the convenience of not having to insert anything into a vagina, period underwear — which can be worn alone or as a backup along with products like menstrual cups to prevent leaks — is a great choice for those looking to reduce waste. A typical menstruator will use anywhere from and tampons in their lifetime. Most of that ends up in landfills. Period underwear can also minimize the some people feel with tampons and may feel more comfortable than traditional pads.
Making the switch from pads or tampons to period underwear can take some adjustment, but there are some steps you can take to set yourself up for success.
What to know before shopping
Kim Rosas, menstrual product expert and founder of , a menstrual product education site, said that since most people wear period underwear for backup with an internal product like a cup, they don’t typically fill the absorbent lining with a full two tampons worth of blood like products claim to be able to do.
If you plan on using your period underwear full-time, Rosas said they can sometimes feel “like a wet bathing suit” when fully saturated with menstrual fluid. This can be mitigated by using pairs with absorbent layers, like the pairs from Knix and Aisle, that keep you somewhat dry.
“The ones with a wicking moisture layer is what you want,” she said over the phone. “Because at least you don’t feel quite as wet.”
If you’re using period underwear as a backup or just have a lighter flow, maximum absorbency and moisture-wicking will be less important than staying comfortable all day, so it makes more sense to reach for pairs with thinner absorbent linings (usually indicated by a lower amount of fluid the underwear can hold), that aren’t doing as much heavy lifting.
Caring for your period underwear is also a breeze. Simply rinse off and pre-soak the underwear after each use, then toss it into the wash like you would a normal pair of underwear.
We put 9 pairs of period underwear to the test to find the best options for anyone looking to make the switch from tampons or disposable pads.
The best budget period underwear
The, $20, felt the most similar to “normal” underwear to me. Since they came in a pack of three, I gave a pair to a friend to try. She loved the thick waistband and said they kept her feeling dry throughout the day. I don’t know if I would trust these on their own on a super-heavy day, but my flow is typically on the lighter side, so they worked great for me.
The best pairs overall
When I spoke to Rosas, she recommended I try period underwear and reusable pads from , formerly known as LunaPads. While Thinx is often the first brand that comes to mind with period underwear, Rosas notes that LunaPads was innovating menstrual underwear back in the ‘90s. She especially likes how the – and -inclusive Aisle’s line is. I loved the in particular because of how soft the material felt against my skin. I don’t typically wear boxer briefs or boy shorts, but these were so comfy I might be convinced to wear more of them in the future.
Aisle’s period underwear also can be used with boosters, which can be removed, washed, and reused, similar to a reusable pad. The booster that comes included with each pair of underwear purchased is less firm than a traditional pad; more like a strip of microfiber cloth that’s super absorbent and slides between two layers of the underwear’s fabric to stay in place. This increases the underwear’s wear-time. Changing out boosters mid-day is a lot easier than trying to swap out your underwear in a public bathroom stall.
Another brand of menstrual underwear, , features a design that holds a reusable pad in place with elastic, but the pads have to be purchased . I didn’t order a separate pad from Ruby Love and just wore them on their own, and while they were smooth and comfortable, the absorbent fabric felt a bit more bulky and thick than my Aisle pair.
Another noteworthy pair I tried was from — the silky smooth polyester fabric felt really satisfying against my skin, and the company lets you choose between mini and full absorbent linings to find the best fit and absorbency for your flow.
The overnight pairs
Sleeping is where period underwear is truly put to the test. Most people will end up wearing overnight pairs for more than 8 hours, and, of course, the underwear also has to fight gravity to avoid staining the backs of pants or sheets.
I was most excited about Thinx’s , which looked super cozy and had minimal “period panty” vibes. However, the padding was so thick the pair didn’t sit right on my butt no matter how much I adjusted it. My partner lovingly referred to it as my “diaper,” which I hated. I could see myself wearing these if I was worried about staining uber-white sheets with a heavy flow, but since I don’t often encounter that specific scenario, these seemed like overkill.
The was much better. Although it still had absorbent padding, it didn’t extend all the way across my backside. The spandex shorts were more body-hugging than the flowy Thinx shorts, but were still comfortable and didn’t dig in anywhere.
As someone who frequently just wears shorts or underwear to bed, it was nice to have an all-in-one solution for night time. Even if I use other period products during the day, I could see myself using these to give myself a break from a menstrual cup or disc, or as an extra layer of protection for my sheets.
Other noteworthy pairs
Even though I can’t remember the last time I voluntarily wore a thong at all, let alone while on my period, I tried Thinx’s for a day. I sized up when purchasing the underwear for this piece, but I probably would’ve been better off had I stayed true to size for this pair, as they weren’t as snug as I’d like them to be.
The underwear itself performed well: Thinx’s site says these have a lightweight absorbency that can hold about the same amount of fluid as one regular tampon, but my flow wasn’t really heavy enough to put the absorbency to the test on the day I wore them. These would be a great choice for someone who likes thongs, and who wants some leakage protection to back up a tampon or another internal period product.
Another pair I was impressed by was the salt. The lace detail on the high waist was super cute and unique; the other pairs I tried felt plain or muted in comparison. This is Saalt’s first foray into the period underwear market — they’re better known for their range of . I’m excited to see how the underwear holds up through numerous cycles and uses.