I’ve been bleeding for a long ass time. And by that, I mean enjoying the unique joy of having my uterine lining and blood dump out of me on a semi-regular basis for years. Fun!
Like a lot of people, pads or tampons were the main choices available to manage this—but no longer.
We’re pretty lucky with how far the multiple-use menstruation product market has come: cups, reusable pads and period underwear are all gr8 options for dealing with your period, and most are becoming way easier to access and buy. Bless the internet (but only sometimes).
Whether you wear ‘em alone, as a backup to a menstrual cup or tampon, if you’re having spotting during your cycle, because pads are uncomfy, or because you’re nonbinary and simply don’t want to deal with the wildly gendered packaging of traditional menstrual products, period underwear might be the answer.
Syrup got the lowdown on all things period underwear from the experts, Hilary Fischer-Groban Brand Director at Thinx, Inc and Liana Lorenzato, Marketing and Customer Experience Director at Modibodi, but there are a tonne of brands on the market, so feel free to choose your own fighter. Read on for some red hot tips about making your red hot time of the month a little better.
How exactly does period underwear work?
Basically, you wear period underwear like your regular underwear but without the disposable pad. The underwear itself is what absorbs your period, and they’re washable and reusable. Real enviro-friendly VSCO-girl hours up in here.
Thinx uses “our signature four-layer technology, which is odour-blocking, super absorbent, and leak-resistant,” says Fischer-Groban.
Modibodi says they use an “Aussie designed, patented tech that combines three layers to ensure you stay dry, odour free and leak-free.”
How much blood do they hold?
“Depending on the style, Thinx and Thinx BTWN have the capacity to absorb between ½ tampon and four tampons worth,” says Fischer-Groban.
If you’re thinking of trying Modibodi, Lorenzato says, “All RED period-proof underwear holds fifteen to twenty ml of liquid, which works out to be two teaspoons or one and a half or two regular tampons, if you need protection for heavier flow our Modibodi range caters for all types of flows.”
What is period underwear made of?
As well as doing their bit to reduce waste from disposable period products, Modibodi underwear is made of a “wide range of sustainable and breathable fabrics including bamboo and merino,” according to Lorenzato. The products are OEKO-TEX certified and they also have a vegan range.
Thinx is made from “OCS-certified and GOTS-certified organic cotton,” says Fischer-Groban, adding that their “product safety testing is conducted by third-party facilities to ensure our products meet the robust safety standards of REACH and OEKO-TEX.”
How often do you change period underwear when you’re wearing them?
In much the same way not everyone is going to need to change a tampon at the same time, how often you change your period underwear is going to vary too. For both Modibodi and Thinx, a relatively safe rule of thumb (or rule of uterus, I guess!) is that on your light-to-medium days, you should be good to wear Thinx, Thinx (BTWN) and RED all day. Come evening, you might want to change into a fresh pair to sleep in.
If your flow is heavier, you might want to change them throughout the day or try the styles that have a higher liquid capacity.
If you feel unsure or have a heavier period, you can try wearing a tampon at the same time.
Does period underwear feel wet?
This was absolutely my first worry when I decided to try period underwear for the first time, lol. Ain’t nobody got time for feeling ~damp~. Both brands have, thankfully, actually thought about this.
“Thinx and Thinx (BTWN) underwear quickly absorb your period, so you don’t feel wet or like you’re sitting in something,” says Fischer-Groban.
Modibodi uses three layers in their product to make sure you stay dry, explains Lorenzato, “The top layer quickly wicks away moisture, fights bacteria and stops smells, so you stay dry and fresh. The middle layer safely absorbs fluid and locks it away (2.5-20mls depending on the flow you go with). The bottom layer is extra waterproof protection.”
Does period underwear smell?
Ah, the second worry. Both Thinx and Modibodi have in-built tech that prevents this (either from being anti-bacterial or odour trapping), so you are good to go!
Modibodi notes that “Reviewers of RED have said that it’s a similar sensation to wearing a pad, but without the ‘soggy’ or ‘smelly’ side effects that you often get with a pad with the added bonus of feeling free and comfortable,” plus u know… saving $ and the planet at the same time.
How do you wash period underwear?
“Firstly, you should never be grossed out by your own period blood, because it’s the most natural, normal thing in the world,” says Lorenzato. Hard agree.
Period underwear is pretty easy to deal with, just rinse them out in water (I usually do this while I’m in the shower waiting for the water to heat up because we are in a hectic drought atm and every little bit helps). After rinsing them, you just chuck ‘em in the washing machine—you can also wash them by hand.
Make sure you steer clear of fabric softener and bleach and let them hang dry though, as those could impair all the tech in these fancy undies and wear them out faster.
Can you go swimming in period underwear?
Okay, your mileage will vary with this one, depending on which period underwear you end up with.
“We don’t recommend wearing Thinx or Thinx (BTWN) undies as a swimsuit as the water will take up the capacity of the underwear,” explains Fischer-Groban, “They can only hold so much liquid, so swimming in them means the water takes up that space!”
On the other hand, Modibodi have designed world exclusive swimwear for your period, “Using our patent-pending Modifier Swim Technology that is similar to what’s found in the RED undies, the RED swimmers will absorb any period leaks while you’re having fun in the sun,” says Lorenzato, “The absorbency on the RED swimwear is light to moderate.”
One thing to note is that even tampons aren’t a perfect solution for swimming or other beach-adjacent activities. With tampons, you’re gonna deal with something called “back absorption” which is where ocean or pool water is absorbed from the string to the bottom end of the tampon.
Pool water, and it’s associated chlorine and other chemicals, is not *ideal* as far as something to have all up inside you, so it’s best to change your tampon as soon as you finish swimming if that’s what you’re using. A really nice alternative in this situation is a menstrual cup.
Can I use period underwear if I have sensitive skin?
Yes, you absolutely can. In fact, you might actually have a better time than with traditional menstrual products, which can sometimes have been treated with bleaches, dyes or, inexplicably, fragrance?!
Modibodi also offers a 30-day risk-free trial offer for first-time customers, so if you don’t like the way RED works for you, you are entitled to a full refund on one garments purchase price.
I’m not a cis-gender woman, but I have periods, which period underwear should I use?
If you’re transgender, non-binary or otherwise just not a cis-woman, you can absolutely still use period underwear. Both Thinx and Modibodi suggest just going with whatever style you feel the most comfortable in, but, that being said, Thinx told Syrup their most popular style for non-binary honeys are the Thinx Boyshorts.
How long does period underwear last?
Take care of your things and they will take care of you~
“With proper care, Thinx and Thinx (BTWN) can last up to two years, which means customers ultimately save money over time,” says Fischer-Groban.
Modibodi has a similar lifespan of about two years. That said this will, of course, depend on how often you’re washing each pair of underwear, if you’re cycling through a couple and whether you also use them with a menstrual cup: the sustainable period product double-whammy. The Menstruation McDouble if you will.
Okay, so period underwear is a more sustainable period option, but how do they come packaged?
Thinx recently redesigned all their packaging to make them 100% biodegradable, a good first step but sometimes things need very specific circumstances to biodegrade. Thinx is committed to continuing “looking for new ways to be more sustainable and reduce our carbon footprint,” says Fischer-Groban. Modibodi comes in a paper card envelope and shipped compostable postage satchel, big ups.
Whether you’re looking to achieve a zero-waste period, wanting to save some money or just have a deep aversion to the feminine hygiene aisle of the supermarket and its fluorescent lighting, period underwear is an excellent option. Here’s to less waste… and never MacGuyver-ing a pad out of toilet paper again.