Here's what you should know about period pants

period pants - women's health uk
The lowdown on the best period pants to buy nowTHINX

You get your daily flat white in a KeepCup, haven't used a supermarket plastic bag in years and are finally into eating more chickpeas than chicken. But have you considered how your flow impacts the environment?

Maybe not - and with so many women struggling with period pains, you don't need to add extra stress into your bleed. But period pants are an eco-friendly alternatives to tampons and pads can actually make menstruation more comfortable (while there's limited research on period pants, some studies do suggest they can hold around twice as much blood than a tampon, which means less changing, and many women appreciate not having to worry about inserting a device to feel free from leaks).

Plus, one in five British women purchased a pair of period pants in 2022, according to Mintel, and there's got to be a reason they're so popular.

But you may still be sceptical about period pants - and that's understandable. So we're here to answer all of your worried, and recommend the best period pants on the market.

The best period pants: all the benefits of period knickers

During her lifetime, the average woman will use 12,000 tampons, according to the National Centre for Health Research. But given that the absorbent bundles are often up to 90% plastic, as suggested by research in the Gynaecology & Obstetrics journal, they're also an environmental issue.

Factor in that more than 12 billion pads and tampons are thrown out each year and you can see that this is an area ripe for a green-over. And while we've seen re-useable menstrual cups go mainstream, period pants are a less well-known option but entirely reusable and eco-conscious product to consider.


Period pants: your need-to-know

What are period pants?

Period pants are a pair of thick, leakproof knickers that can be worn as an alternative to pads, tampons and cups during your bleed. The idea is that you simply pull them on and bleed 'freely' (read: into the pants) until you're ready to change them. Then you rinse them out and wash as normal.

The standard thickness for a pair of period pants is around 3mm – so they usually hold around two standard tampons' worth of menstruation blood. But the most common questions asked about period pants is - do they leak? Do they feel wet? And do they work?

How do period pants work?

Made from absorbent material with three to four layers, period pants hold your blood without leaking. Period underwear brand DAME says its period pants 'are designed with added layers of absorbent material strategically placed to catch menstrual flow and discharge. These cleverly engineered layers extend from the front to the back, offering a sustainable alternative to disposables.'

However, just like with tampons, pads and cups, period pants come in different sizes - and getting the right one for your flow is important for avoiding any leaks. There are also overnight options and also those appropriate for swimming.

How long can you wear a pair?

All day. Unlike tampons or pads where you have to constantly change them, period pants are to be used like normal underwear – i.e. changed daily. This will of course depend on your flow: if you lose more than two tampons worth of blood a day, you'll need to change your knickers sooner too.

The downfall is that you may have to have at least three in rotation as after you wear them, they need to be thrown in the wash. (A cold wash is recommended as well as a natural dry). Your period knickers shouldn't stain the rest of your clothes but it's a good idea to rinse them out in the sink beforehand.

Why would I ditch my tampon for period pants?

Pads and tampons are familiar options around the globe, yet these fresh inventions are very much on the rise – and there are loads of reasons why.

Natural living

Just as more people are transitioning to natural beauty products, so more women are starting to assess the ingredients that some commercial brands of pad and tampon contain. While mass market tampons are understood to be totally safe by the medical establishment – but some women might choose to go au natural for the environment and personal preference.

Most period products are made from cotton or other natural fibres for comfort against your skin and combined with other polymers for absorption, protection and hygiene.

To save you money

Long term, period pants can help you save cash. Research shows we spend an average of £5000 on period products throughout our life, while half of women experience period poverty. While period pants are more expensive than a packet of pads of tampons, if you can spend a little more upfront, they'll save money in the long term as they're reusable. Big brands can charge around £20-£30 per pair, but high street versions like M&S period pants cost around £16 for a pack of three.

To be more environmentally friendly

According to a study by the European Commission, menstrual products are the fifth most common plastic to take up the oceans. Period pants can help to alleviate that problem as they're reusable, sustainable and use less plastic.

Are period pants hygienic?

Yes. There is no need to worry about hygiene as period pants tend to have an anti-microbial technology threaded through the fabric where the fluid is truly absorbed instead of sitting on top of your underwear.

They also won't leave you feeling damp down there thanks to the absorbent design that takes the blood into the knickers, rather than sitting on the surface.

Are period pants safe?

Yes, totally. If you are worried about your heavy periods or leaking through your period pants, it's advised to talk to your GP or gynaecologist.

Ready to shop? Our tried and tested review of the best period pants found clear winners to shop.

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