Period underwear. No, I don't mean ladies knickers from 1901. This review is about undies for the year 2018 and beyond. Undies with great tech that lessen the need for pads, tampons or indeed washable wool rags - which is what you would have used at the turn of the last century.
The combination of technological innovation and an increased desire to decrease our personal environmental impact has created the perfect storm for the rise of the period panty. The period panty?
What are period panties?
They are a deceptively robust yet elegant genre of briefs designed to absorb menstrual flow. They look just like a regular pair, (sometimes better).
At first glance, it's hard to comprehend these sleek panties can deal with all that is usually absorbed by disposable sanitary products. And even if they could, would they be hygienic? Would we need to change panties several times a day? Would you be prepared to step out to Diddy's White Party putting all your trust in this new upstart of the panty world? These are baseline questions needing to be answered before we even begin discussing the merits of one brand over another or RSVP to Diddy.
How do period undies work?
Here's what our research unearthed. Although there are various brands on the market, they all have one thing in common - the most important thing - a super absorbent moisture wicking gusset. The gusset, which is designed to keep you dry, along with the cut and fabric of the brief, all combine to prevent leakage. Depending on which brand or style you opt for, they can hold between one and two tampons' worth. So, one pair of panties can carry you somewhat through the day depending on your flow. Some are designed as a frontline defence for absorption, while others play a back-up role to your existing sanitary products.
Are period underwear hygienic?
Hygiene, another possible deal breaker. Fear not as most of these undies are made from several layers of anti-microbial fibre that provide breathability and therefore freshness. It is recommended they be rinsed once they are taken off then put in the regular wash.
So, what's in it for you? Will wearing period proof pants result in a reduction of the amount of hard earned money literally being flushed or thrown away. In 2016 Choice reported 'the average Australian woman would use approximately 10,000 disposable menstrual products in her lifetime, depending upon individual needs'. By my calculations, over your lifetime – taking into consideration CPI, removal of the 'tampon tax', cotton price hikes, interest rates and Coles' 'Down Down' specials, we are spending precisely... err... well, possibly more than we need to. However, when you factor in the cost of period pants and the number you'll need for each cycle the jury is out on whether you'll be better off financially.
What is certain, and more satisfying than marginal monetary gain, is the major solid you'll be doing future generations. It is predicted the average sanitary pad takes 500-800 years to break down. Where on earth are we going to put them all in the meantime? Disposable sanitary products have only been widely affordable and commercially available for around the last 80 years. We've really only just begun. I can think of several more fitting heirlooms to pass down to our great, great granddaughters. Come to think of it, can you even imagine the sanitary options we'll have in 2518? Will technology keep hurtling forward or will we go back to a simpler time when women would dwell, pant-less, in a hut for 7 out of 28 days?
Whether it's using grass wrapped in linen or donning a sanitary apron like our sisters before us, we women have a long and varied history when it comes to handling our periods. This line up of period underwear is yet another step in that evolutionary chain and provides a thoroughly modern way to manage one's menstruation.
While not widely available in Australian retail stores (but they do ship down under), here's a round up of the best period panties and underwear for your periods.
EvaWear period underwear Cost: $29.40 - $36.20
Overview: Elegant briefs that come in a number of flattering styles. They look like any other pair of panties and are designed to withhold fluid up to the equivalent of two tampons.
Pros: More affordable than the category leader Thinx. Although the sizing runs small, it includes XXXL.
Cons: Order a size up, then up it again. Although they do need to be snug to work, there is a fine line between being comfortable and being leak free.
Also available to shop locally here.
6. Dear Kate
Collection of period proof garments
Cost: Undies range from $45 - $62
Overview: The Dear Kate range is one of the most expansive as it includes activewear and dancewear. The designs are beautiful and some briefs can be paired with matching tops and bras. They offer a choice of gusset sizes - either a mini lining (holds 1.5 tampons' worth) or a full lining (holds 2 tampons' worth).
Pros: Terrific colour palate with feminine design. These briefs are 100% fabric and contain no plastic films or laminates which have been reported to cause odour and thrush. Dear Kate also offers a one year warranty.
Cons: Pricey when you factor in despatch to Australia, although they do offer free international shipping for orders over US$175.
Australian designed period panties
Cost: $19.90 - $22.90
Overview: This Queensland based designer offers a pretty pair of full briefs made from bamboo viscose fibre, Spandex and organic cotton. The absorbent gusset runs halfway to the front and all the way to the back to help prevent leaks while lying or sitting.
Pros: Well priced and available in a discounted seven colour bundle pack with free menstrual cup. (Now that's a whole other review).
Cons: Tech is not as 'techy' as others on the market, although the natural fibres provide breathability.
Period undies and swimwear
Cost: Undies from $24 - $32
Overview: A large range of on-trend colours prints and styles here. All briefs have high absorbency (2 tampon capacity). The range includes what appears to be a period onesie which they call a sleepsuit. Now that's protection! PantyProp also offer a 'First Period Kit' for teens which comes in a pink and white candy stripped box and includes not only panties, but items such as hand sanitiser, a bracelet, journal and cosy socks.
Pros: Free worldwide shipping on orders over US$45
Cons: Saying this brand name is one hell of a tongue twister.
Handmade period proof underwear
Overview: Edgy pants that put the fun into getting your period. With designs such as Code Red, Ragtime and Shark Week these pants promise to not only handle your period, but make it impossible to get a wedgie.
Pros: Hand made from recycled cotton, they are the most environmentally friendly period pant going.
Cons: There's no information about exactly how much fluid these pants withhold nor the tech behind them. The best advice is to try them out at home and definitely take backups.
Australian range of period, leak and sweat proof underwear
Cost: $26.50 - $60
Overview: Genuinely comfortable and effective period pants that come in large range of cuts with four different absorbency options. The patented Modifier Technology holds up to two tampons' worth of fluid and is only 3mm thick. The tech utilises high quality naturally breathable fabric that feels terrific.
Pros: Modibodi is helping to affect generational change by offering a 10% student discount. On top of this, Modibodi facilitate customer donations of period pants, (new ones), to homeless girls and women.
Cons: Let me get back to you on this one. We've read many a Modibodi review, as well as testing them ourselves. In our opinion, Modibodi really is the best underwear for your period.
Overview: One of the biggest names in the business with good reason, Thinx have full coverage and all the high end tech you'd expect. They are amongst the best period panties on the market today. Their tag line is "Period-proof underwear that works" and they've filmed a simulated 'period' demonstration to prove it
The styles are superb and feature elegant waist bands and leg seams. Although the core product mostly comes in black or beige, there is a fantastic vibrant range of teen underwear called BTWN.
Thinx targets the millennial market and displays a vast amount philanthropic endeavour. Not only do they provide period pants to women in developing countries, they also provide education on reproductive health that would otherwise be unavailable.
Pros: Every cut imaginable is available, from G-strings to boy shorts, and come in a wide range of sizes.
Cons: There have been some reviews of insufficient laundry advice in the instructions so make sure you read the FAQs.
After many years of using tampons and pads exclusively, there's a bit to get your head around here. Ultimately, it's personal choice whether to give these undies a go full time, part time or not at all. Now at least we have a stylish option. You could say it's horses for courses. Menstrual courses.