period pants
Fashion

What are the best period pants on the market? We put 6 brands to the test

If you’re a person who menstruates, wearing period pants could seriously reduce your environmental impact. But do they really work? Here, the Stylist team puts them to the test. 

Anyone who has a period knows that the options to manage your ‘time of the month’ can be expensive and seriously bad for the environment too. Research shows that the average person who menstruates spends nearly £500 every year on their period. And with experts estimating that 1.5  billion menstrual items are thrown down Britain’s toilets each year, the environmental impact of the single-use products we’re used to buying, such as tampons and pads, is steep.

A solution that some new, independent brands are championing is period pants, a reusable alternative to pads and tampons. Designed to absorb menstrual blood, period pants are allowing many to abandon traditional period products for good. Big brands including Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer have caught on to period pants too, realising the potential of the market as 15% of menstruating women opted for environmentally friendly products in 2020 and that trend is not going away. 

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Many people are skeptical of period pants after years of wearing traditional menstrual products. And you might have reasonable questions: do they work? How? And are they as effective as what we’ve already got to work with?

Period pants are made from an absorbent material that (depending on the brand) hold one to two tampons’ worth of blood. They tend to have a three-layer design made up of this absorbent layer, a moisture barrier for comfort and a layer designed to prevent leaks and staining. 

Speaking of stains, you might be wondering how to wash period pants, but the clever technology behind the design of period pants means that, with most brands, you simply need to rinse them and then either hand wash or put them in the washing machine as normal.

That’s all the logistics, but what is the actual experience of wearing the underwear like when you are on your period? We put six pairs to the test to find out.

  • Wuka Ultimate High Waist - Medium Flow

    wuka period pants
    WUKA period pants.

    Founded in 2017, Wuka is a female-led start-up, making the UK’s first reusable and leak-proof period wear.

    Here’s what our reviewer said: 

    “I was never interested in period pants. In fact, when it comes to period products I’ve long been nervous and apprehensive about anything that would nudge me beyond the familiarity of cheap tampons. Not great, not sustainable, and incredibly annoying every time I forget to pop some in my bag. Nevertheless, I stubbornly committed to what I was used to.

    And then the opportunity to try Wuka’s period pant range came up. At the first pang of ovarian pain, I begrudgingly slid myself into a pair of their medium flow, high-waisted pants expecting to feel like I was wearing a used nappy (we’ve all thought it) and I was delightfully surprised to find the material to be delightfully soft and the fit to be snug without being restrictive. “Touché,” I thought. “But how long will this last?” It’s safe to say that it was probably the most stress-free period of my life. I bravely wore a cute pair with lace detailing on the side to sleep – WHILE SHARING A BED WITH MY BOYFRIEND – and secretly stressed about any night time leakage. To my surprise (and relief) there was no drama at all. I woke up as comfortable as I was when I fell asleep. I hate to admit my errors, but I don’t imagine I’ll be turning back to my old ways any time soon.”

    Shop Wuka Ultimate High Waist - Medium Flow, £24.99

  • Thinx Air Bikini

    thinx air bikini
    Thinx Air Bikini

    Thinx are one of the most well-known period pants brands with a wide range of styles and colours available. Supporting period poverty initiatives and other organisations who aim to help people who menstruate, Thinx is a brand with a conscious. 

    Here’s what our reviewer said: 

    “I have long been scared of giving period pants a go, so as a first-timer, I was more than pleasantly surprised by my pair of Thinx Air bikini briefs in black. 

    Not only did they fit brilliantly and feel secure (one of the main things I was worried about), but they were also really easy to clean afterwards – you just rinse them under the tap once you’re done (not as gross as it sounds) and then stick them in the washing machine for a proper wash.

    Because the material they’re made from is super stretchy and elasticated, they were also really comfortable to wear, making them perfect for when you’re dealing with cramps. 

    The only thing I would say is that I tried these out on a day when my flow was a little lighter – I’m sure it would be fine, but I’d need to pluck up the courage to wear these on the first or second day of my period.”

    Shop the Thinx Air Bikini, £24.61

  • Ohne Bikini Brief (Moderate)

    Ohne period pants
    Ohne Bikini Briefs

    Ohne creates a range of organic period products including tampons, pads and CBD oils designed specifically for cramps. They’ve recently developed a range of period pants, and for every pair bought, they will donate another to someone that needs them.

    Here’s what our reviewer said: 

    “I’ll start by saying that the minute I opened these and saw that bright orange pop of colour, along with a matching washable mesh bag for them, I was immediately charmed. 

    Ohne already has a great reputation, and I’m a fan of its holy cramp CBD oil and have a monthly subscription to its toxic and plastic free tampons. 

    Their new bikini briefs are certainly the thinnest period underwear I’ve tried, made of a silky material that is comfortable and a little bit sexier than the typical cotton offerings, which really helped. 

    I still found them absorbent and breathable, fitting comfortably under fitted jeans without having that dreaded nappy effect. As lovely as these were, I’m not sure I’m ready to turn my back on the security and ease of tampons, but in so many stunning shades, these are definitely the closest to tempting me.”

    Shop the Ohne Bikini Brief (Moderate), £27

  • Iceni Silver Hipster Period Wear Knicker

    Iceni period pants
    Iceni period pants

    Iceni period pants are specifically designed for sports and exercise. The brand was created by two mothers who wanted to do something about the negative impact periods were having on their sporty children.

    Here’s what our reviewer said: 

    “I only ever sleep in period pants as I usually find them too cumbersome for daily wear, especially if I’m out and about or in the office. Iceni Silver’s pants are made of a nice, stretchy material, but if I bought them again I would size up as after a night of wear (and probably due to my fidgeting), they did start to cut in. 

    Even though they were a lower rise hipster style, they didn’t leak and I even went so far as to test them by sleeping on white bedding – and it survived. While they were designed with sport in mind, if I’m honest I wasn’t able to go through with wearing them outside to the gym. It’s most likely my own self-consciousness, but under tight gym leggings, the full coverage hipster style just wasn’t something I was comfortable showing off. 

    However, they were great under loose bottoms or pyjamas and washed well with my other clothes, which is a big bonus for long-term use. The main thing I would change is the sizing, as they ran a little small for my wider hips.”

    Shop the Iceni Silver Hipster Period Wear Knicker, £22

  • Hey Girls - various styles

    hey girls period pants
    Hey Girls period pants

    Hey Girls was founded in 2018, producing environmentally friendly period products that fund the fight to end period poverty in the UK with their ‘buy one, donate one’ scheme.

    Here’s what our reviewer said: 

    “I’d never tried period pants before this, and although friends have raved about them and I’ve done some cursory online research, I’ve just never clicked ‘buy’ on a pair. So when the chance arose to try some of the Hey Girls pants, I pretty much jumped for joy. They sent over three pairs: the Super Soft Red Cherry, the Essential Bikini and the Basic Brief.

    Although high-waisted briefs usually get a bad rap, there’s something to be said for how flattering they can be, so the red cherry pair ticked the style box, as well as being a great period pant. I felt secure and the pants and the high-waisted style helped with my peace of mind that they wouldn’t move around too much or budge when sleeping. There was no leaking, and honestly, I was surprised at how effective they were.

    The Hey Girls pants were super easy to care for as well; all I did was rinse mine after use and then put them in the laundry with the rest of my washing and they came out as good as new. I think the only thing that could improve the range would just be more colour and style variations, but the touch and feel of each pair was exactly what you’d want from your underwear.

    On the whole, each pair was really comfortable and made my period easier, which is always a major bonus. They were a little more bulky than regular underwear but nothing especially noticeable. The only thing I would say is to size up, as I feel like they run a bit more on the snug side.”

    Shop the Hey Girls Basic Brief Period Pants, £18.95

  • Flux Undies Hi-Waist

    Flux undies period pants

    Flux Undies makes super absorbent, eco-friendly period pants that are sustainably sourced, ethically manufactured and cruelty free. It just launched its first gender-neutral underwear collection for the transgender and non-binary community.

    Here’s what our reviewer said: 

    “I was an early adopter of period pants when they first came on the market in the UK. About one in every three of my periods is extremely heavy and I got so tired of waking up in the middle of the night and feeling a slick of blood and then spending the rest of the night sleeping badly because I was worried about my heavy period, my sheets and getting up to change my useless tampon. The first ones I tried were a little bulky, but those days are gone. 

    I’m a huge convert to Flux, and the Hi-Waist in Light Flow is my favourite pair from the brand. Yes, they are leak-proof, but also so comfy, and dare I say – a bit sexy. They are soft with mesh panels and perfect for daywear under dresses, skirts and high waisted jeans. They are lightweight and dry really quickly (essential if your period lasts a few days and you only have a few pairs on rotation).

    I don’t wear the high-waisted style at night (I prefer the classic brief or boy shorts for bed) but if you haven’t tried period pants yet, or tried them years ago and had a bad experience, I am here to tell you the game has changed – more tech, smarter design and each pair stops 200+ disposables from going to landfill. Plus, who doesn’t want to have fewer tampons in their lives? Sold.”

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