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The best period underwear for freshness and protection in 2021

Martha Alexander
30 Nov 2021
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Add a little comfort, style and peace of mind to your monthly routine with period underwear – and save money in the process

Sanitary products have undergone a lot of change over the past decade. Of course, we still use tampons and pads, but the market has widened to include organic tampons, menstrual cups and period pants. If you like the idea of waving goodbye to pads and tampons – or at least having an option to do so – then nowadays the best period pants and underwear can give you the freedom to choose how you handle your monthly cycle.

Period pants used to be the baggy, saggy monsters kept tucked in the back of a knicker drawer and worn at only one time of the month. After all, why risk leaking onto nice underwear when you’ve got a perfectly awful pair to do the job instead? But now, period pants are cleverly designed pieces of technology, created to be worn instead of using disposables such as tampons and pads.

It is a lot to wrap one’s head around. We’ve been brought up to change sanitary items with regularity and now there’s a movement towards bleeding into the same pair of pants for a day. That might sound like a recipe for leaks, unwanted odour and discomfort, but that’s not the case at all: thick, highly absorbent material placed in the gusset of the underwear seals everything away until it’s time to rinse them out and give them a run through the washing machine.

Here we’ll explain everything you need to know and suggest some of our favourite pairs from budget buys to stylishly designed undies that you’d be happy to show off.

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How to choose the best period underwear for you

What are the benefits of period pants?

There are two main benefits of using period pants. First, it’s better for the environment to reuse underwear rather than disposing of pads and tampons multiple times a day. In the UK alone, 2.5 million tampons are flushed down the toilet every single day.

Second, it’s cheaper in the long run. Yes, a pair of period pants is more expensive than a packet of pads, but they will last you much longer.

Is there period underwear that caters for people with very heavy periods?

Yes! There are plenty of options for people with very heavy periods – some underwear can hold up to four tampons-worth of blood and can be relied on to last overnight, leak-free.

What do period pants look like?

The majority of period pants we’ve come across are black and large. However, it’s also true that there are a lot of other options available: you can find a pair of period pants to suit your mood, flow and activity. You can find period pants that are lacy, sporty, multi-coloured, high cut, low cut and even thongs.

How do you wash period underwear?

It’s pretty simple: run your pants under a cold tap in the sink so that most of the blood rinses away and then put them in the washing machine with other clothes. Most brands do not advise tumble drying as this will damage the absorbency of the material in the gusset.

Do period pants actually work?

Amazingly, they do. That’s not to say everyone is going to be an instant convert: if you’ve spent some 25 years using tampons and pads, these will take some getting used to. But they do the job: they hold blood, they mask odour and they feel comfortable. You might want to start by using them on lighter days so you can build up trust in them to do the job.

How often should you change period pants?

This is subject to a few variables including the specific underwear you are wearing, how heavy your period is and what you’ve been up to that day. But essentially, you’ll know when you need to change them because you’ll feel a dampness against your skin.

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The best period pants to buy in 2021

1. Super Soft Red Cherry: Best period pants for comfort

Price: From £19 | Buy now from Hey Girls

The first thing you’ll notice about these – aside from the gorgeous colour – is that they are absolutely enormous. They cover the bottom completely and reach right up to above the belly button, which makes them hugely reassuring when you’re in the midst of a heavy month.

The styling might not be the last word in sexy, but they are extremely comfortable – it’s like you’re being swaddled and hugged at the time you need it most. We found these especially useful at night time, as they are super absorbent and can be worn for up to 12 hours.

Key details – Material: Organic cotton; Colours available: 1; Absorbency: 4-5 tampons; Size range: 6–22

Buy now from Hey Girls


2. grls hipster: Best period pants for teens

Price: £30 | Buy now from pantys

These bright beauties are designed for teens, look super cheerful and can in no way be described as “big” pants. The inner lining is black, however, which is a good practical choice.

The design is really slim and discreet while still being highly absorbent – these pants can tackle a heavy flow with no leaks, bacteria or odour build-up. Bear in mind, though, that these run on the small side, so you’ll probably have to size up.

Key details – Material: Cotton; Colours available: 2; Absorbency: Heavy; Size range: 10–16

Buy now from pantys


3. Feeling Pretty High-waisted Period Pants: Best for anti-leak security

Price: £15 | Buy now from Cheeky

The brand name couldn’t be more apt for these pants: the lace around the waistband and the sheen of the exterior material almost make you forget that these are practical period pants. In fact, they’re far less boring than many other pants on the market.

And yet, these are both practical and comfortable. The interior is a soft cotton with four layers of moisture wicking, and there’s breathable fabric at the gusset which stretches from waistband to waistband, front to back. This really helps to ease worries about leakages – you really do feel contained, comfortable and secure.

Key details – Material: Nylon, elastane, cotton; Colours available: 4; Absorbency: 2 tampons; Size range: 4–24

Buy now from Cheeky


4. Leak Proof High Waist: Best for medium flow periods

Price: £36 | Buy now from Saalt

Can period underwear be chic? Going by this stylish example from Saalt, we think so. What’s more, each pair is made from recycled water bottles – making them even more eco-friendly.

With a lace insert, a high waist and a shiny exterior finish, these look far from practical, and yet they absolutely are. The gusset is really thin and doesn’t reach from waist to waist, so it’s hard to believe that it can absorb blood and eliminate odours – yet, miraculously, these coped with a medium-flow period like a dream. Best of all, we genuinely didn’t feel like we were wearing period pants.

Key details – Material: Polyamide, elastane, polyester, recycled polyester, spandex, breathable PUL; Colours available: 2; Absorbency: 3 tampons; Size range: XS–XXL

Buy now from Saalt


5. Love Luna Full Knickers: Best cheap period pants

Price: £10 | Buy now from Tu

Some of the period pants here cost a pretty penny, but these Love Luna knickers from Tu are a welcome exception. With a plain, simple aesthetic but made from soft cotton and not costing the earth, these are what every woman needs in her period armoury.

The fit is cosy and comforting: the gusset is large and extends past where a normal pad would and yet they don’t feel cumbersome or weighty, even during a heavy period. Given that you can buy a few pairs of these for the price of one premium pair, they’re a great budget option.

Key details – Material: Cotton; Colours available: 1; Absorbency: 3-4 tampons; Size range: 10–22

Buy now from Tu


6. Game Changer Period Proof Short: Best period pants for exercise or gym wear

Price: £29 | Buy now from Iceni Silver

If you’re looking for a pair of period pants to wear to the gym, then these really are a game changer: they are essentially period-proof gym shorts. And yes, you can wear these on their own when on a run or at the gym – no one would guess that you are wearing underwear.

In order to handle all that activity, the gusset area is thicker than other brands, with a ribbed texture. This is actually very reassuring – especially if you have heavy periods or are taking part in a class, race or competition. They’re really comfortable too.

Key details – Material: Lycra fabric; Colours available: Black; Absorbency: 8 heavy tampons; Size range: 4 to 18

Buy now from Iceni Silver


7. Sensual High Waist Bikini in Heavy/Overnight: Best for heavy periods

Price: £25 | Buy now from modibodi

Subtle styling and practicality are a winning combination for period pants and this is a fine example from Sensual. With a gusset lining that runs from waistband to waistband and an absorbency designed to cater for long stretches of time or for heavy flows, these are the go-to choice for anyone who struggles with heavy bleeding.

Despite being designed for hard work, they look like “normal” pants in that they aren’t particularly big. They have a delicate lace waistband and even the lighter shades don’t betray that there is black fabric as the top layer of the gusset. They’re brilliant for night time but also work well under skinny jeans as they’re not too bulky – we love them.

Key details – Material: Bamboo Viscose, Spandex, Merino Wool, Polyester, Polyamide; Colours available: 4; Absorbency: 3-4 tampons; Size range: 8 to 26

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