According to the Absorbent Hygiene Products Manufacturers Association, women use more than 11,000 disposable (and mostly plastic) menstrual products in their lifetime. Waste treatment specialist Knowaste reveals that these tampons, pads and applicators equate to 200,000 tonnes of waste per year. That’s a whole lot of plastic for our landfills, which can take around 500 years to decompose.
While there was once a time in which we had no choice but to accept the status quo of our period products, the innovation that we deserve is here to include items that are not only kinder for the planet but also our wallets.
A survey conducted by VoucherCodesPro revealed that each period can cost up to £41, £492 a year and £18,450 over a lifetime. It’s no wonder then that period poverty is such a prevalent and important issue. It’s very expensive to be female.
Enter reusable sanitary pads and our new favourite item for when Aunt Flo visits: reusable period pants.
Reusable period pant brand Pantys reveal that by opting for period-absorbing underwear, you can save up to 200 single-use pads or tampons a year. The brand goes on to explain it in terms of carbon emissions (converted into kg equivalents of carbon dioxide). One year’s worth of single-use pads equals 20.4kg carbon dioxide, compared to one year’s worth of their reusable alternatives which emits just 1.9kg carbon dioxide. This doesn’t even take into consideration the microplastic particles and plastic waste that end up in our ecosystem through flushing the products and the harmful effect this consequently has on our marine wildlife.
Why wear reusable period pants?
Reusable absorbent underwear has changed my life. They are an eco-friendly alternative to their sanitaryware predecessors but are so much more. Often crafted from cotton, they remove chemicals like chlorine and toxic dioxin (that are used in the bleaching of wood pulp - one of the raw materials used in menstrual products) from your life and most intimate area.
How do reusable period pants work?
You wear them much like traditional knickers without the need for pads or tampons. It may not be for the squeamish among you but it’s far more hygienic than it sounds as the materials are antimicrobial and so remove bacteria and odours.
What are the benefits of reusable period pants?
Invest in a few pairs and these cost-effective items will save you serious money in the long run. They last for years and eliminate the need for single-use plastic in the process.
What are the options for reusable period pants?
You can buy different options depending on your flow - from light to heavy. They work wonders to make your time of the month far more manageable and save your favourite knickers from getting spoiled. They are super absorbent and can last for up to 12 hours without leakage, so great for wearing overnight.
How do you wash reusable period pants?
Stephanie Taylor, Managing Director of Kegel8 explains, “Period pants are made of super absorbent material, allowing them to function a bit like the championed ‘pad’, but without all the waste and fuss.”
She stresses the importance of proper care and maintenance. “Simply pop in the wash like any other clothing item. But if period pants are not washed perfectly to instruction, there is a danger of them becoming unhygienic. This is the same as any other underwear, but due to the nature of the product, consistent cleaning is all the more important. Wash at minimum of 40 degrees with detergent, just to be safe.” Most of the brands also suggest rinsing with cold water before chucking into your regular spin.
See our pick of the best period pants to revolutionise your monthly flow.
One of the first to market and the leader in the space, Thinx was our introduction into the world of period pants and I haven’t looked back since. The products have a special period-absorbing technology and don’t feel any different to your traditional pair of pants. They are extremely lightweight, while also boasting impressive absorbency. Whether you have a light or heavy flow, there are options ranging from two to five regular tampons in capacity. You can also shop them in a range of designs - from briefs and boyshorts, to thongs and high-rise.
The brand has even expanded into activewear to prevent that ever-dreaded VPL even in the middle of your period.
The Hiphugger lace and stretch organic cotton period briefs are our favourite for their odour-trapping lining, absorbency and stylish zig-zag lace insert.
Wuka (that’s Wake Up and Kick Ass) was borne out of a desire by the brand’s founder Ruby to make period products more accessible to all around the world and for the conversation around the topic to be less taboo. The brand rightfully stresses that sanitaryware should not be a luxury and needs to be sustainable so have created a range of reusable underwear that is eco-friendly, produces less waste and is designed for every body type with sizes from XS to 3XL (UK 4 to 20). The inclusive selection can be shopped by flow - heavy, medium or light, by style - high waist, midi brief or bikini, or by collection in which there are different fabrics and design points.
I opted for the WUKA Ultimate Midi Brief for Heavy Flow and was very impressed with the results. While they do feel like there is a large sanitary towel inside (this will be thinner on the lower flow alternatives), it is not noticeable once on and is great for night as the interior ‘pad’ extends up the back. This gives you total peace of mind and no staining on sheets when you’re expecting to come on. The design ensures that it is leak-free - I wore it on the first day of my period and can vouch for this - and that you can feel fresh and protected for up to eight hours or the equivalent of four tampons. The construction is with an eco-friendly and carbon neutral fabric that has a soft cotton-like feel - while the mesh at the side makes for an attractive pair of underwear.
Love or hate the name, Pantys is here to take the weight off during your time of the month. The B Corp brand produces entirely carbon neutral period products as well as postpartum underwear, an absorbent nursing bra and a first menstruation kit for teens. These are the first menstrual products in the world to be clinically, gynaecologically and dermatologically tested so the proof is really in the pudding.
The range is divided up in terms of flow - light, medium, heavy and overnight (Dreamer) - with different shapes for each. Tanga is their barely-there product for light flows, at the end of your cycle or for spotting. Bikini has an attractive mesh at the sides with a good stretch and a soft construction. This is for medium flow where you’ll also find the Classic that has a more supportive design and a wider waistband. Slim also has this mesh, striped wider waistband that is for heavy menstrual flow and combines both style and support. Then you’ll find the Hot Pant that has the most amount of support also for heavy periods. The Grls collection will support those on their first period with extreme comfort for heavy flow and technology to protect against leaks.
Sizes range from XS to 3XL (UK4 to 22) and in three colours; black, red and pink.
On first impressions, I was a big fan of the branding especially the chic pink and red boxes and this theme continued throughout wear. These reusable period pants were actually the most stylish product in terms of design with a lovely stripe mesh waistband and great skin-feel. They feel like ordinary underwear with a much thinner construction than using a traditional pad. I sampled both the Classic and the Slim. The aforementioned is barely differentiable to ordinary knickers, while the Slim is of course kitted out with a thicker pad-like feel. Both held up in testing and will be incorporated each month during our visit from Aunt Flo.
Hey Girls Black Cherry Period pants
When you first catch a glimpse of Hey Girls’ period pants, you may get Bridget Jones granny panty feels but a few things to note Firstly, once on, they aren’t as big as they seem and secondly, your period is all about comfort and these may just be some of the most cosy I’ve tried. They are crafted from bamboo and natural cotton which is sumptuously soft on the skin and the high rise fit keeps you feeling secure as you ride the crimson wave. They can hold up to five tampons worth of blood which is seriously impressive but in order to achieve this, there is rather a large pad inside. At least you know that in the early, heavier days and at night, you are covered with leak protection.
While the product does speak for itself, honourable mention also goes to the brand and its SeeingRed campaign, where with every purchase, they donate to those in need. Maximum period protection, environmentally friendly and socially conscious - it’s the full package.
Intimawear by Bodyform
Bodyform’s launch of its Intimawear cued squeals of delight for those disheartened by the lack of choice for Code Red moments. Sanitary pads can feel uncomfortable and let’s not even go into all the gripes of tampons - so this is a great solution that will keep your favourite knickers in tact.
The period pants are constructed with an innovative three-layer design to make period management a breeze. First up, a moisture-wicking fabric to absorb blood and moisture with no leakage. This is then followed by another absorbent antimicrobial middle layer to remove odour and hold the liquid for the majority of the day. Last but not least, you have a leak-proof and breathable third layer for extra security and peace of mind. This is all to say that these pants have very impressive absorption power and will keep you fresh for up to 12 hours, giving you comfort and freedom all at the same time.
There are two options available; Hipster and Bikini - both designed for moderate flow. I have quite a heavy flow and the product really held up with no feeling of wetness and no leakage. Both designs are worth investing in and come in two hues of black and burgundy but the Hipster gets the style points with the attractive lace trim. They offer full performance for 50 washes so make a far durable and much more eco-conscious choice.