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When you first got your period you were most likely presented with two options: Pads or tampons. Two options that aren't particularly cheap, sustainable or comfortable. (Especially if you consider the average person uses up to 9,600 tampons in a lifetime.) To better serve their body and the environment, some, like me, have become menstrual cup converts. Another convenient option? Period panties.
What is period underwear?
Well, it's simple really. While they look like regular undies, period panties work like pads and tampons by absorbing menstrual blood. The best period underwear offers an extra layer of absorption that isn't bulky or suffocating, trapping moisture and stopping leaks without worry or discomfort. Unlike those old stand-bys, they can be used over and over again which makes them better for the environment and your wallet alike. Hot tip: Many brands can be purchased with HSA/FSA funds.
How does period underwear work?
Though design and innovation differ from brand to brand, the instructions for use remain the same. Put them on, and go about your business! Whether you're hauling kids to soccer, working out, or getting some much-needed zzz's, period undies can hold a significant amount of fluid, to give you peace of mind the entire day. Some people prefer to use them as a backup for tampons and menstrual cups on heavy days, though there are definitely options on the market that can replace them altogether. They are also an ideal option for postpartum bleeding (bye-bye ugly mesh panties!) when tampons and cups aren't an option. And, let's get real for sec—they're awesome for mamas (of any age or stage) who can't trust a sneeze they didn't prepare for. (I see you, friend.)
How do you wash period panties?
Not to worry. This isn't complicated. Just rinse in cold water after wearing. Once the water runs clear, you can toss them in the wash with everything else. A mesh laundry bag is recommended but certainly not required. Be sure to wash on a cold, delicate cycle and hang to dry. Also, you'll want to avoid fabric softener since it can leave behind film that will interfere with their absorption abilities.
If you're ready to make your period, postpartum bleeding or pee problems a little less stressful (and a little more fashionable!) check out our top picks for period underwear below.
Best Period Panties
A version of this story was published July 12, 2021. It has been updated.