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.

Related: I’m a menstrual cup convert and here’s why you could be too

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

Knix Super Leakproof Bikini

Knix

$30

Super Leakproof Bikini

Through human-centered design, patented technology and cutting-edge processes, Knix may be one of the most innovative intimates brands on the market. With wireless bras that don’t squeeze or poke, anti-chafing shorts that make summer dress wearing fun again and undies that eliminate the stress of period leaks, they’re on a mission to help women live “unapologetically free.” Another thing to love about them? FIVE shades of “nude” because who should decide what “nude” means anyway?

Why we love these: As the most absorbent period undies you can buy, the Super Leakproof Bikini from Knix can hold an impressive EIGHT tampons’ worth of fluid. According to another Motherly editor, her sister has severe endometriosis and was “shocked at how well these actually work.” And if you’re up for more than just laying on the couch, no problem. The nylon-spandex outer layer wicks sweat and moves with your body all day long. Ready to start a collection? They come in a wide range of colors, patterns and skin tones so you won’t get bored.

Sizing: XS-4XL and they run true to size

Bundling option: Save 25% when you buy 3-4 pairs, 30% when you buy 5+ pairs

thinx hiphugger

Thinx

$35

Hiphugger

Thinx was the first brand to bring period underwear mainstream. (My gateway period undies, in fact.) With some stellar marketing and a product that lives up to the hype, they’ve been on a mission to break the period taboo since 2013. Their signature technology uses non-migratory silver to help keep everything feeling fresh and odor-free through all kinds of leaks and life seasons. What’s more, their GiveRise program works to provide reliable access to safe menstrual hygiene products and education, so that no one has to feel ashamed or sit things out because they’re bleeding.

Why we love these: Thinx Hiphugger is one of the brand’s most popular styles, holding up to three tampons worth. (It comes in a high absorbency version as well.) The internal gusset extends high up the back, making them a great option for overnight wear. The outside layer feels like bathing suit material which I personally don’t mind at all, though others have commented that they don’t feel as breathable as they’d prefer. They wash fabulously and have held up better than any other pair I’ve tested.

Sizing: XXS-3XL and they run true to size

Bundling option: Save 10% when you buy 3-4 pairs, 15% when you buy 5-6, and 20% when you buy 7+ pair (which you can mix and match).

proof leak-resistant high waisted smoothing brief

Proof

$29

Leak-resistant High Waisted Smoothing Brief

Proof’s patented Leak-Loc™ technology protects against all of life’s leaks, both big and small drawing moisture away from the body to keep you dry for hours. The unique interlocking lining helps to prevent leakage, even on the heaviest days, with some styles capable of holding up to five tampons’ worth of fluid. They’re a solid choice for postpartum bleeding, the lightest days of your flow and every day in between.

Why we love these: Though these only offer light coverage (up to one tampons’ worth), they’re a first-day favorite for me. The high-waisted compression style helps soothe cramps and makes me feel all tucked in on those days where I just feel totally blah. The nylon material is smooth and soft and can almost pass for a bathing suit if it wasn’t for the seam across the front.

Sizing: XXS-3XL and they run true to size.

Bundling option: Save 25% when you buy 3+ pairs

Dear Kate Ada Hipster Full

Dear Kate

$40

Ada Hipster Full

Dear Kate’s proprietary knit combines with micro-polyester to create a line of period undies that are 100% fabric, 100% breathable and completely free of plastic films and laminates like Polyurethane Laminates (PUL) (which some suggest can contribute to bacteria, fungal and yeast growth). Their patent-pending design features three layers of protection against leaks, stains and odors and dries 8x faster than cotton, which helps keep you feeling fresh even when things get dicey.

Why we love these: With their bikini cut and feminine lace band, the Ada Hipster holds up to three tampons’ worth and the full coverage stays comfortable throughout the day. (They also come in a couple fun colors to mix things up!)

Sizing : XXS-3X. Reviewers note the leg opening is on the tight side, so you may want to size up.

Bundling option: Save 15% when you buy 3+ pairs

Leak Proof High Waisted Lace Brief

Proof

$49

Leak Proof High Waisted Lace Brief

With so many styles that are great for everything from periods to postpartum, we can’t pick just one Proof.

Why we love these: Not just the cutest period undies I own–the cutest undies I own, period. I’m completely smitten with the vintage vibes of Proof’s Leak Proof High Waisted Lace Brief which is not only boudoir-photo levels of gorgeous, it’s seriously hard working as well. The style holds up to three tampon’s worth of fluid with their patented wicking materials and feel dry and comfy all day long.

Sizing: XS-XL and they run true to size.

Bundling option: Save 25% when you buy 3+ pairs

Knix Super Leakproof Dream Short

Knix

$42

Super Leakproof Dream Short

Knix has performance on lock, offering too many amazingly functional styles for us to choose just one (or two!).

Why we love these: The Dream Short is a no-brainer for bedtime, offering an extended gusset, comfy four-way stretch and high absorbency, catching an impressive 12 teaspoons of fluid. (They are seriously the only reason I haven’t completely ruined at least 2 sets of sheets.) Make no mistake, there’s some heft there when it comes to the thickness and overall size of the gusset, but for heavy overnight flow, there’s truly nothing better. The thick waistband stays put whether you’re in bed or racing around town and the boy short cut pairs perfectly with skirts and dresses in the summer.

Sizing: XS-4XL and they run true to size

Bundling option: None for this style, though they are sold as part of their kits.

Pure Rosy Lacy V bikini

Pure Rosy

$31

Lacy V-Bikini

Pure Rosy is on a mission to create a more sustainable future through reducing single use plastics and wash recommendations that reduce your carbon footprint. Not sure how much swapping your tampons can help? The handy calculator on their site might make you 😱.

Why we love these: The sexy style feels like your everyday undies with a center lining that’s ultra thin. (Literally the thinnest we’ve tested!) These are great for light days as they hold up to two light tampon’s worth or for every day protection from leaks and discharge. (Hey, it happens!)

Sizing: XS-1X

Bundling options : Save 6% when purchasing 3+ pair

Thinx Cotton Brief

Thinx

$35

Cotton Brief

A cotton Thinx option!

Why we love these: With a nice thick waistband that doesn’t roll or squeeze, a generous gusset that extends almost all the way up the back and the ability to catch up to four tampons’ worth of blood, the organic cotton brief from Thinx are the basic black leggings of period undies. (Though they do come in some pretty great colors, obvs!) Their hard-working and breathable design makes them a great choice for heavy flow days and even postpartum bleeding.

Sizing: XXS-4XL and they run true to size

Bundling option: Save 10% when you buy 3-4 pairs, 15% off 5-6 pairs, 20% off 7+ pairs.

Thinx For All Brief

Thinx For All

$16.98

Moderate Absorbency Brief

Thinx’s more affordable brand, Thinx For All is a great option if you want to try period undies without breaking the bank. They come in two absorbencies, but we recommend the moderate. (The super is just a little too diaper-like for our fancy.) Like the cotton version above, they’re breathable and comfy. The main concession is that the gusset doesn’t extend quite as far up–a detail which really comes into play for sleeping and laying down. Otherwise, it’s generous enough to keep you confident and protected.

Sizing: XXS-4XL and they run true to size

Bundling option: None

Bambody Period Underwear

Bambody

$14.90

Absorbent Panty

Bambody believes period protection should be simple, adaptable and affordable. The Australian brand launched in 2018 and since has become one of the highest-rated period underwear on Amazon. With budget-friendly styles like sporty hipsters lace-trimmed bikinis and straight-up briefs , they’re a great choice whether you’re period panty curious or already a convert.

Why we love these: From freshly postpartum to monthly cycles, the Bambody absorbent panty can easily hold its own against more expensive competitors. Their four-layer construction can hold up to two tampons’ worth of fluid and unlike any others on this list, they’re made from super cool and breathable bamboo.

Sizing: XXS-6XL and they run small

Knix Super Leakproof Thong

Knix

$30

Super Leakproof Thong

Knix does it again, with our top choice for period thongs.

Why we love these: Admittedly, heavy flow and thongs don’t seem like a match made in heaven, but if panty lines are a no-go, Knix thongs have you covered. (Or don’t have you covered, as it were…) The high absorbency collects the equivalent of up to six tampons, so you can work out or strut your stuff in those tight pants panty line and worry-free. They also come in a ton of gorgeous colors, patterns and skin tones.

Sizing: XS-4XL and they run true to size

Bundling option: Save 25% when you buy 3-4 pairs, 30% when you buy 5+ pairs

Thinx Air Hip Hugger

Thinx

$35

Air Hiphugger

The Thinx air line is made from ultra-thin, cooling micro-mesh to keep things fresh 24/7.

Why we love them: A great alternative to the Thinx Hiphugger above—especially if you’re looking for something even more breathable. They’re lightweight and sweat-wicking and can collect up to two regular tampons’ worth of fluid. They’re ideal for light to moderate flow days when you’re working out or battling the summer heat.

Sizing : XXS-4XL and they run true to size

Bundling option: Save 10% when you buy 3-4 pairs, 15% off 5-6 pairs, 20% off 7+ pairs.

Ruby Love Period Undies

Ruby Love

$19.99

Period Underwear

What’s not to love about Ruby Love? The Black-owned brand was founded by Crystal Etienne in 2015 with a mission to make period days just like any other day. After countless tweaks and tests, she’s developed a patent-pending five-layer design that offers maximum absorption, protection against leaks and stains, and total peace of mind. And with a rainbow of fun colors, inclusive sizing and a range of styles (including boxers and a teen line!) no one will suffer from a boring underwear drawer again.

Why we love these: The intuitive design of all Ruby Love products keeps them from feeling bulky and conspicuous. They’re also free of plastic and Polyurethane Laminate (PUL) which makes them breathable, comfy and odor-free. Each style offers up to 2.5 tampons’ worth of protection with a 2-layer leak-proof liner made from 100% absorbent cotton and dri-tech mesh.

Sizing : XXS-8X depending on style

Bundling option: 4-piece bundles save 22%, 7-piece bundles save 29% (and can be mixed and matched)

Cora Period Underwear

Cora

$30

The Free-To-Flow Period Underwear

Cora seeks to create a better future for all women, in every part of the world. As a certified B Corp, their line of natural and eco-friendly menstrual products are not only safe and sustainable—they also give back to women in need with each purchase.

Why we love these: I initially fell in love with Cora’s ultra-thin period disc which I use in conjunction with period panties each month. Like the disc, these luxe organic cotton undies come packaged in a pretty reusable tin and include a handy mesh laundry bag. The low-slung bikini style is best for cup or tampon back-up on heavy days or solo on lighter days (they can hold up to three regular tampons).

Sizing: XXS-2XL and they run true to size (but size up if you’re in between sizes)

Bundling option: Save 10% when you buy 3 pairs, 28% when you buy 5 pairs

Ruby Love Period Swim

Ruby Love

$49.99

Swim Bottoms

We told you there was plenty to love about Ruby Love.

Why we love these: Remember the mortification of being sidelined on swim days? May our daughters never know that brand of embarrassment. The Ruby Love Period Swim Bottom features all the tech of their undies in a couple beach-ready designs. Dri-tech mesh stops leaks in all directions and won’t swell with water when you jump right in.

Knix High Rise Swim Bottom

Knix

$55

High Rise Swim Bottom

If you prefer a high waisted swim style, Knix’s new leakproof bikini bottoms are worth a look! No one would ever suspect they’re designed to catch leaks and the cut makes them super bloated tummy friendly.

Why we love this: The wide band stays put while the back coverage is full enough to keep you from wedgie picking but cheeky enough to be sexy. The crotch is absorbent but not puffed up, so your secret’s safe! Since they’re basic black, they can easily match with any of your favorite tops, but Knix has an entire collection we’re crushing on.

Sizing: S-XXXL

Ondr

ONDR

$25.20

Leakproof High Waisted Brief

The doctor-designed ONDR panties feature a plant-based liner inside sleek and slinky undies that protect against all kinds of leaks and dribbles. Founded by urologist and mama of four, Dr. Jessica Lubahn, ONDR was created to help people dealing with incontinence but can manage period issues as well.

Why we love these: The luxe liner does a stellar job of catching and wicking moisture and although its a little puffier than your standard period panties, it doesn’t feel bulky at all. (Note that it’s grey and not black like you may expect.) The outside material is smooth and comfy with a waistband that doesn’t dig or roll.

Sizing: XS-2XL and they run small, so size up!

Bundling option: Buy 3 and save 25%

A version of this story was published July 12, 2021. It has been updated.