I've been really curious about period underwear for a while.
I've been really curious about period underwear for a while. As a menstrual cup user, I have a pretty clear idea of just how much I bleed during each day of a cycle, and I just couldn't fathom how a pair of underwear could both absorb that liquid AND not feel, well, gross to wear.

I had this idea that the underwear would either feel like wearing a diaper and/or that I would essentially be sitting in my own blood. Also, the washing part confused me. So, because I couldn't quite wrap my head around it, I was really eager to give them a try.

Period panties have become increasingly popular over the last few years. Traditionally, tampons and pads have been used for a female's menstrual cycle but research has been coming out about the toxicity of those items to a woman's body. Many tampons are made with synthetic materials and plastics which can restrict airflow. Obviously, restricted air flow, plus the inherent heat in your nether regions means that you are helping potentially harmful bacteria grow- bacteria that is common in yeast infections and Toxic Shock Syndrome.

In addition, any chemicals that stay on your skin (or, in the case of tampons, literally inside of you) for a long period of time will be absorbed through your bloodstream which can be extremely harmful. Research and testing conducted by the Women's Voices for the Earth has found that almost every single leading brand of sanitary pads and tampons have extremely harmful chemicals in them including:
  • Styrene which is a carcinogen
  • Chloromethane which is a reproductive toxicant
  • Chloroethane which is a carcinogen
  • Chloroform which is a carcinogen, reproductive toxicant, neurotoxin
  • Acetone which is an
  • Glyphosate(Round-up) which is a carcinogen
In addition, most sanitary pads have was are called Super Absorbent Powders (SAPs) that are made from crude oil. Yes, that crude oil that you put in your car's engine.

Recently, however, companies have come to hear women in their request for safer feminine care products. Many companies have come out to make organic cotton tampons and pads. Resusable menstrual cups have also come increasingly popular. These cups are made of silicone and are inserted into your vaginal canal much like a tampon, but they do not contain the harmful chemicals that many tampons have.

Period panties are a recently new development in the feminine care world but one that has been accepted and celebrated by women everywhere. Period panties basically work as an absorbent layer and are worn in place of regular underwear during your period. They are not bulky or heavy, and are not diaper-like. There are several different brands available, and many claim to hold more menstrual blood than the leading sanitary pad or tampon. They are often lined with carbon cotton for high absorbency and quick drying.

Period panties are also very popular among preteen and teen girls who first get their periods, and are not comfortable with tampon and who do not want bulky pads. They are also safer for young girls since they do not contain the chemicals like many traditional tampons and sanitary napkins. Moms everywhere are loving the new development in period panties for their young daughters who are just getting their periods for the first time, and who are not ready to venture into even the organic cotton tampons just yet.

Period panties are also great for postpartum mothers. They are comfortable and they can help absorb some of the leaking fluids that are inevitable after you give birth.

Despite having my period for a long time, I had never used period panties before and I didn't really know what they would be like. I had this idea that the underwear would either feel like wearing a diaper and/or that I would essentially be sitting in my own blood. Also, the washing part confused me. So, because I couldn't quite wrap my head around it, I was really eager to give them a try.

I was surprised to learn just how many different brands there are on the market. I ordered a few different ones online. I have to tell you, I was pretty much blown away by how well these work and how UNgross they, are and how easy they are to care for. It took me a few cycles to try them all out enough times to get a sense of them, so I've tried to make it as simple as possible for you to decide which ones might work for you, based on effectiveness at different stages of a cycle, comfort, style, and care.

1. Knixwearhttp://www.knix.com

I tried out the Knixwear 'Everyday Leak-proof boyshorts' in black and the 'Everyday Leak-proof bikini' in beige. They are meant for everyday use, as back-up protection with a menstrual cup, and for light period days. The claim is that they hold about two tampons' worth of liquid (1-3 teaspoons) with a moisture-wicking and odor-killing fabric.Made in Canada.

I wore these on a light period day without a menstrual cup.

Style: These look like your average boy short and bikini underwear - which is a good thing! They are also seamless so you can wear them under anything without visible panty lines. They come in black and beige and a few limited edition colors.

Comfort: Super comfy and very light feeling with a thin, comfortable gusset. It felt like I wasn't wearing anything, and I never felt 'wet.' These have entered the ranks of my favorite underwear, period or no period.

Effectiveness: These worked perfectly on light days, and as back-up with a menstrual cup. I like to wear them on the days when I'm expecting my period to catch those first leaks (I actually look forward to those days now because it means I get to wear these undies!), or towards the end when a menstrual cup is overkill.

Cost: $25 USD (adult sizes), $17 (teens)

Care and cleaning: Machine wash, flat dry. These clean up beautifully with no discoloration at all - even the beige ones! I just throw them in the wash with the rest of my laundry.

Other notes: They also have a line of smaller size leak-proof underwear for tweens and teens, which is such a great idea for peace of mind during anxiety-inducing and unpredictable cycles. I'll be picking up a multi-pack for my girl. There's also a full line of regular underwear, and comfy bras.

Related: UK Company Aims to Normalize Periods With Ad Depicting Real Blood

2. Thinx

The original Thinx line is made of anti-microbial, moisture-wicking material and there's also a new line of organic cotton underwear. Depending on the style, these hold one to two tampons worth of liquid. Made in the U.S.A.

Style: These look like your regular, seamless style underwear. They come in hi-waist, hip-hugger, boy short, sport, cheeky (no visible panty lines), and thong styles. They come in black, beige, and scarlet. A newer line of organic cotton styles has bikini, brief, and thong and comes in black or grey.

Comfort: Incredibly comfortable, dry, and easily wearable as everyday underwear.

Effectiveness: I felt totally secure wearing these on any day of my period (on my heaviest days, I fill a menstrual cop during daytime hours.)

Cost: $24 - $39 USD.

Care and cleaning: Rinse right after use in cold water, then hang to dry until laundry day. Wash them in the machine with your other clothes, easy peasy.

Other notes: Discounts for buying multiple pairs. They also have 100% organic cotton tampons, and a reusable tampon applicator will be launching soon. An activewear line includes shorts, leotards, and unitards.

3. Speax

Speax--also initially and sometimes still known as IconUndies (a sister brand of Thinx)-- markets themselves as 'pee-proof' underwear. The 'light' ones holds up to six teaspoons of liquid and the 'moderate' ones hold up to eight teaspoons. That's almost two to three times as much as typical 'light days' period underwear, though, so they more than qualify as menstrual products. I tried out the bikini style.

Style: These come in hi-waist, thong, bikini, and hip-hugger styles and look like regular underwear. Most styles come in black, beige, burnt orange, blue, and gray.

Comfort: Incredibly comfortable and easily wearable as everyday underwear. Gusset feels lightly padded when handling, but not noticeable when wearing.

Effectiveness: I wore these during moderate flow days and felt completely dry and secure.

Cost: $28 - $39 USD.

Care and cleaning: Machine wash cold, tumble dry low. I don't even toss my regular undies in the dryer so these are even easier to care for.

Other notes: You get a bulk discount for buying multiple pairs. A portion of each sale goes to help fund surgeries for women with fistula in developing countries.

Related: Period Poverty: A Very Real Experience for Many U.S. Women

4. Proof

This family business is owned and run by three sister-preneurs committed to a better existence for mamas. They developed this product to give women and girls a bit more confidence on heavy-flow days. The underwear are meant as back-up protection with a pad, menstrual cup, or tampon, or even as a replacement altogether and you may also know them from their other famous product: the BellyBandit. They have a cotton outer layer, an inner wicking layer, and a cotton crotch.

Style: These come in a few traditional styles, but with several different absorbency levels.

Comfort: Wash before using - they get so much softer and comfier. I love that there are so many different styles and absorbencies; you could really replace your entire lingerie/underwear drawer if you wanted.

Effectiveness: I wore these without a cup on a lighter flow day, and they kept me dry. They work on heavy days too, and I'm sort of in love.

Cost: $37 USD

Care: These are machine washable and they suggest washing them separately (no bleach) so as not to damage the underwear. Machine dry on low, separately.

Stain-resistant, releases stains if washed within 2- 3 days of wearing.

5. Ruby

These are made with a super soft material that feels like workout wear. They have an extra gusset, made of a wicking mesh material that has an opening to hold a reusable pad or liner in place so it doesn't shift when you're on the move. They still absorb fluid without an extra pad, though, so you can decide depending on how heavy your flow is. They can also be used as back-up with a menstrual cup or tampon. Made in U.S.A.

Style: These look like and feel like wearing regular underwear. They come in bikini, hipster, and hi-cut, and in loads of colors and patterns. Sizes run from Junior to 3XL so they will fit a wide range of body types.

Comfort: Perfectly comfortable, like regular undies.

Effectiveness: They are dry and absorbent, and I never felt my flow.

Care: Wash with your regular laundry. No hand wash needed. Suggested replacement after two years.

Other notes: They have SWIMWEAR and have SLEEP WEAR! They sent me a pair of their sleep pants, and they also have sleep shorts. I tend to run warm at night and get sweaty (okay, this is the second time in this article that I've talked about how sweaty I am) so I didn't love the idea of throwing on pants. But, I loved these - I didn't get sweaty at all, and they are suuuuper comfy. I wore them during winter nights and, honestly, I have never ever felt more secure about overnight leakage. You can wear them with a pad, tampon, or menstrual cup, but I wore them alone.

I haven't tried the swimwear but I love the idea of this, especially for my tween who isn't comfortable with the idea of a menstrual cup or tampon just yet. They have bottoms, two-pieces, and one-piece swimsuits. They also have tween/teen sizes and activewear - bodysuits and leggings.

6. PeriodAisle

Lunapads is the brand that brought us the DivaCup menstrual cup. They have a range of underwear designed to cover you from light bladder leaks to full period protection. The Maia styles have bands and a removable insert that you can swap out as needed, like a pad. Made in Canada.

Style: These also look and feel like regular underwear. They come in boxer brief, brief, bikini, and thong styles, a few of which have a lace accent along the top. There is also a sport short. Sizes range from XS to XL.

Comfort: Completely comfortable, just like a good pair of underwear would be.

Effectiveness: I tried out the Selene bikini style which worked great on their own for light to moderate flow days, and as back-up with a menstrual cup.

Cost: $32 to $38 USD.

Care and cleaning: You can rinse these after use and then toss them in the wash along with the rest of your laundry.

Other notes: For when you're not at home, use one of the wet/dry bags for carrying fresh inserts. It has a zippered waterproof section to stash used ones until you can get home to throw them in the wash. Love this!

Image: Knixwear