The U.S. is experiencing a tampon shortage, as cotton and plastic are in short supply. If you haven’t considered trying out the best period underwear, well, now is a great opportunity to give ’em a shot. While many direct-to-consumer menstrual care brands still have tampons in stock, swapping out your single-use tampons and pads for washable and reusable period undies is a good choice for the planet by diverting waste from landfills. It’s also a surprisingly reasonable option for your wallet.
Though the price of this type of underwear is more than you’d pay for standard pairs, it’ll likely end up saving you money in the long run, as you won’t be buying as many (or any) single-use menstrual products. What’s more, period underwear is a lot less intimidating than menstrual cups, especially for folks who are just dipping their toes into the world of reusable period products.
What should you look for in period underwear?
The best period underwear is stretchy, breathable, offers a sliding scale of absorbency levels, and is available in an inclusive size range. You’ll find pairs made from all of the fabrics your regular underwear is made with, like cotton, elastane, and lace. Trust us: It’s easier to swap these into your rotation than you might think.
Though these kinds of underwear are often labeled as period underwear, they also work for bladder leaks and incontinence, extra sweaty days, and heavy discharge days.
How does period underwear work?
Similar to a pad, menstrual underwear has extra layers of absorbent fabric located in the gusset. Unlike pads, these layers are moisture-wicking, which means that as you bleed, the fabric wicks it to an inner layer so you won’t be sitting in a wet spot.
The outer layer is typically made with nylon or Lycra, just like your favorite moisture-wicking workout gear, and is finished with a liquid-repellent film for extra protection. Some brands also add an antimicrobial layer to keep vaginal odors at bay. Generally you can wear these undies for up to 12 hours without needing to change, but it will depend on your period flow.
How do you care for period underwear?
Period underwear is machine-washable in cold water with all of your other laundry. (No, the blood will not leak into the rest of your clothes—we promise. But if you’re stressed about this, they can be easily hand-washed too.) The most important thing? Don’t toss ’em in the dryer. Thanks to quick-drying fabrics, most pairs will air-dry overnight.
Now that you have the 411 on all things period undies, here’s a range of highly rated, bestselling options from brands like Knix, Proof, Thinx, Ruby Love, and more. They’re sure to help quell your worries about not being able to find tampons. Here are some other tips on how to deal with the tampon shortage.
When it’s your time of the month, a pair of underwear that feels like a wearable hug is a dresser drawer necessity. High-waisted period panties are just that; with their sky-high waist and full-coverage bum, you’ll feel supported, held in, and fully protected. These babies are ideal for overnight and heavier flow days, as the pads in the gusset are long and wide. Proof’s briefs are made with a lightweight spandex blend, while Aisle’s Boost Brief has more of a cotton feel. Thinx’s have mesh panels on the sides for extra airflow and style, and Modibodi’s briefs come in a range of eclectic patterns and colors.
For lighter days, workouts, or tiny leaks or spotting, period-proof thongs are a suitable alternative to panty liners and tampons. There are a wide range of options available, but you’ll want to look at the size of the gusset lining before you hit checkout. Knix, Proof, and Thinx thongs are made with super-thin quick-drying fabric. For a sexier look, turn to Saalt’s thong, which has lace detailing around the waistband.
Comfort is key when you’re on your period, which is why some of the best period panties are boyshorts. You don’t want to be fidgeting with your underwear or freaking out about potential leaks, because frankly, you have enough to worry about. The high-absorbency boyshorts from Bambody, Thinx, and Saalt are great for heavy days. They’re no-frills, offering full coverage in the front and back, plus a thick waistband to help you feel secure. Knix’s lace-back boyshorts are a more elegant option for the days when you need a little sartorial pick-me-up.
Boxer Briefs and Shorts
For undies that double as clothing, turn to these longer boxer briefs for ultimate period protection. (You can also find period-proof leggings and swimwear…just sayin’.) We love leakproof shorts because they’re gender neutral and supremely comfortable for lounging. Shorter options like those from Aisle and Knix work well underneath other pants, while Modibodi and Tomboyx have longer pairs that are suitable on their own. Pro tip: All of these make excellent sleep shorts.
Great news for the menstruation nation: Plenty of absorbent underwear brands make leakproof options in the classic bikini silhouette. Ruby Love, Aisle, and Knix have quite a few fun patterns to choose from, plus they range from light to super absorbency. Modibodi’s adaptive Clasp Bikini is extremely helpful for folks with disabilities or just quick-change moments, as you don’t have to remove other clothing to put them on. Bikinis are often a little more cheeky than other period underwear styles.
A combo between high-waisted briefs and boyshorts, hipsters—or hiphuggers—have a low rise and wide side panels. They’re comfy, basic options for every day of your period. Since they have a fuller coverage, they don’t shift around, making them good picks for workouts or sleeping. Each of these picks has a snug fit and wide band, plus plenty of colors to choose from.
Disposable Period Underwear
If you’d prefer a disposable pair of undies (ideal for irregular cycles and postpartum moms), Hazel and Rael are two trusted names in the biz. Hazel’s High and Dry Briefs are designed for folks managing incontinence and periods. They’re high-waisted, snug, and seamless—and they were designed by a team of fashion designers and material scientists to be both leakproof and stylish. Rael’s undies are similar, with a shirred cotton blend to form to your body.