Halloween is right around the corner and, coincidentally, I’ve been bleeding for you.
I have a period. Lots of people have periods. We all have a lot of opinions about that time of the month and many different reactions to it. Some love their period, others hate it, and most probably go through a big range of feelings about it.
But I think we can all agree that pads and tampons are… not the best part.
Most bleeders still go for disposable products, though tampons have become less popular than they were in the 90s.
However, it takes 500-800 years for disposable pads to break down, and the plastic parts (like tampon applicators) never really biodegrade.
When you consider that the average user will use somewhere between 5000 – 15 000 pads in their lifetime…that’s a heck of a lot of waste! There are approximately 800 million people menstruating each day and with so many going to disposable options, the environmental impact is staggering.
In addition to being an environmental disaster in itself, disposable period products are also really costly.
Sure, spending all that money may have been justifiable in the 80s or 90s when we had more spending money, but today, it is much more practical to invest in reusable options that will last you longer and leave less of an impact on the environment.
Tampons can greatly increase your risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome and disposable period products generally are treated with a lot of chemicals.
Dioxin is produced in the bleaching process of these products and it is a chemical that has been shown to cause pelvic inflammatory disease, hormone dysfunction, endometriosis and even cancer.
I was a menstrual cup evangelist for years. My first Diva cup changed my life.
It was far better than pads and tampons in terms of comfort and enjoyment, plus I felt good about the environmental impact (cups are still more environmentally friendly than washable undies). I felt closer to my body and more in tune with it. Cleaning was easy and I liked being able to boil the cup to disinfect it.
Once, I got a yeast infection and though I can’t know for sure what the cause was, I felt like it was related to the cup. I also started getting UTIs frequently, though I attributed that to other sexual escapades. But having an increase in those experiences made me less inclined to put stuff up there if I could avoid it.
A recent American study investigated the relative safety of using menstrual cups vs tampons.
It turns out that your risk of developing TSS goes up when you put anything up there that doesn’t belong, including contraception products like diaphragms. More research is needed to get a solid picture of the relative risk between available products, but this makes me feel a bit more inclined to using period underwear.
How Do Period Panties Work?
Period underwear is super appealing.
They’re reusable, easy to work with and easy to clean up after. You can generally wear them for 12 hours before having to change them and nothing’s going inside you to mess things up.
Overall, I found that using period panties was a really positive experience. They stayed dry all day and I didn’t have to worry about fishing anything out of my vagina.
Period underwear without PFAS only!
Unfortunately, eco-alternatives aren’t immune to this level of carelessness with uterine health.
There are a fair few brands of period underwear out there and we didn’t try all of them. We restricted the brands to PFAS-free period underwear from trusted brands.
So if you ever wondered what to pick from these major brands, the Knix VS Thinx debate is pretty much settled.
How to clean period underwear?
Generally, you want to make sure that as you use underwear for periods, you rinse out the blood and keep the fabric soaking in cool water. This isn’t always possible, but rinsing them out at a minimum is pretty important unless you’re washing them right away.
Even then, I’d probably give them a squeeze under some running water. Then, you just pop them in the washing machine (but don’t use bleach!) and air dry to keep them in good shape longer.
They all recommended changing underwear every 12 hours. On the lighter days, it seemed fine to wear them longer, but definitely don’t push that limit on heavier days! They all also had some natural odour when you go to the bathroom, though none of them seemed to smell while you’re going about your day.
Aisle Period Underwear
Aisle’s Boost Underwear were the first ones I tried out. I didn’t read the packaging right away and ended up wearing them too long and staining them (though they didn’t leak onto my clothes). The stain never came out of my period boyshorts, which is too bad because I really like the light colour and style.
This was of course my mistake, but if you’re worried about staining, they also offer underwear in darker shades.
Aisle period underwear has a unique design that seems so intuitive, yet I haven’t seen any other brands doing this.
They have inserts that you can change out so you don’t have to change your underwear every 12 hours. You can just change the insert.
The period panties themselves are also absorbent, but to a lesser degree, so on lighter days, you can just skip the insert and still feel protected but also less bulky. I had both boxers and briefs and they were both fun colours with cottony fabric.
Aisle used to be known as Lunapads and is a company from Canada that’s been offering alternative period products for decades. Made from Oeko-Tex certified Tencel™ and organic cotton and featuring Truetex™ fabric technology to stop period leaks, these undies have been tested for PFAS, as well as many other harmful substances, and have no detectable levels of PFAS.
I can rest easy knowing these boxers aren’t going to be harmful.
These may have actually been my favourite overall. The fabric felt really good, the design was appealing and there was a good range of styles available. All the underwear I got was black and from what I could tell, staining wasn’t an issue.
I also found that the elastic wasn’t too strong, which was a plus for me.
When I have intense cramps, I need as little pressure on my uterus as possible. I found some of the other undies to have a bit too much pressure, but the Cares underwear managed to stay on without being too tight. Cares have been tested by an independent organization that found zero traces of PFAS, and they also boast only working with factories that pay their employees a living wage.
I also really like that they had details on how many mL each level of absorption could handle.
It was really helpful having a range of absorbencies so easily outlined and quantified. Having only ever experienced my own period, sometimes I’m uncertain about what constitutes a heavy flow vs a light one. They also advertise as being useful for bladder leaks as well, which may be appealing for some with other conditions.
They give boy underwear vibes, so if you’re non-binary or more masc and think only cis women’s period underwear exists, these can feel really gender-affirming at a time when you may be feeling extra vulnerable.
The modelling for the brand did seem to be exclusively feminine though, with thin blondes on show despite the athletic and more masculine design.
Unfortunately, Bambody had probably the most intense elastic waistband pressure, so wearing them on day one was awful.
I had super intense cramps and these undies made them worse. But once I got past the heavy part of my period, I went back to them and really loved wearing them on those lighter days.
The actual absorptive function was comparable to other underwear and similar to the others, cleaning was best done with cold-warm water, no bleach and air drying. Similar to Cares, Bambody advertises being effective with both periods and pee.
Bamboo fabric, which is what Bambody uses, is more breathable than polyester and cotton.
So if temperature is a factor in your decision-making process, Bambody is the ‘coolest’ brand of period underwear.
Period only sent me one pair of underwear and it was their heavy period option, so my experience with this brand was very specific. It was good though.
I think these may have been even more comfortable than the Cares underwear, which was perfect for heavy-flow days with intense cramps. The design was nice, but since it was for heavy flow, the padding was kind of a lot. It felt more similar to disposable pads, but without the annoying crinkly diaper aesthetic. Just a thick, heaviness.
But they have plenty of other designs that aren’t so bulky. In fact, they even make period swimsuits and thongs for light days!
They also advertise the use of their products for incontinence and pregnancy-related discharge.
They also say you can throw their undies in the dryer (on low heat, tumble-dry).
I really like my Period. panties and I would totally buy more in the future as they’re really comfortable and use minimal, biodegradable packaging.
And of course, like all the others in this article, Period. makes underwear without PFAS.
Now that you’ve heard all about these wonderful, non-toxic period panties, I bet you’re ready to give them a try.
There are a lot of brands out there with a wide variety of styles, sizes and absorbencies to suit every body at each stage of your cycle. Most offer plus-size period panties and many are leakproof. Though my flow does tend to be on the lighter side, I didn’t have leaks with any of the underwear tested in this article.
So whether you’re looking for period underwear for teens, Rubenesque bodies, period panties for heavy flow days or something cute for a light day, these brands definitely have you covered.
Regardless of which brand or style you choose & your situation, reducing the period waste in landfills is essential to a more sustainable and affordable future. Gone are the days of walking around with an extra crinkly sound 1/4 of the time.
You deserve better and better is here!
We would like to thank Aisle, Revol Cares, Bambody, and The Period Company for sending us the PFSA-Free period underwear included in this review. This roundup wouldn’t’ve been possible without their help!