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Period panties vs. reusable pads

Which period panties or reusable pads are best?

On average, people who menstruate will have 450 to 500 periods in their lifetimes, which equates to a huge number of tampons and pads heading to the landfill. You should use whichever menstrual products make you feel most comfortable, but those looking for eco-friendly options might be considering whether to choose period panties or reusable pads. 

Essentially, period panties are underwear with a built-in pad and are comfortable yet trickier to change on the go. Reusable pads look more like conventional sanitary napkins and can be used with underwear of your choice.

What are period panties?

Period underwear are like regular underwear but with layers of absorbent material sewn into the gusset, plus a waterproof bottom layer to prevent leaks. Like tampons and pads, menstrual underwear are available in various absorbency levels, from the lightest options for light flow days to a backup for tampons or menstrual cups to the most absorbent options that can withstand a heavy flow. 

You can find period underwear in a range of styles, such as classic bikini briefs and boxer briefs. Affordable period underwear start at less than $5 per pair, while high-end options can cost as much as $50 for a single pair. 

Period panty pros

  • Period panties are so lightweight that you might forget you're wearing any kind of sanitary protection. Unlike wearing reusable pads, you can't feel anything inside your underwear and there's no chance of shifting around while you’re on the go. 
  • Since period panties are available in a range of styles, most people who menstruate can find a style of period underwear that they feel comfortable in.
  • Menstrual underwear are available in a range of absorbency levels, some so absorbent that they can hold the equivalent of 10 tampons worth of menstrual blood.
  • Period panties are designed with a top layer that maintains a dry feeling through hours of use. 
  • Although you can use period underwear as your only form of sanitary protection, they’re great as a lightweight backup for a tampon or menstrual cup on a heavy flow day when you're worried about leaks. 

Period panty cons

  • You're restricted to the style, cut, color and size of underwear that are available with period panties, while reusable pads let you wear your own underwear that you already know and -- presumably -- like. 
  • If you need to change period undies while you're out of the house, you'll need to take off your pants to do so, which is a bit of an inconvenience. 

Best period panties

Thinx Boyshort Period Underwear

This boxer brief style underwear is perfect for anyone who doesn't feel comfortable wearing bikini style panties. It's absorbent enough to hold the equivalent of two pads and is extremely effective at avoiding leaks. 

Sold by Amazon

Bambody Absorbent Hipster Period Underwear

With a sporty brief style, this period underwear is practical and stylish. It comes in a three pack with a range of color options to choose from.

Sold by Amazon

Hanes Fresh & Dry Leak Protection Brief Underwear

Light absorbency period underwear that's great as a backup to tampons and menstrual cups or for light flow days. The affordable price is proof that period underwear needn't be expensive.

Sold by Amazon and Macy’s

Reusable pads

Reusable pads are essentially sanitary towels made from reusable materials, rather than single use materials. After use, you rinse, wash and dry them and they're ready to use again. Most reusable pads have wings that snap together around your usual underwear, though you can occasionally find options without wings. 

For anyone used to single-use pads, the switch to reusable pads is an easy one. What's more, they're generally much more affordable than period panties, with a single pad costing $1-$10. 

Reusable pad pros

  • Reusable pads are often slightly thicker than period underwear and have more layers, meaning they have the capacity to be even more absorbent. Some reusable pads can absorb twice as much as the most absorbent period panties. 
  • It's easy to carry around extra reusable pads with you and if you need to change them while out and about, you just need a small wet bag to store your used pad. Unlike period panties, there's no need to take off your pants or shoes because reusable pads simply snap on and off your regular underwear. 
  • Reusable pads are often available in a range of fabric choices, so you can stick to plain colors or go for more elaborate prints. 
  • Most people find cloth menstrual pads much more comfortable than single-use sanitary towels, as soft fabrics feel much nicer against the skin than the top layer of a regular pad. 

Reusable pad cons

  • If you like to wear boxers or other short-style underwear, reusable pads with wings won't fit, while those with wings are likely to shift around and are more prone to leaks. 
  • Although reusable pads are generally comfortable, the thicker options for heavier flow days can feel slightly bulky and there's a slight chance that they can shift around during strenuous activity. 

Best reusable pads

Wegreeco Bamboo Reusable Sanitary Pads

These affordable pads are perfect for anyone who doesn't want to spend a small fortune switching to reusable period products. You get six to a pack, as well as a wet bag for carrying used pads.

Sold by Amazon

Leekalos Reusable Menstrual Pads

With a soft, fleecy top layer, these reusable pads are extremely comfortable. You can choose between a range of sizes and prints.

Sold by Amazon

AYRAcreations Cloth Menstrual Pad Set

This set of three handmade reusable pads costs a little more than some, but it's great for anyone who'd prefer to support an independent maker. They're well-sewn, absorbent and comfortable to wear.

Sold by Etsy

Should you get period panties or reusable pads?

There's no right or wrong choice between period underwear and reusable menstrual pads. It's up to the individual to decide which they prefer and which works best for them. Some people find period panties more comfortable, some find reusable pads more convenient for regular changes and others like to have a mixture of both options for different situations. If neither option works for you but you still want a reusable period product, take a look at the full guide to menstrual cups at BestReviews.


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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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