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Period underwear have become crazy popular in the last few years: there are ads all over Facebook and searches for “period panties” and related terms have skyrocketed since 2015. This is right around the time Thinx, the biggest menstrual underwear company, launched its controversial New York City subway ad campaign:
But we can’t be the only ones asking what this underwear really does… right? It turns out: period underwear is NOT that old, ugly pair you wear when you are on your period (aka you don’t care if spotting or leaking occurs). Period underwear is actually supposed to replace your tampon, pad, or Diva Cup.
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And because the underwear is reusable, we heard it could be a great way to save money in the long run. But would they work? Or would it feel icky and weird?
A couple months ago, I ditched my Diva Cup — another reusable menstrual product — and switched to period underwear exclusively for two cycles. I decided to try Thinx because of the stellar reviews online. Note: other popular brands include PantyProp, Lunapanties, and Anigan.
So what’s it like to wear them?
Well, if you usually use tampons or a menstrual cup, free bleeding into your underwear might feel a little weird (and kind of scary!) at first. You actually feel your blood leaving your body; but if you’re used to wearing pads, this experience will be familiar.
Once you get comfortable with free bleeding, wearing period panties is actually pretty awesome. On the heaviest days of my period, I had to wear two pairs of Hiphugger Thinx ($34) because I bled through the first pair — probably not great if you’re at school or work all day. But if you wear them as a backup with a tampon or menstrual cup (like you would wear a panty liner) you’ll feel super protected and you won’t have to reposition your scrunched-up panty liner every time you go to the bathroom.
On my medium-flow days I was able to wear just one pair of Thinx (in the Hiphugger, Hi-Waist ($38) or Sport ($32) style) all day and all night and feel totally dry, protected and comfortable. And on my lightest days, I was completely fine with just a Thinx thong ($24).
I found that all the styles fit true to size, and they were comfortable and actually pretty cute.
HuffPost Australia’s Juliette Steen had a similarly positive experience, and wrote in a 2017 review, “It doesn’t feel messy, leaky, wet, uncomfortable or any other adjective we hate using to describe periods. It’s unnoticeable. Although, I haven’t sneezed or coughed yet today. Will report back if and when that happens.” (By the way, she wrote later in her review that she sneezed, and “it was fine.”)
In 2015, when Thinx were still fairly new, BuzzFeed writer Sarah Burton reviewed the undies and gave them a rave, though she noted that her thicker, clotted period blood (which is totally normal!) stayed on top of the underwear and didn’t soak in.
“Nevertheless,” she wrote, “I wore the underwear ALL DAY and did not have a leak. I did not feel wet. In periods past, I would have gone through the work day using at least two tampons, maybe three. Straight up? I was impressed.”
How do you clean them?
To clean your Thinx — and not destroy the rest of your laundry — you need to rinse them thoroughly in the sink, ringing them out until the water runs clear. Next, dry them on a line or in your bathroom, then zip them into a mesh laundry bag and throw them in with the rest of your clothes.
Steen noted that because she’d only bought a couple pairs of the underwear (makes sense, since each pair is pricey) she washed them right away after she’d worn them, hoping that she could wear them again in a day or two. But as her cycle wore on, she ran out of period panties because her heavier-flow styles were thicker and took longer to dry, leaving her without any clean, dry period underwear.
“I get home from work, have a shower and go to get the pair of Hiphuggers that I washed last night. But they’re still damp. Really damp. As are the Sport pair,” Steen wrote. “This is a pretty big drawback if you don’t want (or can’t afford) to buy many pairs to last you your whole period. At $24-39 each, buying five or so pairs will definitely set you back.”
Can you wear them to exercise?
I’m a dancer and dance teacher, and I felt completely protected wearing the period underwear in my classes. I was actually more confident wearing just a pair of Thinx — with no tampon or menstrual cup — than I’ve ever felt wearing my Diva Cup and a panty liner. The panty liner was so uncomfortable, and I never really believed it would be there for me if my Diva Cup failed.
Health writer Megan Kennedy, who normally wears pads only, had a similar experience. “Exercising in the Cheeky style was actually pretty cool,” she reported in 2016. “Every woman on team maxi knows the risk involved in exercising on your period (*cough* diaper rash).”
Refinery29 asked a professional dancer in New York City, Eran Bugge, to try Thinx’s activewear, and she had an overall positive experience.
“The fabric is lovely; it’s super simple but flattering. It was comfortable to rehearse in all day, which not all skin-tight clothing is,” she said. She wore the unitard comfortably and said she sometimes wears a Thinx thong under her regular leotard on her lighter days.
The overall verdict…
Thinx period underwear get a “YES” across the board from pretty much all the folks who have tried them and written about it. While they might not replace your tampons or menstrual cup on heavy days, they offer a comfortable, cute backup option (no panty liner required). They really do provide more than enough protection on lighter-flow days, which is great because you don’t have to keep taking out your cup (chafing — ouch!) or pulling out semi-dry tampons (the horror!).
Our recommendation? Get a couple of pairs if you can afford it, and see how they change your period.