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Best Period Underwear for Every Kind of Cycle

Best Period Underwear
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Updated December 19, 2023

After years of limited options, people with periods are now able to choose from a range of more sustainable products. One category that’s been rapidly growing in popularity is period underwear: Underwear designed to be worn during the menstruation cycle and used to absorb blood, before being washed and reused. Fundamentally, it’s not so different from wearing a sanitary pad, if that pad were  built into your underwear and reusable. 

Period underwear has gotten mixed reactions, partly because it’s something new and unfamiliar. Early adopters praised its ease of use and sustainability, as well as the added layer of security it gives to people who may be prone to leakage. Skeptics have questioned how comfortable they are to wear and whether the ick factor” is worth it. While menstruation products are a very personal choice, I believe there’s a type of period underwear for everyone. To help guide you toward the right fit, I’ve compiled this list of the best products in the market for every kind of cycle.

How to choose the best period panties

When picking the right pair or pairs for you, it’s important to consider a few key factors,

How heavy is your flow?

Each pair of underwear offers a different degree of absorbency, to accommodate different kinds of flows. This means there will be a good option for you out there, but it’s important to know your body to ensure you don’t buy something that will cause you to leak. Be sure to verify the absorbency level before clicking purchase.

What style of underwear do you find most comfortable?

Underwear comes in a range of styles, from thongs to full-coverage boyshorts, and therefore so does period underwear. There is no “best” choice, only personal preference, so be sure to think about what you are most comfortable in before making a purchase. Some people will feel more reassured by greater coverage, while others will want to wear a less bulky style. Of course, thongs will never offer as great absorbency as some of the other underwear styles, but otherwise there is a lot of room for personal taste as well as function.

How do you intend to use the underwear?

Period panties can be used as a total replacement for tampons and pads (if the absorbency level is high enough), or used as a second line of protection. Reflect on which approach you’d be more comfortable with before making your purchase; if you have a heavy flow but know that you plan to still use tampons, you won’t need as absorbent underwear as you would if you were making a full replacement. Or, you may be a swimmer who wants added protection in the water or someone who just wants improved protection overnight. However you want to use them, there’s a product for that purpose.

My top picks for the best period underwear 

Best period panties for heavy flow: The Period Company’s “The High Waisted”

A heavier period isn’t just uncomfortable, it can also require more to manage. Peace of mind can be hard to achieve if you have a heavy flow, but these high-waisted panties from The Period Company are designed to be super absorbent for confidence during your cycle. The company equates their absorbency to nine tampons or five sanitary pads, so wearers can be protected for much longer than when they use those disposable products. To achieve this level of absorbency, the underwear is thickly lined and may initially feel uncomfortable or bulky, especially if you’re used to cotton underwear. However, customers report adapting to this feeling surprisingly quickly and the underwear can still easily be worn under regular clothes. These panties also feature a high waist and the body is made of a mix of cotton and spandex jersey, for improved comfort during times of bloating or cramping

Specifications:

  • Absorbency: Super absorbent
  • Sizing: XS-6X
  • Care instructions: Hand wash or machine wash without bleach; dry on low
  • Material: Organic cotton, spandex jersey, polyester
  • Colors: Black
  • Return policy: 30-day returns
  • Price: $12.00

What we like:

  • The most absorbent underwear on this list, so you can wear with confidence
  • Great low price
  • Very size inclusive
  • High waist for improved comfort during cramping or bloating

What we don’t like:

  • Higher absorbency requires extra fabric that makes these feel bulkier 
  • Only one color option

The bottom line:

These High Waisted panties from The Period Company are the most absorbent pair of underwear on this list, for heavier flows and the heaviest days of your period.

Best period panties for heavy flow
The Period Company’s “The High Waisted”

The Period Company’s “The High Waisted”

Best period panties for light flows: Thinx Air Hiphugger

Not every day of the menstruation cycle requires heavy duty products, but you likely still want some protection. The Thinx Air Hiphugger is designed for anyone with a light flow or for light days at the end of the cycle, with the absorbency equivalent of two tampons. The lower absorbency means the hiphugger isn’t as bulky as many other period underwear products, but is almost interchangeable with regular underwear. When I tested this underwear, I immediately noticed how breathable the ultra-thin micromesh was, while the cut still provided extra back coverage to reduce the risk of leaking. While this pair of underwear won’t provide sufficient coverage for everyone, it’s a great balance between comfort and protection for those with a lighter flow. The hiphugger is also a useful entry point for anyone wanting to test out period underwear toward the end of their cycle; I felt more confident trying new styles after trying this pair first. For more about the brand and how it performs, check out my in-depth Thinx period underwear review.

Specifications:

  • Absorbency: Light
  • Sizing: XS–4X
  • Care instructions: Hand wash or machine wash on a cold, delicate cycle; air dry
  • Material: Polyamide, elastane, cotton, polyester
  • Colors: Black, dusk
  • Return policy: 45-day returns
  • Price: $35

What we like:

  • Thin micromesh fabric ensures breathability and freshness
  • Size inclusive and two colors available
  • Feels much lighter and less bulky than many other options in the market

What we don’t like:

  • High price point
  • Greater risk of leaking due to lower absorbency

The bottom line:

The Thinx Air Hiphugger is hard to tell apart from regular underwear, providing extra coverage in a breezy, comfortable fit for light days or light flows.

Best period panties for light flows
Thinx Air Hiphugger

Thinx Air Hiphugger

Best period panties for teens: KT by Knix Leakproof Underwear Bikini

The teenage years can be awkward and embarrassing enough, before you factor in a period mishap. With the KT by Knix Leakproof Underwear Bikini, young people can be more confident and comfortable during their period without having to give up their youthful sense of style. This bikini underwear comes in 26 colors and prints, as well as an XXS size, to better accommodate younger customers. The cut and fabric are designed to be as thin and streamlined as possible, which is why the absorbency level is only moderate (equivalent to three tampons’ worth.) This should be sufficient for many teens and the underwear can be worn during sports and other activities. Many reviewers commented they’re so comfortable, they wear them throughout the rest of the month as well. These panties are a great way for young people to explore if period underwear is right for them, in an effective yet playful design.

Specifications:

  • Absorbency: Moderate
  • Sizing: XXS–XXL
  • Care instructions: Hand-wash or machine wash on cold, no bleach; air dry 
  • Material: Nylon, lycra, cotton, spandex, carbon
  • Colors: 26
  • Return policy: 30 days for first pair
  • Price: $18.00

What we like:

  • Smaller sizes available for teens
  • Huge variety of colors and prints
  • Lightweight fabric ensures maximum comfort and minimal visibility
  • Available for purchase in bundles at a reduced price

What we don’t like:

  • Only moderate absorbency, so may not be suitable for all teens
  • Largest size is an XXL (less inclusive than others on this list)

The bottom line:

The Leakproof Underwear Bikini by KT by Knix offers a fun, yet practical way for teens to explore period underwear, with enough protection for both school and sports.

Best period panties for teens
KT by Knix Leakproof Underwear Bikini

KT by Knix Leakproof Underwear Bikini

Best period panties for plus size: TomBoyX First Line Period Bikini

People with periods come in all shapes and sizes, yet brands don’t always make products for the full spectrum of potential customers—except for TomBoyX. The First Line Period Bikini by TomBoyX comes in sizing from 3XS to 6X and is fit-tested on every kind of body type, to ensure secure and comfortable wear. The inclusive company offers its underwear in three colorways (black, black with a rainbow waistband, and chai) and reports that each bikini can absorb eight teaspoons of liquid, equivalent to seven to eight tampons. This ensures the underwear holds up to heavy flows and remains leakproof on the worst days. Even better, this heavy duty bikini is machine washable and is one of the only period underwear products I’ve seen that can be put in the dryer, so reuse is easier than ever.

Specifications:

  • Absorbency: 8 tsps of liquid (super absorbent)
  • Sizing: 3XS–6X
  • Care instructions: Machine wash on cold; tumble dry on low
  • Material: Cotton, spandex, polyester
  • Colors: Black, black rainbow, chai
  • Return policy: 45 days first wear returns, 30-day returns otherwise
  • Price: $20.00

What we like:

  • The most size inclusive of any brand on this list; product is fit-tested on all body types
  • Suitable for use in the washing machine and tumble dryer
  • Soft waistband designed to stay in place and reduce risk of leaks on any body type

What we don’t like:

  • Some concerns of staining on the light-colored products
  • Low-rise fit is not everyone’s preferred underwear style

The bottom line:

The TomBoyX First Line Period Bikini is designed with every body type in mind and offers super absorbency for every kind of flow, making this my most inclusive option.

Best period panties for plus size
TomBoyX First Line Period Bikini

TomBoyX First Line Period Bikini

Best affordable period panties: Aerie Real. Period. Boybrief Underwear 

The Aerie Real. Period. Boybrief Underwear isn’t the cheapest option on this list, but it provides great value at under $20. Made solely of cotton and elastane, I appreciated how the fabric felt soft and high quality and kept me comfortable and cool throughout the day; many other period underwear products use man-made polymers that can cause sweating. The boybrief cut allows for substantial coverage but still looks appealing—I didn’t feel like I was wearing performance underwear, but still felt nice and secure. Aerie’s boybrief also comes in a leakproof finish for improved protection. These are a lighter style of underwear, accommodating only two tampons’ worth of liquid, so they won’t be sufficient protection for heavier flows. However, they are supremely comfortable and less bulky than period underwear costing twice as much, which makes them a great option to stock up on for lighter flows or the later days of your cycle.

Specifications:

  • Absorbency: Light-medium
  • Sizing: XXS–XXL
  • Care instructions: Machine washable
  • Material: Cotton, elastane
  • Colors: 6
  • Return policy: No time limit
  • Price: $19.95

What we like:

  • Mid-level price point for high quality materials that keep you cool and reduce odor
  • Wider range of colors and prints
  • No time limit on returns of unused items

What we don’t like:

  • Lower absorbency level may not be sufficient for everyone
  • More limited size range

The bottom line:

Made solely from cotton and elastane, Aerie’s Real. Period. Boybrief Underwear are supremely comfortable and breezy, as long as they’re only used for light-moderate flows. 

Best affordable period panties
Aerie Real. Period. Boybrief Underwear Women's True Black XL

Aerie Real. Period. Boybrief Underwear Women's True Black XL

Best bikini period panties: Cora Period Underwear

The Cora Period Underwear product comes in just two styles, a bikini and a sleep short, but that’s really all you need. Cora focuses on simplicity: The bikini comes solely in black and can be purchased alone or in cost-effective packs of three or five. The fabrics are predominantly cotton and elastane for a stretchy, comfortable fit during periods of bloating and cramping, although the sizing is a little bit limited at XS through XXL. While these may look like just any pair of black underwear, the bikini can absorb between three or four tampons’ worth of liquid and yet still maintains a sleek silhouette—a fine line to walk in period underwear. Simply put, the Cora is quietly luxurious and a reliable choice, but it does cost a bit more than most of the other options on my list at $30. The company also doesn’t accept returns, so you may want to purchase one to see if it’s right for you.

Specifications:

  • Absorbency: Moderate
  • Sizing: XS – XXL
  • Care instructions: Rinse; machine wash on delicate; air dry
  • Material: Cotton, elastane, polyester
  • Colors: Black
  • Return policy: No returns
  • Price: $30

What we like:

  • Great balance between style and absorbency
  • Available for purchase in packs for cost efficiency
  • 4-layered gusset for improved moisture wicking

What we don’t like:

  • No returns
  • Less size inclusive than other brands
  • Higher price point

The bottom line:

The Cora Period Underwear is a quietly luxurious bikini that balances absorbency with style, offering moderate coverage in an attractive, streamlined package. 

Best bikini period panties
Cora Period Underwear

Cora Period Underwear

Best thong period panties: Saalt Leakproof Thong

It’s hard to tell that the Saalt Leakproof Thong isn’t just a regular pair of high-end underwear, thanks to its stylish design and use of soft-stretch lace fabric. Yet this thong is designed to replace a liner or two light tampons, for light flows or the last day of your period. While the thong doesn’t provide a lot of coverage or absorbency, it’s a popular choice for anyone who wants an extra bit of protection without having to sacrifice on aesthetic or style. Customers love the silky-soft feel and lightweight fabric of this product, which contrasts heavily with the bulkier styles and silhouettes of so many other period panties. With Saalt’s thong, wearers can feel protected from light spotting and also that they’re making the sustainable choice—each thong is made from a recycled plastic bottle. 

Specifications:

  • Absorbency: Light
  • Sizing: XS–XXL
  • Care instructions: Rinse; machine wash on cold; hang dry
  • Material: Recycled plastic polymer
  • Colors: 4
  • Return policy: No return required
  • Price: $29.99

What we like:

  • Most lightweight, barely there feel of any product on this list
  • Stylish design and attractive selection of colors 
  • No returns needed for refund guarantee
  • Fabric uses recycled plastic for improved sustainability

What we don’t like:

  • Not particularly absorbent; more of a back-up or liner replacement
  • Not as size-inclusive as other brands
  • High price point for light absorbency

The bottom line:

The Saalt Leakproof Thong offers light coverage in a stylish package for the last day of your period or any time that you want extra leakproof confidence.

Best thong period panties
Saalt Leakproof Thong

Saalt Leakproof Thong

Best stylish period panties: Proof Leakproof High Waisted Lace Brief

Just because it’s that time of the month, you can still look good and feel good. The Proof Leakproof High Waisted Lace Brief i blends form and function, with a stylish lacy silhouette that offers moderate absorbency and a comfortable fit. I loved how the high waist created a flattering vintage aesthetic while also supporting a bloated or cramping abdomen, with lace panels on the side for a romantic touch. While these may not be ideal for heavy flows, they provide good coverage and leak-proof technology, as well as moisture wicking and odor resistance. I felt comfortable wearing these all day long and was even tempted to add these to my general rotation, they looked that pretty. Proof packs a lot of performance into this attractive package, which explains why each pair costs nearly $50. The company could expand its size range and color palette, but otherwise this is a luxurious, stylish pick that looks as if it came from one of the best lingerie brands.

Specifications:

  • Absorbency: Moderate
  • Sizing: XS–XL
  • Care instructions: Machine washable; hang dry
  • Material: Nylon, spandex, polyester, cotton
  • Colors: Black
  • Return policy: 60-day returns for first purchase, 30-day returns otherwise
  • Price: $49

What we like:

  • Stylish, high-waisted design that looks like regular high-end underwear
  • Moderate absorbency and protection, even with fashion details like lace inserts
  • Fabrics are high quality, sweatproof, moisture wicking and odor resistant

What we don’t like:

  • Small size range
  • Most expensive product on this list that isn’t specialty sleep or swim

The bottom line:

The Rolls-Royce of period underwear, Proof’s Leakproof High Waisted Lace Brief are expensive but in return you get high-quality comfort and high-end design.

Best stylish period panties
Proof Leakproof High Waisted Lace Brief

Proof Leakproof High Waisted Lace Brief

Best period panties for swimming: Knix Leakproof Bikini Swim

Knix’s Leakproof Bikini Swim is the perfect hybrid of swim bikini bottoms and bikini underwear: It’s suitable for the pool, ocean, and your period. The fabric is made of the nylon and spandex mix usually associated with swimwear, but the gusset also includes a period-proof liner that can absorb up to three tampons’ worth of blood. This means you won’t stand out on the beach or by the pool, but can still be confident in your protection. Available in three colors, the Bikini Swim has a matching bikini top available and offers medium back coverage, as well as UPF 50+ protection. These bikini bottoms come at a higher price point than regular underwear, which is common for swimsuits for women, but you’ll get good value for your money with the added performance features. Knix is size inclusive with a range from XS through 4XL, which I love to see. 

Specifications:

  • Absorbency: Light-Moderate
  • Sizing: XS–4X
  • Care instructions: Machine wash on gentle, no bleach; air dry
  • Material: Nylon, spandex
  • Colors: Black, lava, black & white floral
  • Return policy: 30-day returns for unused product
  • Price: $50.00

What we like:

  • Size inclusive bikini bottoms with size inclusive matching top available
  • All the performance of swimwear with added period protection (moderate absorbency)
  • Comfortable fit with medium back coverage

What we don’t like:

  • Higher price point of $50
  • Absorbency is only light-medium so may not stand up to a full day in the water

The bottom line:

Knix Leakproof Bikini Swim is the perfect choice to keep you secure and protected when swimming on your period, without calling attention or feeling bulky.

Best period panties for swimming
Knix Leakproof Bikini Swim

Knix Leakproof Bikini Swim

Best period underwear for sleep: Thinx Sleep Short

Managing a period overnight can be stressful if you’re prone to leaking or have a heavy flow. The Thinx Sleep Short is designed to reduce leaks and ensure protection for hours through the night, making these the best pajamas for women during their period. These looked different than any other product I tried because the sleep short includes an inner body that’s fitted like underwear and then an outer body, which looks like a regular pajama short. This double layer of fabric initially felt bulky but was very effective at minimizing leaking and actually was very comfortable after I’d worn them for a few minutes. As with all their products, the Thinx Sleep Short comes in an inclusive size range of XS-4X and is available in black, gray, and red. Although it is one the j most expensive products on this list, it can be used throughout the night which I believe makes it good value for money at $50, I appreciated how I still felt dry and protected when I woke up in the night—can you put a price on a peaceful night’s rest and stain-free sheets?

Specifications:

  • Absorbency: Super
  • Sizing: XS – 4X
  • Care instructions: Machine wash on delicate, no bleach; hang dry
  • Material: Modal, elastane, cotton, polyester
  • Colors: Black, gray, spicy red
  • Return policy: 45-day returns
  • Price: $50.00

What we like:

  • Combination of underwear and sleep short is cute and functional
  • Very size inclusive and a few color options
  • The super absorbent dual-layer ensures protection against leaks even during sleep

What we don’t like:

  • Dual layer can feel a bit cumbersome and bulky at first
  • At $50, these are the one of most expensive products on the list

The bottom line:

For true peace of mind overnight, the Thinx Sleep Short is a reliable, effective choice that may seem bulky at first but is actually surprisingly cute and comfortable.

Best period underwear for sleep
Thinx Sleep Shorts Period Underwear - Grey In Sizes XXS-4X Undies

Thinx Sleep Shorts Period Underwear - Grey In Sizes XXS-4X Undies

Best high-waisted period panties: Knix Super Leakproof High Rise

High-waisted underwear is a common preference during menstruation, thanks to its gentle support on the stomach, full coverage and streamlined silhouette. The Knix Super Leakproof High Rise is no exception, offering a stylishly seamless cut that accommodates heavy flows with its super absorbency. You can wear this underwear comfortably all day and Knix has responded to this universal appeal by making the style available in 13 different colors, for every taste and aesthetic. The Super Leakproof High Rise comes in sizes XS through 4X and is machine washable, as well as dryer-friendly for maximum convenience. At $34, they’re not the cheapest underwear on the list, but the rewear factor is high enough to make this good value for money. The only downside is that Knix doesn’t offer refunds, although they’re happy to process exchanges within 30 days.

Specifications:

  • Absorbency: Heavy
  • Sizing: XS – 4X
  • Care instructions: Machine wash on cold, no bleach; tumble dry on low
  • Material: Nylon, spandex, modal, polyester, seaweed
  • Colors: 13
  • Return policy: 30-day returns, no refunds
  • Price: $34.00

What we like:

  • Classic high-rise silhouette in 13 attractive colors
  • Heavy absorbency makes this a reliable choice for any kind of flow
  • Machine washable and able to go in the dryer on low, like regular underwear
  • Size inclusive up to 4X

What we don’t like:

  • No refunds available
  • Can fit tightly at first (they’re designed to relax with use)

The bottom line:

The Super Leakproof High Rise by Knix is a great high-coverage option that doesn’t compromise on aesthetics, with a classic cut and a wide range of available colors.

Best high-waisted period panties
Knix Super Leakproof High Rise

Knix Super Leakproof High Rise

How do period panties work?

Period panties take the shape and cut of regular underwear and then reinforce the gusset with moisture-wicking, absorbent technology to accommodate menstruation. While each brand uses a different design, it is common to use a three- or four-layered gusset to balance moisture wicking, absorbency and leak protection. Depending on the degree of absorbency, period underwear can be likened to the equivalent of two to eight tampons; higher absorbency will likely result in a thicker fabric. Wearers can choose to use the period underwear on their own or as a form of back-up to another sanitary product, such as a pad, tampon or diva cup, depending on their comfort level and their flow. Period panties are similar to other performance wear in that they focus on moisture-wicking and odor control; these products are just also reinforced to handle the additional liquid of menstruation. 

How to wash period panties

Each brand has its own specific care instructions but a general rule is to wash period underwear on a cold, delicate cycle in the washing machine or hand wash—similar to regular underwear. This helps retain the elasticity in the seams and waistband, so they continue to fit securely and prevent leaks. Also be sure to avoid bleach or any overly strong detergents, as these fabrics are often delicate. Nearly all the products on this list are not dryer-friendly, as the heat could warp the fabric; one accidental run through the dryer should be fine, but in general it is better to hang or air dry the underwear. I mostly chose to hand wash mine, as I don’t have laundry in my building and it saved me a trip to the laundromat. I found every product I tested easy to clean, although dry times sometimes meant they weren’t yet ready to be reworn the next morning.

How I selected the best period panties

Period underwear is a personal choice, so it can be challenging to determine what’s “best” for everyone. However, it is possible to curate a list of top performers with something for everyone, which is what we’ve done here. I conducted my own testing on several of these products, to ensure I had first-hand experience and insight into how these panties work in practice. I evaluated the items on a consistent set of criteria that included absorbency, style, price, size range, material, value, performance and comfort. I then compared these experiences to those of industry experts and of public customers, to collect a range of viewpoints and make sure that every person is represented. Through my own experience and the insights of experts and valued customers, I was able to select this final list of the best period panties in the market for every kind of cycle.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How many pairs of period panties do I need?

This will vary depending on your flow, the absorbency levels of the underwear and how you plan to use them. People with heavier flows may require two to three pairs on Days one and two of the cycle, while others will be perfectly served by a single pair during the day and another at night. If you’re using them only as a second layer of protection to other sanitary products, you should be fine with one pair per day. Finally, consider if you want to wash pairs of underwear and use them more than once during a cycle or if you want to have a full set available, which you will then wash and use again next month. This will help determine whether you need four pairs you rotate, or potentially eight to 10.

What are the disadvantages of period panties?

Period panties are sustainable, safe to wear, and comfortable for many people, but they won’t be everyone’s first choice of how to handle a period. They can be expensive if you’re buying several pairs to last you through a cycle; it may end up being the more affordable option rather than paying for sanitary products every month. That said, this is a larger upfront cost that won’t be available to or practical for everyone. Another issue may simply be the ick factor, with some people not feeling comfortable with free-bleeding into their underwear. While it is sanitary, not everyone is okay with the sensation and those people won’t enjoy using period panties. Last, period underwear can be effective when you figure out the right choice and wear time for you, but there could be an intermediary period where leaks occur if you have a heavier flow and insufficient coverage. For some people, this risk may be too high for period underwear to be worth it.

Do period panties smell bad?

Period underwear should smell no worse than any other sanitary product, especially when used as designed and washed after each use. The majority of products have built-in odor control to actively tackle this issue and the many-layered gusset should help keep any odors to a minimum. If smell does ever become an issue, that simply suggests that the underwear has been used to its limit and should be switched out.

Do period panties feel wet?

Many customers compare the feeling to a less bulky sanitary pad; there shouldn’t be a lot of wetness, but there may be some moisture especially after several hours of wear. Again, these panties are each designed to wick moisture away from the skin and trap liquid within a multi-layered gusset, to increase comfort. If the underwear does start feeling noticeably wet, that is a sign that they have absorbed their limit and should be switched out. 

Can I wear period panties everyday?

Period underwear is no different to regular underwear, except for its additional absorbent capabilities and performance features. It’s perfectly safe to wear period panties any day of the month, whether you are menstruating or not. Some wearers may find heavy duty pairs less comfortable than regular underwear, due to their additional bulk, but this will purely be down to personal preference.

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

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