Underwear that absorbs blood for up to ten hours and skips the need for a tampon? We're listening...
Have you converted to period pants yet? Offering an eco-friendly alternative to tampons and pads, these super absorbent (and comfortable) pants are a brilliant way to have an all-round more sustainable period. In fact, many of them promise to hold up to ten hours of menstrual blood. That's pretty impressive, given that most brands offer options that go virtually undetectable under clothes.
Period products account for 200,000 tonnes of UK landfill waste every year. That's 200,000 tonnes of tampons and pads contributing to the mounting tide of plastic pollution. It's vital, now more than ever, that we try, where we can, to live more sustainably and take accountability for our actions – and period pants could be a great place to start.
Why? Well, quite simply, because, like other sustainable options including period cups, they eliminate the need for plastic-packed, single-use period products.
"WUKA period pants can be used for at least two years, which prevents over 200 disposables from going to landfill with every pair," explains Ruby Raut, co-founder and CEO of period pant company WUKA. Think of it this way: one person would use 120 pairs of period pants over a lifetime compared to 8640 single-use plastic tampons and applicators.
Period pants: So what are they?
According to Emily Ewell, CEO and co-founder of Pantys, period pants are pants that both look and feel like normal underwear but that have a super absorbent, antibacterial and impermeable liner. "This can be used to absorb menstruation, post partum and even light incontinence fluids," she explains.
Not only are they sustainable, as we've mentioned, but they're also comfortable, too. Just think about never having to use a tampon again...
How do period pants work?
Good question. It's pretty simple, explain Raut and Ewell. They're are made from super absorbent material, as above, that can hold up to two tampons' worth of period blood, dependent on the brand or type you're using.
They commonly also have another layer, specifically designed to prevent any unexpected leaks, and what they call a 'moisture barrier', to make sure you stay comfortable throughout.
Plus, they're breathable, to eliminate any chance of smell, and also reusable, obviously. Once you've used a pair of period pants, its as simple as popping them in the wash with your other unclean clothes.
Not so comfortable using them on their own or worried because you have a particularly heavy flow? You can use period pants however you like, Ewell reassures. "Women use period pants for many reasons," she shares. "Many use them exclusively during menstruation in place of disposable or internal menstrual products; some use in combination with a tampon or cup to bring a ‘peace of mind’ to unexpected leaks; some use on lighter days to bring more comfort and reduce the number of discarded half-used tampons; and some use sleeping for a leak-free night’s rest."
But are they actually sustainable?
Sure, you understand that wearing period pants saves on plastic waste. But is producing more clothes really the answer? Good question, but a problem most brands are passionate about solving. Obviously, it depends on which brand you opt for, but most are made from organic cotton and sustainable, biodegradable materials, too.
"At WUKA, we believe that periods should not cost the earth," explains Raut. "We use the highest quality materials in all of our underwear, from Global Organic Textile Standard organic cotton, to biodegradable Tencel Modal made from sustainable beech trees, to Econyl made from plastic waste from our oceans."
How to wash your TOTM pants
- Soak or rinse your pants in cold water immediately after removing them.
- Next, wash at 30 to 40 degrees with your other clothes and normal detergent.
- Once washed, do hang up to dry, rather than tumble drying.
Period pants: 12 best pairs to buy now
Best for: A medium flow Not only does the WUKA ultimate high waist hold period blood for up to eight hours, they also offer up to 45% stretch at the waist guaranteeing your comfort, even through TOTM bloat.
Best for: A medium flow Fun fact: this Modibodi design was the first ever period proof swimwear product launched in the UK. Buy for a leak-proof swimming option.
Best for: Every kind of flow These are the closest period pants you'll get to regular underwear. Neat. They're available in 11 sizes, too.
Best for: A heavy flow Founded on the philosophy that girls and women should never have to compromise their wellbeing or health, Hey Girls' super high-waisted, super-comfortable period pants are chlorine and bleach free, can be worn for up to twelve hours, and hold a remarkable four-five tampons worth of blood. Oh, and they're Buy One Give One, so not only are you investing in yourself with these ones, you're investing in tackling period poverty across the UK. So it's a win win.
Best for: A medium flow What do you get when you combine the absorption power of a pad and the comfort of your favourite old pants? These new period pants from Bodyform, that's what. Enjoy eight hours of protection on light to medium flow days and up to 50 wears.
Best for: a medium flow This is Pantys’ most popular style and you can see why, with a cute mesh fabric at the sides that will stretch and flex as your body does. Designed specifically for a medium flow.
Best for: A heavy flow If you'd rather a more supportive style, you'll love the Slim from Pantys. It's the perfect comfort pant, and has been designed with a heavy flow in mind.
Best for: A light flow Prefer a more barely-there style pant but also want to know you'll be protected from any dreaded first-few-days-of-period leaks? Opt for Panty's Tanga, built for light bleeding at the beginning of your cycle.
Best for: A medium flow These bikini briefs come in a classic cut and are made from soft modal. Not only do they feel silky smooth, but they are breathable and ultra-absorbent, too.
Best for: A medium flow These period pants are best-selling for a reason. Available in a range of different flows, they hold up to three tampons' worth of period flow and promise to stay leak-free for up to ten hours.
The latest product innovation from Adidas is a good'un: not a period pant, but period proof workout shorts for every sweat session. They have an absorbent layer to help protect against leaks, but do note here, it is recommended that you wear a tampon or pad with them - they're designed to give you the confidence to not have to worry about bleeding through said pad or tampon while working out. Neat.
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.