A Beauty Editor’s Honest, Unfiltered Review of Period Panties

A Beauty Editor’s Honest, Unfiltered Review of Period Panties
Photo: Allison Kahler/STYLECASTER.

Period panties are hardly novel, but I’ve been admittedly hesitant to try them. On a scale of menstrual cup–which I find absolutely terrifying–to maxi-pad–an easier form of protection, period-proof panties fall somewhere in the middle. Every time I’ve contemplated my own period panties review and gotten this close to actually doing it, a flood of questions send me in the opposite direction. Will they fit like grandma panties? If I have a heavy flow, will everyone see it? Most importantly, how gross will I feel sitting in my own blood?

I am happy to report that in 2018, I finally got over myself and took the plunge, albeit it took some convincing. And though I’m not completely sure I’ll be swearing off pads forever, I will admit that wearing these afforded me way less trips to the bathroom, more freedom with my fashion choices, an unexpected education on the history of period underwear and peace of mind regarding how they benefit the environment.

The History

First, I was actually surprised to learn just how long period underwear have been in existence. Truth be told, I thought they were only invented in the past decade. According to Suzanne Siemens, CEO & Co-Founder of Lunapads (the brand I test-drove), several versions of underwear meant for periods were commercially available way back in the 1920s.

“Back then, ‘sanitary step-ins,’ ‘sanitary aprons’ and ‘sanitary bloomers’ were all close – at least in terms of intention, if not technology – to what we know as period underwear today,” she says. As for when they got a modern makeover, we can trace that transition back to 1993, when Siemens’ co-founder Madeleine Shaw realized having a light flow meant pads were a waste and extremely uncomfortable.

“She started out sewing cotton pads into pre-made pairs of underwear (these are the products that you see in the image in this blog post), however was unsatisfied with this design because it was cumbersome to change your underwear midway through the day, especially in winter,” says Siemens. Fast-forward to 2005 when an even more updated version was created and first-sold, giving us the version seen today.

“Since there was no one else was commercially selling period underwear in 2005, I’d say it’s safe to claim that Lunapads are the founders of modern period underwear.”

What Makes Them Period-Proof?

To be honest, I expected Lunapad panties to feel like a droopy diaper…a bit presumptuous, for sure. However, after taking them out of the packaging, I noticed that they’re almost the exact opposite. Yes, there is some padding in the crotch area, but it’s very slight; as in just enough to make you feel secure wearing nothing else, especially if you’re a first-timer. It feels less like you’re wearing a pad and more like you’re wearing a pair of thick panties.

After all, period underwear are essentially everyday underwear with the added feature of an absorbent (and often leak-proof) gusset to catch menstrual flow. Nothing more and nothing less. “The primary textile used in Luna undies is organic cotton, which makes them super comfortable and breathable, says Siemens, who also notes that they passed on conventionally grown cotton since it’s one of the harshest and most unsustainable crops on the planet.

“In addition to being the second most pesticide-intensive crop on the planet, it requires intensive irrigation. Better for the planet is organically grown cotton, which is grown free of harmful pesticides.” Luna undies also feature a layer of PUL, short for Polyurethane Laminate, which is best described as a waterproof, laminated fabric. And if that weren’t enough, they were sent to a global testing facility and confirmed to absorb up to 2 tampons worth of blood.

How to Use

Another feature I personally loved–that’s also unique to Lunapad panties–is a removable cotton insert that allows users manage heavy flow or freshen their underwear throughout the day. Unfortunately, I experienced the downside of not using these the first (and heaviest) day of my cycle because I decided to go without. By the end of the day, my panties were damp, but thankfully, not damp enough to cause any leakage. However, when using the insert, I was able to wear one pair two days in a row without feeling gross.

Generally speaking, you should be able to wear one pair of underwear for every two days, but don’t forget to change the cotton insert every day. In the case of a heavy flow, you’ll need to change both everyday. Luna panties are also machine washer- and dryer-safe, so they can be reused as much as you like. At the end of the day, the frequency in which you wear one pair is up to your personal preference.

“The only time period underwear is not ideal is when you are swimming and experiencing heavy flow,” says Siemens. “This is because when you immerse yourself in water, the water will be soaked up into the underwear. As you can imagine, with extended use, the blood and water will begin to seep out of the fabrics.” Blood clots also can’t be absorbed by the undies. They are caught on top of the fabric, which reiterates the importance of changing the insert.

The Eco-Friendly Benefits

According to Siemens, the average menstruator will have 450 periods and throw away over 16,800 pads, tampons and applicators (weighing over 300 pounds) in their lifetime. And all of that goes into landfills that pollute oceans. In North America alone, it’s over 20 billion pads, tampons and applicators.  Plus, it takes 500 years for that waste to decompose and the manufacturing process also pollutes our water and air.

Using period underwear for all or at least part of your cycle means you can avoid contributing to the waste. The organic cotton used in Lunapads’ designs also last over 2 years, so you needn’t worry about replacing a mere months after purchasing. (Fun fact: they’re the only global brand that features organic cotton as its primary textile.)

According to Siemens, over 20 millions pads and tampons are diverted from landfills every year because of their customer case. “Our ethics and transparency is globally recognized. We’re also the first and only end-to-end zero waste alternative period product company, ensuring that we’re walking the walk when it comes to our eco-friendly values,” says Siemens.

The Verdict

So what’s my verdict? If I can make a one-time investment in several pairs of period panties ($35-$42 each), cut back on my maxi-pad expenses and do something for the environment without barely trying, it’s a win for me.

My only suggestion would be to tread lightly if your flow is consistently heavy. Even the slight dampness from day-to-day may make you uncomfortable. But if you do want to try them, I recommend starting with the brief for added security and graduating to the smaller bikini once you get used to the fit and feel.