Most period underwear isn’t cheap, but you can save money in the long run by not having to stock up on so many tampons or pads. Start out with a pair to see what styles you like; eventually, you can get enough to last your whole cycle. Period underwear is rated for absorbency levels. Some brands state these by teaspoons of liquid or compare it to the number of tampons they replace; we’ve noted them here.
Our Favorite Pair
Of all the period underwear in my dresser drawer, I reach for Knix ($20-$38) first. The nylon pairs are so silky smooth and cool, like you’re wearing fancy skivvies, and they don’t dig in anywhere. If you prefer cotton, the brand has those too. Even the super-absorbency pairs don’t feel thick—they don’t even feel like a pad. I wear the Dream Shorts ($38) to bed regularly, even when I’m not on my period.
The brand has four absorbency levels: Light (1 teaspoon), Medium (3 teaspoons), High (4-6 teaspoons depending on style), and Super (8 teaspoons). There’s also a postpartum collection and teen period kits.
The Best Budget Pairs
All of the Period Company’s standard underwear costs just $12 (the boxers are $22 and the Sleeper Shorts are $24). For that price, you can outfit your entire week without spending nearly as much as for some other brands on this list.
I tried the Heavy absorbency versions that hold nine tampons worth of liquid, which are the thickest of any pairs I tried. They don’t really feel odd, especially if you’re used to pads, but if you wear them under tight clothes it’ll probably be uncomfortable (and look a little funny). I love them for sleeping during my heavy days. There’s a Sporty line with the same absorbency but are made of stretchier, moisture-wicking fabric to account for sweat as well. There are also Light versions made of one less layer of absorbency, which are therefore thinner all around, and Juniors.
More Brands We Like
I’ve now tried a ton of different period underwear and am confident there’s something for everyone.
- Modibodi ($19-$45) has the most styles and absorbency levels of the brands I tried. From Super Light (half to a full tampon), Moderate-Heavy (2-3 tampons), to Maxi 24 hours (10 tampons), and levels in between, you can find exactly what you need for every day of your period. It also has detachable, maternity, swimsuits, and active options.
- Saalt ($27-$45) underwear is made of three post-consumer recycled water bottles. It offers three levels of absorbency, Light (2 light tampons), Regular (3 regular tampons), and High (4 regular tampons), and the styles are cute with mesh and lace options.
- Bambody ($11-$40) only has two absorbency levels—Leakproof (for spotting or super light days) and Absorbent (2 tampons)—but it’s one of the more affordable options, along with the Period Company above.
- Proof ($25-$43) has more basic styles with four absorbency levels: Light (1 tampon), Moderate (3 tampons), Heavy (4 tampons), and Super Heavy (5 tampons).
- Pure Rosy ($29-$39) only offers a few styles, but the brand has expanded to four absorbency levels (1 to 4 tampons) from when I first tried it. The company works with the D.A.R.E. Women’s Foundation to provide its underwear to young Tanzanian girls, as well as food and water to communities in need.
- Cora ($30-$38) has just one style of underwear ($30) (3 regular tampons) and a sleep short ($38) (6 regular tampons) so far. But the company has cups and discs available too, so I’m hoping it will keep expanding. If you’re buying the warming period balm mentioned below and want to give some underwear a try, they’re nice.
- Adidas Period-Proof Shorts ($45) and Tights ($65) are pricey, but they’re made with period underwear built-in. The brand recommends wearing these in addition to a tampon, pad, or cup for added protection, especially if you’re going to be in the gym or at practice for a while, but I found it absorbed enough without anything else.
Tampons and pads require frequent changing and are not great for the environment—they’re made to be thrown away after a few hours. Menstrual cups, however, are reusable, long-lasting silicone cups that hold blood and prevent leaks. Buy it once and it should last several years. There’s a learning curve, so try it on days you’ll be home, and you may have to try a few before you find your perfect one.
To use a menstrual cup, you’ll need to fold it (there are many different ways to do this) and insert it into your vagina. Feel around to make sure it completely unfolds and creates a seal. When you’re ready to take it out, pinch the base of the cup slightly to break the seal—it’s a strange feeling, but don’t worry, it shouldn’t feel like it’s being ripped out. Depending on your flow, most menstrual cups can stay in for 12 hours, so you can go a whole workday without having to empty it in a public bathroom. Put a Cup In It is a great resource for helping you determine which cup might be best. YouTuber RawBeautyKristi also offers some good tips on her experience using a menstrual cup.
Our Favorite Cup
I appreciate and see the pros in all the cups I’ve tried for this guide, but I always preferred other options. They don’t hurt, but it was like I was very aware I was using one which is the opposite of a tampon. That is, until I tried the Lily Cup. Once it was in, I forgot it was there. I even slept in it comfortably.
The secret is in its shape and size. It’s angled, thinner, and softer than most standard cups, so it folds up smaller and feels more natural. If you’ve never used a cup, or like me, didn’t find one you loved, try this. Like most cups available, there is one for those who have not given birth vaginally and those who have.
The Most Options
If the Lily Cup doesn’t appeal to you or you need more options, MeLuna is popular in the category. There are several sizes, firmness levels, and stem types to choose from, and the company offers helpful tips for finding the right fit.
There are kits available, too, including one that comes with a steamer for sanitizing the cup ($56). Most people simply boil them to sanitize, but if you live somewhere like a dorm where you don’t want to be boiling your period cup in the communal kitchen, it’s a nice idea.
Menstrual Discs We Like
I think most people will like the Lily, but there is no one-size-fits-all product when it comes to periods. There are more options available that we also like, and most are cheaper.