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Period pollution is a serious and growing concern within the UK. The average woman is recorded as using over 11,000 disposable menstrual products within their lifetime: that adds up to some serious environmental damage.
Disposal of those products – tampons, pads, and applicators, generates 200,000 tonnes of waste each year in the UK alone. Most pads are made of 90% plastic, meaning they will take up to a thousand years to decompose in landfill.
Meanwhile, some 2 billion tampons are flushed down the toilet in the UK each year – a serious contributing factor to the 370,000 sewage blockages that occur every year.
It's a grim picture, and answers the question neatly why people are looking to more sustainable solutions for period hygiene, such as moon cups, biodegradable sanitary towels, or the increasingly popular period pants.
What are period pants?
Period pants are pants are made from a super-absorbent, odour-eliminating fabric, and double layered. The first layer – close to your skin – is a moisture barrier, designed to keep you comfortable. The second, outer layer, works to prevent leakages.
When should I wear them?
You can wear them all day (or overnight) – on average they'll hold about two tampons worth of flow. Then, they're able to be washed as you would regular underwear, and wear them over and over again. The gusset is thicker than a regular pair of pants, but otherwise they are essentially normal underwear.
Most women tend to start with wearing period pants on a low flow day, to grow comfortable wearing them, then shift to permanent wear – though there are pants designed to deal with every level of flow.
Pleasingly, they're considerably more stylish than you might imagine – certainly a lot better looking than wearing a standard sanitary pad, and more comfortable. The odour elimination technology is impressive, too, for those of you concerned about the potential for smell.
We were sceptical, we have to admit: and don't blame you for being, too. After all, period spillages are awkward, uncomfortable, and embarrassing. The idea of relying on pants seemed nerve-wracking at first, but we've trialled a fair few pairs now and been delighted at how absorbent the good pairs can be, leaving us with no strange smell or leakages.
We will say that we tend to wash ours swiftly after use – we'd advise you to do the same.
Here are the 9 best period pants available in the UK
Absorbency: 3 regular tampons. Colours: black and blue.
Thinx is the brand leader for period pants, and their 60 day returns policy (if you don't like them, money back, no questions) makes them a brilliant brand to start with.
We love the Boyshort for wearing overnight – unless it's a heavy day, they will comfortably last the distance, keeping you and your bedding dry for a full nine hours. They wash well, without shrinkage, look cheeky cool, and are comfortable to wear.
Absorbency: 4 super tampons. Colours: black and 'palmy days.'
These are seriously absorbent: you can use these comfortably on your heaviest days without worry, in our experience. That means overnight wear, and heavy discharge. They look much more stylish than you'd expect a pair of such practical underwear to.
They 'wick' moisture well, too, so you don't have to worry about blood smears. The lace trim is so pretty: recommended for looking and feeling good on days 1 and 2.
Absorbency: 3 super tampons. Colours: red, verde, beige, blue, navy, pink.
We loved these: so adorable we'd happily wear them as briefs any time of the month. Seamless, stylish, in a range of jaunty colours and allowing just the right peak of cheek: they're certainly the fashion winners for us.
Better yet, then, they perform brilliantly at their dedicated task, able to handle serious flow days and not resulting in any odours.
A real winner.
Absorbency: 1-2 regular tampons. Colours: black
Wuka come with some serious sustainability credentials. They're certified by the Better Cotton Initiative, who only use cotton produced by farmers devoted to environmentally sound practices.
Cheaper than other options, this pair worked well for eight hours, with a few important caveats. The first is that these are not for heavy flow days – they can't handle that much liquid.
The second is that these were the only pair we trialled that resulted in an unpleasant smell after several hours wear – so you will need to change them. They're cute and useful for regular days, however.
Absorbency: 4 regular tampons. Colours: black.
You either love the aesthetic of hi-waist underwear, with its hint of Bridget Jones, or you don't – we're a bit fan, and these look a particular form of chic, holding in your stomach, but nevertheless bringing the style with their mesh sides.
We used these during a punishing bicycle ride, and they managed to contain our flow with aplomb – no leaks, no smell. They form a nice line under clothes, too – no VPL, so all in all, a very good contender for the best performing pair we tried.
Absorbency: 3 regular tampons. Colour: peace out.
If these had existed when we were a teenager, it would have seriously improved our early experiences with menstruation.
A delightful alternative to bulky pads or awkward tampons, anyone next to their period will be comforted by having an easy to use option that doesn't appear at all conspicuous. Comfy, too.
Absorbency: 3-4 regular tampons. Colours: black
We will say we were surprised – between this and the Boyshort – how comfy Thinx is to sleep in.
The jersey material is super-soft, and we liked how these sat low-rise on the hip for comfort.
They've quite a thick weave on the gusset, but that provides added protection. We love the look: very cute and casual. They last the distance on a regular night, we found, without leaving the bedsheets looking like a crime scene.
Absorbency: 2 regular tampons. Colours: black and blue.
Ideal for swimming, these are water resistant, so will keep you clean and comfortable for regular or light days.
Absorbency: 3-4 super tampons. Colours: black, dusk, ube.
Great for wearing with jeans, and impressively absorbent. The chevron design is cool, too.