Period panties are making waves in the menstrual product category, but are they as life-changing as they're talked up to be?

By Brooke Schuldt
January 27, 2020
Delmaine Donson/Getty

When I was a kid, my parents always told me to face my fears. The fears they were talking about were the monsters that lived in my closet or driving on the highway for the first time. They taught me to confront the fear head on, and it would become less scary. I decided to take this lesson and apply it to my period.

Most women, myself included, live in constant fear every month that our period will surprise us at any moment, creating a mess, ruining beloved clothes, causing embarrassment, or all of the above. We arm ourselves with pads and tampons, hoping that when the moment strikes, we'll be prepared. But these products are bulky, intrusive, and not exactly the most comfortable things to wear. (Kristen Bell even fainted while trying to take out her menstrual cup.)

So when I learned about Thinx, a brand of panties designed to be worn during your period without any hygiene products because they can do everything a pad or tampon can, I was skeptical but intrigued. I'm terrified of getting caught off guard by my period and having all that blood seep through my panties, so if there was a product out there that can prevent this from happening without making me feel like I am wearing a diaper or have a marker shoved inside me, I had to try it. (BTW, the brand also has a reusable tampon applicator.)

In the days before my period arrived, I couldn't help but wonder whether these period panties were hygienic. Sure, no matter what you use you are still spending at least a little bit of time sitting in your own menstruation, but something about using clothing as a feminine hygiene product seemed unsanitary. But according to Thinx CEO and Co-Founder Miki Agrawal, there's a key difference between period panties and other feminine hygiene products: "There is an anti-microbial technology woven into the product so you never need to worry about germs, as opposed to a plastic pad where everything just sits on the surface," says Agrawal. In addition to being able to wick your period away from your body and keep you germ-free with the help of anti-microbial technology, Thinx period panties can also provide a social service. The company donates sanitary products for every purchase of a Thinx product to girls in Uganda, where 100 million girls fall behind in school because of their period. (Period poverty isn't unique to Uganda either.)

While I loved their mission to empower women and provide health products to those in need, I still wanted a professional opinion before I gave them a try. When I asked Dr. Lauren Streicher Clinical Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine and author of Sex Rx-Hormones, Health, and Your Best Sex Ever about whether typical sanitary products were more or less hygienic than Thinx period panties, she said that it all comes down to personal preference and that there were just as safe and medically sound as tampons.

Armed with the support of a gynecologist, I put on my pair of hiphugger period panties, designed for heavy days and apparently able to hold the equivalent of two tampons, and prayed to the menstruation gods. If I was going to trust my Thinx, I was going to trust them 100 percent and not bring a change of clothes with me. (Okay, so maybe I trusted them 90 percent and brought a replacement pair of underwear, pads, and an emergency cardigan, but can you blame me?)

At first, I was paranoid and very aware that I wasn't wearing anything but underwear. I checked every single seat I left for signs of leakage. Every reflective surface became an opportunity for me to check out my butt to see if there were any unusual spots. Thankfully, there was nothing, but that didn't stop my mind from worrying every time I stood up from my desk that there would be a Game of Thrones Red Wedding scenario on my chair.

While it felt strange to not wear any protection on a heavy day, it was also nice to not feel like I was wearing anything bulky or intrusive. My Thinx felt like a normal pair of underwear, and it felt freeing to be able to move around without feeling my pad or tampon shift around. I went through my whole day convinced that these panties were created with some sort of menstrual witchcraft, and I would never wear a pad or tampon again. (This high-tech tampon can tell you exactly when it's time to change.)

That is, until my first trip to the bathroom. When I pulled the underwear back on, it felt like I was putting on wet bathing suit bottoms, and I was instantly grossed out. Sure, there were no leaks, and it felt great to not have to put anything inside me or wear a diaper, but there was nothing enjoyable about feeling like I was in a beach outhouse after spending a day in the ocean. The rest of the day went on as normal, and I started to forget that I was wearing my Thinx except for when I went to the bathroom and experienced the same wet-bikini-bottoms feeling all over again. In the days following, I never broke out into a rash or got an infection, which was a relief.

While I didn't enjoy the feeling of the underwear after taking them on and off, I can see where these would come in handy. During long car rides or busy days where you don't have time to be running back and forth to the bathroom to change your pad or tampon, Thinx period panties are a great alternative because they hold up well, don't leak, and are easy to clean in the washing machine. That being said, I wouldn't say it was the most comfortable thing in the world. Sure, tampons and pads are a bit bulky and intrusive, but being able to throw them away and put on something fresh as often as you want was a perk I didn't realize I enjoyed. You can't throw away your underwear in the middle of the day, and it's hard to get over the feeling of putting back on dirty underwear after using the bathroom. (Related: Can These Pads Really Help Sooth Period Cramps?)

The bottom line is that periods are just not fun. Sure, they allow our bodies to be able to create life, which is awesome, but they will never be enjoyable or comfortable. Ever. Products like Thinx period panties are a great alternative if you absolutely hate pads or tampons, and they are absolutely worth buying to support their mission to providing sanitary products to women in need. In the end, whatever helps you get through your period with confidence and comfort is what you should use, and while I won't be swearing off pads and tampons forever, my new Thinx period panties will come in handy during heavy days where I am too busy to fuss over feminine hygiene products.

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