The Best Period Underwear, Menstrual Cups, and Reusable Pads (2024)

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 first. The pairs range from $20 to $42, and there are lots of bundles. 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 ($42) to bed regularly, even when I’m not on my period.

Knix has five absorbency levels: Lightest (.5-1 tampon), Light (1-3 tampons), Medium (2-3 super tampons), Heavy (3-6 super tampons), and Ultra (7-9 super tampons). There’s a maternity and postpartum collection and teen period kits. I also tried a bathing suit ($55). It’s nicely made, but I suggest closely consulting the size chart (the brand also does virtual fittings) because the sizes seem to run a lot smaller than Knix’s underwear. A size large, which matches the size of all my other bathing suits, was uncomfortable to wear because it was digging into my skin.

The Cheapest Pair

The problem with most period underwear is the price makes them inaccessible. You need several pairs to get through a cycle, and with our favorite pair from Knix costing $34 alone, that adds up really quickly. Hanes now has its own period underwear for light absorbency (1-2 tampons worth), and you can get a three-pack for around $16 to $20. The brand also has packs specifically for younger girls. They’re the cheapest we’ve tried, but they aren’t the best.

They should keep you dry and secure, but the material is significantly rougher than anything else on this list, and the seam that goes right across the back makes it feel like your underwear has ridden down to the middle of your butt.

More Budget Undies

Goat Union also makes solid affordable underwear, particularly this “boyleg ($16)” style. The organic cotton is soft and comfortable so it feels just like regular underwear. Unlike some, you can’t really feel the seam of the padded gusset area that goes across the bottom of your butt.

The boyleg is light absorbency and holds one to two tampons’ worth of blood. The brand also has boyshorts ($27) and overnight briefs ($17) equal to three to four tampons. They’re not super pricey and you can order them on Amazon.

An even cheaper brand to consider is The Period Company. The brand’s standard underwear costs just $9 and $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. These are the thickest of any pairs I tried, and feel the most obvious, like I was wearing a really thick pad. It doesn’t feel odd if you’re used to that, but if you wear them under tight clothes it’ll probably be uncomfortable (and look a little funny). They’re great for sleeping during 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.

If You Aren’t Ready to Commit

We like that period underwear is washable and reusable, but if you don’t want to splurge on an entire cycle’s worth of underwear or simply aren’t sure whether they’re right for you yet, you might consider Always’ disposable period underwear.

WIRED reviewer Brenda Stolyar hates tampons, and used to sleep with two bulky overnight pads whenever she was on her period. “Every morning, I wake up and pray to the period gods that I didn’t leak through the pads and ruin my sheets,” she says. “But the blood finds a way to seep through my pads, underwear, sweatpants, and onto my sheets, more often than not.” She didn’t want to deal with changing and washing her sheets or period underwear multiple times a week, so she tried the Always ZZZ period underwear after seeing them on TikTok. Stolyar says she’s never going back to the double pad combo ever again.

Whereas some of the underwear on this list looks cute and passes as regular underwear, these are clearly not. Unfortunately, they resemble adult diapers. Despite being slightly bulky, they’re soft, stretchy, and breathable. On the inside, you’ll find what looks like an overnight pad built into the underwear, which Always says can absorb as much as five of its Ultra Thin pads. Stolyar was skeptical of the claims, but not a drop of blood leaked through onto her sheets during the night. And, importantly, they don’t feel gross and soggy.

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