How user-friendly is period underwear? Sarah Murray investigates

14 July 2022
By Sarah Murray

With period undies growing in popularity, FQ's managing editor gave some a test run.

AWWA period underwear in violet and teal.

I’d read about period underwear online and received unsolicited reviews from friends. I’d seen influencers showing off how comfy, how amazing, how unleaky they are. But for years, I just couldn’t go there. How could I? The idea of menstruating into my underwear seemed so archaic, from a time before the convenience of absorbent, disposable sanitary pads and tampons became our go-to. 

Cycle after cycle, I kept buying and disposing of tampons, until I gradually began to consider my body more carefully and how uncomfortable I was actually finding tampons these days. I thought about the environment and landfill too, and then when AWWA offered some for me to try, I surprised myself and said yes. 

If you’ve been living under a rock, FYI period underwear generally aims to be a leak-free, waste-free, affordable and sustainable alternative to conventional sanitary products. And it’s wildly popular — so popular that big chains in the UK such as Marks & Spencer and Primark have scrambled to make them and keep up with demand.

When I took my AWWA All Day Skye High period briefs out of the packet, they looked pretty much like normal underwear. They’re made with super-absorbent layers that absorb up to five tampons worth of menstrual blood, but despite this, they’re not bulky. In fact, the fabric is so fine, I began to wonder whether it’d hold up. 

AWWA's period underwear look like normal underwear and are made with super-absorbent layers.

On the first day, I was nervous — like, really nervous. I decided not to go to my gym class because I just couldn’t bear the indignity if I left blood on any of the equipment. I wore my darkest jeans and tried not to wriggle around too much. But I needn’t have bothered, because the undies’ leak-resistant barrier worked perfectly. After a day of wearing them, I realised there was something to them. To me, they’re more comfortable than sanitary pads or tampons, and because you generally wear the same pair all day, they require less effort throughout. 

That night, I put on a pair of AWWA’s Organic Cotton Colours period briefs and hoped for the best. In the morning, I checked the sheets and… nothing. Beyond leakage, my other concern was odour, but AWWA’s briefs have antimicrobial and moisture-wicking properties that help to neutralise odour while keeping you dry. 

By day two, I was feeling more confident, when at brunch with friends, I felt that dreaded sensation — you know the one. I was wearing light cotton shorts and knew if I was leaking, it’d be visible. I excused myself and went to the bathroom — to find there was no problem. The trusty underwear was simply doing its thing. 

AWWA period underwear in teal.

Periods mean blood, but I remember seeing ads for Libra Fleur when I was younger that didn’t show anything remotely resembling it — they bizarrely used blue liquid to demonstrate the product’s absorption capabilities. Even when using tampons in real life, the blood is contained within the tampon, which you wrap up and dispose of. With period underwear, it’s a little different. The blood is absorbed into the fabric, so at the end of the day, you need to rinse the underwear under the tap until the water runs clear, before putting them in the washing machine. This means — spoiler alert — you will see blood. I did find this a little confronting at first, but by the fourth day, it really didn’t faze me anymore.

It’s worthwhile pointing out here that period underwear is the perfect solution to light days, and as a mother of three, I think they’d make life so easy during those first weeks after you’ve given birth. By day five, like AWWA’s aptly named underwear, my confidence was sky high. I decided to trial the All Day Cotton period briefs and brave the gym, then that night, I donned another pair and wore white cotton pyjamas to bed. Although, once again, you know, nothing, it kind of felt like everything — as if all those years of asking to borrow a tampon and scrounging around in my purse for the last one, then walking to the toilet with a tight fist trying to conceal a brightly coloured plastic wrapper were a thing of the past. As if something fundamental had changed.  

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