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It’s time to get real about everyone’s favorite subject: Periods. I’ve been getting mine for over a decade and I swear, there are still days where it feels just as unpredictable and overwhelming as it did the first time around. I’m someone that needs a lot of coverage when Aunt Flow visits and has lost a lot of good underwear to her wrath. Heavy flow struggles aside, lately my brain has been wracked with just how unsustainable my menstrual habits are, especially considering how eco-unfriendly the female hygiene industry is as a whole and how many used tampons and pads are currently lining our landfills. After searching for greener alternatives and not vibing with menstrual cups or organic tampons and pads, I kept seeing period underwear brands pop up and decided to give Thinx a try.
Created as a means to fill a big gap in the menstruating industry, Thinx produces washable and reusable underwear that are designed to replace tampons and pads altogether. But, if you’re like me and a little afraid to “free bleed,” which means not using any menstrual products on your period, the underwear can also provide a little extra protection and support to prevent any unwanted leakage and discomfort. Since launching in 2013, the brand now offers 15 period underwear styles that are available in sizes XXS to 3XL and various absorbency levels, as well as period-absorbent apparel and underwear lines catered to tweens and those who experience bladder leaks. As if Thinx couldn’t get any better, the organization is also dedicated to ending period poverty by donating their undies to those who can’t afford menstrual products and fighting for access to puberty education.
Inspired by the brand’s innovation and curious to know more, I connected with Hilary Fischer-Groban, VP of Brand, Thinx, Inc., to learn how these underwear actually work. “There has been no major innovation in menstrual care since the 1930s, so Thinx came out of a necessity to offer a better solution for our bodies and the planet,” she explains. “They have a patented design and period-absorbing technology, which keeps you dry and odor-free. Inside the underwear gusset are layers that wick moisture, control odor, absorb your flow, and prevent leaks. We have styles and colors for everyone, and a range of absorbencies up to four regular tampons’ worth.”
Fischer-Groban also noted that Thinx can help prevent health concerns such as toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare, but life-threatening bacterial infection often caused by super-absorbent tampons. “If you’re wearing a tampon, you have to be mindful of how many hours you have had it in and make sure you’re changing them regularly,” she continues. “Thinx eliminates this worry, and can be more comfortable than tampons, cups, or pads for many people. Some people may not have the ability to insert a tampon based on their mobility, and period underwear might be an option that gives them more independence.”
Let me start by saying that I was completely skeptical of Thinx’s absorbency and absolutely terrified to free bleed, but for the sake of journalism I—quite literally—put on my big girl panties and tested it out. I decided to try three pairs to get a sense of Thinx’s absorbency range and do my best to sync them up with my flow. To make sure that I had enough coverage for those heavy flow days, I opted for the Super Hi-Waist underwear, which offers the same level of absorbency as four tampons. At $42, these are officially the most expensive underwear I own, and I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely into their high-waisted fit and modern mesh paneling, which seemed a little too high and left an uncomfortable amount of skin exposed. Each pair has a nylon body and the best way I can describe their look and feel is that they’re similar to a pair of bathing suit bottoms.
For my moderate-light days, I tried the Cheeky underwear, which have the same absorbency power as two tampons and cost $30. Their silhouette closely resembled the underwear that I typically wear during my period, but they feel a lot thicker and also reminded me of wearing bathing suit bottoms. In anticipation for the conclusion of my cycle, I got the Thong underwear, which rank in at $24 and equal one tampon’s worth of coverage, a level that Fischer-Groban compared to a pantyliner. I was really into the thong’s mesh and textured band and loved that they looked and felt like a regular pair of undies, even despite their nylon fabric.
Yes! I was s-h-o-c-k-e-d at how much these underwear absorbed—and on day one of my period, no less! I was a little uncomfortable with the whole free-bleeding thing at first, but then I quickly realized that these undies weren’t going to let me down. I was able to get about six leak-free hours out of them and I didn’t have to use a pad or tampon all day. Impressed by how they performed in the day, I was excited to see how they held up at night and I’m happy to report that they didn’t disappoint. I can’t even begin to explain the feeling of bliss I experienced when I woke up to find that my pajamas or sheets were unscathed. Remember how I wasn’t a fan of the mesh or how high-waisted they were? They actually came in handy when I started feeling super bloated and crampy since they increase the underwear’s flexibility and support. They fit true to size.
Quick note: These were made for quarantine. They’re perfect to wear with those baggy sweatpants that help you forget that you’re experiencing painful cramps and battling a new wave of hormonal acne, but also a viable option if you forgot to buy tampons and pads last month and need some backup. That being said, I feel like this style really only works if you’re going to be staying home and wearing baggy bottoms. I couldn’t imagine trying to shimmy into a pair of formfitting jeans or the panty lines that would creep through my leggings if I wore them with anything else.
Eh! Unlike the Super Hi-Waist pair, the Cheeky pair couldn’t hang. But to be fair, I did wear them on a night when I knew that my flow could pick up again. When I woke up, I had bled through the underwear and my pajama bottoms. Thankfully, my sheets weren’t harmed during this test run. With that in mind, these are best worn with a tampon or pad to boost their coverage and should be used as more of a safety net rather than your lifeline. After washing them, I decided to give them another chance when I was confident my flow wouldn’t throw any curveballs and was pleased with their coverage. Since they’re thicker than typical cheeky underwear styles, I only wore them with sweatpants and athletic shorts. I found them to be a little stiff and think I would have been more comfortable had I sized up. The Super Hi-Waist are still number one in my heart.
Yes! I wanted to wait until the end of my cycle to wear them, but my uterus actually gave me the perfect window to test them out halfway through. It was around day 4 of my period, which people who menstruate know is when your period likes to play tricks on you by making you think that it’s done and surprising you later. With no flow in sight, I decided to wear the thong without a tampon or pad while I ran some errands. They felt like your average thong and were really comfortable and stretchy thanks to their mesh band. Towards the end of my outing, Aunt Flow decided to pick things up again, which would usually cause instant panic and destruction. But this time, I knew I was covered. Since their absorbency level is on the lower side, I wouldn’t recommend wearing these solo on heavy flow days unless you doubled up with a tampon or pad. They’re also ideal for those days towards the end of your cycle when you and your vagina are over it and you’re not in the mood to wear anything. They fit true to size and can be worn comfortably with any bottoms of your choice.
Guys, I’m obsessed. Whatever doubts I had going into this review are completely gone. Not only am I pleased with the fit and performance of Thinx’s underwear, but I’ve found that they allow me to use fewer tampons and pads. In addition to reducing my menstrual product waste, using Thinx also gives me less mess and less stress in terms of dealing with my unpredictable period because of its nonstop protection and coverage. They are also relatively easy to wash as well; just give them a good rinse in the sink before putting them in the washing machine and then let them air dry.
In terms of which pairs I’d recommend, I’m really impressed with the absorbency of the Super Hi-Waist underwear and think that everyone—even those with a heavy flow—should have a pair handy. They proved that they can handle anything, and they’re super comfy to wear to bed. I love them so much that I’m going to spend $42 to get another pair. If your flow is on the lighter side, or you feel like you can’t wear normal underwear when Aunt Flow is in town, then I’d recommend getting the Thong style; it’s great for those up-in-the-air days and can add an extra layer of protection to your tampon or pad if needed.