Do period undies work and are they good value for money?

Australian consumer advocacy group tests effectiveness, comfort and value of 10 blood-absorbing intimates on the market

The majority of period underwear available in Australia perform well, but the more eco-friendly alternatives to tampons may not suit everyone, a review by consumer advocacy group Choice has found.

In an Australian first, Choice recruited 56 volunteers to test which undergarments give women the best bang for their buck. The review, which trialled 10 different pairs from brands Bonds, Modibodi, Thinx, Eco Period and Love Luna, comes in response to what Choice sees as a “growing market” for blood-absorbing intimates.

Modibodi Seamfree Full Brief (Moderate-Heavy) came out on top in the review, with Bonds Bloody Comfy Period Full Brief and a different ModiBodi pair tying for second place.

Choice asked volunteers to test the undergarments during what they considered a moderate flow day.

Volunteers wore one pair during the day, switching to a higher absorbency pair for nighttime. They scored the undies on factors including comfort, fit, absorbency, whether there were any leakages or obvious odours, as well as how easy they were to wash and dry. Each pair was trialled a minimum of 30 times, with 328 wears overall in the review.

“What dragged scores down were any leakages or absorbency [issues],” Choice consumer expert Marianna Longmire said. “But generally, they all performed pretty well. We ended up recommending eight of the 10 pairs of undies we looked at, so I wouldn’t say any of them had a massive failure.”

Choice also asked testers for their general thoughts on the period undies.

“Even if they worked well, some people didn’t really like the feel of period undies. They are generally a bit thicker in the gusset which just isn’t preferable for everybody,” Longmire says. “But some people really loved them and wished they had been an option when they were younger.”

Another factor for consumers to consider is price. While they are designed to be washed and reused, period undies generally retail for between $20 and $30 a pair – making them a bigger upfront cost than a box of tampons, especially if you’re buying a week’s worth.

“It’s difficult to say definitively one way or another whether period undies will save you money. They can. But depending how long your cycle is you might need three or four pairs of undies,” Longmire says.

She believes the real selling point for period undies is sustainability, as consumers look for more eco-friendly alternatives to traditional sanitary products.

“Finances may be an element to it but from what we’re seeing, it’s slightly more of an environmental concern. And sometimes it’s just a comfort thing as well.”

Alexis, one of the volunteers, had never tried period undies before the trial, but now chooses them over pads or tampons.

“I’m a complete convert,” the 26-year-old says. “I was very concerned about sanitary pads and tampons and their effect on the environment. But I think the switch was much easier to make knowing they are actually incredibly comfortable, for the most part, and they do what they’re claiming to do in terms of keeping you dry.”

Alexis didn’t mind having to report on things like odour as part of the study. “It wasn’t too weird, because it was just fairly non-invasive surveys after the fact,” she says.

Longmire thinks 2021 felt like the right time to launch this review.

“Period undies are … in supermarkets now, they’re in department stores, they’re in chemists,” she says. “Also publishing [this review] can hopefully remove some of the stigma around periods. It’s a very natural thing so the more we talk about it, the better.”

Really, she says, “it’s just blood”.


Katie Cunningham

The GuardianTramp

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