Name: Joslyn Richardson
How long she’s been living with periods: 21 years
Like most women, I am somewhat plagued by my period — not just the discomfort, but also the guilt that comes with the environmental waste inherent in tampons and sanitary pads. For this reason, I prefer period underwear, because they’re a more sustainable — and often more comfortable — option. For this review, I tried three brands of period underwear — Ruby Love, Modibodi, and Saalt — and here’s what I found.
What Is Period Underwear?
Period underwear is designed to look and feel like regular underwear, but with extra layers and highly absorbent fabrics in the crotch area to absorb menstrual blood. They are usually offered in various levels of absorbency, each designed to be worn at different times in a given menstrual cycle. A single pair of underwear can hold anywhere from one to four tampons’ worth of flow, so wearers are encouraged to experiment to discover the number of pairs they need within a cycle, depending on their personal flow.
Cleaning period underwear is fairly simple: It is recommended that you rinse them in cold water immediately after use, then machine wash them on a delicate cycle, and then allow them to air dry (they do not hold up well over time if they are put in the dryer).
Although period underwear is usually designed to be stain-resistant and should not smell bad if cleaned properly, if you are concerned about either of those possibilities, you are advised to soak them in a vinegar-and-water mixture before machine washing.
Here’s What Happened When I Tried Ruby Love
Ruby Love makes not only period underwear but also swimwear, activewear, and sleepwear. They have many different cuts and colors but only one level of absorbency. They offer separate reusable pads to insert into the underwear for additional protection from leaks.
I received three different cuts: a bikini, a hipster, and a sleepwear boy short. Though all were size medium, I found that they varied widely in fit — the bikini was very small, while the boy shorts were rather large. I found that the boy shorts leaked after one overnight wear, but the bikini and hipster styles were perfectly adequate for lighter-flow days.
Three Things I Liked About Ruby Love
I appreciated the variety of available colors, and found each style I tried to be adequate in absorbency for medium- to light-flow days. Though I did not try them, I also liked that they manufacture reusable pads that fit into a mesh layer of the underwear, cutting down on waste and increasing absorbency.
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Three Things I Disliked About Ruby Love
The fit of the underwear styles was inconsistent, and they were also fairly uncomfortable across the board. The five layers of absorbency (including a rather awkward top mesh layer with a hole cut out, exposing edged seams in the crotch area) are sewn in a way that feels much more like a bulky diaper than regular underwear. The boy shorts did leak on my first day, but in all fairness I did not use the insertable pad, so perhaps with that addition they would not have leaked.
Here’s What Happened When I Tried Modibodi Underwear
Modibodi manufactures period underwear, swimwear, and activewear. They advertise their product as not just for periods but also for “leak protection” across the board, including leaks caused by incontinence, sweat, and pregnancy.
I received three styles of underwear from Modibodi, each with a different absorbency: classic boy shorts (heavy-overnight), seam-free full briefs (moderate-heavy), and the sensual high-waist bikini (light-moderate). I found them all to be true to their labeled absorbency levels, and they were not bulky in any way.
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Three Things I Liked About Modibodi Underwear
Modibodi offers a variety of styles and colors and patterns, including lace-topped versions. In my experience, each style was well cut and flattering. I wore the classic boy shorts overnight and did not experience any leaks at all. Modibodi prides itself on a patented “super-slim” fiber profile: The absorbent layers are only 3 millimeters thick, ultimately making them hard to distinguish from regular underwear, which is definitely a plus.
Three Things I Disliked About Modibodi Underwear
Though all the underwear I received were all the same size, the seam-free full brief came with a sticker on the envelope explaining that they are snug at first but become roomier after a wear and wash. I found this to be true, but I would have preferred a comfortable fit from the beginning. That is really the only complaint I have about this brand, which is otherwise very effective and comfortable.
Here’s What Happened When I Tried Modibodi Activewear
Modibodi’s period activewear is much like their period underwear, in that it is advertised as not just for periods but also for bladder-leak protection and sweat-stain prevention. Their marketing encourages women not to skip a day of exercise because of their periods and to use Modibodi Activewear to keep their fitness routines on track and to overcome potentially discouraging issues such as heavy flows and excess sweat marks.
I received two styles of Modibodi Activewear: Puma x Modibodi collaboration 7/8 Recycled Active Legging (for moderate to heavy absorbency) and the Puma x Modibodi collaboration Recycled Active Cycle Short (also for moderate to heavy absorbency). I found both styles to be true to their labeled absorbency levels, true to size, and leak-proof.
Three Things I Liked About Modibodi Activewear
Modibodi Activewear offers a variety of cuts, including some well-known classics such as boy shorts, briefs, and thongs, as well as innovative styles such as leggings, cycle shorts, and running shorts. The cycle shorts were an excellent fit, very absorbent, and comfortable, and they did not roll up my thighs like some tight shorts tend to do. They are not bulky at all and have two side pockets, both of which are large enough to fit an average smartphone. They were very absorbent, leak-proof, and odor-proof (apparently thanks to the merino wool interior lining).
As I wore them, I found myself thinking that these would become a regular replacement for my period boy shorts, because the longer cut on the legs felt so comfortable, and the quality of the fabric is substantial yet not thick.
The leggings were significantly bulkier in the crotch area, but they provided the same high-absorbency, leak-proof, and odor-proof experience. The leggings also have a convenient key pocket in the center back waistband, and the 7/8 cut (just above the ankle) was flattering and stylish.
Three Things I Disliked About Modibodi Activewear
At the outset, I was admittedly reluctant to believe I needed a combination garment — why not just wear a pair of period underwear under your leggings?
And although I only tried the leggings and cycle shorts, I ended up fifty-fifty on the question: While the cycle shorts were really quite fantastic (see above), I found the leggings disappointing. Immediately upon trying them on, the bulkiness in the crotch and rear felt like a small diaper. Wearing them while I had my period, I found that although they did the job they were advertised to do, I simply didn’t feel comfortable with the fit and bulkiness, especially as the day wore on and my heavy flow was absorbed into the lining.
In the case of leggings, it seems to me that wearing a pair of well-fitting period underwear with your favorite workout gear makes more sense. And if you’re like me, you might not wash your gym leggings after every workout (unless it was a very sweaty one), but with period leggings you have to wash them after a single day’s wear, which doesn’t seem worth the trouble in the end.
Here’s What Happened When I Tried Saalt
Saalt manufactures period underwear and menstrual cups (reusable, medical-grade silicone cups made to catch period flow). Saalt is a sustainability-focused company: Their underwear is made from post-consumer recycled water bottles, and they are a certified B Corporation, highly involved in women’s health globally. I tried the high-waist brief and the mesh hipster, both listed as high-absorbency (two to three tampons, according to Saalt). I found them to be perfectly effective, though slightly on the lower side of the two- to three-tampon scale.
Three Things I Liked About Saalt
The design and fit of Saalt underwear is a cut above all other period underwear — these really do feel like beautiful, French-designed undergarments (which they are). The fact that they are made of an ecologically friendly material on top of that is remarkable. They are not bulky in any way, and were extremely comfortable from the first wear on.
Three Things I Disliked About Saalt
Saalt offers a more limited range of styles than other companies (only six styles, and three to four colors per style), and no heavy, overnight absorbency option. The high-absorbency styles I tried were definitely not suited to wearing overnight, and they are, in my opinion, on the lighter side of their stated absorbency capacity. I also noted that the mesh hipster I received was a light color (desert sand), and it stained on the first use, even after machine washing.
The Bottom Line
I ultimately chose Modibodi as the most effective option, because they have the greatest range of absorbency levels, allowing me to really cover every flow within a cycle.
A close second is Saalt, as the most environmentally sustainable product, given that my original aim was to not only have a more comfortable period but also reduce environmental waste. Saalt is a great option for those who want to reduce waste as much as possible, and also for those who perhaps have lighter periods overall.
I would not use Ruby Love again, since superior products are available.
Before I began this review, I was using a brand called Thinx, known for being one of the first period underwear companies on the market. They are effective against leaks and have a full range of absorbencies, so I was perfectly happy with Thinx, but after this comparison test, I realize that there are less bulky and more sustainable options out there.
Other Ways I Manage My Period
In addition to period underwear, another sustainable option is the menstrual cup, which is a great option when at home — but is not as convenient when traveling.