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Reusable menstrual pads or period panties: which period protection should you choose?

 As more and more people understand the importance of preserving the environment, greener solutions are emerging for all aspects of life. All women can now rightly opt for sanitary products which are environmentally-friendly, due to the fact that they're reusable. These include, among others, reusable menstrual pads and period panties. Both are well-known for their efficacy, but you may be wondering which is the most reliable. To help you make the right choice, here's everything you need to know about period panties and reusable menstrual pads.

Why should you choose reusable sanitary products?

Eco-friendly products are on the rise, due especially to the fact that they're reusable. Indeed, unlike disposable pads and tampons which pollute our environment, they can be washed to be used again and again.

In addition, reusable sanitary pads or period panties are much healthier than disposable products. Indeed, many studies report the toxicity and carcinogenic effects of the substances used in their manufacture. Among other things, in the case of disposable tampons, the risk of toxic shock is enormous. That's why more and more women are turning to menstrual panties and washable sanitary pads certified by GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), and/or Oeko-Tex 100, because these standards ensure the quality and origin of the materials used for their manufacture.

However, some women haven't yet dared to take the leap, out of concern for hygiene, or the risk of leaks. Reusable period panties or sanitary pads are actually not at all likely to cause bad odours. In fact, menstruation blood doesn't give off any unpleasant odour. It starts to smell bad when it mixes with the toxic substances in disposable sanitary products. To avoid any risk of odour or leakage, it would be ideal to change the protection when it's full absorbancy has been reached.

In addition, contrary to popular belief, blood can be easily removed from fabrics, especially when it's still fresh. So there's no risk of creating any extra trouble during washing.

What kind of reusable sanitary product should you choose?

Period panties, menstrual cups, reusable sanitary pads, organic tampons, nowadays you're spoiled for choice when it comes to switching to greener sanitary products. Also, to make sure you make the right decision, you'll need to go on a few important criteria:

1- Your menstrual flow

Like their disposable counterparts, period panties and reusable sanitary pads come in several varieties which you can choose according to how heavy your menstrual flow is. However, neither of them can be used for a whole day, because you will have to change your protection at least twice.

So ideally you could go for period panties when you're staying at home, since you can change them more easily there. On the other hand, if you're going to be out for a long time (at the office for instance), reusable sanitary pads would be the best choice: you can change sanitary pads more discreetly than panties and they're easier to carry in your handbag.

2- Your need for comfort

Menstrual pads or period panties: which is the most comfortable? Well, it all depends on your daily activities. Reusable sanitary pads clip on over your underwear, and feeling it there could make you feel safe from the risk of leaks.

This is also true even if you spend a lot of time sitting in your office during the day. If, on the other hand, you intend on doing intense physical activity, period panties would stay in place the best. This is because sanitary pads could move forwards or backwards when you move, while panties aren't likely to move since their absorbent layer is part of the panty itself.

3- Your need for discretion

Even the tightest clothes won't give away the fact that you're wearing a reusable menstrual pad because the protection is only at the crotch. Period panties, on the other hand, can be used just like all other classic panties. That is, if you're wearing tight clothes, the seams may be seen on the buttocks. Although, there are also seamless panties for more discretion… and better aesthetics!

4- Ease of maintenance

In both cases, washing methods are fairly similar. First, you need to rinse the period panties or sanitary pad in cold water to remove as much blood as possible. Then just put them in the washing machine with the other clothes and afterwards leave them to air dry.

However, period panties are more fragile than reusable sanitary pads because of the materials they're made from (lace, seams, elastics, etc.). If washed below 40°C, reusable sanitary pads can withstand temperatures up to 60°C well. Period panties are often black anyway, so stains will be less noticeable than on reusable menstrual pads as time goes on.

5- Your budget

The price is about the same whether you choose period panties or reusable sanitary pads with the same absorbency. However, if you go for period panties like our bamboo fibre panties, you'll need to have at least three pairs. While if you'd rather use reusable menstrual pads, you'll need to get at least five.

Everything you need to know about reusable menstrual pads

So what are reusable sanitary pads?

Reusable sanitary pads are very similar to disposable menstrual pads. They are both roughly the same size and the same thickness and offer the same absorbency as well. However, reusable sanitary pads are designed using materials that are healthier and more environmentally-friendly, without any of the questionable chemicals found in disposable pads.

They're also available in different sizes to be chosen according to how heavy your flow is. There are actually thicker pads (up to 5 millimeters thick) available for the first days of your cycle or for nighttime, and smaller ones for lighter flow.

How should reusable menstrual pads be used?

Reusable sanitary pads usually feature press-studs on their two side wings, allowing them to be fastened onto the underwear at the crotch.  Their width can also be adjusted according to your needs.

When you change pads, fold all four sides toward the centre and use the press-studs to keep them closed until you're ready to wash it. As noted above, washing is done in two steps: first you must remove as much blood as possible by rubbing the pad using cold or lukewarm water. Then, put the menstrual pad in the machine at 60°C at the most, before leaving it to air dry.

You'll generally need at least five reusable sanitary pads for better ease of use and to take into account the drying time needed after washing. Also, you ought to remember that reusable pads can be worn for up to four hours in a row for optimal hygiene. But if you wear a menstrual cup at the same time or have a light flow, you can use the pads for up to 12 hours.

Who are reusable sanitary pads suitable for?

Reusable menstrual pads are recommended for women who usually wear disposable pads as period protection. They are practically the same, except that you'll no longer have to fill your rubbish bin with bad-smelling pads...

Reusable menstrual pads are also suitable for all flows: whether heavy or light, postpartum periods or urinary leaks, reusable sanitary pads are the perfect solution. They're even recommended for teenage girls having their first period, because they offer real comfort.

How much do resuable menstrual pads cost?

There are reusable sanitary pads available for all kinds of budgets (starting at a dozen euros). But although they cost more than disposable pads (at first), they are without doubt a sustainable investment. Indeed, reusable sanitary pads last for about 5 years or 200 washes on average. As a result, you ultimately save on your period expenses, because you minimize your menstrual waste each month.

What are the other benefits of reusable sanitary pads?

Suitable for all women and respectful towards both the environment and your wallet, reusable sanitary pads have it all. But they have an additional advantage in that they're made with more natural (plus recognizable) and breathable materials. This avoids the risk of irritation, itching and especially, toxic shock syndrome. The bacteria responsible for this illness can't multiply in the washable menstrual pad, let alone pass into the bloodstream.

What about period panties?

What are period panties?

Also called menstrual panties, period panties are underwear specially designed to absorb blood during menstruation. To do this, they feature an absorbent part at the crotch to give effective protection, without any risk of leakage. Such great protection is possible thanks to three layers of absorption: a soft and breathable fabric so as not to irritate the skin, a waterproof material to prevent leaks and in the middle an absorbent layer composed of materials of plant origin (such as bamboo or eucalyptus).

How should period panties be used?

Period panties are worn like all conventional panties, except that they need to be changed at the most after twelve hours of use. This time frame also depends on your menstrual flow, however: if it's heavy, you will of course need to change your period panties more often. To assess the panty's maximum absorbancy, it's a good idea to test it at home the first time your wear it. Then count the number of hours it takes before it leaks so you know how long you'll be able to keep it on.

Either way, you'll need at least three period panties: two normal period panties for the daytime (to alternate while the other one dries) and another more absorbent one for nighttime. Note that you won't need to put a sanitary pad over the period panties as this could be very uncomfortable, especially since they are both effective protection. You can wear it with a menstrual cup or tampon though, if you're worried about leaks on days of heavy flow.

When it comes to washing, rinse your period panties in cold water before putting them in the washing machine. To avoid altering their absorption capacity, choose the right temperature (between 30 and 40°C), avoid fabric conditioners or softeners and air dry instead of using the dryer.

Who are period panties suitable for?

There are different kinds of period panties available for women with low to very heavy flow. On the other hand, period panties are less practical for menorrhagia (very heavy periods) or postpartum periods, despite their great absorption capacity. However, they are ideal for women who want to forget that they're menstruating and just get on with their day (maximum comfort, better aesthetics and no need to change panties as often as with sanitary pads).

Athletes also prefer to wear period panties during their period, because they don't 'slip' even if you move around a lot. This makes period panties very handy for nighttime too.

How much should you budget for period panties?

Period panties cost on average about thirty euros each. But, despite their price, period panties have conquered many women due to their many undeniable advantages. In addition, they're also a long-term investment, as they can last up to 7 years, if you take good care of them.

Why should you choose period panties?

Eco-friendly and economical,  menstrual panties are also multifunctional: they're suitable for almost all flows, and even urinary leaks. In addition, their production using non-toxic materials promises true comfort: no irritation or itching (often linked to chemicals in the case of disposable products). In addition, period panties are available in different models (high waist, lacy, shorts style, etc.) to stay sexy and feminine, even during your period!

What other environmentally-friendly alternative sanitary products are there?

Besides period panties and reusable sanitary pads, there are also other solutions available so you can avoid using disposable sanitary products.

1- Menstrual cups

Often just called a "cup", a menstrual cup is a small funnel-shaped container made of silicone. It is inserted into the vagina and its bell shape allows it to collect blood during menstruation. Once it's full (at least twice a day), it's removed using a small flexible stem, rinsed, then washed thoroughly with soapy water and rinsed (again), so that it can be reused.

Unfussy and inexpensive (in the long term), one menstrual cup is enough to get through your period with no trouble. They can be used with panty liners or period panties , though, to avoid any risk of leaks.

If they're the ideal solution for women who are used to tampons, menstrual cups are also perfect for athletes. Indeed, as they perfectly match the shape of the vagina, they prevent leaks, while allowing the user greater freedom of movement. They are even recommended for water sports, such as swimming (which isn't the case with the period pants).

2- Reusable panty liners

Thinner than reusable sanitary pads, reusable panty liners work just like their disposable counterpart. They're used as protection at the beginning and end of the menstrual cycle or for slight urinary leaks or discharge. Some women also use them to boost the effectiveness of menstrual cups, if they're not keen on the equally effective period panties.

3- Menstrual sponges

100% natural and biodegradable, menstrual sponges are sea sponges which have undergone a special treatment, making them an excellent alternative to disposable tampons. They are placed inside the vagina to absorb the blood during menstruation. Menstrual sponges are quite controversial, however, since they require good hygiene, including regular rinsing before being inserted into the genitals.

Conclusion: what should you keep in mind?

Whether it's period panties, reusable sanitary pads, or any other type of reusable sanitary product, your choice will of course depend on you, your needs, your habits, what you do and how heavy your flow is. Whatever your preference, they are all effective and environmentally friendly.

Either way, to help make the switch from single-use products to their reusable counterparts, here are some tips to remember. First of all, test your period panties or  reusable sanitary pad in a safe place, at home if possible. Ideally, this test should be done at the start or end of your period in order to smoothly integrate it into your new lifestyle.

Also, to help you switch slowly, but surely, to reusable pads, use the eco-friendly equivalent (disposable vs reusable sanitary pad, menstrual cup vs tampon, etc.). Otherwise, combine the disposable types with the reusable sanitary pads: for example, use a tampon with a period panty, or a menstrual cup with a panty liner and so on. Then, as you get used to these new, greener alternatives, you can gradually forget about disposable sanitary products.

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