[ Article updated in March 2022 : with the period underwear market expanding I have been contacted by more brands and decided to add the REPEAT period underwear ]
One of the recurring questions about our 14-month world tour: how did Clémentine managed to get period products around the world? To summarise this article in a few words, the answer is: reusable period underwear! Here is her advice and a review of the products she tested.
Accessibility to disposable period protection around the world
For environmental, economic and comfort reasons, I had already stopped using single-use sanitary pads and tampons several years ago. However, I did have to buy a few during the beginning of our trip (before getting period panties) and here is what I observed:
We always found sanitary pads for sale in pharmacies. Not necessarily in standard grocery shops, as you can in Europe, but always in pharmacies. We also never had a problem finding a pharmacy, even in the smallest cities. However, it was mostly external pads, not tampons, which were available. Finally, the quality and effectiveness was extremely variable from one country to another, and some were unpleasant to wear.
For us, it is also important to note the very negative impact the use of disposable protections has on the environment, and also the health risks due to the use of toxic agents in manufacturing.
The menstrual cup on a world tour
I had already used a menstrual cup several years before the world tour. The advantages are obvious: the very low purchase cost for a very long use, the possibility of using it for an entire day without having to change or worry about it, and, of course, it hardly takes up any luggage space.
During a backpacking-style world tour however, it is not so easy to use. We sometimes spent several days with limited access to water, making cleaning the cup very complicated. The lack of water points in certain shared accommodation could make logistics complex. Also, if you have a heavy flow and need to empty your cup during the day, this can be difficult in certain regions where access to toilets with a sink outside the accommodation is extremely rare.
Finally, it is important to also emphasise the complication and difficulty you may encounter during your first uses of the cup. It takes several periods to master the insertion and removal. I strongly advise against going on a trip with a cup without having experienced it several times quietly at home. At home, I would also used washable and reusable sanitary pads. However, their maintenance, comfort and practicality is not good compared to the reusable period underwear.
After hearing about the period underwear among the travel community, I finally decided in Australia to invest in period panties. It was a revelation for me!
Period underwear (or period panties)
What is reusable period underwear?
Menstrual panties or period underwear, are external hygienic protections, which are washable and reusable. Period underwear can be used throughout the life of the product. Many manufacturers have entered the market recently, and new technologies ensure excellent absorption, real comfort, and perfect washing.
With a good model of a recommended brand, you should have no leaks, no smell, and no feeling of humidity (otherwise it means the model chosen was not suitable). In addition, the designs are very varied and you can now find period underwear in all the usual styles of lingerie. It is very difficult to differentiate them from classic lingerie, as they are hardly any thicker!
The price, however, is a dissuasive factor and these technologies cost more than conventional lingerie. However, you have to see it as a real long-term investment. In addition to reducing your monthly costs of disposable protections, it is a real effort for the planet and your health.
Finally, period underwear is not just a solution for your period, but can also be very useful for urinary leakage.
Period underwear while travelling
The underwear needs to be rinsed after use and can be washed in a conventional machine cycle with the rest of the laundry. The temperatures vary according to the models but the vast majority are washed at 30 degrees, some are even ok cold and by hand. Thanks to their absorption capacity, they also dry quickly. Therefore, no need to invest in a large number of pairs. Some models can be washed in the evening by hand to be reused the next day.
I travelled with three pairs, which was enough. Despite the great disparity in the quality of our washings (often done by hand), they have always come out impeccable. When travelling, this underwear ensures you always have access to periodic protection, and they take up very little space in your luggage. They are so comfortable that I also used them outside of my period. Consequently, these were not “additions” to our very limited backpack, but they were fully part of my wardrobe.
Last but not least, they keep your crouch dry during boat trips, hikes, sports activities, or in very humid environments!
How to pick your period underwear?
Be very careful to choose the right size, as too wide or too tight lingerie will be much less effective.
Most brands offer different levels of absorbance, so choose a suitable model for your flow. It is a good idea to equip yourself with different levels to be able to cover your needs day by day. The models for the heaviest flow days are naturally thicker, but no less comfortable to wear!
There are now many brands. The options are increasing day by day, and vary hugely in design, efficiency, comfort, and above all, price!
I tested the following brands:
Modibodi, the Australian brand
As I bought the first ones in Australia, I naturally turned to an Australian brand.
I opted for three models, three styles and different absorption levels.
- The “sporty”: Active Brief
- The “sensual” with lace: Sensual Hi Waist Bikini
- The “invisible” seamfree: Seamfree Bikini
Some models are now available in different colours.
I was very satisfied; these models are super pleasant and beautiful to wear. Above all, they are super efficient and easy to wash. No complaint ! These products have also stood the test of time and have emerged intact from intensive use during the world tour!
[Update March 2022 : after three years the underwear used around the world are starting to be worn out. I am still using this brand and have also used their maternity and postpartum products which I highly recommend]
The light – moderate level works more as a good panty liner. The moderate – heavy levels are very absorbent and comfortable to wear. They are not too thick and remain discreet. The information on the site makes it easy to choose the right model and the right size.
In terms of price, these products are among the cheapest tested, between 19 and 28 euros. The range also includes sports lingerie, swimwear, accessories for pregnancy and a very good offer for teenage girls. The brand is involved in social and educational projects in Australia and New Zealand.
100% recommended by my experience. Be careful however, as in our research we found negative online comments relating to leakage problems.
Lunapads / Aisle, supplied with a bonus absorbency booster pad
The Lunapads brand, renamed Aisle, already known for menstrual cups and reusable pads, has just released a new model of period underwear. Their Hispter model includes an additional bonus absorbency booster pad, which is removable.
This interesting concept makes it possible to add security in the event of heavy flow or for nighttime. It also allows to “change” during the day if necessary without having to completely change your underwear. It is comfortable lingerie and the absorbency is good.
In terms of style, this remains basic and is available in just two colours. The price is right, compared to the competition, at around 37 euros. Be careful if you are taking these backpacking, as online reviews seem to indicate the material is difficult to wash by hand.
This Canadian brand has supported projects for the accessibility of menstrual products all over the world for many years. In addition, their inclusive campaign clearly advocates diversity and a positive body image. This is reflected in their sizing options, which range from XS to 5X.
REPEAT, a French committed brand
The period underwear brand REPEAT is campaigning to facilitate access to period protection for all menstruating people by offering packs of three period panties for 49.90 euros. There is only one model available in order for the brand to ensure responsible production while keeping prices low and product efficiency. This model is available in black or skin color (which comes in five different tones) as well as in a wide range of sizes.
The panties are very comfortable and well absorbent. They seem quite durable. Whether they live up to their label promise, “Till menopause do us part”, will have to be seen over time. Reviewers online do not all agree with this… Moreover, the rather high-waisted and shorty shape makes them difficult to use if your morphology changes and therefore not ideal for maternity and postpartum.
Compared to competitors, they are not the prettiest in terms of design. However, the feminist and ecological commitment as well as the inclusiveness of the brand seduced me.
Réjeanne, French trendy models for a maximum absorbency
This Made in France brand has worked a lot on the style and design of the different models with lace, but also transparencies, high-waist, hipster panties, a varied range of colours and even collaborations with other designers.
I tested the Shorty Callie Rouge Tangerine model for heavy flow.
When I received my package, I was surprised to find that the protective layer of this model extends over the entire panties. This means that compared to the other panties tested, this one is thicker and bulkier. However, it remains comfortable and pretty to wear.
In terms of absorbency and protection level there is absolutely nothing to complain about! If you are worried about a leak, have heavy flows or leaks at night this model is perfect for you. Having one like this in your wardrobe makes you feel really safe. For the backpackers, you just have to be prepared for this to take up a little more space than normal panties. Also, you are less likely to want to wear it at any time.
I have not tested the light and medium flow models. At 39 to 59 euros (depending on the model), these are on the expensive side, but remain in the average price range of what we have seen.
Part of the brand’s profits are donated to women’s support associations, and they also offer pretty swimsuits.
Petites Culottés, Made in France and lace
This 100% Made in France brand manufactures its lingerie with organic cotton. They are very transparent on the manufacturing and work with a principle of pre-order only, which reduces waste.
The brand wants their products to be delicate and refined, and offers pretty models with lace, delicate style and a range of colours.
I tested the La Capricieuse model: maybe it was not a suitable model for me, but I was disappointed. I found the shape uncomfortable because the model is very low waist and the seams are very thick. With the other brands I tried, the interior is always black even if the panties are a different colour. For this red “Petite Culottés” model, the interior is also red which means that the stains are immediately visible (but disappear after wash). Unfortunately, this model was the only one with which I had an issue with leaking.
Prices start at 47 euros, make it the most expensive brand of those I tested. This brand also offers pretty models of teenager’s panties and cool accessories. This model was also delivered in a very nice bag.
To summarise these tests of period underwear or period panties: I was won over by the Modibodi brand, due to the price, comfort, reliability of the products and design choices.
If you want to know more about what we took in our suitcases, do not hesitate to go to our article World tour: our wardrobe.