Road-test: ‘I tried M&S period pants and they really work’

·Yahoo Life UK deputy editor
·5-min read
On a mission to become more green, Yahoo Life UK Deputy Editor Emma Elms made some lifestyle changes including switching to washable period pants (Supplied)
On a mission to become more green, Yahoo Life UK Deputy Editor Emma Elms made some lifestyle changes including switching to washable period pants (Supplied)

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Given I’m 46 and that the average age for the menopause is 51 in the UK, I still have six years (60 periods!) left. As a mum of three girls, aged 14, 11 and four, I’m keen to set a good example to my daughters and show them having a period is no big deal – just pull on your period pants and go.

Why period pants are planet-friendly

Period pants have boomed in the past few years as we become more clued up on environmental issues. If you’re someone, like me, who loves the sea, you might be horrified to know that there are around nine plastic applicators and 23 sanitary pads for every kilometre of a beach in the UK according to the Women’s Environmental Network. Lovely.

They make their way there through being flushed down toilets or via landfill.

In a lifetime the average person who menstruates* uses more than 11,000 disposable period products (a term* to recognise that trans-men often still menstruate too). If every one of us aimed for a plastic-free period, imagine the difference that’d make to our sandy shores.

Do period pants smell weird?

When it comes to period pants, after years of using disposables, it’s just a question of changing your mindset. A few of my friends wrinkled their noses when I excitedly shared my mission. ‘But don’t the pants smell?’ asked a couple of them in horror over dinner.

The answer is no, because most period underwear has built-in anti-bacterial, anti-odour properties, plus I quickly discovered I felt fresher if I popped on a new pair halfway through the day.

You may worry about them leaking at first, so try them out at home while you get to know your flow. They haven’t let me down yet, but some women choose to wear tampons as well as period knickers for added protection on heavy days.

I hate the look and feel of bulky pads so the fact the pants feel like normal underwear is another plus point. You could even wear tight leggings and no one could see a telltale outline.

How do you wash period pants?

First dilemma I had was what the hell to do with them once I’d worn them. As a busy working mum, housework isn’t my strong point, but laundry is one thing I’m fussy about.

With a new utility room and its own nifty sink, I quickly got into a routine of hand washing the pants each evening soon after use and air drying them on a rack in the kitchen. In a mainly female household, not much mystery left here!

The official advice is to rinse them after use, then either machine wash on a cool cycle or hand wash them like me (see washing instructions on label).

Never use fabric conditioner, which can make them less effective and don’t tumble dry or leave them to dry on a radiator.

Some users like to rinse them out in the shower, before washing them properly or store them up in a separate laundry bag before doing a batch wash. I say, forget leaving them to fester and the faster they’re washed, the better.

Check out the four styles I tried and my verdict on each below:

Light Absorbency High Leg Period Knickers | £12 from Marks & Spencer

Light Absorbency High Leg Period Knickers
Light Absorbency High Leg Period Knickers

£12 at M&S

Style: Easy-to-wear with a hint of sexiness in the lace panel around the hips. They look exactly like normal pants so even my partner didn’t know the difference.

Comfort: Super-soft to wear with a waistband that’s easy on the tummy.

Sizes: 6-28

Absorbency: Light. May not be suitable for overnight or heavy days.

High Absorbency High Leg Period Knickers | £12 from Marks & Spencer

High Absorbency High Leg Period Knickers
High Absorbency High Leg Period Knickers

£12 at M&S

Style: With a distinctive Dalmatian spot print, these are cute but not seduction-friendly, so best for those tracksuit-bottoms-and-chill-out days.

Comfort: I liked the soft feel of the cotton and the waistband was gentle on my midriff.

Sizes: 6-28

Absorbency: Heavy. Fine for overnight and your heavy period days.

Light Absorbency Period Full Briefs | £12 from Marks & Spencer

Light Absorbency Period Full Briefs
Light Absorbency Period Full Briefs

£12 at M&S

Style: Ooh, hold on, I haven’t worn full briefs since I was about eight years old and these did feel like Granny pants. Come back to me in 30 years’ time and I might change my mind. The lace side panel was a small redeeming feature.

Comfort: Fantastic for softness and for full bottom coverage, but zero sex appeal unless big Bridget Jones pants are your knicker of choice.

Sizes: 6-28

Absorbency: Light. May not be suitable for overnight or heavy days.

Light Absorbency High Leg Period Knickers | £12 from Marks & Spencer

Light Absorbency High Leg Period Knickers
Light Absorbency High Leg Period Knickers

£12 at M&S

Style: Classic black pants edged with a stylish, striped waistband of thin fabric blocks and see-through strips.

Comfort: True to size, flattering and effective, I’d happily wear these every day.

Sizes: 6-28

Absorbency: Light. May not be suitable for overnight or heavy days.

The verdict

For ease and for the sake of the environment, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to disposables now. Other brands even offer period-friendly swimwear which works well for my outdoor swims in the lido on lighter days. These M&S pants are not only quick and easy to use, but cheaper than other independent brands – what’s not to love?

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