True Story: I’m 35 & Finally (Maybe) Trading Single-Use Pads For These Sustainable Ones

It's true: I'm a few weeks shy of my 35th birthday and still use single-use menstrual pads. I don't know if it was the trauma of that first shove of a dry tampon without an applicator at age thirteen or my narrow-set hips, but pads have always been my go-to period product. Other adults look at me like I'm crazy: Don't pads feel like wearing a diaper? Wouldn't I be more comfortable using tampons? The answer is a definitive no. I am a pad girl, through and through. However, I fully realize that they're not the best choice — for me or the world. That's right: The negative attributes of single-use pads extend beyond their carbon footprint (which, is Not Great, Bob). Besides not being biodegradable (and causing a ton of plastic waste), pads are chemically treated with bleach, which can irritate your skin or cause allergy flare-ups with prolonged use. Some people even attribute poor vaginal health and menstrual cramps to them (though no official studies have concluded that). As an extreme cramps sufferer, I will try anything to help them. Even (maybe) leave behind my beloved pads. But when I started looking at alternative period products, I was woefully intimidated by the popularity of the menstrual disc (which seemed even more terrifying than tampons).

So, when the Hello Period washable pads and period undies came across my desk, I was cautiously optimistic. These machine-washable undies and pads are an eco-friendly solution to the one-use pads plastic problem. Plus, the panties come in two cuts — bikini and high-waisted — and range from size XS-3XL (pretty damn inclusive). The panties and pads both claim to absorb up to five pads' worth of blood (perfect for my first-day heavy flow) and look cute while doing so. If that sounds pretty good to you, you're in for an extra treat. Right now, Hello Period is giving R29 readers an exclusive 10% off their first order with code HELLOPERIOD10. Read on to find out my personal pros and cons of each product so that you can purchase with confidence.
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Though I have been aware of sustainable period underwear for some time, I've actually never tried any. Because I tend to have severe sensory issues during my period, I opted to try out Hello Period's bikini cut first, which was most similar to the style I wear daily. I was immediately impressed with the cut and color. The bright coral with contrasting trim looked cute enough to be rolled up right next to my lacey Hanky Panky's. And upon pulling them on, I could see why Hello Period already has such a fanbase. The super-thin fabric was cool and silky against my skin, and the color is so flattering, it surely would compliment any skintone.

Had I not been on my period, I probably would have loved them, just based on appearance. However, the waistline cinched my midsection where my cramps were the most painful, and the trim (though absolutely adorable-looking) felt tight and rubbery at the seams. I had planned to wear them overnight to see if the absorbency claims held up, but I ended up taking the pair off in the middle of the night, feeling too constricted. To be fair, these undies would be perfect for someone who bleeds a lot but doesn't suffer from horrible menstrual cramps. It did not leak at all, and I have complete faith that even if I'd worn them through the night, I would have woken up to still-pristine white sheets in the morning. Unfortunately for me, though, my cramps are a major menstrual issue. Therefore, this pair was not a match.
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The next day I moved onto the high-waisted undies. As I took them out of the packaging, I fell in love. The pattern on the high-waisted panties was somehow even cuter than the bikini (check out those mesh side panels and floral design!), there was something about the additional fabric that did not work for me. Though I looked stylish AF, I didn't like how bulky it felt. Also worth noting: The high-waisted coverage doesn't actual get you extra protection, either; the pad is the same absorbency and thickness as the bikini style. It's possible it fell differently between my legs in this cut, but regardless, it was still not a match.

I will admit, the one thing this pair had above the bikini style was that it didn't cut me across my lower stomach, avoiding added discomfort where I was already cramping. It also comes in a black option, which honestly looks sexier than any of the underwear I currently have in my drawer. The mesh paneling contrasts with the black perfectly to accentuate your hips in a good way, and if you are a person who is in the market for some undies to wear before period sex, I would highly recommend these.

Hello Pad, $14.99

Last but not least, I pulled out the washable pad. I don't know why I was scared of it. Perhaps it's because I've been wearing the same brand of single-use pads with wings for the last twenty years, but the idea of a new pad was intimidating. Turns out, I was a fool to wait so long.

The Hello Pad is perfect for someone stuck in their pad ways. It's a pad, just like the one I know and love, but without bleaching and/or plastic waste. I was worried it'd bunch up against my underwear or feel bulky like the panties I'd tried, but neither was true. The pad's material requires no sticking and no wings; it just affixes to the inside of your panties (I wore a comfy pair of cotton ones all day that worked great), and it didn't have the weird rubbery lining feeling I had with the panties. I think that's because I was applying it, I could move it exactly where I wanted it, instead of relying on the panty's fit for correct crotch placement. Though it was definitely a sensory adjustment (I kept worrying it'd move around and cause blood to get all over my furniture), I think with more wear I'd get used to the feeling. I might try and get into period panties someday, but for now, I'll stick to good old reliable pads. Just a more sustainable version.
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