• Carolyn Anderson Shepherd

Period Pants Review!

Note: the website I bought my pants from is https://www.floweretcup.com/ however during the week I was writing this they have changed the name on their branding to Flowette. I'm going to stick with calling them Floweret throughout!

A few months ago I posted a poll on my Instagram stories asking people if they used, or would consider using reusable period products because at that time I was using disposables and thinking of making the change. I have never had as many responses to a poll before, with numerous people also messaging me to tell me how much they love their period underwear. Hearing people I know saying they loved them gave me the confidence I needed to give them a go.

So first things first – I hate periods. I hate the inconvenience and the mess and the pain and the worry of leaking and just all of it. I want to be as far removed from the whole process as possible. I do not feel like a mighty lunar goddess, I feel like a leaking mop bucket, complete with manky old mop. And what's worse is that if previous generations of women in my family are anything to go by, and I quote, 'they go on for flipping ever'.

What I do have on my side though is that my periods are fairly easy to handle, other than the pain of a thousand imaginary claws tearing out my insides and pulling on my leg muscles of course. I don't have any special requirements or need to change super frequently. It wasn't always like this. I started my periods in the early 1990s and while my friends had these cute little black and white polka dot mini pads I got given something an inch thick that would've made a great cushion for a witch on a long flight on her broomstick. The first time I saw an Always advert was a great day indeed.

Enough fannypad nostalgia. Everyone has different needs and preferences and this review is being written from the perspective of someone with regular medium-light-medium periods. I am including things I think might be the case for heavier bleeding but I can't test it myself.

Something that is really important here, if you want to stick with disposables that is completely fine! For ANY reason. So often the push to get people to change from disposables are products that relate to childcare, cleaning, make up/skin care and 'hygiene' products aimed at women even when men also use them – razors and deodorant are a great example of this – that eco guilt is almost certainly a feminist issue. That is a topic for another day however do not feel guilt if you need or want to stick with disposables.

If you've read my other articles you'll know that accessibility is important to me and being able to afford something is a big accessibility issue. If you live in Scotland you can get free period products in schools and government buildings. Either contact your local council or there is an app you can download that will tell you where you can pick them up https://www.mygov.scot/free-period-products. If you use disposables and you see these in your local council buildings I would encourage you to take some regardless of whether you 'need' to or not. These schemes only stay active if people use them and it stops the stigma of 'needing' to use them if everyone does it. If you don't use the ladies toilets, I do know that Aberdeen City Council at least has some available in their gender neutral disabled toilet and I would hope other buildings would be the same.

Period pants are not your only option for reusable period products. Another 2 choices are menstrual cups and reusable pads.

So, fun fact, I first heard about menstrual cups years ago when I saw someone offer on freecycle (a site where people give their old things away for free) a moon cup. A USED moon cup. I didn't know what that was so I googled it. And absolutely not. Nope. That goes in the same pile as reusable loo roll for me. That's just a step too crunchy. I...no. I'm not that keen on the sisterhood thanks. Menstrual cups are used internally and some people absolutely love them and swear by them. I've never used them as as I said at the start I like to be as removed from the whole process as possible and that is way too hands on (in) for me. If you'd like to see a very funny review check out this YouTube video from Shelbi and Madison https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIKNppgOo9Y It's a vlog of their day but has Shelbi using a cup for the first time and, well, Madison definitely loves her that's for sure!

I was initially thinking of switching to reusable pads but when so many people told me they loved their pants I went with those instead. The ones I got were from Floweret as they were recommended to me as being as good as the more expensive Wuka brand. In an ideal world I would've bought some nice handmade ones from an independent maker however as I wasn't sure these were going to work for me I didn't want to spend a whole lot as some of the handmade ones can be upwards of £25 a pair, which is a fair price for the work, but too much for me to pay as an experiment. I ordered a 4 pack of black Floweret period pants for a special offer price of £28 including postage. They have special offers all the time so if you're interested just join their mailing list and they'll email you when there's an offer on.

So as we've established, I hate periods, don't wanna see em or deal with em, hence buying black pants. Lots of the pants I saw before were patterned or pastel and that just wasn't for me, especially if I spend £25 on a pair and they're immediately stained. That would take all the fun out of the fun pattern and just make me a bit sad.

Floweret only really had the one 'shape' of pants at the time, and now they have 2 – a full brief and a bikini style. I'll be honest I've had 'fuller' full briefs, I'd maybe call these more a midi. I had a look around for you folks who prefer a boxer or boy short and was happy to find these do exist with other companies at a variety of price points. If you can't find them, try googling 'period sleep shorts' to get loads of extra options.

I ordered a 2XL which I would say is a small 18. They fit like pants that cost more than Primark, more of a Markies price point haha. They don't roll down, they don't give me 4 butt cheeks. The one thing I thought when I put them on is the legs are a little tight, however that's a practical thing I now realise. I would say though if you have really big thighs compared to your bum, to size up for comfort. They don't feel like wearing a pad, but they do feel slightly stiffer than normal pants, but they aren't in any way uncomfortable. When they're not worn they have a slight....rustle to them but not at all when they're on. They feel a little bit like wearing not tight shapewear. Just kinda snug. They only have a tiny bit of stretch in them which is a slightly weird feeling when pretty much all the pants could fit anywhere between a size 14 and 22.

I'll be honest with you, I was disappointed the first time I used them, but this was just because I expected miracles. I wanted them to make my periods just go away and of course they didn't do that. Over the months I've been using them though they are now my preferred period product for sure. Here's my main tips, pros and cons, and answers to questions asked on my Instagram stories. Oh and btw if you were thinking this article was already tmi, you should probably stop reading now.

The website says they can be worn for 12 hours and honestly I'd say this is debatable even with light/medium flow. Sometimes, on a light day, definitely. Other times I've gone for a pee at lunch time and pulled them back up and they've been cold and wet and really acting like more of a shield at that point. In a medium day I would wear 3 pairs in 24 hours. If you have a heavy flow, there's no chance you're getting 12 hours out of them. I have heard however of folks with heavy flows using them in combination with tampons or menstrual cups as any leakage is caught by the pants. There are heavy flow pants available but I don't have the necessary flowage to test them for you!

Speaking of leakage (honestly some of the phrases in this article!) the only time I experienced any was when I was out walking and it was hot and I was a bit sweaty. I didn't leak through the fabric but I did a little out the side I'm guessing because it was wet and I was moving etc. Otherwise I haven't had any leaks at all, including at night. I'm not a gym bunny so I can't say this for sure but I do feel like the necessary tightness round the legs might make them a chafing risk during vigorous exercise, but you'd just have to try and see as all bodies are shaped differently. As I mentioned above there have been times I knew they were 'full' but there was no leakage on the outside, the additional blood just didn't get absorbed.

A question I was asked on Instagram was 'do they smell as pads have layers to trap the smells?' And yes they also have a stink shield layer. I do want to say though that after doing a deep dive (not in a vagina) usually with pads that's marketing rubbish. Instead they'll scent them or put in some chemicals to neutralise odour rather than with a layer of something. I am (and have) a fragile flower and I know for sure that would irritate my skin and really I'm not a proponent of putting anything near your bits that could mess with your natural ph and bacteria levels that keep your down there healthy. Anyhoo, that said, no they don't smell worse than disposables, which can be attested to by what we could call the 'dog nosiness test!'

Someone who has only ever used tampons asked in my stories if they feel wet as this has always put her off even pads but I can honestly say, if they aren't full, then no not at all. All the moisture is wicked away and they feel just like wearing knickers any other day, if a little tighter.

As a small-fat plus size person, I can definitely recommended these over pads for scrunching, movement etc. The ones I bought from Floweret were a 2XL which is roughly a UK 18 and those particular ones go up to a 6XL. They also have heavy flow pants which go up to a UK size 26. I don't know if they've done different size names in different products for a test but I found that really annoying. Also I didn't like that some products were labelled 'teen' with an age range as teens come in so many different sizes that this seems unnecessary and could definitely damage a teenager's already fragile self esteem. Although sizing to 26 is slightly better than most, I wouldn't call them completely size inclusive. I had a look around and that's about as high as I could find however on Etsy there are lots of sellers who custom make, which is more expensive than my Floweret set but not much more expensive than Wuka, Modibodi or Thinx.

The major drawback of period pants, as would be true of reusable pads, is changing them. Now I work at home so it's no big deal for me to change, and generally I could change them at times I was changing my clothes anyway. If I was spending a long time away from home however then it would definitely be a pain in the butt, and we don't need more of those. On Etsy there are loads of sellers making “wet bags” in various sizes which are designed to take your used pads or pants and seal them away until you're home. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I think if it was one day I might switch to disposables for the day but if I was going on holiday I would use the pants because they're more comfortable for me and also that brings us on to the next topic that lots of folks asked about...

Washing. So the people who sell these things tell you to soak and hand wash or part hand wash. I know that some people put them in a bucket of water as soon as they're taken off then when they have all their pairs used they wash them in the machine or by hand. The bucket water is really nutritious for plants. If there was a bucket of water lying around here 100% my dog BooBoo would drink the damn period water and or knock the whole thing over. It's not even a question of if, he definitely would. I also think it's something you want consent from the other folks in your house to be doing before you start. I also don't want to eat carrots fertilised with my period blood. Oh my god imagine toddlers.

Now handwashing and spot washing items definitely increases their life and is good for the planet, however some of the companies that are advocating this, such as Bodyform, want to make the process as complicated sounding as possible so that you prefer to choose their more profitable disposables. Also when a company tells you to hand wash it gets them out of a bind if you complain that your garment has changed shape or colour after washing. Didn't wash it by hand as advised? Well then it's your fault.

Have I said already that I hate periods? I don't want to deal with any of it, there is zero chance that I'm going to be scrubbing my blood off the gusset of several pairs of pants each month. I stick mine in with my washing then wash them in the machine on a normal wash with my other knickers (I wash all my knickers together because no fabric softener for items going on my floofy!). I told my friend this and she was HORRIFIED, but if I leaked on my clothes, or had a child wetting the bed or a teenage boy or baby full stop then all that would be dealt with in the washing machine so I don't think of this as different. I'm reminded of this old Reddit post which just has excellent comments on the matter https://www.reddit.com/r/AmItheAsshole/comments/l93lsi/aita_for_not_allowing_my_sister_to_use_my_laundry/ I do acknowledge though that I'm not filling a pad every hour and that whatever gives you the ick is completely fine.

I can confirm none of my pants have stained at all and they've all been washed at 40 on the eco wash setting with less washing powder than the manufacturer suggests. I will concede that for folks with a very heavy flow they might wish to steep them, but if you're changing before you're over flowing then I don't see it being much of a problem, and even if you are a bit over full, giving it a quick wipe with a bit of loo roll to take off any excess when you're on the loo anyway is going to sort it out.

The final question I got on Instagram stories was 'is it hygienic?' I don't think this has a straightforward answer as I find what is considered hygienic varies by culture to culture and person to person. Wearing outside shoes in the house, eating with your hands and using toilet paper all 3 very polarising topics when it comes to hygiene across the world. Using pads or pants, whether disposable or reusable has next to no risk of toxic shock syndrome which is a rare risk in tampons and cups if left in too long, or from the tiny internal tears they can give you without you realising. The only part that seems like there might be hygiene issues for me personally is with changing them when out and about in public toilets then having to put them in a bag in your bag. This is personal to me, I don't think it's inherently unhygienic, I just think with the tiny size of most public toilet cubicles and nowhere to set things or hang things and having to get very undressed and get them folded up into a bag and getting that bag in your bag, I think cross contamination between public toilet and literally everything else in your bag is norovirus waiting to happen. I would also 100% forget it was in my bag unless I spent the whole day just thinking about it being in my bag so I didn't forget, and I don't use the same bag every day so 3 months later I'd find them growing a new life form from my DNA. But that's a me issue, not a general population issue and period blood isn't 'dirty' or different from any other blood unless you have a bacterial infection of some kind. So yeah, I think they're as hygienic as disposable pads, and more hygienic than a tampon inserted with an unwashed finger.

Do you use reusables? I'd be really keen to hear folk's experiences of reusable pads. Does the whole idea of reusables just gross you out? That's cool. I'm grossed out by bananas, you do you. Tell me your thoughts here or over on Instagram.

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