Updated: Re-reading this with a broader understanding of who experiences periods, I've made some corrections to some of the language that caught my eye. I might have missed some things and will probably go back over this in the future. Sorry for being pretty narrow-minded and exclusionary when I originally wrote this up.
If you happened to have a vagina and were on the internet several months ago, it’s likely you were spammed with social media posts and targeted ads about a product claiming to revolutionize how periods are dealt with. That, or all of their targeted marketing just hit me. Regardless, it was money well spent on their part, because after some preliminary research and encouragement from The Sir, I decided to buy 3 pairs of Thinx period panties and give it a whirl.
The Incredibly Quick Review
Thinx are a well constructed product that do exactly what they claim to do on their site. These are not a replacement for pads or tampons, and while their advertised application is as a product to be used in conjunction with tampons, they are perfectly suitable for use on light days. I purchased Thinx out of personal interest in the product and was not supplied with review materials by the company. I tried the Hiphugger, Sport, and Cheeky styles in a size small. For reference, I wear a size 5 in Hanes cotton bikini underwear. The hiphuggers had the most comfortable fit and felt the most useful for overall wear.
Now, for you Discerning Readers
A Little Bit About Me
Prior to seeing all of these ads for Thinx, I was unaware that period panties existed. I was only aware of tampons and pads and forms of birth control that reduced the frequency of periods. I shared some of my initial experience with Thinx on my facebook page and friends brought up several other products that also help with managing periods. These included the Diva Cup (a Menstrual Cup) and Cloth Menstrual Pads. Despite what mainstream media and advertising would have you think, there are several options out there. This entry is mostly a product review for Thinx, which may not suit your needs.
As for my personal situation, I normally use pads. I only use tampons when absolutely necessary, as I find shoving high-tech cotton balls up there to be extremely uncomfortable and inconvenient. I also tend to have a light day, maybe one or two really heavy days and then several light days afterwards. I’m not currently on any sort of birth control, thanks to a tubal ligation. For me it was a godsend, as I don’t cope well with the side effects of hormonal birth control and have no interest in having children. That said, I believe my body may be less predictable than one on standard birth control might be.
Sometimes, my body will decide to kick things into gear up to a week earlier than scheduled, or to wait a few extra days. I like to imagine that some women have well-behaved vaginas that politely sleep through the night and do their business on a routine schedule between the hours of 9-5 during a 3-5 day window with the predictability of automated bill-pay. The reality that I’ve dealt with is that on particularly crappy days I end up sleeping horribly and waking myself up in the middle of the night to make sure that nothing has shifted out of place.
For the period-free folks reading through this out of curiosity, if you’ve never had the pleasure of hosting female reproductive organs of your own, here’s a little blurb about how periods and PMS in general work. First off, everyone has different experiences. So, what I say here is not a blanket set of rules that applies to everyone – it is one example. The terms PMS and period are often used interchangeably and incorrectly, even by folks who have them(please don’t take this as license to correct people with your newfound knowledge). These are actually two different but related things. PMS, or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, takes place before the period, or menstruation. Some of the symptoms overlap. PMS is an official medical disorder that people are actually diagnosed with. I’ve never been diagnosed (I don’t think it’s common to actually get a diagnosis on this), but I predictably have moodswings and am more emotional during the “PMS” timeframe of 1-2 weeks prior to my period, even when my period shows up a week early. Nothing quite like having an amazingly shitty day and then realizing why two days later. During the period itself, I experience the obvious bleeding, accompanied by at least one day of pretty severe cramps. There are some other fun symptoms that can hit – bloating, constipation, diarrhea, basically anything that makes you feel like crawling under a rock and calling it a day. Aside from the pain being somewhat mentally and physically exhausting on that day, though, I’m usually much more emotionally upbeat than normal during my period.
Fun Fact: Commenting that someone “must be on the rag” when they're having a bad day not only sounds awful, there’s a good chance that it’s totally incorrect. If someone's attitude is even related to mood swings caused by PMS, they wouldn’t even be on their period yet. Granted, many people also have general mood swings or may be in substantial pain while menstruating, which may impact demeanor. All that said, I would put down money that most “bad moods” occur for reasons completely unrelated to periods, just like most bad moods experienced by folks without female reproductive organs.
Some Numbers for Thought
On a whim several years ago, I decided to try using Always’ Infinity pads after having generally brand-hopped based on price. They’re on the pricey side for pads (you get a box of 36 for somewhere in the order of $8 in the Seattle area). That’s about $.22/pad. You can find pads much cheaper (down to something like $.07/pad). However, the Infinity pads are light, they hold A LOT, and they mostly stay put. Even on my worst days, which are probably not as bad as some, a regular pad will hold its own for a few hours. I occasionally use the overnight ones, but if I happen to be laying at the wrong angle, they don’t always get everything. To be perfectly honest, I’ve pretty much have zero patience for my vagina trying to wreck my day, and in the fight against the red tide, I’m willing to pay the price for quality equipment.
Let’s say I burn through 6 pads a day on my 2 worst days, and 3 pads a day average on my light days, which stretch out for 5 days. That’s 27 pads, or about $5.94 a month, or $71.28 annually. Then, let’s throw in a cotton pair of underwear that gets stupidly stained during the course of a year and a few panty liners and we’ll call it $75 + 10% sales tax for a total of $82.50 as an annual maintenance fee for parts of my reproductive system that will never be used.
Looking at Thinx, prices range from $29-$34 a pair. I’m not counting thongs, because for the way I’m using them, that’s just silly. If you buy 3 or more pairs, you start getting discounts from 10% on up. On your first order, you get free shipping.
My First Order:
Beige Hiphugger (because why the hell not?)
Total: $90 – shipped free as a first order
My Second Order:(Ordered one month later, and with a $10 off discount for a friend using my referral code, but had to pay $5 shipping).
Black Hiphugger x2
Total Thinx Investment, To Date: $172.30
That’s a bit painful to look at, honestly, but bear with me.
Since fully incorporating Thinx into my toolbox (see below), I use about a fifth as many pads as I did previously. So, my annual investment in pads has dropped to roughly $17.50 a year. Assuming that my six pairs of panties can hold up for three years (that’s 36 wearings per pair), I’ll have already saved $25 by the end of year three. So, that’s a pretty long game, but also completely ignores the non-monetary values of the product.
For all of the styles I’ve tried, the construction is similar. All have a 95% cotton black liner sewn in, and the exterior is a satiny, primarily nylon blend. To that note, I would keep them miles away from velcro. I’m pretty sure it would turn the exterior of these into a frizzy mess in about 3 seconds. Likewise with the lace – it’s well made, but requires some minimal caution. They are all slightly thicker and heavier than normal cotton underwear, especially in the areas where they have absorbent material. However, they are by no means bulky.
The Hiphugger appears to be Thinx’s flagship product. These are touted as holding two tampons worth of blood and are positioned immediately next to the dropdown when shopping. All of the Thinx products that I have ordered were well-made with good stitching and are generally stylish, but for me, these take the cake. They are more comfortable than my normal underwear, and they probably look better, too. This, coming from someone who avoids lace at all costs. But, more importantly than that, they have absorbent material all the way up the back (it gets thinner towards the top). The seams show the different areas of coverage. So, if you’re looking for something you can wear and sleep in relatively worry free, these are wonderful.
To check out the different styles on an actual model, head on over to the Thinx website.
The Sport design looks cute and I’m a huge fan of the less lacy design. They’re designed to hold 1.5 tampons worth of blood, according to the site, so I planned to use these for light days at the very beginning or end of my period. The leg holes go quite far up, and definitely allow for mobility, as described (though I didn’t ever feel restricted in the Hiphuggers). My only complaint with these is that they seemed prone to wedgies. I’m not sure if this is just my body type or something else. To me, they’re just slightly less comfy than the Hiphuggers, and also don’t have absorbent coverage all the way up the back, though they go decently far forward and back.
These are very similar to the Hiphuggers, but don’t cover as much on the backside. They have lace on all openings, rather than just on the top. Like the Sport, these are unfortunately prone to wedgies for me as well. And, like the sport, they don’t have absorbent coverage all the way up the back – these really only cover your crotch.
To Beige or Not to Beige?
Panties I’m meant to bleed on? Yeah, let’s get those in a light skin tone, what could possibly go wrong?
Call it morbid curiosity, but I decided to get a pair of beige colored underwear in my first batch. I don’t even like beige, but I figured that if they were going to offer it, I should give it a shot. They’re actually very nice, and slightly more embellished than the black ones, with a little scalloped edge running around the edges and nice zig-zagged stitches. When I got my first batch, I was putting them to the test. Anyways, needless to say, I got blood on them. And not just a little bit. I got enough blood on them that it seeped into the nice little scalloped edges and down onto the underside (but only left a tiny splotch on the inside of my jeans).
So, I rinsed them, a lot. And the blood came out, almost entirely. Except in the nice little scalloped edges, where I could see a tiny discoloration because I knew exactly where to look. I was slightly disheartened, but not surprised. It didn’t come out after the first wash. I wore them again next month, and washed them again, and they actually cleaned up flawlessly. I got blood on them on a later occasion, and again, they cleaned up entirely. No special cleaners, just water and some tide in the laundry.
The Verdict: If you want a lighter color, get the beige! They are definitely stain resistant, and that’s only if you expect to be testing them to their limits.
Putting the Panties through their Paces
Armed with three pairs of Thinx and abundant overconfidence, I decided to give things a whirl. Having heard horror stories of blood torrents, I figured my period qualified as moderate at its worst. And, not having used tampons with any regularity, I had no context for the Hiphugger’s two tampon capacity. So, I tucked a spare pair of underwear in pouch with some pads, threw on my Thinx, and went to the office. And then, all hell broke loose in my pants.
For some reason, my vagina thought the best way to welcome these new underwear to my wardrobe was by way of unrelenting aggression. Within an hour, I realized I had horribly underestimated the sort of day it was going to be. I occasionally ducked over to the bathroom to discreetly check how things were going, and by midday, I had to swap over to the backup panties. Some blood had wicked up into the hemming and seeped underneath. My pants had a slight patch of red on the inside that thankfully didn’t bleed through.
Foolishly assuming that my body would calm down for day two, I basically had a repeat of day one, but this time in beige.
On the third day, my vagina played dead, as it likes to do to lull me into a false sense of security. I threw on the Sport design and had no issues. Some light spotting was wicked away effortlessly, and it felt like a perfectly normal day, aside from the occasional wedgie.
What I loved from my first, albeit limited, experience with Thinx (especially on the third day) was the ability to feel like it was just another day. There wasn’t a moisture sucking strip stuck to my underwear reminding me that it was that time of the month. I didn’t need to make sure I tucked a spare pad into my pocket before heading to the bathroom at work or make sure the stash in my backpack hadn’t run out. On the first two days, when I was bleeding heavily in them, yeah, I could feel that there was blood in there, but overall it was more comfortable than wearing a pad, minus the slight anxiety, not knowing the full limitations of the product. On the light day, it was effortless.
The next month, I gave it another run. I tried swapping out Thinx during the day to see if I could just rely on period panties, rinse, and rotate. It wasn’t particularly effective. Going through 3 pairs of underwear in a day is probably not that practical for the average person, though it was a fun experiment. I tried out the Cheeky pair on my light days, and while they were effective, wedgies struck again.
The optimal strategy that I’ve come to on my third month using the product is to wear the Cheeky or Sport (or Hiphuggers) on light days. For heavy days, I’ll put on a pair of Hiphuggers with a pad, and swap out pads until late afternoon. So now, I’m only using pads for about 3 days out of my cycle.
So far, the Hiphuggers have worked splendidly for overnight wear. I’ve been able to wear them overnight without pads after a day of heavy flow and not had to worry at all. If my body were being particularly ornery late into the night, I might put a pad on, but so far I haven’t needed to.
Caring for your Thinx
There’s information about this on Thinx’s website and packing materials, but I figured I’d include it here for full disclosure. As part of the care, you’re supposed to rinse them after use. This is fairly straightforward and only takes a few minutes, but I have noticed that they need to be rinsed very thoroughly. When you first start rinsing them, they’ll run clear as they just soak everything up. You have to fully saturate them before they actually rinse out. Make sure you’ve rinsed them thoroughly and squeeze them out several times to test, or they can leave discolored drips as they dry.
The End Result
I’ve been very happy with Thinx so far, and so far as I’m concerned, these are a great opportunity for pad users, even if it isn’t their intended function. I imagine they’d also be a nice addition for the routine tampon user.
They’re liberating, they look good, and while they’re not an end all, be all, one-stop shop to make your period perfect, they’re definitely a step in the right direction. Now we just need tampons that magically stop cramps. Please get on this, you entrepreneury types.
Heck, if you needed one more reason to consider this product, the people who run it are also sending part of the proceeds to help Ugandan women via AfriPads. And, if you don’t have a vagina yourself, but are in a communicative relationship with someone who does, I highly recommend talking to your partner about this sort of stuff. Basically, anything that can be done to remove the stigma and make it not weird to talk about something that impacts half of the population would be awesome.
Thanks for reading! If you have questions that I might be able to answer, comments, or requests for new blog entries that you’d like to see, please don’t be a stranger. Also, feel free to join the Creaturista Discord server!