So, to find out exactly what the hype was about and if it was as brilliant as the protocol's mega-fans say it is, I ring-fenced my next period as one to experiment with: no pads, no tampons, just several pairs of period underwear and (thankfully) a week working at home.
Scroll on for a breakdown of what period underwear is, how to use it and what it was like wearing it for a week.
What is period underwear?
Period underwear is much like normal underwear in its appearance – it can range from hipster briefs to high-waisted bikini cuts and thongs. It's the design where things are different.
Able to hold anywhere from one to five tampons worth of blood, period underwear is designed to be worn as extra-protection alongside sanitary products, or on its own. The material is formulated to be absorbent without growing wet, neutralise odours, prevent leaks and wick away moisture. From multi-layered washable fabric to innovative, technical materials, sanitary underwear is the reusable BFF your menstrual cycle didn't know you needed.
Can you wear period underwear all day?
This will depend on your flow but period underwear can be worn all day if it's the right level of absorbency for what you need. Most period underwear brands suggest changing when you feel wetness – this is a sign it has absorbed all it's able to.
Also, as your period progresses, the absorbency you require will change. Where you might need maximum absorbency on the first day, the final few days might require much lighter protection.
As with anything new, it's best to try period underwear for the first time at home. You'll be more comfortable, able to gauge how you're feeling and if you want to stop and return to what you did before.
Do you wear period pads with period pants?
Again, this is totally up to you. If you want double the insurance – if you happen to bleed heavily overnight or just want extra protection, for example – it's 100% okay to wear a pad or tampon with your period underwear. Like everything, it's about doing what you need to feel comfortable and confident.
Why is period underwear so expensive?
This is a tricky one. On the one hand, the fact you're buying something reusable and washable intrinsically has a higher cost than buying single-use tampons or pads. Plus, they're designed to last for much longer, too.
Why they're "so" expensive is probably a mix of design and perception. They'll seem more expensive than what you're used to, but in the long run, work out cheaper.
5 things I learned swapping sanitary products for period underwear
Okay, so let's get into what you came here for. What's it actually like to swap normal period products for reusable, washable period pants. Read on for the five surprising things I learned.
1. There are *so* many different cuts
The first stop in my period underwear quest was to find out more about it than what I had gleaned from social media over the past year. And what I did find was surprising: from thong cuts to bikini briefs, hipsters and high-waisted options, the range of styles was vast. And, they weren't solely functional-looking (read: ugly) either. From WUKA's cotton hipsters to Thinx's thong and Panty's classic cut, the range of styles and colours on offer was a welcome surprise.
Whether you like lace, mesh detailing, solid colours or subtle stripes, there's something for every preference. (There are even period-proof leggings for those who want to go sans underwear when they sweat.)
2. Absorbency is key
Okay, now for the nitty-gritty. The way they look is great but do they stand up to the absorbency test, too. Fortunately, the answer to this is a resounding yes.
When I chose the correct underwear for where I was in my cycle, the underwear was leak-proof, didn't grow overly wet or feel uncomfortable. In fact, when I first felt the dull ache of my PMS symptoms set in, I donned a pair of light absorbency period pants for extra-insurance against any sudden surprises. It gave me extra reassurance that whatever happened, I wouldn't need to jump to any battle stations. (Period panic is so very real.) What I found most interesting was how much blood I wasn't losing. I have very heavy, but not that long periods, and constantly needing to change tampons made me think I was losing much more blood than I actually was.
Trying a menstrual cup for the first time last year disproved this notion and wearing period underwear really hammered the point home. I needed enough support for where I was in my flow, but not reams of pants to keep changing into.
3. You might not get it right the first time
Now, whilst absorbency is key, I had to get comfortable with not getting it bang-on every time. In fact, I misjudged how heavy my nightly bleed would be and woke up feeling wet with blood on my thighs and pyjama bottoms.
But, this was my first time on the period underwear merry-go-round and having this frame of reference for what was needed when was useful. My advice? Don't be too hard on yourself if it doesn't go perfectly straight off the bat. Get clean and dry and consider the experience more information for next time.
4. Be prepared to get hands-on
If you don't like blood, period underwear might not be one for you. Unlike tampons or pads where you dispose of them fairly quickly, period underwear requires some wringing out before it goes in the washing machine.
I have a long history of heavy-bleeding and leaked-on underwear, so running them under cold water and rinsing out the excess blood didn't bother me. If I had to share a sink or was in a public place, though, I probably wouldn't be so chill about it. In fact, I would feel downright self-conscious.
I would suggest really thinking about the place you'll be and how comfortable you are with blood before going full whack on making the change. Perhaps buy one pair and see how you like it. It's never a bad thing to have a pair of extra-absorbent knickers on hand if you decide the period underwear life isn't for you.
5. It helped to reduce my leak-anxiety
I've mentioned it a few times – I have a heavy period. Fact. So, the fear of leaking is always high when my time of the month looms.
Having the extra-protection of knowing my underwear would absorb the blood really did make me feel freer day-to-day. Before my period had started, it gave me extra confidence to go out for long lunchtime walks without worrying about the looming onset of mother nature. And on those final days when my period was basically over, I tried the Thinx period-proof thong and stopped worrying about last-minute leaks. The dream.
Period underwear won't be for everyone. But, if you've never tried it and are fed-up with the fuss of changing single-use sanitary products or want something more sustainable, I'd highly suggest trying them. I never thought I'd be such a convert and now, surprisingly, I think it might be the only way for me. Scroll on for 16 pairs of period underwear I really rate.