I got my hands on some Modibodi period pants – here’s what I thought!
As someone who tries to be sustainable in their production of waste and also as someone who menstruates, it wasn’t long before I started noticing the amount of plastic in my period products. As National Geographic put it,
Tampons come wrapped in plastic, encased in plastic applicators, with plastic strings dangling from one end, and many even include a thin layer of plastic in the absorbent part. Pads generally incorporate even more plastic, from the leak-proof base to the synthetics that soak up fluid to the packaging.How tampons and pads became so unsustainable
As we move towards a world that increasingly rejects single-use items, especially those made of plastic, it makes sense that period products would eventually enter the conversation. For example, Natacare reports that pads (my choice of period product) take up to 500 years to break down and that a packet of pads contains the equivalent of 5 plastic carrier bags. Now, if I’m an eco-warrior when it comes to anything, it’s plastic carrier bags – the thought of using 5 plastic carrier bags only once makes me squirm. So why am I OK with wasting so much plastic when it comes to my periods?
Additionally, the plastic in traditional period products creates a toxic environment for our vaginas. One report concluded that pads are made of up to 90% plastic, as well as containing toxic chemicals, which prevents them from being breathable, creates an uncomfortable environment for our skin where bacteria can thrive, and can encourage conditions like contact dermatitis. Likewise, the materials in tampons destabilise the pH of vaginas and can leave synthetic fibres behind.
There is still a lot of uncertainty around this because there is no legal requirement for companies to list what their products actually contain. Most people who menstruate probably aren’t aware of what exactly they’re putting into their vagina or their pants every month.
Despite all of this, I’ve never really ventured into the world of sustainable products. This is because of two key things:
- The stigma
- When disposable products were invented and marketed back in the 1920s, the focus was on a modern, clean woman. Disposability is inherently tied to cleanliness and, unfortunately, so is plastic. It’s not hard, then, for women – who have been raised in a society that continues to perceive periods as unclean (read: most of the world) – to be a little hesitant to take the plunge into the world of reusable period products. No one wants to be unhygienic, especially where our vaginas are concerned.
- Equally, people don’t like change, and disposable period products are familiar. Women cannot be blamed for wanting to stick to what they’re used to, and what they’ve been told, until now, is the best option.
- The cost
- Reusable period products are not cheap. In my experience, in the UK, the average pack of tampons costs £2 or less and pads are very similar. Period poverty is very real, and some people cannot afford even this – so it’s understandable that women are hesitant to shell out around 10 times that on a menstrual cup, a set of reusable pads, or some period pants.
Menstrual cups have taken the world by storm in recent years, and sustainable tampon companies are on the rise. Even across the last few years – since I first heard about sustainable period products when I was still at school – reusable period products have gained some good press and a somewhat of a cult following. Hopefully, this will contribute to ending (or at least reducing) the stigma, especially for young girls getting their first periods.
So, I got my hands on some Modibodi period pants. Here’s what I thought!
Quick disclaimer: I have very light periods due to my chosen method of birth control, so I can’t comment of the effectiveness of period pants under a heavy flow. All of these opinions are completely mine and have no affiliation with Modibodi.
Modibodi was established in 2013 after 2 years of research and product development. The multi-award winning CEO, Kristy Chong, started the company after experiencing incontinence after the birth of her second child. She wanted to both end the stigma around her “unmentionable” bladder leaks and create a resolution.
Modibodi underwear aims to protect against any kind of leak, whether that’s period blood, urine or sweat. Chong designed and developed her patented Modifier Technology™ in order to do this. Starting with simple underwear, the brand has in recent years expanded into sportswear and swimwear.
The company supports charities such as #HappyPeriod and Bright Girl Health in the US, ActionAid in Australia and Bloody Good Period in the UK to support young menstruators, and champion positive and honest conversations about periods, incontinence and menopause. Through their ‘Give a Pair’ scheme – which sees two pairs of Modibodi pants donated for every $25 e-gift purchased – Modibodi has donated over 15,000 pairs of their underwear to people who need it most.
The site experience is really great. There are pictures of women of all shapes and sizes, and body positivity seems to be a big part of the company’s ethos alongside all of the vaginal hygiene stuff. The models look like real women
The style I chose
I decided to go with Modibodi’s ‘Sensual Hi-Waist Bikini’ in light-moderate because they look the most like the pants I already like to wear. They come in 10 different colours and are sized from XS to 6XL.
There’s quite a large range on the website, with Classic, Sensual, Seamfree and Vegan ranges, and all of their underwear is somewhere between £15 and £26, unless you’re buying a multipack. As I mentioned earlier, definitely expensive if you’re used to multi-pack underwear like me!
Pants are described as either ‘light-moderate’, ‘moderate-heavy’ or ‘heavy-overnight’ to accommodate for different flows. They also have a maternity, curvy and teen ranges (wish I had this when I was 13!), sportswear, and swimwear – although these latter two ranges are quite small at the moment.
- The pants are well-fitting with just enough stretch. They’re comfortable enough to not feel any different to regular pants – if anything, the material feels softer!
- I can wear them all day without feeling damp. I’ve experienced different levels of flow in these pants (although, as I said before, nothing I would call heavy), and always felt much drier and cleaner in direct comparison to a pad.
- No more VPL (visible pant line) than ordinary pants – a happy surprise! I thought they’d be much more visible than they are. This doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t a VPL – there definitely is. However, Modibodi have also introduced a seamfree range that looks pretty good if that’s what you’re in the market for!
- Must softer than pads, which tend to irritate my skin. A big reason for switching to periods pants is the irritation I experienced due to the synthetic materials and the perfumes in pads.
- No strange smells – whenever I wear pads, I feel like I’m being followed by dodgy sanitary scents, but I never felt this with the period pants.
- The pants do feel a little bulky, especially around my bum.
- The rustle – ever experienced this with pads? It doesn’t go away with period pants. I would point out, though, that neither of this point or the latter are worse in period pants than pads.
- They don’t deal too well with clots which I get a lot – but which pad-style products do?
- The cost. I’ll stand by this – £20 is a lot to pay for one pair of pants, especially as a young person, and especially if you’re a bit sceptic. If you’re a pad user, I think the investment is worth it.
If you prefer a tampon, I don’t think these pants will convert you. They don’t diverge too far from a pad experience other than feeling drier and being more sustainable. If you have lighter days where it’s painful to a remove a tampon, this could be a good solution.
If you prefer pads and you’re looking to be more sustainable, period pants are a good option. Even if you only buy one pair, taking a day off pads is a good, manageable change, and a step towards a more sustainable period. I’m personally looking to invest in another pair because I’ve had such a good experience with them.
If you’re like me and you’re not experiencing full periods, I think Modibodi pants are great. The constant anxiety of irregular bleeding and discharge is completely removed on the days I wear my period pants. I feel clean, dry and secure in the knowledge that I won’t ruin my trousers.