effing pantyliners, how do they work?
October 19, 2010 12:46 PM   Subscribe

I haven't used pads or pantyliners since I was a teenager. Now I want to. Can you help me make them less bad at their job?

I must have missed that day in Health + Hygiene class, because I seem to really have no idea how to make pads and pantyliners work in any way that doesn't result in leaks, awkward bulkiness, general ickiness. And there are so many kinds now! I feel totally lost.

Me: annoying IUD related constant spotting. Been to doctor, bleeding is not a problem, but it's low-level enough that I don't really want to wear a tampon or a cup. Otherwise healthy. Petite. The flow is very, very, very low level most of the time - a couple drops every few hours - but there will be periods of heavier flow occasionally and without warning.

The problems: pads and liners don't seem to stay where you want them to stick; there's always seeping leakage to the front or back or to the sides. I can never seem to get the placement right. The adhesive gets crumply and starts peeling in weird ways. Giant pads worn because of heavy flow paranoia are bulky feeling and looking, I feel like they must be visible through my clothes. Wings seem to help things sort of stay put but are really gross; they seem like an invitation to wick fluid to the outside of your underwear.

So, what am I missing here? What are your pad and pantyliner tips and tricks? Brands/products you think are particularly good, particularly for in-between days? Or do they just generally suck and I'm just now getting around to realizing it?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (48 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
My top tip: do not buy cheap ones. I have light spotting too like you, and as long as I buy real, brand-name Kotex pantiliners, it's not a problem. Any attempt to save money by getting the generic brand is worthless because the liners crumple. Real Kotex liners are pretty reliable, but to be extra safe, if I get a sense it could be a dodgy day, I wear black panties.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:52 PM on October 19, 2010

The Always Dri Liners used to be my go-to, but not since I got a DivaCup. You say you don't want to use one for this, but it's the perfect application. They don't cause TSS so it's not going to be dangerous to you on low/no-flow days. I don't even have to think about it at all except when I clean it out (before bed and when I wake up) or engage in sexytimes. If I were you, I'd re-think the cup.
posted by phunniemee at 12:57 PM on October 19, 2010

I've had really good luck with the Always brand. I use these for liners, and even their "giant pads" (i.e. heavy/medium/whatever flow) are actually really, really thin. Whenever I try any other brand, it's awful.
posted by three bear minimum at 12:58 PM on October 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

Make sure your underwear is tight-fitting or at least body-conforming. If it's loose and slouchy, everything shifts around. I used to sometimes wear briefs with lots of stretch in them (sort of like Spanx Lite) to make sure everything stayed put.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:00 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pads don't cause TSS, tampons do, I thought?

I don't have good luck with liners, but changing them more often may help. I do wear full sized pads, and once you figure out where to place them, they work fine, as long as they are changed often enough (and it sounds like your spotting isn't heavy enough to overflow them quickly, anyway). I use the cheapest generics from Aldi's or CVS and flow heavily, but seldom have leaks (during the day, at least).

Maybe a sponge?
posted by QIbHom at 1:01 PM on October 19, 2010

My go-to brands is Always. The wings don't wick anything to the outside, because all of the absorbent material is in the center.
posted by cabingirl at 1:05 PM on October 19, 2010

Always with wings. They are super thing. But I prefer tampons, even for light days.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:06 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Nthing Always. Especially their new Infinity ones. I've always used pads, and I just said to my husband last month "in 20 years I don't think there has been one true advance in this technology, until this!"
posted by dpx.mfx at 1:07 PM on October 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

Always Infinity pads are a revelation. They're thinner than even the regular ones, but they can absorb A LOT. they're slightly more expensive but totally worth it for the peace of mind.
posted by estlin at 1:12 PM on October 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

Giant pad =/= always better heavy flow protection.

In fact, I'm not sure they're every better protection for me, because I'm petite, and they tend not to fit.

The best protection I've found have been with the really, really thin kind that is plastic-backed, like Always Ultra-Thin, overnight size. They're huge, fixing most of the placement issues, but they're not much thicker than a couple sheets of paper or a thick cotton pair of underwear. And the adhesive is good. When I buy cheaper brands because that's all I can find away from home, or I'm in an emergency situation, I end up with the same issues about adhesive and placement that you do.

Also, the Always Infinity costs more than the Ultra-Thins, but has this space-age, we-living-in-the-future filler that keeps the surface dry for much, much longer. And it's really absorbent, so you don't get wickage, either from the wings or otherwise. And the adhesive is really, really good/easy to apply.

I, uh, have not spent a lot of time being paranoid out of my mind about spotting, no.
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:12 PM on October 19, 2010

Cloth pads make all the difference. They're soft, so comfort isn't an issue (they feel like cotton underwear), they snap into place so there's no adhesive, they have swap-out liners which'll take care of spotting without forcing you to change the whole pad, and they're intrinsically less slide-y and bunch-y than the plastic ones. Cleaning isn't difficult -- you soak them, rinse them out, and then toss them in with the wash. I get mine from Lunapads, and they're running a clearance right now, so get a couple and see what you think.

They seem expensive, but keep in mind that you're replacing years worth of plastic pads... they pay for themselves pretty quickly, especially if you're buying premium brands.
posted by vorfeed at 1:18 PM on October 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

You can get cloth pads which will tend to be of higher quality (obviously you have to be somewhat dedicated to washing them).

Also, you can get underwear with built in liners. Again, you have to wash, but if you're having to cope with it every day these sound really comfortable.
posted by anaelith at 1:19 PM on October 19, 2010

Have you considered cloth pads? I use a cup right now myself, but have used cloth in the past and it's not nearly as gross of a cleanup as you might be thinking. My experience with cloth pads is that they were 100% more comfortable and awesome than disposables in every way. Plus, they are cute too.
posted by katy song at 1:20 PM on October 19, 2010

Nthing Always brand With wings. I have never ever bled through one, and i have never worn tampons.

As for placement.. part of it is simply knowing how your body works. Some girls flow toward the front of their panties, some flow towards the back.. without wearing pads you don't really know how you flow.

They also make nice panty liners with adhesive that goes to the very edge of the liner. The stick and don't unstick until you pull them off.
posted by royalsong at 1:21 PM on October 19, 2010

Agreeing that you can't cheap out here- brand name ones are noticeably better than cheap generics. And make sure to get the ones with the "Cottony Dry" covers. The plasticy, aka "Dri-weave" covers are irritating.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:22 PM on October 19, 2010

Stayfree is a brand I am very happy with, fwiw.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:23 PM on October 19, 2010

IUD users are generally discouraged from using cups because they might cause the IUD to be dislodged. According to a comment here, the Diva Cup is different, but it's not a chance I (as a Paragard user) would take without discussing it with my gyno.

I've had very good results from the Always Infinity brand pads. (Warning, autoplay music and stupid slogans about "experience the magic" at that link.) They're very absorbent and the adhesive is pretty tenacious — I've only had trouble with the adhesive not holding on high-tech quick-dry "performance fabric" travel undies; it works just fine on my normal underpants.

As others have said, the Always Infinity pads are more expensive but many of us consider them to be worth it.
posted by Lexica at 1:23 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Have you considered cloth pads like Lunapads or GladRags? Both companies make pantyliners. I find cloth pads to be way more comfortable, and definitely more apt to stay put. I've never had a leak. Plus, they last years, so they save you heaps of money in the long run. (I usually use a cup, but I wear cloth pads when I don't feel like dealing with the cup, or for backup when needed.)
posted by lovermont at 1:26 PM on October 19, 2010

Stayfree Ultra Thin are great. Very thin, cottony cover so they don't feel icky.

But I'm also going to put a vote in cloth pads. If you're going to need to use pads every day then it will save you money in the long run, as well as keeping waste out of the landfill.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:31 PM on October 19, 2010

nthing cloth pads - I made my own from a pattern online, but they are great! My daughters love them (I no longer need them since I've had that plumbing removed, but I still use liners for sneezes). Anyway, I say: consider cloth.
posted by patheral at 1:36 PM on October 19, 2010

Stayfree has a nice cover, but their odor neutralizing chemical (which was, as far as I could tell, actually faint fragrance) irritates some people's skin. YMMV.

You can find cloth pads on ebay or etsy, in addition to the places people have already mentioned.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:36 PM on October 19, 2010

I've used Always pads with wings and Kotex pantyliners for years. When I had spotting similar to yours (constant but unpredictable), the Kotex pantyliners actually worked fine. I needed to change them more often when the flow was heavier, but it was never anywhere near normal period flow, so it wasn't a problem. You can test this out for a day or two at home to see if you can get away without a bulky pad.

Also seconding sio42's comment about underwear fabric. If you use the pantyliners with cotton underwear, you shouldn't have any problem with slippage.
posted by spinto at 1:37 PM on October 19, 2010

Always Infinity. They are the best thing ever invented as far as I am concerned. Super thin and I've never leaked through one, even overnight on my most Niagra Falls-esque of heavy days. The wings keep them in place, though I've found that the fit and fabric of underwear tends to be a bigger factor in that than the pad itself.
posted by bedhead at 1:41 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is this the gazillionth Always with wings reference? :) I've never used anything but pads over the past thirty years, and these work best, globally, for me, particularly the extra long (check the length diagram at the back of the packet) and they're very thin.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 1:43 PM on October 19, 2010

I've found the U by Kotex new fancy pads to be incredibly better than my old standby, Always with wings. They're super thin but still really absorptive - surprisingly so.

I feel your pain - I'm in my 8th month of IUD and my semi-constant spotting seems to be finally stopping. Thank you, black underwear.
posted by bookdragoness at 1:52 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

For light spotting, I love Always Flexi-Style Thin liners. They never move or shift, (even when playing tennis!) nor have they ever leaked through to my underwear,
posted by bahama mama at 2:00 PM on October 19, 2010

I have Implanon, which causes irregular periods and spotting. I love Always long pantiliners--"long" is key for me, because even if I get the placement off a little, I'm still safe. I wear cotton underwear and have never had problems with crumpling or shifting, unless I accidentally crumpled the liner/pad when I put it on in the first place.
posted by epj at 2:09 PM on October 19, 2010

Another extremely pleased Always Infinity user here.
posted by candyland at 2:10 PM on October 19, 2010

Always Infinity times a gazillion. There are approximately five brands on Earth I can't live without; this is the one that makes me believe in the miracle of science like I did when I first learned about dinosaurs and space shuttles. I would cry if they discontinued it them. Actually, I'd save the crying for after my "spend my whole paycheck on this product" shopping run and writing a letter to my Senators and the company president.

Though in your case, plain Always liners should be more than fine.
posted by SMPA at 2:10 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, tampons actually never worked for me—they just don't stay in place, no matter what I do—so I've had a lot of experience with the padded side of things. I also sit on a white chair all day at work, so, uh, yeah.

Here's how I've worked it out:

1. Tight underwear—on the days I wear pads, I wear a size smaller than usual. I find Hanes low-rise bikinis work well for this; you don't want underwear that'll ride up too much, but full-coverage briefs (such as boy shorts) will not work.

2. Buy Always Long Super Ultra-Thin With Flexi-Wings (the green-themed package). (I have yet to try the new Infinity ones...I've tried a few samples of similar superabsorbent, space-age Always pads in the past, and was turned off by how crackly the outer plastic sounded when I'd wear 'em. Maybe they've since fixed that particular bug?)

3. While putting the pad on, to avoid drips and not feel as rushed, you can roll up some toilet paper and kind of put it in place for the moment…

4. To avoid that feeling like I'm waddling around, when I put the pad on my underwear, I make sure the back edge of the pad lines up with the back seam of the crotch. (How far back works for you will depend on how you're shaped...) To keep the wings from twisting and sticking to nearby skin and hair, I make sure they're carefully wrapped around the crotch of my underwear (gently stretched to reach if need be) and stuck to each other. I've found it's best to pull one under first, being careful not to stick it to itself or the edge of the leg hole, and stick it so the edge hits a little more than halfway across the bottom of the crotch area. Then pull the other one under the same way and stick it to the first one—again, stretching the wings as necessary, though not to the point of tearing. Pull the underwear's front and back taut to make sure you don't have any lumps, adjusting the pad forward or backward slightly as needed, then be sure the adhesive's fully pressed down on the inside and outside of the underwear.

5. This it the coup de grace, which someone once told me I should patent: If you really want to make sure the pad stays in place and the wings don't come unstuck, and also lessen how far you need to stretch 'em to meet each other, you can carry a roll of silky, hypoallergenic fabric medical tape (1-inch 3M Durapore Surgical Tape or similar, available extremely inexpensively in single rolls at Walgreens, your local grocery store, etc.). Tear off a 3- to 4-inch strip of the tape once you've got the pad and wings all stuck down and run the tape down the middle of the outside of the underwear's crotch, over the edges of the two wings and secured to the fabric in front of and in back of them, to make sure they stay in place. They've greatly improved the Always adhesive in just the last year or so, so this isn't strictly necessary (I don't usually do it anymore), but it can definitely help your confidence level when it comes to wearing pads.

Hope that helps!
posted by limeonaire at 2:11 PM on October 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

nthing Always Infinity with wings. Life-changing. I resisted buying them for so long (didn't think they'd make a difference) and now I don't even notice the extra dollar or 2 I'm paying. Tight (i.e., spandex) bike shorts over undies can also help for super-paranoia-inducing situations.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 2:12 PM on October 19, 2010

You've already heard it, but I have to shout it out too: ALWAYS. They rock. I like the extra-long overnights -- they're thin enough that I wear them during the day if I'm having a heavy flow. Their pantiliners rock, too.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:23 PM on October 19, 2010

Tight (i.e., spandex) bike shorts over undies can also help for super-paranoia-inducing situations.

Yeah, this is great for sports; I used to wear spandex sliding shorts to keep everything in place when I played soccer, just in case.
posted by limeonaire at 2:24 PM on October 19, 2010

I have always had the same issues with pads - which is why I don't wear them. Especially if I'm on a regular/heavy flow. I've ruined too many pairs of underwear, pajama pants and sheets.

In the last year or two, I've been spotting for a week or two (usually half a month) before my period. I just use Tampax Pearl light tampons and change them a couple of times a day.
posted by KogeLiz at 2:26 PM on October 19, 2010

nthing cloth pads. If you make your own, you can make them as large as you want - mine are maybe 6" flannel squares, 2-4 layers thick, no snaps. Diagonal runs front to back. They're too big to bunch. Also, they've always washed out fine, no stains after years.
posted by momus_window at 2:43 PM on October 19, 2010

I always hated the normal Always pads -- had all the problems you describe. I came in here to recommend (like a lot of others) the Always Infinity. Seriously: they have used some kind of futuristic technology to make these things work. It wouldn't surprise me if they hopped in a Delorian and stole the technology from the future. These pads have changed my life for the better (and I'm not affiliated with them or their product in any way, shape, or form, except as a consumer). They do not sound crackly, as limeonaire was concerned about.

For light days, I like Kotex U barely there. I think that they're marketed towards a younger crowd, but they're great for those days when you don't want to waste a space-age pad from the awesome future -- those Always Infinity are a bit expensive, so I don't like using them unless I actually need to.

Also, if you're using pads that you've had around for awhile, toss them. Older ones (like years old) don't tend to stick as well, in my opinion.
posted by k8lin at 4:09 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do NOT be fooled by the store brand knock-offs.

I bought a pack of these last year. They looked just the same! Green packaging with a yellow stripe! Surely they were the same thing, but re-branded with the store's name, right? As a fanatical purchaser of store-brand everything, I had to try it. They were like two bucks cheaper!


They didn't stick. The wings kept coming off. They curled up at the edges and chafed me in Tender Places. But I'm on a super tight budget, so I had to just suck it up and use every last one.

posted by ErikaB at 4:16 PM on October 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

i have a pair of underwear that are the "no show super strectch" fake fabric kind and liners do not work with them. at. all.

This is a really important thing to consider. Go for all-cotton undies, ideally in a sort of boy brief style without too much stretch (http://www.ae.com/aerie/browse/category_feature_item.jsp?catId=cat2640007). For god's sake use one of the new ultra-thin pads, they work better and are SO MUCH more comfortable and stable than the giant cotton wads we had back when I first started my period. I personally would shy away from extra-long "overnight"-style pads, because I never had trouble with leakage out the front or back, and they're sort of uncomfortable to wear. Just get the regular "super" kind with wings - you won't have trouble with wicking (science!) and they're really designed to keep the pad in place. And do give yourself a few days to get used to wearing a pad if you're not used to it.

Aside: man, I love the Mirena - I don't even buy pads or tampons anymore!
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:22 PM on October 19, 2010

Oh, and as far as liners go: these work just fine. You'll probably want to change them at least three times a day, but they should stick just fine for that long.
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:26 PM on October 19, 2010

Toss another one on the pile - If Always Infinity pads were made out of dead baby seals, you can go ahead and hand me a club.
posted by Mizu at 5:22 PM on October 19, 2010 [8 favorites]

I am clearly an oddball, because I hate hate hate any of the Always pads. I instead go for the thinnest possible pantiliner, usually a cheapie storebrand version of the unscented Carefree liners. Then yes, cotton, fairly snug undies and all is good.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 5:37 PM on October 19, 2010

I've had terrible experiences with the Always Thin liners. I was totally loving them at first - the glue goes all the way to the edges and they stick down tight! Awseome!

However, there's an interior layer that stops about 1" from the front and back ends, which happens to provide significant waterproofing. Meaning that if one has a moment of unexpected flow, it absorbs all over, and there's an area toward the end where it soaks right through. Yes, stains underneath where the pantyliner was. Lovely.
posted by aimedwander at 8:10 PM on October 19, 2010

To me it's not about the pad, but the underwear. Find wide-crotch underwear (most are not so you might have to look aroundw) and the pad will stay in place. With only a sliver of cloth to hang onto, pads will slip around and bunch up.
posted by FlyByDay at 9:17 PM on October 19, 2010

I've tried just about every standard variety of pads on the market. You definitely don't want to bother with store brands. Even if they say that they are comparable to a national brand, they're not.

Between the big three (Always, Kotex, and Stayfree), there are pros and cons to all of them. Always definitely has the best adhesive. You want a good adhesive but also you have to choose something that fits YOUR body. You have to choose between maxis or thins .. wings or no wings .. and length. The problem is, if you get something that fits your body type well, it's no good if it doesn't stay put. So, Always does seem to stay the best. All three brands are constantly giving away free samples of their products. You want to either go directly to the websites or scour freebie sites like Cheap Stingy Bargains for free sample links. That's the best low-cost way to try out each brand. Because all the brands keep coming out with new products. About half of them are completely useless.

As far as recommending a brand or product: the problem is, like for most things, what works really well for one person might be completely crap for another person. I think you'd have to take everyone's advice with a grain of salt because for every woman who swears by one product there's going to be a woman wondering who the hell decided to put that particular product on the market (for instance, the Always Infinitys that everyone else is saying are so great are completely useless for me.. unless I'm using it as a liner). Personally, I wouldn't go without wings. I like them because it gives just a little added protection, and it helps keep things in place. Otherwise, I use Always thins (which, I GUESS, I recommend to you since they're not bulky) (the longest I can find) when things are light or for in-between days. They're not too bulky. But they're insufficient for me on heavier days (but I'm overweight and have really really heavy periods). Then I have to use something like Always maxis (or overnights or size 14+). So, body type is just as important as heaviness of flow.. even what style of underwear (and the material) you wear comes into play. One thing that irritates the hell out of me is that it seems like the pads are getting smaller and smaller even though everyone knows that Americans are getting bigger and bigger.. and then it's impossible to find thicker pads when you actually NEED them. Yeah, in the end, my advice is get some free samples and give each brand a try. I have a sheet of paper with which styles and types are passable to buy in each brand, and when I go shopping every month I have to pull out the paper. To be honest, NONE of the pad companies and none of the stores that stock the pads make it easy on the consumer. Unfortunately, unless you choose to go some sort of alternative route (I haven't tried tampons/cups/natural pads/washable pads), you pretty much just have to suck it up because.. well, what else are you going to do? I really can't rave about any particular brand, though.
posted by Mael Oui at 11:41 PM on October 19, 2010

If you happen to be tiny and require thin, tiny pads, Kotex has a new line called U that are... I laughed and laughed when I opened up my free sample of these miniature liners. I think they're for little pixies. But, if you're looking for something REALLY thin and for something that is suited for miniscule underwear, they might be what you're looking for. The adhesive wasn't bad, though. At one time, I considered Kotex to be the absolute worst, but I think they've improved a lot.. whereas, at one time I thought Always was the best, and I'm becoming so much more frustrated with that company as a whole. Even though I use them, I kind of hate recommending them to anyone because of my increasing dissatisfaction.
posted by Mael Oui at 11:50 PM on October 19, 2010

Ah, yes. IUD spotting. No fun.

I like the pink Always with wings for heavier flow days, and the Always long dri-liners for spotting. Not the always thin liners, though, because they turn out to not be very moisture-proof!

I liked the always infinity, but not enough to justify the extra cost.
posted by leahwrenn at 12:51 AM on October 20, 2010

I'm a total Mooncup convert/evangelist these days (and I have an IUD!), but when I was using pads Always with wings worked better than others I tried. So another voice to add that chorus.
posted by freya_lamb at 6:51 AM on October 20, 2010

I have an IUD but with much heavier flow. I'm talking bleed-through-jeans, don't-go-away-from-home-that-week, big blood clot flow. I used to be able to use the store-brand value range (20p per packet!) but no longer.

I find Bodyform the best for me - this might have a different name in the US. The wings keep them in place, and they seem to absorb everything well (I don't find this to be the case with Always or store-brand). I also - this is gross, I know - pop some extra tissue in there if I'm going to be on a journey or in a long meeting and can't get to the loo often. Like I said, heavy flow, and I go with the super ones. The other thing that helped were Sensible Knickers - black briefs with a wide crotch - from Marks and Spencers.
posted by mippy at 9:56 AM on October 20, 2010

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