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How to Choose a Sanitary Pad & Pantyliner

a woman confused about a sanitary pad or a pantyliner

With all the options available, how do I know which one is best for me? This is not usually a cut and dry answer. 

Every period is different from start to finish. When considering which type of pad to buy, keep in mind several factors that apply specifically to you and your cycle.

Many women default to the products that they know because their mom or friends have used them. However, what works for them may not be best for you. You may need to try several different products for your cycle so you’re protected in any situation.

Ask yourself a few of these questions when choosing a pad:

What is your activity level?

Keep in mind what your usual daily activities are when choosing a pad.

  • If you are generally active, you may want to pick up some super-thin pantyliners with a high absorbency level so they don't feel bulky or bunch up during activities such as running or biking.
  • If you plan on spending the day snuggled up with a good book, choose a long pad with wings to make sure your linens/couch stays protected from leaks.

Should you use a pantyliner or a sanitary pad?

Not all days are heavy flow days, so don’t suffer through them with a cumbersome pad if you don’t have to. A good rule of thumb is: the higher the absorbency, the thicker the pad.

A light flow in the beginning or tail end of your period may be adequately covered by a panty liner, while a sanitary pad can be used for those days when your flow is in full force.

If your periods are predictable and follow the same monthly pattern, you can buy a variety of absorbencies to ensure your comfort throughout P-week.

Absorbency levels for sanitary pads and pantyliners range from light to moderate to super/overnight and are usually represented on the packaging by shaded-in water drops (the more drops, the higher the absorbency).

Sanitary Pads:



What size pad or liner should you use?

The size of the product is super important because we are all uniquely shaped.  In addition to the level of absorbency, the length and width of the pad are paramount to ensuring nothing escapes.

If you have a larger frame, choose a larger/wider pad. Generally, for overnight protection, a longer pad may provide better coverage while you are laying on your stomach or back.

Larger Pads:

Smaller frames may be more comfortable with a smaller pad.

Smaller Pads:

You can find the sizing chart on the packaging of most products, usually on the side or the back of the box/sleeve.

Should you use a pad with wings or without wings?

Wings also help to secure the pad as the wings and the pad itself has an adhesive, keeping it in place while you are active. Wings are not a good option for you if you wear thongs or barely-there underwear.

a sanitary pad or panty liner without wings and a sanitary or panty liner with wings.

Image: A sanitary pad without wings (left) and with wings (right). 

Should I use a pad that's scented?

Pads can come in a variety of pleasant scents, covering up the aroma of menstruation. While this may seem like an amazing benefit, make sure that you don’t have super sensitive skin, as the deodorants used to give the pad fragrance may irritate the vaginal area.

What materials should my pad be made of?

Worried about the environment? Choose a product that’s sustainably made. There are organic and even vegan options that will keep you covered from leaks while conserving the earth's resources.

Some varieties of pads are feature a cotton top layer while others are made from a non-woven absorbent material that wicks moisture to its core and mimics the feel of actual fabric.

Each has its advantages and disadvantages, so try them both and see which is more comfortable for you.

View the breakdown for every ingredient found in pads and pantyliners.

How much are you going to spend on pads or liners?

Everyone's budget is different as are the qualities you are looking for in the perfect pad. Some women look for comfort as a must-have, while others have longer/heavier periods and need more product.

Buying in bulk is a great option for many women, and the ability to bundle together several different products to cover you throughout your own cycle is a huge advantage!

Whatever it is that you look for in a pad, there should be some pretty fairly priced options.

Pick What's Best for You

Remember to look at your personal menstrual journey and pick products that will provide optimum comfort and reliability for your day to day life.

When traveling, bring some extra of your favorite products so you are not stuck dealing with the high prices and low selection of many retailers, especially outside of the US.

There are tons of very cute options to store, travel with, and conceal your feminine products, making it easy and fun to stock up.