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Most people’s first experience with menstrual products usually involves pads. They’re easy to use and less intimidating than tampons and menstrual cups.

There’s a wide variety of pads to choose from — thin, thick, with wings, without wings, scented, unscented, and more. With an overflowing selection, the choices can become overwhelming.

Read on for some gynecologists’ picks for the best period pads.

All pads share the same purpose, but there can be a lot of differences between two similar-looking products. Here’s what to pay close attention to when making your selection.


Each person can have a different flow. Some have a light flow, while others have a heavier flow. The absorbency of each pad indicates whether it’s compatible with the heaviness of your flow.

If you have a light flow, opt for thin or ultra-thin absorbency pads. Maxi pads and pads with overnight absorbency are best suited for heavy periods.


Most disposable pads are made from cotton. Cotton is an all-natural, breathable fabric that absorbs moisture, but it’s often grown with harmful chemicals that can be irritating and potentially unsafe. Buying organic pads is gentler on sensitive skin and delicate areas.


Sustainability is an important consideration when making nearly any purchase. Cotton pads can be taxing on the environment since cotton crops require a lot of water to grow. Cotton is also usually produced in arid climates.

Eco-friendly pads are usually gentler on your skin and the environment. They are usually made of cotton, hemp, or bamboo. Sustainable period pads should also be free from fragrances, dyes, chemicals, chlorine, and dioxin.

Reusable pads are another great eco-friendly option. You can wash and reuse these pads for major environmental benefits. They cut down on the waste caused by disposable pads and packaging.


Depending on your flow and needs, some features may make your experience with pads more comfortable and discreet.

Some features to consider include:

  • wings
  • scent
  • length
  • protection from leakage
  • flexibility

To create this list, we polled gynecologists for their picks, scoured reviews, and selected a variety of pads to suit different needs. We considered pads with various features and at different price points. Read more about our process here.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $0.30 per pad
  • $$ = $0.30–$0.50 per pad
  • $$$ = over $0.50 per pad

Best organic pad

Natracare Ultra Pads Super with Wings

  • Price: $$$
  • Count: 12
  • Pro: more sustainable than plastic wrappers
  • Con: shorter length, according to user reviews

Organic pads check a lot of boxes for most people. They’re suitable for sensitive skin, free of harsh substances like chlorine, and better for the environment. Most pads are individually wrapped in plastic, but these ones come in a cotton cover. These cotton pads by Natracare are also compostable and biodegradable, making them an eco-friendly choice.

If you have a medium to heavy flow, these pads are for you. The absorbency is right in the middle, making them the perfect choice for the middle of your period. The slim-style pad is discreet under clothing, but some users found the length too short.

Best unscented pad

Claene Organic Cotton Cover Pads

  • Price: $$
  • Count: 32
  • Pro: vegan-friendly, breathable materials
  • Con: very thin, according to user reviews

Some pads contain added fragrance to counteract the natural odors of period fluids. However, this can be irritating to delicate skin and may disrupt the vaginal pH balance. Unscented pads are a safer option, and Claene pads are specifically made without added fragrances.

Each pad is constructed for comfort, breathability, and protection. The soft, flexible edges prevent chafing and irritation, and the innovative shape is designed to prevent overflow. They’re also cruelty-free and vegan-friendly.

Some user reviews mention that unscented pads can sometimes have a faint fragrance or smell to them, but these do not. While some users enjoy the lightweight nature of these pads, others found them too thin for a regular flow.

Best pad for sports

U by Kotex Fitness Ultra Thin Pads with Wings

  • Price: $$
  • Count: 30
  • Pro: unique shape for flexibility and dryness during exercise
  • Con: can trap heat

Wearing a pad with any clothes can be tricky, but pads are usually not designed for use during exercise. They can also show through tight activewear like yoga pants or sports uniforms. U by Kotex is known for their fitness-friendly pads made with an innovative design suitable for sports and movement.

The pad core absorbs fluids, keeping you dry during your workout. The pads are made with soft, absorbent materials that provide comfort and protection.

Some users state these pads can trap heat, so they’re not the most breathable option. During exercise, you may feel overheated. They’re also individually wrapped in plastic, which isn’t eco-friendly.

Best pad that stays in place

L. Organic Cotton & Chlorine-Free Pads

  • Price: $$
  • Count: 45
  • Pro: one product is donated for every product purchased
  • Con: may not be absorbent enough for everyone

There is an increasing demand for safer pads, and L. delivers. These pads are made with organic cotton that is free of chlorine, pesticides, and fragrances. The ultra-thin design is comfortable and discreet, and the wings keep the pad in place throughout your day. L. also donates a package of pads to a person in need for every package purchased.

Users state that they appreciate pesticide-free pads, and some note they have experienced fewer cramps since switching to L. pads. Users that usually have problems with pads staying in place note that these don’t budge. However, others do not find these pads absorbent enough.

Best eco-friendly pad

August Pads

  • Price: $$$
  • Count: 4+
  • Pro: fully biodegradable and compostable
  • Con: pricey

August pads have gone viral on social media for good reason — they’re organic, biodegradable, compostable, and comfortable.

“You can get them shipped right to your house, they contain no plastic so they’re more environmentally friendly than standard pads, and their wrappers are now even compostable,” says Jennifer Lincoln, MD, IBCLC, a board certified OB-GYN. “They are also super soft and very absorbent.”

Lincoln also appreciates August’s anti-stigma marketing. The brand uses “models who look like real people and messaging that is empowering,” she says. She also commends August for covering state tax in all states, since period products should not be subject to additional tax.

Best pad for a heavy flow

U by Kotex Security Feminine Maxi Pad with Wings

  • Price: $$
  • Count: 24
  • Pro: back is 80 percent larger for overnight protection
  • Con: bulky

Sleeping with a pad has its challenges. They’re notorious for moving around during the night and leaking. These overnight pads from U by Kotex still have the bulkiness you’d expect in a maxi pad, but they’re an effective solution to taming a heavy or irregular flow. The brand claims these provide up to 12 hours of protection, though you should change your pad more frequently.

The wings are uniquely shaped to fit securely without moving around, and the back is significantly larger to prevent leaking. The hypoallergenic materials are free from perfume, lotion, chlorine, and pesticides.

Best pad without wings

Always Infinity Feminine Pads for Women

  • Price: $$
  • Count: 96
  • Pro: feels like you’re wearing nothing
  • Con: some users experienced irritation

Most pads are made with wings that have an adhesive glue to prevent slipping and sliding. However, wings aren’t for everyone. If wings don’t work for you, Always offers pads without wings that still have an adhesive underside so they stay in place.

If you want the comfort of pads without the bulkiness, this is the kind to try. They’re form-fitting, so it can feel like there’s nothing there, and they’re flexible enough to move with you. The top of the pad has thoughtfully designed holes to collect period fluids and keep you dry.

Those with sensitive skin should be careful, however, as some reviewers mention skin irritation after using these pads.

Best pad for sensitive skin

Organyc Feminine Care Pads

  • Price: $$$
  • Count: 60
  • Pro: designed to reduce skin irritation
  • Con: doesn’t stay in place, per user reviews

People with sensitive skin are no strangers to irritation caused by pads made with fragrances, lotions, dyes, chlorine, pesticides, and other chemicals. If you’re looking for a gentle alternative, Organyc pads are certified organic, chemical-free, and hypoallergenic, making them a safe solution for sensitive skin prone to irritation.

These pads are intended for daytime use, so they might not provide enough protection overnight. Some users report issues with leaking due to the pads moving around. During the day, the sleek design is discreet under clothes. Each pad is also individually wrapped for discretion.

Best pad that supports a cause

Seventh Generation Chlorine-Free Maxi Pads

  • Price: $
  • Count: 24
  • Pro: affordably priced
  • Con: bulky

For maximum protection and absorption, reach for maxi pads. These ones by Seventh Generation are thick and bulky like you’d expect, but they get the job done for those with a heavy flow. Pads can be safely worn for longer than tampons, making these a safe choice for overnight protection.

The pads are free of chlorine bleach, fragrances, and dyes, so they’re suitable for sensitive skin. They’re also made in the United States and Leaping Bunny certified.

According to user reviews, these pads live up to their promise for efficient absorbency. Users also find them comfortable.

Best pad for teens

Asana Unscented Pads Variety Pack for Teens

  • Price: $$$
  • Count: 36
  • Pro: contains a variety of mini, regular, and heavy pads
  • Con: size may be too wide, per user reviews

Pads are popular among teens and young adults who are still adjusting to their cycles. Since they’re user-friendly, pads are usually the first period product young users experience. These ones by Asana are specifically made for teens. The mini size is suitable for young girls, though some users found them too wide for teens and children.

“These pads are crafted through advanced technologies, ensuring that they are thin, lightweight, and comfortable, yet capable of absorbing up to 10 times more fluid than regular pads,” says Daniel Boyer, MD, a practicing doctor who specializes in gynecology. “They are also made of hypoallergenic materials, making them gentle on your skin.”

Best pad for comfort

Rael Organic Cotton Cover Pads

  • Price: $$
  • Count: 16
  • Pro: pillowy soft
  • Con: not suitable for heavy flow or overnight

When you’re trying to sleep or even maneuver through your day, uncomfortable pads can get in the way. They can be itchy and irritating, or they may move around too much. If you’re going for comfort, Rael pads are designed to have a pillowy soft feel. They’re designed for comfort with organic cotton, and they’re safe for sensitive skin.

“These pads are made of 100 percent pure organic cotton with additional features to ensure full protection, including wings to ensure a secure fit and absorbent leak-proof core. They are also ideal pads that can accommodate fluctuations from menstrual flows during the day and at night,” Boyer says.

Best plant-based pad

The Honey Pot Company Clean Cotton Regular Absorbency Pads

  • Price: $$
  • Count: 20
  • Pro: creates a cooling sensation to soothe discomfort
  • Con: contains essential oils

The Honey Pot is a feminine care brand with plant-based products. These pads are free of dyes, chlorine, fragrance, and synthetic materials, but they do contain essential oils like lavender and mint.

“The Honey Pot’s herbal-infused maxi pads with wings are all-natural and made with botanicals like lavender and mint, which soothe and relieve discomfort,” says Stephanie Molden, MD, a gynecology specialist. “The absorbent, clean cotton is comfortable to wear, and the absorbency is suitable for your regular days.”

While the pads are designed to soothe discomfort, some users experience the opposite. The mint essential oil left some feeling irritation and burning sensations. If you have sensitive skin, these may not be for you.

Best pad for a light flow

Stayfree Ultra Thin Overnight Pads with Wings

  • Price: $
  • Count: 120
  • Pro: reduces odors
  • Con: contains fragrance

Thin pads are designed to manage a light flow. These thin pads by Stayfree can be used on the tail end of your period when your flow is the lightest but you need protection. They can also be worn comfortably overnight, though some users have difficulty getting the pads to stay in place.

“It’s all about the wings and comfort,” Molden says. “These are great for lighter days and even overnight toward the end of your period.” She also gives the absorption and flexibility a nod of approval.

Those who want to control period odors may gravitate toward these pads since they have odor control, but they contain fragrance, which can cause irritation and sensitivity.

Best pad made by women

Genial Day Hypoallergenic Regular Flow Pads

  • Price: $$$
  • Count: 90
  • Pro: tapered size is larger in the back
  • Con: pricey

Molden recommends these pads in part because they are made by women for women. “They’re vegan and safe for sensitive skin,” she says. They’re certified by OEKO-TEX, so consumers can rest knowing their pads are free of harmful chemicals. They’re also cruelty-free certified by Leaping Bunny.

Made by women, these pads are thoughtfully designed. They have side walls for leak protection and a patented ion strip for odor control. The adhesive strips on the wings are made with nontoxic glue to safely secure the pad in place and prevent shifting. The biodegradable top layer is also absorbent, breathable, and quick-drying for comfort and efficiency.

Best overnight pad

Always Extra Heavy Overnight Maxi Pads with Flexi-Wings

  • Price: $$$
  • Count: 20
  • Pro: designed for maximum absorption for those with a heavy flow
  • Con: pricey

Some period pads make a lot of claims about absorption for heavy flows and overnight protection, but these maxi pads by Always live up to the hype.

User reviews commend the brand for accommodating heavy menstruation, though some compare the pads to the feeling of wearing a diaper. This is likely due to the wide back, which provides protection but can feel bulky. The raised core conforms to your body for comfort, and the raised barriers contain flow during long periods of time.

“Pads with maximum absorption are a must for those with heavy flows or overnight protection,” Molden says. “These also have wings for security.”

Natracare Ultra Pads Super with Wings$$$12Pad and cover are fully compostable and biodegradable.
Claene Organic Cotton Cover Pads$$32Soft, flexible edges prevent chafing and irritation.
U by Kotex Fitness Ultra Thin Pads with Wings$$30Flexible shape is suitable for activity.
L. Organic Cotton & Chlorine-Free Pads$$45One product is donated for every product purchased.
August Pads$$$4+Not subject to sales tax.
U by Kotex Security Feminine Maxi Pad with Wings$$24The back is 80 percent larger for overnight protection.
Always Infinity Feminine Pads for Women$$96Feels like nothing is there.
Organyc Feminine Care Pads$$$60Hypoallergenic and suitable for those with sensitive skin.
Seventh Generation Chlorine-Free Maxi Pads$24Affordably priced.
Asana Unscented Pads Variety Pack for Teens$$$36Suitable for teens and children.
Rael Organic Cotton Cover Pads$$16Pillowy soft feel.
The Honey Pot Company Clean Cotton Regular Absorbency Pads$$20Cooling sensation.
Stayfree Ultra Thin Overnight Pads with Wings$120Controls odors.
Genial Day Hypoallergenic Regular Flow Pads$$$90Made by women.
Always Extra Heavy Overnight Maxi Pads with Flexi-Wings$$$20Wide back provides maximum overnight protection.

What are some alternatives to pads?

There are a lot of options when it comes to period products, and pads aren’t the only choice. If pads don’t align with your lifestyle and needs, you can try menstrual cups, tampons, period panties, and menstrual discs.

Which pads are best for nighttime?

For overnight protection, look for long maxi pads with wide backs. More surface area equates to increased protection and reduced leaking.

Can you swim with a pad?

Pads are not designed for swimming. They are made of cotton, which is a highly absorbent material. This is good for absorbing period fluids, but if you swim with a pad, your pad will quickly absorb the water around you and become ineffective.

Should I avoid pads with fragrance?

Fragrance-, perfume-, and lotion-free pads are gentler on the skin. Scented pads can disrupt the pH and bacteria of the vagina. Opting for unscented pads is advised.

Pads are a user-friendly way to manage your period flow. Many prefer pads to tampons since they can be worn longer and they’re less intrusive.

When choosing a tampon, look for organic, unscented options. Features like wings, a flexible core, and long length can also improve your experience with pads.

Lacey Muinos is a health, wellness, and beauty writer based in Southern California. She holds a BA in English. Her work has appeared in digital publications like Livestrong, Verywell, Business Insider, Eat This Not That, and others. When she’s not writing, Lacey is likely pursuing her other interests: skin care, plant-based cooking, pilates, and traveling. You can keep up with her by visiting herwebsite or herblog.