April 2024,  EXTRA,  GEAR,  Gear Advice,  Product Reviews

Period swimwear: does it actually work?

Does period swimwear actually work, and can you trust it? We speak to an expert and put three swimsuits to the test

How does period swimwear work?

Period swimwear features an absorbent gusset made of three layers: a soft and breathable top layer that sits next to your skin; a highly-absorbent and moisture wicking second layer which can absorb up to three tampons worth of blood; and a water-repellant (aquaphobic) outer fabric that prevents water from entering the gusset and protects against leaks. “Period swimwear is designed for maximum comfort and flexibility, so you can move freely and confidently,” says WUKA founder Ruby Raut. “The fabric is treated with waterproof treatment, which keeps your flow securely locked in so there are no leaks, just pure confidence.”

How absorbent is period swimwear?

Period swimwear is super absorbent. You can wear it without anything else on light to medium flow days, although Ruby suggests using a menstrual cup or similar as back up on heavy flow days. “If you are using [period swimwear] to swim for long periods of time, they are best for lighter days,” she says. “However, if you’re in the wild or at the beach, you’re good to go even on heavy flow days. There’s very little risk of visible blood.”

Will it leak when you get out of the water?

It shouldn’t do. Swimsuits and bikini bottoms are designed with a high-porous fabric and leak-proof layer to keep everything exactly where it should be. 

How long can you wear period swimwear for?

“You can wear period swimwear for as long as you want to stay in the water, whether you’re at the lido or by the sea,” says Ruby. She does, however, recommend a quick rinse before hopping back in to keep things fresh.

How does the fabric compare to regular swimwear? 

One great thing about the period swimwear we tested, which we wore in the pool and under a wetsuit, is that the built in leak-proof gusset is discreet so it looks just like regular swimwear. However, it’s important to find a style that suits your shape and preferences. The bikini bottoms are a great option for this reason as you can wear them below your usual swimsuit or with a top that’s supportive and designed for performance. Like your usual togs, period swimwear should protect against UV rays and have anti-chlorine properties. Look for brands like WUKA, Modibodi and Fluxies, which use regenerated fibre from waste.

Is there an alternative?

Menstrual cups are an environmentally friendly alternative to tampons that are well suited to swimmers as they hold three times as much as a tampon and they’re easier to use in the wild. “Despite them being around since the 80s, I was only made aware of menstrual cups in my mid-30s when I started to explore the impact of feminine hygiene products on the environment. I was an instant convert,” says Editor Ella Foote, who uses a menstrual cup by Pic & Sis. “They’re much cheaper than tampons as they last 10 years! The fact I am not using single-use items anymore is a real comfort.”

WUKA Period Racerback Swimsuit


They say: The WUKA Period Swimsuit is the perfect period-proof one-piece you can wear to the pool, the sea or even the spa, without the need for pads or tampons. Hit the beach with confidence and style and be leak-free. Our Period Swimsuit feels just like regular swimwear with an ultra absorbent liner. Designed for performance, so you can move through the water with less resistance even when your period is dragging you down. Absorbency 15ml (three tampons or two day pads), so good for moderate periods. (Size 6-18).

We say: When our tester tried this swimsuit during a lake dip on her lightest flow day, she had no leaks and the absorbent gusset felt light, comfortable and breathable. She also tested the suit in the bath on her heaviest flow day; even with lots of sloshing around in the tub she was amazed there were no leaks. The racerback design worked well for training and we would happily wear this suit on our non-period days. The only slight drawback was the padded cups, which kept moving around and folding over, but that’s not a big issue as they’re removable.

WUKA Swim High Waist Pants


They say: This high waist style feels just like regular swimwear with an ultra absorbent liner; perfect for additional coverage and security. The style also offers a smooth shapeliness for tums and the high leg cut allows for maximum comfort. Absorbency 10ml (two tampons or one day pad), so good for light periods. Mix and match with separates or wear them under swimwear. Made from recycled Nylon and money saving, too, as every WUKA replaces 200 disposables in its lifetime. (Size 6-20).

We say: Wearing separates adds a level of versatility and these high waist pants, available in five great colours, mix and match just as well with performance bikini top styles as with long sleeve rash vests worn below a wetsuit. With a medium leg cut, you can wear them under most swimsuits, and the high waist felt really comforting on a bloated tum. The built-in absorbent gusset is ultra thin, not dissimilar from regular swimwear. We wore them as extra security on heavier days and on their own on lighter days, and they never let us down. We’re tempted to get a couple more colours.

Modibodi Soft Stretch Scoop Neck One Piece


They say: This limited-edition swimwear range is made from 100% regenerated ECONYL® Nylon, a more sustainable alternative created from discarded waste, like fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet flooring and industrial plastic. It features a 3D textured terry finish that feels soft to the touch, and it looks, feels and fits just like your favourite swimwear – so you’ll be the only one who knows you’re wearing it. Concealed two-layer lining absorbs light period or pee both in and out of the water without leaking. Absorbency 10ml (one to two tampons). (Size 8-22).

We say: This didn’t really work for us. Even on medium flow days, the light-moderate absorbency wasn’t enough for our tester, who had noticeable staining on the outside of the suit when tested. We did however, like the swimsuit design and loved the colour, but for serious swimming it wasn’t very supportive around the bust. We think this suit would work well at the beginning and end of a cycle, or as a back-up when using a menstrual cup or tampon. It would also be good for beach or pool lounging and dipping.

Last updated April 2024. If you buy a product through a link on this page we may receive a commission.

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Jo is the Gear Editor for Outdoor Swimmer and also writes news and features for the website. A keen open water swimmer and long-distance walker, she loves seeking out lakes and lidos close to her home in the Mendip Hills, Somerset. She is the author of The Slow Traveller, editor and founder of independent magazine, Ernest, and has previously tested outdoor clothing and kit for BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC Focus and Ernest Journal.