If you’re someone coping with incontinence—a.k.a. an overactive bladder—you may be familiar with the quest for protective underwear that’s functional yet stylish. Incontinence is common among people with female genitalia, especially post-pregnancy and childbirth, and the right pair of panties can help get you through your daily routine with minimal discomfort. Similar to period underwear, incontinence underwear is designed to absorb leaks and wick moisture away from your skin to keep you feeling comfortable while experiencing some uncomfortable symptoms.
We tested both reusable and single-use incontinence products from brands like Knix, Wearever, and Depend, but ultimately determined that the best incontinence underwear for women is Thinx Speax(available at Thinx), a stylish reusable option that is especially good for light leak protection. Should you need a pair for maximum protection against bladder leakage, the Always Discreet(available at Amazon), a highly absorbent single-use style, is the way to go.
Here are the best women’s incontinence underwear we tested, ranked in order:
Thinx Speax Hiphugger
Always Discreet Maximum Protection Underwear
Knix Super Leakproof Bikini
Amazon Basic's Women's Protective Underwear
Wearever Cotton Comfort Panty
Depend Fit-Flex Underwear
Depend Silhouette Underwear
Thinx Speax Hiphugger
Thinx Speax incontinence underwear is one of the highest quality pairs we tested and is far from the image you may have of "adult diapers." The reusable Speax panties are ultra comfortable, thanks to their soft nylon-spandex blend and high quality stitching. We didn’t notice any fading, fraying, or other signs of wear after three wash/dry cycles during testing, and one of our testers who continued using Speax regularly is impressed with how well they’ve held up after nearly six months of occasional use. Not that we’re surprised: They’re from the makers of Thinx, the same company that makes the best period underwear we've tested.
In addition to its quality construction, the Speax underwear, which we reviewed in the hiphugger style, is also stylish for a garment that’s designed to be utilitarian. The seamless, inconspicuous design eliminates any worries you might have about visible panty lines or unsightly bunching. The various cuts—bikini, high-waist, French cut, thong, and hiphugger—are available in women’s sizes XS to 3X and a number of colors and patterns.
Because they can absorb up to 8 teaspoons of fluid, these underpants work well for those dealing with mild incontinence. But if you require a more absorbent pair, read on.
Those experiencing heavy incontinence will want to try Always’ Discreet, a disposable, single-use, pull-up underwear that’s highly absorbent. We found that the Always Discreet was able to absorb a full cup of water during our tests while leaving little to no dampness on the underlying towel placed to absorb overflow. This result makes them our number one pick for heavy leakage.
Unfortunately, a design that’s built to absorb more liquid means a sacrifice or two in other areas, namely style and comfort. According to our testers, these panties, which we tested in the "maximum protection" style, are not so discreet, as they leave a visible panty line and even crinkle slightly when you walk. According to one tester, "They were fine under sundresses, but wearing them to work out under leggings was not cute!"
However, our testers were able to forgive these negatives because the underpants earned such high marks for absorbency. And the Always Discreet is one of the most attractive and comfortable single-use panties (for what that’s worth). It still makes you feel like you’re wearing regular underwear, even if each pair is designed to be thrown away after a day of use.
The Always Discreet comes in sizes S/M to XXL and in a limited color selection, including white, black, and pale pink. The ones we tested are lightly scented for odor control, and our testers didn’t find the scent overwhelming or unpleasant. A fragrance-free version is also available.
For a dependable, reasonably priced pair of reusable incontinence underwear that look and feel great, try a pair from Knix. This underwear brand makes its styles for either period or urine absorption in a couple of absorbencies. For incontinence, we tried the "super" version. Despite the claim, the Knix are best suited for those dealing with light leakage. These stylish panties, which our testers tried in a bikini style, fit comfortably and didn’t leave a panty line like some other options on our list. They held up well over time and showed minimal wear throughout multiple washes, and our testers didn’t experience any staining or residual odor with these panties.
While these panties didn’t fit our testers quite as the Speax, they’ll save you about $7 a pair and are still a great option for a reusable, lightly absorbent pair of panties. They come in sizes XS to XXXXL, one of the most inclusive size ranges we tested, and a variety of colors and cuts from thongs to boyshorts.
Amazon Basics' disposable incontinence underwear is highly absorbent, soaking up almost the full cup of water with minimal overflow. They’re just fine if you are looking for effectiveness but aren’t concerned with comfort. Neither of our testers found the fit to be ideal, and one thought the construction wasn’t great: "Too big in the butt area," she says. "Of all the disposables, they have the largest pad."
Additionally, we found the material quality only average. One of our testers found that if they pulled too hard on the underwear, the seams ripped. And because of the large pad, Amazon Basics' underwear left an obvious panty line.
They come in sizes S to XXL and only one color, purple.
Wearever’s reusable underpants were some of the least absorbent we tested. When we poured a tablespoon of water on them, the water formed a small puddle before eventually being absorbed by the underwear. And when we poured a cup of water on them, most of it pooled in the crotch and spilled over the sides, and the water that was absorbed soaked all the way through to the other side of the panties, leaving them feeling damp through and through.
Our testers also found the Wearevers to be the ugliest pair they tried. "These are absolutely hideous," says one tester of the mid-rise style. "The waistband was so high that I was actually able to fold them over my workout pants as they came up to above my belly button. I felt really gross and unattractive in these."
These panties come in a few mid-rise to full-cut styles and are available in the largest size range we tested, sizes S to 8X.
The Depend Fit-Flex disposable panties absorb a decent amount of liquid—roughly two-thirds of a cup during our tests—but they’re not comfortable or well-fitting. One of our testers says they feel particularly saggy around the butt and leave a visible panty line. That said, the construction of these underpants, particularly the seams, is more durable than some other disposable options.
They come in sizes XS to XXL and one basic, high-waisted, full-coverage bikini style.
The disposable Depend Silhouette absorbed most of the cup of water but worked best when the water was poured slowly. When poured quickly, about half a cup overflowed, leaving the pants feeling quite damp—not a good sign for managing more severe bladder control issues.
While the pad itself is slimmer than most disposables, the underwear leaves a noticeably visible panty line and makes an annoying crinkling sound as you walk. Additionally, one of our testers ripped a few pairs as she was pulling them on and said they aren’t as well-constructed as some other options.
They come in sizes S to XL and three colors—pink, black, and berry.
I’m Esther Bell, and as Reviewed’s health and fitness writer, I evaluate products that aim to improve your fitness and overall health, from workout gear to personal care products. In the past, I’ve personally tested the best fitness trackers and the best exercise bikes. For this particular review, I consolidated the results of our lab tests and wear tests to offer incontinence solutions you can trust.
We chose some of the most popular pairs of incontinence products including disposable offerings from drugstore staples like Always and Depend and reusable products from period underwear brands Thinx and Knix. Once we made our selections, we tested them for absorbency and durability in our lab and had testers wear each pair for two days to rate them for comfort and style.
Before trying on any underwear, we tested each panty’s absorbency with water in Reviewed’s labs. We performed two tests: On each pair, we spilled one tablespoon (the amount of leakage one might experience with mild incontinence) and one cup (about the average amount of urine one passes each bathroom visit) and evaluated how much liquid was absorbed and how much, if any, seeped through onto the towel placed below.
Then, the underwear went on to our wear testers, both women who experience minor stress incontinence as a result of having given birth. The testers were sent several pairs of the disposable underwear so they could test each for a few days, and they washed and re-wore the non-disposable pairs. All were worn during occasions when the testers expected they might experience leakage, such as for workouts, long car rides, and hikes. We then totaled up the score for absorbency, comfort, fit, and quality to land on these picks.
What is Incontinence?
Incontinence, or bladder control issues, occurs when the muscles of the lower abdomen don’t work as they should to hold urine in, resulting in leakage. Both men and women may experience incontinence, though it’s more common for those with female genitalia and most often happens after pregnancy and childbirth, during or after menopause, and with age.
Symptoms of incontinence can happen to anyone at any age, and are more common than you realize. More than 25 million Americans experience temporary or chronic urinary incontinence that ranges from mild moisture output to frequent wetting on a daily basis, and one in four women experience incontinence in their lives, according to Mayo Clinic.
What You Should Know About Buying Incontinence Underwear
The most important factor to consider before buying incontinence underwear is the absorbency level you require. People with incontinence can experience leakage ranging from a few teaspoons to a full cup depending on the type of incontinence they have.
Incontinence underwear can also be disposable or reusable. Reusable incontinence underwear is designed to be machine-washable and hold up over time, cutting down on storage space and waste. They’re often made with a washable pad tucked inside the gusset that absorbs leaks and can help keep your skin dry. However, reusable incontinence underwear tends to hold less liquid than disposable options, so it usually isn’t the right choice for those with heavy incontinence. The thicker pads in single-use underwear can often hold greater amounts of liquid, making it the better choice for more severe incontinence.
"Most women who have given birth have experienced some leakage, and the non-disposables can help with that issue," says one of our testers. "[But] if you’re truly incontinent, the reusable ones are not going to be helpful at all."
The right pair of absorbent underwear can be a lifesaver for those experiencing mild to moderate incontinence. However, if you’re dealing with sudden or severe incontinence, be sure to talk to your doctor about possible causes and treatments.
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