Good question. Pads and panty liners look very similar and essentially they are, apart from a couple of key differences. And it is these differences that will help you decide which product is better for you at different points in your cycle.
Women’s bodies come in all shapes and sizes and our menstrual cycles are all different as well. Some women bleed heavily for others it’s a much lighter flow, and different women experience different amounts of discharge throughout the month.
Panty liners and sanitary pads are both made from an absorbent material and are placed in your underwear to soak up menstrual blood or other discharge and both are available in lots of sizes and as either reusable or disposable items.
Liners are smaller, thinner and absorb less liquid than pads, and are generally worn at the beginning or end of your period, when you are expecting your period to start or on lighter flow days. Some women wear liners daily to absorb discharge or mild incontinence.
Panty liners are also great to wear daily or as a backup for menstrual cups or tampons. Or even just soaking up your sweat during a workout or keeping you feeling dry and fresh on a hot day.
Menstrual pads are thicker and more absorbent than panty liners and are generally used for heavier flow days during your period but can also be used for mild incontinence although specially designed incontinence pads will be more effective.
Pads come in different sizes and levels of absorbency and it can take a bit of trial and error to find the best fit for your body. Many women use longer pads at night and the heavier your flow the more absorbency you will need.
Again you can opt for reusable or disposable pads but it is worth noting that many disposable pads and panty liners will contain plastic, fragrance and other chemicals that may irritate this delicate area of your body.
As every woman is different and we all have different cycles and different preferences there is no one size fits all solution. As liners are thinner they are generally less noticeable when you are wearing them and so are often preferred if you don’t require a higher level of absorbency.
Many women with heavier flows will also opt for a menstrual cup or tampons during their period which catches or absorbs the blood before it leaves the body. In this case, you may not need pads at all and use a liner as back up, or you may still choose to use pads overnight.