Loss of bladder control is relatively common among women, cropping up for a number of reasons at various life stages. "Urinary incontinence occurs when you actually lose urine," says California-based OB/GYN and women's health expert Sheryl A. Ross, MD, who goes by "Dr. Sherry."
She explains that the condition is caused by a weakened urethra (the tube that transports pee out of your body) and pelvic floor muscles. This can happen during childbirth, with chronic coughing or sneezing, as a result of high-impact exercise, as a symptom of obesity, or as a normal part of the aging process. "You can even inherit urinary incontinence," Dr. Sherry adds.
Incontinence products make up a growing market, and today’s offerings include pads, panty liners, even designer-esque disposable undies. You might need to use incontinence products postpartum, at night, while working out, or whenever. And you’ve got options.
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Our best overall pick is The Honey Pot Company Organic Cotton Cover Herbal Incontinence Daytime Pads With Wings, which are made from certified organic cotton with an absorbent foam core and scented with essential oils. (There’s also a non-scented option.) Adhesive wings help them stay put in your underwear. For something more affordable, consider Always Discreet Heavy Long Incontinence Pads, which you can pick up in your drugstore or supermarket, and feature contoured coverage for a comfy fit.
We conducted hours of research on the best incontinence pads, evaluating each on comfort, fit, absorbency, and design. After considering dozens of models and consulting with an OB/GYN, we rounded up the best in show.
Ahead, find the best incontinence pads for comfortable, effective leak coverage.
Best Overall: The Honey Pot Company Organic Cotton Cover Herbal Incontinence Daytime Pads With Wings
Essential oils could be irritating
Our number-one pick comes from The Honey Pot Company. Designed for all-day comfort, the brand's Herbal Incontinence Daytime Pads have certified organic cotton covers and ultra-absorbent cores made of natural pulp and foam. They fit easily in your underwear and stay in place, thanks to adhesive wings. The daytime pads will keep you dry from morning till night, but The Honey Pot Co. has panty liners for occasional leaks and super-absorbency overnight pads as well.
These urinary incontinence pads are infused with lavender, rose, and mint essential oils to keep odors at bay and help you feel fresh throughout the day. While they're billed as hypoallergenic, one thing to note is that the fragrance could be irritating for some. However, there's also an unscented option without essential oils.
Type: Winged pads | Material: Organic cotton, natural pulp, foam | Absorbency: Heavy | Quantity: 16
What Our Experts Say
"Any activity that increases abdominal pressure can bring about stress incontinence, especially if your bladder is full. Stress incontinence happens during coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising, lifting anything heavy, walking, standing up, getting out of the car, or having sex."—Sheryl A. Ross, MD, OB/GYN
Best Drugstore: Always Discreet Extra Heavy Long Incontinence Pads
Hard to fit in some underwear
If you're looking for something you can pick up at your local drugstore or supermarket, Always is a solid choice. Made of cotton and foam, these reasonably priced incontinence pads boast an ultra-absorbent, fast-drying core.
In addition to all-day comfort and leak-free protection, the brand's OdorLock technology helps neutralize odors with a light scent. The extra-long design and contoured leak guards on the sides help keep you dry, but just a heads-up: The length might make it tricky to fit in some underwear.
Type: Wingless pads | Material: Cotton, foam | Absorbency: Heavy | Quantity: 39–128
Best Overnight: Tena Intimates Extra Coverage Overnight Incontinence Pads
Long and wide coverage
May break apart upon removal
For those looking for overnight protection, we recommend Tena Intimates. Measuring 16 inches long with a wide back, side barriers, and liquid-locking technology, they offer maximum absorbency and coverage.
These multi-layered incontinence pads are made of soft polyester, cushiony foam, and wood-derived fibers (similar to what's used to make toilet paper and paper towels). The materials are breathable and comfortable while quickly soaking up leaks and wicking away moisture. If the core is completely full of liquid by morning, some reviewers note there's a chance it could break apart when you remove it from your underwear.
Type: Wingless pads | Material: Wood fiber, polyester, foam | Absorbency: Super | Quantity: 28–90
Best Absorbency: Poise Ultimate Absorbency Regular Incontinence Pads
Materials aren't listed
As the name suggests, Poise Ultimate Absorbency Pads promise the highest level of absorbance you can get with incontinence liners. Though the materials aren't specified, they're designed to instantly soak up bladder leaks, control odors, and keep moisture locked within the core.
These contoured pads are also designed to reduce bunching and help prevent pee from spilling out the sides. The price per pad is a little steep, but if you want maximum protection, these might be your best bet.
Type: Wingless pad | Absorbency: Super | Quantity: 33–112
Best for Light Leaks: Cora Free-To-Move Bladder Liners
Ultra-thin yet absorbent
Soft and flexible
Adhesive may stick to skin
If you just need light coverage for occasional leaks, Cora is a good choice. The brand's Free-to-Move Bladder Liners feature an organic cotton top sheet over ultra-thin, yet highly absorbent, layers of wood pulp and foam.
Don't let the soft, flexible, comfy design fool you. These unscented incontinence pads quickly soak up 16 times their weight in liquid while locking in odors to keep you dry and fresh. The only potential downside is that the adhesive backing works almost too well in that it might stick to your skin.
Type: Panty liners | Material: Organic cotton, wood pulp, foam | Absorbency: Medium | Quantity: 30–156
Best Fit: Nexwear Moderate Pads
Sometimes, it's more about fit than anything else. With this in mind, Nexwear Incontinence Pads are designed for comfort. Instead of starting as a flat sheet, the wingless, form-fitting design is curved to accommodate the shape of your body.
These liners are not only comfy but also impressively absorbent with built-in odor neutralizers. While Nexwear doesn't list the specific materials, they boast a thin, high-performance core, a breathable "skin shield," and a "cloth-like" feel.
Type: Wingless pads | Absorbency: Medium | Quantity: 30–90
Best Reusable: Rael Organic Cotton Reusable Incontinence Pads
Machine-washable and dryer-friendly
Durable and long-lasting
High price per count
Interested in a reusable design? Look no further than Rael. These fabric incontinence pads are made primarily of organic cotton and feature a thin layer of foam, plus nickel fastener snaps on the back. They're not only naturally absorbent, moisture-wicking, and breathable but also durable, holding up for over 100 uses.
Just like your cotton undies, you can toss them in the washer after each wear and tumble-dry them without any special care considerations. These pads come in packs of three, and while they're more expensive than the disposable variety, you might save money in the long run.
Type: Reuseable/washable pads | Material: Organic cotton, foam, nickel snaps | Absorbency: Medium | Quantity: 3
Best Underwear: Hazel High & Dry Briefs
Flattering high waist
Soft and stretchy
We're also big fans of Hazel. The brand's take on wearable incontinence solutions is disposable underwear. Made of a naturally derived fabric, performance microfiber, and spandex, they're exceptionally soft and stretchy with reliable absorbency.
Unlike many single-use panties, High & Dry Briefs flaunt a flattering high-waist cut and a smoothing, supportive control-top. While they only come in black, the color is decidedly un-diaper-like. Beyond the steep price tag, one drawback is that they're currently only available by subscription.
Type: Briefs | Material: Natural-fiber fabric, performance microfiber, spandex | Absorbency: Super | Quantity: 30–60
Our top choice is The Honey Pot's Organic Cotton Cover Herbal Incontinence Pads. These winged liners are comfy, breathable, and impressively absorbent with odor control and an effortless fit. And if you're interested in single-use bladder control underwear, we recommend Hazel's soft and stretchy High & Dry Briefs.
Meet the Expert
What to Look for in Incontinence Pads
When shopping around for incontinence pads, pay attention to the absorbency level. Like menstrual pads and tampons, they're available in many options, ranging from light (for occasional leaks) to medium (for moderate incontinence) and super (for maximum protection). Like period products, higher absorbency typically means the pad will be thicker.
Cut and Fit
The cut and fit of your incontinence pads are also important. They come in various designs, including extra-long, ultra-thin, wide, winged, contoured, and curved—to name just a few. Bear in mind that longer, wider pads can be trickier to fit into underwear. As long as they offer the right absorbency, panty liners often have a more discreet, low-profile cut.
You'll also want to consider comfort. Fast-acting absorbency will help you stay dry, and the proper fit will help minimize chafing while preventing the adhesive backing from sticking to your skin.
Beyond that, incontinence pads made of cotton and wood pulp fibers will be naturally breathable and moisture-wicking. Some feature spandex for added stretch, and soft foam to add cushioning and lock in liquids.
What is the difference between incontinence pads and menstrual pads?
The main difference between incontinence pads and menstrual pads is their purpose. Menstrual pads are designed to contain a period flow, which is often no more than a tablespoon per day of blood. Incontinence pads, on the other hand, are generally more absorbent, as they're made to soak up as much as a day's worth of pee.
What are incontinence pads made of?
Incontinence pads can be made of a variety of materials. The absorbent cores often consist of polyurethane foam, gel, or naturally derived pulp. On top, there's typically a breathable fabric, such as cotton or polyester. Some contain a small amount of spandex for added stretch and flexibility.
When should you wear incontinence pads?
"Any activity that increases abdominal pressure can bring about stress incontinence, especially if your bladder is full," says Dr. Sherry. Everyone is different, but for many, this includes exercise, heavy lifting, standing for long hours, laughter, coughing, or sneezing. It's ultimately up to the wearer to know their body and plan ahead with leak protection when these instances may arise.
How often should you change incontinence pads?
"The severity of the incontinence will determine how often wearing incontinence products is needed," says Dr. Sherry. Many are designed for all-day wear, some are intended for overnight use, and others should be changed out as needed after each bladder leak.
Dr. Sherry explains that someone with stress incontinence may need to wear multiple high-absorbency pads throughout the day or even leak-control underwear. "They have completely replaced traditional underwear for some women and men," she tells Byrdie.
Why Trust Byrdie
Theresa Holland is a freelance commerce writer specializing in personal care, textiles, and lifestyle products. For this story, she interviewed an OB/GYN for insight into the causes of urinary incontinence and how leak-control pads work. After referencing peer-reviewed journals for information about the condition and the various materials used to make incontinence pads, she considered dozens of options from myriad brands. Of the above examples, Theresa has personally used products from Always, Rael, Cora, and Hazel.
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