Deciphering Adult Diapers from Protective Underwear from Briefs

In my last few posts, we’ve touched on the differences in product names and functionality for various incontinence products. In this entry, I want to discuss the product differences between the two most absorbent types of adult incontinence care garments: protective underwear and adult diapers.

Protective Underwear: The New Kid on the Block

These pull-on or pull-up products are highly absorbent core pads with breathable, form-fitting elastic waistbands that conform to the person wearing them. Some models come with standing leg cuffs, a feature that protects against leakage around the legs. Protective underwear is one of the most commonly used products for highly mobile incontinent people who need moderate to heavy protection, as the product line offer four to six hours of constant protection. The form-fitting elastic in the waistband and at the legs ensure a snug fit and discreetness underneath clothing.

Protective underwear is often marketed under the brand names Depend Underwear, Attends Underwear, Secure Plus Protective Underwear and Tena Protective Underwear.

Recently there has been a push for a more absorbent, longer-lasting protective underwear product line, led by the Tranquility All-Through-the-Night Protective Underwear product. I’ve developed the X-Plus Overnight Protective Underwear, which is my answer to the need for longer-lasting, overnight protective underwear, and I am sure that there will be more products developed by others in the coming months.

Adult Diapers and Briefs: The Old Standard

As I’ve mentioned before (and we’ve had a great discussion about this in past posts), the mainstay of the adult incontinence care product market has been the taped, fitted adult diaper—aka the adult brief (you say “to-may-to...” ). No matter what you call them, following are some common features shared by most brands:

  • Tape-on construction (versus pull-on)
  • Absorbent core and wings
  • A visual wetness indicator (perfect for caregiving situations)
  • Standing leg cuffs to prevent leakage
  • Re-fastenable tape tabs
  • Extra polymer in the core for greater absorbency
  • Stretch waist bands to ensure maximum comfort.
  • Multiple re-wetting absorbency features

Each brand of tape-on adult diapers usually has two or three levels of absorbency. The most common brands on the market are private label pharmacy brands (usually lower absorbency rated) on up to Depend, Attend, Tena, Molicare, Abena and, of course, Secure. “Regular” or “Standard” absorbency usually denotes less absorbency whereas terms like “X-Plus” or “Extra-Absorbency” refer to briefs and diapers that have an increased capacity for absorbency. Stay tuned for my next posts in this corner as we tackle more incontinence aisle issues!

Until then, be well.

Your partner in comfort,



Learn everything about adult diapers by visiting Everything About Incontinence.


Gary is an adviser to online incontinence care products provider

over 1 year, said...

a adult diaper is Not a brief or underwear. I have worn an adult diaper most of my life and do Not consider it a brief or underwear. It is a Diaper for an adult.

over 4 years, said...

"Recently there has been a push for a more absorbent, longer-lasting protective underwear product line, led by the Tranquility All-Through-the-Night Protective Underwear product." Hi Gary -- Tranquility's "All-Through-the-Night" product is not protective's a disposable brief (diaper). Tranquility's latest longer-lasting protective underwear product is called "Premium Overnight".

almost 5 years, said...

It would be nice to have links to where I can order samples to see what works for my 90+ year old dad. They are pricey and I hate to order a large quantity when I'm in this research phase. But I have to say your article answered many questions. The most difficult problem he is having is leaks through the leg openings from the "pharmacy" adult diapers I have tried locally. I can't seem to find a secure leg opening without the price sky rocketing out of his $ range. Any tips on what I could try or where to look would be appreciated. Thank you.