Underwear comes in contact with some of the most sensitive parts of your body, so it’s important to pay attention to what you’re wearing.
You’ve probably heard advice about plain, white cotton underwear being the best for your vaginal health (white is dye-free and cotton is non-irritating for most bodies), but did you know certain materials may work better on certain days and during specific activities? In fact, you can improve your vaginal health by customizing your underwear to your lifestyle.
Here’s a helpful breakdown of the best options.
On a regular work or school day
When it comes to choosing a pair for average, everyday use, you should be looking for simple, non-irritating material that won’t rub against your skin. You also want to buy something moisture-absorbent, since bacteria grows in wetter environments.
Jan Sheehan, in an article for EverydayHealth that was reviewed by Dr. Cynthia Haines, explains the role of underwear in promoting good health. “Cotton and silk underwear absorb moisture,” Sheehan explains, adding “nylon and other synthetic fabrics hold moisture close to your skin, encouraging the growth of yeast.”
Some women choose to go extra-clean by opting for organic, unbleached undies.
PACT, a popular organic undergarment brand, explains that cotton is a “dirty” crop, meaning it’s often treated heavily with pesticides. According to PACT, cotton doesn’t only use insecticides, but contributes to water pollution and worldwide labor concerns. PACT strives to create a cleaner, more globally friendly alternative by producing underwear using organic fabrics. Organic cotton is unbleached, untreated, and free from heavy metals and chemicals.
If you’re shopping online, it’s easy to find out more about your potential underwear purchase before you make up your mind. On most major retail websites, you can click to view detailed item product information. If you’re attempting to go totally natural, keep your eyes out for blends (there might be some non-cotton materials mixed in there!) and neon colors or patterns.
When you want something a little more fun
If you’re looking to stock your underwear drawer with a few special occasion staples, have no fear! You can look and feel great while still staying away from synthetic irritants. Popular lingerie company Hanky Panky uses natural cotton for the body of their signature lace thongs. They also provide a helpful Fabric Guide that explains the variety of options they have available, including a organic cotton and “low impact-fiber reactive dyes” to keep your panties “free from toxic chemicals.”
If you’re going to purchase a thong, Dr. Shieva Ghofrany, as quoted in a Glamour article written by Danica Lo, encourages entirely cotton thongs rather than cotton “crotch-strips.” With cotton crotch thongs, Dr. Ghofrany says, “the layer outside the crotch…makes the cotton less breathable,” and doesn’t have the same moisture-absorbing properties. It’s possible for thongs to cause skin irritation and chafing. If they do, it might be useful to get a larger size or take a break and wear full-coverage underwear while your irritation clears up.
When you’re working out
If you think it’s important that moisture is absorbed on a regular day, imagine how critical it is when you’ve just finished a tough workout. When you exercise, you want to wear something moisture-wicking that can work fast and keep up with you as you sweat. This is also a perfect time for something soft and non-chafing so you don’t develop a rash or painful symptoms while you walk or run.
Make “workout underwear” a part of your gym bag; just like you make sure to have the right socks, shoes, clothes, and bra to support your workout, you need underwear that can take care of you while you’re on the treadmill.
In a Health article, the Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Melissa Piliang encourages looking for “nylon wicking material that will absorb the sweat and pull it away from the body so it can dry.” Dr. Piliang also reminds us it’s important to change out of your sweaty leggings and underwear when you’re done at the gym. Just like sitting in a wet bathing suit turns you into a bacterial breeding ground, hanging out in your workout gear keeps the moisture in close to your body and promotes bad bacterial growth.
Are you a workout commando kinda gal? Without underwear, you’re likely to irritate the skin and lock moisture in. It puts you at greater risk for infection.
Choosing the right underwear — particularly the right underwear fabric — can make an enormous difference for your health. Though it’s easy to get caught up in cute patterns and frilly lace, opting for simpler and healthier will keep things clean and in good shape. So, next time you head to the gym, try incorporating a few of these tips and see how you feel.