Underwear seems simple enough. You buy it, wash it, wear it, and repeat. But just because you don’t think about it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, because your underwear needs attention and up-keep more than you may think. Thankfully, these underwear hacks every woman should know will ensure your delicates, panties, bras, and all, will be maintained so that they do everything they need to (and more) with a few simple, easy-to-make changes.
Did you know that the wrong pair of underwear during exercise can increase the risk of infections? Or that there are moments when it is better not to wear underwear? These unspoken underwear rules can have an impact on your vaginal health — and, depending on the style, can even affect your mood.
1. Cotton is bliss
Unless you’re looking to dazzle, stick to breathable fabrics as they’re less likely to irritate and cause yeast and bacterial infections. And if you have to put on a gorgeous pair made of lace, polyester or lycra, don’t keep them on too long, so get frisky faster. You may have heard this before, but with all the cute styles in a variety of fabrics out there, it’s worth saying again: cotton is the best underwear fabric.
“The vulva is a very sensitive and delicate area, similar to the lips on your face. You want to treat it gently,” explains Dr. Alyse Kelly-Jones, board-certified OB-GYN. And the most simple, gentle fabric to touch your skin? Yep, cotton. It’s also breathable and absorbent, which can help prevent yeast infections.
“Since it is healthy to have a vaginal discharge — similar to the moisture you always have in your mouth — you want your underwear to gently absorb any extra moisture,” explains Kelly-Jones. Synthetic materials like nylon and spandex don’t allow the area to breathe. Instead, they trap heat and moisture, creating a perfect breeding ground for yeast infections.
2. Do without
Much as it’s a myth that sleeping in your undies is bad for you, it’s good to go commando where possible to just let your lady bits breathe. If you must have them on, however, adhere to point 1. You really don’t need to look sexy when already snoring anyway. There’s a lot of debate about whether or not going underwear-free to bed is better for you.
For those who have a healthy vagina, either choice is fine. For those who deal with regular yeast infections, going pantie-free to bed can make all the difference. Going without a cloth barrier allows the area to breathe overnight and keeps moisture from building up or creating an environment for bacteria to build.
“I believe the vulva area should be exposed to the air, just like any other area of your body,” says Kelly-Jones. If you really don’t like the feeling of being naked, Kelly-Jones recommends wearing loose-fitting pajama bottoms. Just remember, if you’re going without underwear but are wearing another type of bottom, they need to be washed frequently as well. Basically, it doesn’t hurt to go without underwear overnight.
3. Change them
It’s easy to run errands after a hot yoga session without changing into a new pair. Bacteria and fungi thrive in warm and moist environments, so for the sake of your vaginal health, switch up. It seems like we typically wear one pair of underwear a day and then put it in the laundry to be washed. That may not always be necessary. On the other end of the spectrum, you shouldn’t feel restricted to just one pair per day.
Some doctors say that you can get away with wearing a pair of underwear two days in a row if there’s not much discharge or sweat. But if you start to feel uncomfortable because of vaginal discharge buildup, you can change them more than once a day, as Kelly-Jones reminds her patients all the time.
“Many of my patients are bothered by this moisture and wear pantie liners all of the time,” she says. “I think this is not the healthiest of behavior as liners can cause chafing and irritation. Cotton-lined underwear will solve this problem, and it’s OK to change more than once a day.” After they’ve been worn, toss them in the hamper to wash. Unlike jeans, underwear shouldn’t be reworn just to save on doing a load.
4. Do not wear thongs to bed
Even though saucy lingerie can help turn up the heat in the bedroom, wearing a thong could be detrimental to your health. Stick to briefs and boy shorts and avoid wearing thongs while sleeping. Bacteria can spread and pass to the vagina via a thong that can lead to vaginal infections. It’s always been assumed that thongs can’t be good for the health of your nether regions.
However, studies haven’t found evidence that thongs cause yeast vaginitis (YV), bacterial vaginosis (BV), or urinary tract infections (UTIs) — three of the main issues women experience: A 2005 study looked directly at string underwear and found that the microenvironment of the vulvar skin didn’t change at all due to the style of underwear. The underwear had no effect on the pH, skin microclimate, or aerobic microflora. A recent study looked at the association of thongs with UTIs, BVs, and YVs and, again, found no evidence supporting the assumption that thongs can cause these issues. Instead, they concluded that sexual behavior and hygiene choices had caused these conditions.
Avoid douching. A 2011 study specifically associated douching with increased BV. Daily bathing slightly increased the chance of BV. BV was not associated with underwear material, pads, or tampons. So don’t be afraid to wear a thong when the occasion calls for it.
5. Use laundry detergent
Pay as much as possible attention on the skin “down there”. Use hypoallergenic powder that is made for sensitive skin – without dyes and perfumes. Also avoid rinsing the clothing if there are also your panties. If you rinse your panties, you risk destroying them, because they will become worn out and plus, you may be exposed to chemicals that in reaction with the band create an allergic skin reaction. All types of underwear should be handled more gently then the rest of your wardrobe, not just your special lacy, stringy thongs. This isn’t because they’re your “delicates.”
It’s mostly because they sit up against your more sensitive skin area for long periods of time. Kelly-Jones recommends using gentle, hypoallergenic soap to wash them because “anything soapy or chemical next to the vulva can lead to irritation, itching, allergic reactions.”
The cleanest way to wash your underwear:
- After washing, tumble dry on low-heat for 30 minutes.
- Sick roommate or family? Don’t mix your underwear in the same load.
- Don’t mix contaminated underwear with clean underwear or with pants if you have BV.
- Wash underwear separatelt from clothes that have been contaminated with other bodily fluids.