There’s a good chance you don’t put a lot of thought into your underwear when you get dressed every day. You’re probably worrying more about the clothes that go on top of those underwear, right? Turns out, that might not be the best move — your lady bits deserve some consideration, and grabbing the wrong pair can have some seriously unpleasant side effects. Here are the underwear mistakes you should avoid the next time you get dressed.
Not wearing cotton
Let’s face it, ladies, cotton underwear may not be the sexiest choice you can make — but it’s the healthiest. “Silk and synthetic fabrics are not breathable, which increases the risk of moisture being trapped and retained, which can create a yeast or bacterial infection,” Donnica Moore, M.D., told The Huffington Post. She added that if you must wear underwear made from synthetic fabrics, you should at least choose a pair with a cotton-lined crotch. Limit the silky panties to special occasions — especially those where they won’t stay on very long.
Thongs may be the perfect solution to panty lines when you’re rocking your yoga pants, but they come with risks that are just, well, gross. “If you have a little bacteria — E. coli is the most common bacteria in the colon — in the back part of the fabric and you’re physically active, that material may move,” Dr. Jill M. Rabin told The Huffington Post. “All it has to do is move an inch or two and it’s next to the vagina or urethra. That thong may be depositing colonic bacteria into your vagina or urethra.”
If that’s still not enough to make you ready to trash your thongs, irritation from the thin material can also lead to skin tags on the vulva and rectum — probably not the look you’re going for down there. Rabin added that choosing cotton thongs, wearing them for short periods of time, and keeping yourself clean will probably keep you healthy… but is it worth it?
Wearing underwear to bed
Okay, so hear me out on this one. I’m not telling you to go bed naked, I’m just saying it might not be a bad idea to go commando under those comfy pajamas of yours — especially if you’re a frequent flyer when it comes to issues like yeast infections and vaginal inflammation. Trapped moisture can lead to increased bacteria and even yeast infections, and wearing underwear 24/7 can increase that risk.
Michigan State University ob-gyn Nancy Herta, M.D., told Glamour, “Allowing that area to get some air helps to keep it dry and clean.” If you can’t bring yourself to ditch the underwear every night, try it out for at least a couple nights a week and see if you notice any improvements.
Not wearing them during the day
Just because it’s better to let your lady parts breathe while you sleep doesn’t mean you should plan on going commando all day, every day. Melissa Goist, M.D, told Health that while it’s okay every now and then, it’s definitely not advisable to go without underwear in some situations. According to Goist, going sans-panties while you wear clothing that causes friction, like jeans, can actually lead to chaffing and sores — which can eventually become infected. No, thank you!
Wearing the wrong size
No one wants to wear underwear that sag — it’s uncomfortable and unsightly. But wearing too-tight underwear is just as bad, and might even be worse. Wearing too-tight clothing in any area of the body can lead to chafing and irritation, and the vagina is no different. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a good place to be dealing with chafed skin.
Wearing underwear that doesn’t leave room for a little air to move around can also cause moisture to be trapped, possibly leading to a yeast infection. It’s probabaly best not to size down when picking out your undergarments from now on.
Wearing colored underwear
It’s definitely fun to pick out underwear in a wide variety of pretty colors and patterns, but Owen Montgomery, M.D., told Cosmopolitan it might be bad for your health. “Fabric dye can irritate the delicate skin around your vagina — especially if you already have sensitive skin or you’re prone to recurring vaginal infections,” he said. Looks like it’s tighty-whities from now on, ladies!
Wearing the wrong ones to workout
You probably spend a lot of time making sure you have the cutest yoga pants for your next workout session, but how much time do you put into making sure you’re wearing the right underwear when you hit the gym? Ob-gyn Justin Shelton told Women’s Health that wearing the wrong underwear when you exercise can cause a lot more than discomfort — it can cause health issues.
“Wearing underwear that’s too tight, or that’s made of material that doesn’t breathe well or doesn’t wick away sweat can lead to an infection,” he explained. “Bacteria breeds in an environment that’s dark, moist, and warm, so if you foster that environment it’s not going to be good.”
Skip the cotton skivvies for your workout, and instead reach for something that’s moisture-wicking and breathable.
Not changing underwear after a workout
Sitting around in your sweaty clothes (and underwear) after a workout may do more than make you smell a little ripe. According to Jen Gunter, M.D., it can lead to a female version of “jock itch.” She told Glamour that while it probably won’t give you an internal infection, it’s not uncommon for women to develop intertrigo, an itchy, yeast-induced issue in the groin area that’s usually accompanied by a rash. Since it’s often brought on by moisture and friction, changing into a clean and dry pair of underwear post-workout can go a long way toward keeping this uncomfortable condition at bay.
Putting your underwear in the dryer
It’s easy to throw your underwear into the washer and dryer without much thought, but they call them “delicates” for a reason. While it’s possible to get away with not hand-washing underwear, especially if they’re cotton, throwing them in the dryer is basically giving them a death sentence, according to Women’s Health. Lingerie expert Jenny Altman told them the heat breaks down fabrics, meaning the elastic in your underwear will be saggy before you know it. Instead, try using a drying rack or clothing line. Since they’re small and made of light fabrics, they probably won’t take as long as you think to dry.
Washing them with the wrong detergent
The skin on your arms and legs might not call for special detergents, bur your vagina may have different requirements, according to Donnica Moore, M.D. She told The Huffington Post one issue she sees a lot of is contact dermatitis. “The number one cause of that is your laundry detergent. The tissues that your panties come in to contact with are a lot more sensitive than your elbows.”
Moore recommended choosing a hypo-allergenic detergent — or at least choosing one that’s not heavy on the perfumes. “I don’t know why we need our vaginas to smell like a garden,” she added.
Wearing the wrong cut for your body
Just because there’s a style of underwear that you think looks the cutest, doesn’t mean that style will look the cutest on you. Lingerie expert Tomima Edmark told The Berry that there are five basic shapes for rear ends, and it’s important that you choose the underwear style that best fits yours. If you don’t, you could end up with undies that bunch or pull — and that doesn’t look or feel good.
So figure out if you’re square, v-shape, a-shape, round, or upside-down heart — and get shopping!
Wearing the wrong cut for your outfit
Even if you’ve found a cut of underwear that works great for your shape, it might not work well with every one of your outfits. Lingerie expert Mariana Hernandez told E! News that simple mistakes like wearing low-cut panties under high-waisted pants can make a big difference in whether your outfit is a big hit — or a major fail. She also warned against wearing underwear made of textured fabrics, like lace, under tight or light-weight clothes, as the texture may show through.
Wearing white underwear with white clothes
As if it’s not stressful enough to try and keep your white pants clean, now you have to worry about them being too see-through, as well. Common sense would tell you that you should be wearing white panties underneath white pants and skirts to keep them concealed, right? Turns out, that couldn’t be more wrong.
Lingerie expert Mariana Hernandez told E! News that white undergarments will actually show through white clothing pretty easily. Instead of matching your skivvies to your clothes, you should be matching them to your skin tone if you don’t want them to be visible.
Choosing underwear with raised seams
Cute little details like ruffles along the seams might make your undies super cute — but they’ll lose all of that cuteness factor when they turn your rear into a bumpy mess under your favorite pants. If you’re trying to avoid the dreaded VPL (visible panty line), you have a couple of options that don’t include thongs.
If you’re wearing thinner or tighter fabrics, you can still wear full-coverage underwear. Just look for pairs with flat seams, or even ones that are completely seamless. These amazing inventions let you stay completely covered and comfortable, without showing everyone exactly what you’re working with.
Wearing shapewear too often
Those Spanx may give you gorgeous curves, but they could be doing more harm than good if you’re wearing them too often. Keri Peterson, M.D., told Women’s Health, “If they’re worn too tightly and too often, the compression has ramifications.”
Shapewear works by compressing your body, but according to Peterson, all that squeezing can actually cause a whole host of issues, like acid reflux and incontinence. If worn too often they can even cause your organs to shift — yikes! Peterson says if you don’t have any underlying health issues, it’s fine to wear shapewear from time to time, but overdoing it can cause major issues.
Wearing underwear that’s too thin
Let’s not mince words here… it’s time to talk about the camel toe. It’s not flattering. In fact, it’s downright embarrassing. Stylist Mia Tucker Williams told Women’s Health there are many ways to keep it from happening, from wearing pants that aren’t too tight to wearing panty liners. But one simple solution she gave is simply to pick underwear made of thicker fabrics. She says thicker fabrics are less likely to shift into unwanted places, helping you to maintain a smoother, less toe-like look.
Not studying the stains
At this point, it’s probably old hat to find a little discharge in your underwear every now and then. But Dr. Melissa Goist, an ob-gyn from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told Health that it’s actually pretty important to take a look and what’s left behind in your skivvies because it can be a good clue about your gynecological health.
“Normal is different for everyone,” she said. “Often an off-white discharge is not concerning, but if you have an odorous discharge or notice new blood — and you are not about to menstruate — you should call the physician to discuss.”
Not buying new ones
We buy new sweaters and shoes at the slightest hint of changing seasons, but how many of us are guilty of wearing the same panties until they’re literally falling apart? Not only do those old undies not look great, but Dr. Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told Health that they can actually cause problems.
“Once the elastic is failed and they’re not staying in place and causing extra rubbing and shifting around, it’s time to throw them out and get some new ones,” she said. It’s time to treat yourself (and your booty) to some new undergarments on the regular.
Figure out what works for you
When it comes down to it, it’s important to choose an underwear that feels as good as it looks. While some of the information from this article might be a bummer to your underwear drawer (sorry, thong fans!), you’ll find there are still plenty of choices out there that look great, feel great, and aren’t bad for your health.