When you shop for underwear, you probably direct most of your attention to the cut, color, and style. But there’s something more important to take into account: how healthy it is for your vagina.
While the average pair of panties will get you through the day, repeatedly wearing certain types can set you up for itching and skin irritation, as well as make it more likely that you develop a yeast infection or other vaginal infection. Even the sexiest underwear isn’t worth that. Next time you hit the undies aisle, here are some points to consider.
The general guideline is to make sure the pairs you wear on the regular feel comfortable. Sounds like a no-brainer, sure, but every woman’s body is different—and you want panties that work with your anatomy, whether boy shorts or bikini cut.
“Buy underwear that makes you feel good and that’s comfortable,” says Lauren Streicher, MD, associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Medical School. Be honest about the size that’s right for you, too. Adds women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, MD: “If your underwear is too tight, you can cause vaginal and vulva irritation.”
If lacy, frilly, or underwear with ruffles is your personal preference, hear us out. While lingerie with all the trimmings is fine to wear for the occasional sexy evening, the synthetic fabrics these are typically made with can trigger chafing and redness, especially if you wear them often or for too long a stretch.
The same goes for thongs. While science hasn’t shown that thongs are all bad, if you’re wearing one that’s too tight or you have synthetic or irritating fabric wedged into your butt cheeks, it could lead to chafing and cuts in your rectum, which can lead to a skin infection.
The healthiest underwear fabric for your vagina? Good old cotton, says Dr. Wider. In general, synthetic materials like nylon, polyester, and spandex trap heat and moisture, while cotton is breathable and wicks away moisture, she says. Not only will you feel more comfy in cotton, but excess heat and moisture are the conditions yeast thrive in. To ensure that your thongs are vagina-friendly, buy brands that make the thong part 100% cotton, if not the entire garment.
To take the guesswork out of finding the perfect pair of panties, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorites to keep your private parts happy and healthy.