Whether you stick to cotton briefs or you're one of those brave souls who habitually rocks thongs, you should know that your underwear can seriously affect vaginal health and the overall comfort of your lady bits. Of course, we all have our own tried-and-true underwear preferences that work for us — and since no two vaginas are the same, it's possible that although lace irritates the crap out of my downstairs, it may be perfectly OK for you to rock lace panties on the regular. Additionally, even the "right" underwear can cause some serious health problems if they're too tight or too wet. That said, there are certain types of undies you should try to avoid as much as possible, and there are some universal underwear rules that every woman should know about.
If you're anything like me, then your underwear drawer probably contains a little bit of everything, and you probably also have days where you end up saying, "f*ck it" and opt to go commando. Whatever your underwear preferences are, though, it's important to know the weird ways underwear can affect your health — because although vaginas are super strong, they're also incredibly prone to irritation and infection.
Here are seven things to keep in mind about how your underwear choices can affect your vaginal health.
1. Super-Tight Underwear Can Lead To Yeast Infections & Ingrown Hairs
As I'm sure you know, the skin around your vaginal area is thinner (and thus more sensitive) than the rest of your skin. Because of this, it's very important to wear underwear that fits you right. Super-tight underwear causes an uncomfortable amount of friction that will lead to mild irritation at best and ingrown hairs at worst.
On top of that, tight underwear can contribute to the development of yeast infections because it allows for heat and moisture to build up in your vaginal area — and heat and moisture create the ideal setting for bacteria to grow down there, as we'll see throughout this article.
2. Thongs Can Spread E. Coli To Your Vagina
Don't freak out too hard over this item if you love thongs or rely on them for those times when you want to avoid panty lines. I'm not saying you shouldn't ever wear a thong again, but if you do decide to keep thongs in your underwear drawer, there's a few things you should know about how they can mess with your health.
Since thongs literally go inside of your butt crack, and they tend to slide around a lot, they can transfer E. coli bacteria from your anus to your vagina. Additionally, if you're already prone to yeast infections, UTIs, and vaginal irritation, the wrong thong will only exacerbate your issues. So, if you want to continue wearing thongs, at least try to find a well-fitting one that won't slide all over the place and isn't too, too tight in the inseam. You should also avoid itchy fabrics like lace — which brings us to...
3. Breathable Fabrics Are Your Friend
The best fabrics for your pussy are breathable ones — (like 100 percent cotton and seamless panties) because non-breathable and synthetic fabrics like polyester and lace are more likely to irritate your vaginal area while simultaneously putting you at risk for developing yeast and bacterial infections. So, no matter how pretty they look, remember that panties made of lace, polyester, lycra, and nylon are not worth their cuteness — unless they're meant to be appreciated and taken off very quickly.
4. Shapewear Can Cut Off Your Circulation, Mess With Digestion, & Cause UTIs
The last thing I want to do here is Spanx-shame anyone, but shapewear can actually be pretty bad for you if you wear it too tight or for too long. If you don't believe me, believe women's health expert Donnica Moore, M.D., who told Grandparents.com (I know, I know) that if shapewear is “really tight, you could have nerve impingement and decreased circulation.” Moore also says that wearing shapewear can lead to more UTIs, though indirectly. “Shapewear makes it very difficult to go to the bathroom, so when women wear them, they tend to hold it more than they should." As you may already know, UTIs are the friggin' worst — so if you're going to keep wearing shapewear, at least be sure that you're still urinating frequently enough to prevent yourself from developing a UTI.
You should also be aware that, as well as potentially giving you a UTI and decreased circulation, high-waisted spanx that cover you whole abdomen can stifle food digestion and cause you to experience bloating and gas — and that's one of the least scary ways high-waisted shapewear can affect your health. Tight, high-waisted shapewear literally compresses your intestines, colon, and stomach. At best, this can worsen acid reflux and heartburn — but at worst, it can lead to erosive esophogitis and incontinence. Yikes.
5. Sweaty Underwear Can Lead To Yeast Infections
You've probably already heard that sitting around in a wet swimsuit is bad for your vaginal health, but the same goes for wet, sweaty underwear. If you're prone to sweating a lot, you should know that changing your underwear once a day probably isn't going to be enough to protect your vagina from developing a yeast infection — you might want to actually keep a spare pair on hand. Also, on the days you hit the gym or go for a long walk in the park, change your undies as soon as possible after you've finished exercising — because all that wetness is like a breeding ground for yeast and bacteria.
6. Sleeping Commando Keeps Your Vag Happy
You may already know from personal experience that sleeping in the nude is awesome, but it's actually really good for your vaginal health, too. You know how we've been talking about the importance of letting your vagina breathe with breathable fabrics like 100 percent cotton and seamless panties? Well, apparently, nighttime is a great time to let your lady bits air out even more by going commando while you sleep. However, it's not recommended to go without panties during the day, because the seam of your pants can rub your hooha in all the wrong ways and ultimately cause irritation. (Dresses in the summer are another story.)
7. Using Scented Detergents & Dryer Sheets Can Cause Major Irritation
Personally, I have to wash all of my clothes in scent-free detergent, and I use "free and clear" dryer sheets most of the time to avoid any irritation from synthetic fragrance. However, even if you don't have particularly sensitive skin like I do, you should still avoid washing your undies with scented detergent or drying them with scented dryer sheets if you can. The skin surrounding your vagina is thin and sensitive, so the heavy perfumes found in your favorite laundry products can cause some serious irritation and itching down there if you're not careful.
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