Undies, underwear, panties, jockeys, skivvies, drawers. Whatever you call them, most of us wear them all day and night. Here are some interesting facts that you should know about your underwear! This is geared towards women’s underwear, however many of the concepts relate to men as well!
1. Moisture wicking or absorbent materials are best – such as cotton. If non-absorbent, then moisture collects and yeast and other bacteria love this warm, moist environment, making you more susceptible to infections.
2. For the same reason, it’s best to sleep without any underwear. Your body is confined in the undies and clothing all day long and need a break! You can wear pajamas, loose shorts, or nothing, but it’s good to let everything breathe after being confined all day.
3. Thongs should be avoided, especially during exercise! They tend to slide back and forth causing increased friction to the nerve endings in the vagina and can lead to increased irritation. Also, during the sliding back and forth, they will bring bacteria from the anus and feces toward the vagina and urethra. These can lead to nasty uterine, bladder, and vaginal infections. If you absolutely cannot live without your thong, then make sure they are cotton and fit appropriately – not too tight and not too loose.
4. Make sure to wear underwear during exercise to avoid the friction with your pants. However, after you exercise, change your underwear or shower as soon as able. Even if you exercise in cotton underwear, they can get very sweaty, which will create that moisture environment that bacteria love. Throw an extra pair of undies in your gym bag. Your vagina will thank you.
5. Make sure you have properly fitting underwear. Your underwear should not be so tight that it leaves deep marks in the skin. Thongs, underwear, and shapewear that are too tight can lead to nerve irritation and damage in the vulvar region and this can lead to pain vaginally, rectally, and all around the pelvis.
6. Shapewear and spanx (and anything restrictive like skinny jeans) can lead to compression of the bladder and can increase urinary urgency and frequency in some people. They also typically don’t breathe well can lead to infections and can be too tight in the thigh crease causing increased nerve compression and long lasting pain. Again, if you can’t live without your spanx, try to limit the amount of time you spend in them and make sure they are properly fitting – not so tight that your head will pop off!
7. Seamless styles of underwear are the most comfortable for your skin. When the elastic bands are too tight, they can cause chronic irritation and even abrasions to the skin. Sometimes these chronic irritations can go deep enough to permanently cause scarring and skin changes.
8. Avoid washing your underwear in harsh chemicals such as bleach. This can cause chemically induced vulvar irritations and also break down the materials in the underwear causing them to wear out faster which can lead to increased rubbing and skin irritations.
9. Underwear does have a shelf life. However, there is no magic number of weeks or years – some say every 6 months, some say once a year, some say when they fall apart! There will be underwear you will wear more frequently and others don’t make the rotation often. Some telltale signs it’s time to get some new skivvies include when they have lost their shape or support including elasticity, they are uncomfortable or cause irritation, or if you have changed sizes and now they are too big or too small.
Hope these tips are helpful when you next decide to buy new underwear. Remember, cotton is usually best, let your vagina breathe at night, avoid thongs and spanx as much as possible, make sure they fit right and are not irritating, and by all means don’t keep them for 10 years!
This article was written by:
Elayne Geba PT, DPT, WCS
Pelvic Floor and Orthopedic Physical Therapist and Women Health Certified Specialist
In-Person and Online Consultations