Some of us have at least one dirty secret: we are making underwear mistakes – including not changing them as often as we should. According to a 2019 survey by the underwear manufacturer Tommy John, about 45 percent of us go for two or more days without changing our skivvies. Men were 2.5 times more likely than women to go for a week or more. Harmless hygiene habit or health hazard? Read on to find out more about underwear mistakes and the impact they can have on your health.
The crotch is not cotton
Ideally, every last centimetre of your underwear should be woven from these natural fibres, but at the very least, the centre stretch should be lined in cotton to keep your nether region fresh and dry. Research, including a study published in 2018 in Obstetrics & Gynaecology, suggests that wearing non-cotton-crotch underwear can set you up for a yeast infection. Synthetic fabrics – like polyester and lace – can mess with your vaginal health by trapping heat and moisture, irritating the skin and creating an environment for bacteria or a fungus to overgrow and multiply. Silk (sorry) has the same effect. Save the fancy for special occasions, but otherwise stick with cotton.
“It’s a very breathable fabric that has the ability to reduce moisture,” says Jennifer Wider, MD, women’s health expert and author of The Savvy Woman Patient. “As a result, women who wear 100 percent cotton have less of a chance of vaginal irritation and yeast infections.”
The size is too small
Size matters – and not just because you don’t want panty lines. Tight-fitting undergarments (and pantihose for that matter) can keep your lady bits hot and sweaty – and not in a good way, but more along the irritation- and infection-promoting lines. In some women, snug underwear can trigger symptoms of a painful condition known as vulvodynia (so can inserting a tampon and having sex). “If your underwear is too tight or too small, the chances of vaginal and vulvar irritation increases,” says Dr Wider. So, too, does “the ability of bacteria to multiply if there isn’t enough opportunity for aeration.”