When you get dressed in the morning, you might consider the weather, your post-work plans, and how you seriously need to do laundry ASAP. But you probably don’t think much about your health.

While proper hygiene and common sense can generally keep you safe, these hazards could be hiding in your closet.

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.

Experts say that flip-flops expose your feet to all the gross things: bacteria, viruses, and fungi that can trigger an infection if you have so much as a hangnail or a microscopic skin tear and a not-so-top-notch immune system. On top of that, your sorry excuse for sandals can cause heel pain, disfigure your toes, and affect your posture to trigger a host of other aches and pains. So save your flip-flops for the gym shower and pool deck, and rely on more supportive footwear to take you everywhere else.

0f course sweatbands sop up sweat, but they also collect bacteria that can stick around even after the fabric dries. If you’re predisposed to breakouts, a repeat wear can redistribute the bacteria and exacerbate acne. It might not lead to imminent death but can have a significant psychosocial impact that affects quality of life, messing with your self esteem and affecting your social life, just as much as life-threatening conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, Dr. Zeichner says.

Besides the obvious risk of falling victim to gravity (and making a fool of yourself), wearing high heels even a few times per week for a few years can lead to an ankle muscle imbalance that can set you up for injury, according to a recent study published in International Journal of Clinical Practice. Luckily, the researchers say that heel lifts (stand barefoot and come up onto your tippy toes) and heel drops (stand on the edge of a stair and slowly lower your heel over the edge) can help if flats aren’t an option.

Fabric dye can irritate the delicate skin around your vagina — especially if you already have sensitive skin or you’re prone to recurringvaginal infections, says Dr. Montgomery. While brand new, colored underwear made of a synthetic material is likely to be the worst offender, white cotton is always your best bet, he adds.

A warm, moist bikini bottom makes a lovely home for yeast and bacteria to flourish. Synthetic fabrics can keep that moisture in place, explains Owen Montgomery, M.D., chairman of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If you’re prone to infections (you’ll know because you’ll get them all the time), a bathing suit that’s wet can really increase your risk. But you don’t have to skip the swim. Instead, change into dry bottoms as soon as you step out of the pool. And because ill-fitting bikini bottoms can reduce air circulation in the crotch area, which can also setyou up for infection, make sure your
bathing suits fit properly — the edges shouldn’t leave indentations on your skin. A little give can also prevent sweat gland blockage and the itchy red bumps that result from it, Dr. Zeichner says.

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.




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