How your underwear choices could be affecting your intimate health

By Stephanie Taylor, Managing Director of Kegel8

Months in lockdown has taken a toll on our intimate health. From difficulty seeing a gynaecologist, to unhealthy lockdown habits, the last year has not been easy on our nether regions.

Despite the challenges, there are still easy steps you can take to improve vaginal health and prevent possible infections, and it starts in the underwear drawer.

Stephanie Taylor, intimate health expert and Managing Director of pelvic healthcare company Kegel8, looks at the ways your underwear choices could be affecting your intimate health.

The latest craze

Period pants are marketing themselves as the sustainable alternative to traditional sanitaryware like pads and tampons.

The knickers are made of super absorbent material, allowing them to function a bit like the championed ‘pad’, but without all the waste and fuss.

To cleanse, simply pop in the wash like any other clothing item – however this can be where the problem lies.

If period pants are not washed perfectly to instruction, there is a danger of them becoming unhygienic. This is the same as any other underwear, but due to the nature of the product, consistent cleaning is all the more important.

Wash at minimum of 40 degrees with detergent, just to be safe.

Size matters

We’ve all had those pants that fit just a little too snug.

But did you know that wearing the wrong pant size can not only interfere with your daily comfort and confidence, but can also harm your vaginal health?

Fabric that is too tight on your skin can trap in heat and moisture and cause an imbalance in your vagina’s PH levels.

Tight underwear may also rub your skin and lead to chafing. Irritation along this sensitive area of skin is not only uncomfortable but can also give you painful ingrown hairs.

Your underwear should be the right shape for your body. If your pants are leaving marks on your skin, then it’s time to consider going up a size to avoid possible infections.

Replace your underwear yearly

Have you ever considered whether your pants might have an expiration date?

Debates around this very question were recently sparked online after a TikTok user stated that underwear should be thrown away and replaced every six to nine months.

Though the six-month rule might seem extreme, used underwear can be a breeding ground for bacteria, yeast and fungi, and could result in irritation and inflammation if the vagina is exposed to bacteria for an extended period of time.

That’s why it’s so important to wash pants after every use and never re-wear used underwear.

Ideally, underwear shouldn’t be kept longer than a year to prevent any risk of lingering bacteria from causing infection.

However, if pants are regularly washed, there’s no harm in keeping the odd pair of old knickers.

Or no underwear at all?

To commando or commandon’t – that is the question.

A hotly debated topic amongst experts, the age-old question of whether to go without underwear to this day remains unanswered.

Generally, if you have a healthy vagina, going commando will neither positively nor negatively affect vaginal health, so it’s entirely down to personal preference.

If you are more prone to vaginal infections however, it’s probably a good idea to avoid wearing underwear to bed since this reduces the amount of time genitalia is exposed to bacteria and minimises moisture build-up.

Some experts recommend going commando while you exercise, since bacteria thrives in a warm and damp environment. Damp underwear can also cause uncomfortable chafing, so consider this when weighing up whether to leave the knickers at home while you work out.

If you decide you would be more comfortable wearing underwear, always remove and wash the item after every workout.