Why Do We Wear Underwear?

Putting on underwear is part of most people’s daily routine, but why do we wear them? The main reasons why people wear underwear are for protection, style, and comfort. “Underwear provides a barrier to your clothes, provides comfort and support,” said Dr. Sam Rahman, a board-certified OB/GYN and clinical assistant professor of OB/GYN at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine and founder of the Center for Gynecology and Cosmetics.

From thongs to boxer briefs, everyone has preferences on what they decide to cover their genitals with, but what other purposes do our beloved undergarments serve us?

Nine reasons why we wear underwear

1. Protects clothing from bodily secretions

As we move throughout our day, we can release sweat, blood, vaginal discharge, and urine from our genital areas. Underwear can help catch these secretions, preventing them from leaking onto our clothing. If you experience heavier discharges, you can purchase underwear with thicker fabrics to reduce leakage.

2. Lowers the risk of infection

Wearing cotton underwear can reduce the risk of developing certain infections and bacteria like bacterial vaginosis (BV). Aside from infections and bacteria, underwear can protect us from environmental toxins, like fungi and dirt, entering our genital areas.

3. Eliminates chafing

Chafing occurs when there’s repetitive skin-on-skin contact or when your skin rubs against your clothing. Wearing too-tight clothing or participating in intensive workouts can increase your chances of chafing in the pelvic area.

“Underwear can protect against friction and irritation from clothing,” said Dr. Rahman. Getting a pair of comfortable underwear, like boxer briefs and boyshorts, can help to prevent “chub rub”.

4. It helps with excessive sweating

As most know, working out can cause an excessive amount of sweat. With this in mind, wearing underwear that allows the genital area to breathe during intensive physical activity is essential. Underwear containing polyester or lycra should be avoided, as these materials can trap moisture, potentially causing infections.

5. Reduces acne

Wearing ill-fitting underwear or opting to go without any can cause vaginal pimples. Vaginal or genital pimples are bumps that develop around the vaginal area. They can arise from many reasons, like semen, urine, and sweat.

Pimples can develop if these substances sit on the vaginal region for too long. Underwear can act as a barrier by absorbing these substances to prevent breakouts.

6. Improves self-esteem

Throwing on a pair of cute undies can significantly boost confidence. Whether for personal pleasure or to excite your partner in the bedroom, wearing underwear is an excellent way to boost your self-confidence internally and externally.

7. Secures menstrual products

People who menstruate may find wearing underwear helpful for keeping feminine products, like pads and panty liners, in place. In addition, a pair of underwear can help reduce leaking when the unexpected happens.

“For those who menstruate, underwear can also serve as a way to secure menstrual pads and an extra border for those all too familiar with menstrual leaks,” said Professor Tanja Premru-Sršen, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical advisor for Bellabeat.

8. Prevents camel toe

As most may know, a camel toe is when the outline of the vagina is shown through clothing. A camel toe often occurs when a woman goes without underwear, which allows any tight clothing to latch tightly against the vagina. Avoid potential embarrassment by wearing thicker underwear made out of cotton.

9. Keeps genitals dry

As mentioned prior, excessive moisture in the genital area can allow for bacterial infections to develop. Having your vagina or penis covered by underwear can help with moisture control, keeping potentially harmful bacteria at bay.

When purchasing underwear, it’s recommended that you purchase slightly loose-fitting undergarments made of cotton. “If using underwear, we recommend cotton and non-synthetic underwear so that there is less irritation to the vulva,” said Dr. Rahman.

Selecting the best underwear for your body

Now that we’ve covered why we should wear underwear, here are some tips for selecting the best underwear for you.

Don’t wear tight underwear

Wearing tight underwear can be just as bad as going without them. Tight underwear can trap moisture, drawing in harmful bacteria to your genital area. With this in mind, be sure that your underwear fits you comfortably and allows your genitals to breathe.

In certain cases, it’s okay to go without underwear

Although underwear can help prevent infections, it's okay to go without it sometimes if you’re prone to frequent yeast infections. “For situations like this, it is suggested to sleep without underwear for periods of time if you are not comfortable going underwear free during the day,” said Prof. Premru-Sršen.

Avoid certain fabrics

Cotton is the preferred fabric for underwear. It’s a breathable material that keeps your vagina or penis cool and dry throughout the day. “Opt for breathable cotton for the best health benefits,” said Prof. Premru-Sršen.

Change underwear immediately after a workout

After you’ve finished a workout, be sure to change your underwear immediately. If possible, put on a fresh pair of undies before leaving the gym to prevent bacterial growth from developing as you make your way home to shower.

Underwear for your health

Wearing underwear can provide a plethora of benefits to protect the health of our genital areas.

If you’re unsure about what size underwear you need, visit your local lingerie store to get fitted by a specialist.

Please consult your doctor for professional medical advice if you have health concerns about discharge or discomfort from underwear.

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