6 Underwear Rules Every Woman Should Live By

The right pair of panties will help keep things healthy down there.

When underwear retailer, Freshpair, declared August 5 National Underwear Day in 2003, many may have thought of it as a silly campaign to sell underwear. But the "bottom" line is, we probably don't talk about our panties—and the area they protect—enough.

For example, did you know that the wrong pair of undies during exercise can increase your risk of infection? Or that there is a time when going commando is a good idea?

In honor of skivvies, panties, undies—or whatever you choose to call them—we rounded up six underwear rules every woman should live by, with the help of top experts.

1. Let Her Breathe

Not only is tight-hugging underwear often uncomfortable when worn for long periods of time, it's also not the healthiest situation for your vagina because it limits airflow. And just as important as well-fitting undies are those made with the right material.

"Cotton undergarments are the best due to their breathability," explained Melissa Goist, MD, an OB-GYN at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "Synthetic fabrics tend to hold onto moisture, possibly causing skin irritation."

Though cotton is likely your gyno's first choice in fabric, it sometimes lays lumpy and bumpy under your clothes. But fear not, there are close runners-up. "Panties made of things like polyester, nylon, Lycra, or Spandex sometimes have more stretch and lay nicer under clothing and still come with that cotton crotch," added Melissa Piliang, MD, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

2. Use a Skin-Friendly Laundry Detergent

Treat your skin down there as sensitively as possible, our experts advised. "I like a hypoallergenic detergent, one that's made for sensitive skin, free of dyes or perfumes," said Dr. Piliang.

You should also avoid using bleach on laundry day if your knickers are involved.

"You never want to bleach your panties," warned Dr. Piliang. "Not only does it break down the fibers of the cloth and wear your underwear out faster, but it can also expose you to chemicals when it interacts with elastic that can cause an allergic reaction on the skin."

RELATED: 4 Ways to Pamper Your Sensitive Skin

3. Change Them

Seems obvious, right? But in addition to changing them daily, you should avoid sitting too long in a damp pair on a sweaty summer afternoon—or worse, post-workout, if you're prone to yeast infections.

"Underwear can trap moisture," said Dr. Goist, and added that bacteria and yeast "love to multiply in a warm, wet environment."

Whether you're prone to infection or not, use dampness as a cue to send your undies to the laundry basket, including dampness from your discharge. "If the discharge is bothersome—you can feel the wetness or moisture—then you should get a new pair," added Dr. Goist.

It's also important to note that lingerie has a shelf life. "Once the elastic has failed and they're not staying in place and causing extra rubbing and shifting around, it's time to throw them out and get some new ones," advised Dr. Piliang.

RELATED: The Perfect Pair of Performance Underwear

4. Think Before You Thong

"Due to the nature of the design, thongs could potentially promote transmission of colon bacteria towards and into the vagina," warned Dr. Goist. "This could potentially disrupt the normal bacterial milieu and increase the risk of vaginal and urinary infections."

And if you've ever had the displeasure of working out in a G-string, you may want to invest in a panty that's designed for exercise to keep in your gym bag.

"Lots of sports gear incorporate these elements these days," said Dr. Piliang. "Bras, socks, shorts, and underwear now come in a kind of nylon wicking material that will absorb the sweat and pull it away from the body so it can dry. The last thing you want to do is sit there in a soaking wet pair of underwear."

And while some research suggests that thong use itself is not associated with yeast infections, a good general rule of thumb to go by: Wear a thong if you want to, but limit their use to when you really need to wear them (yes, we're looking at you, Little Black Dress).

RELATED: 5 Things You Definitely Should Not Be Doing to Your Vagina

5. Study the Stains

Grossed out? Don't be. You don't have to get that up close and personal with your unmentionables, but you should be paying attention because your discharge can tell you a lot about your health and whether things are working as they should down under.

"Normal is different for everyone," said Dr. Goist. "Often an off-white discharge is not concerning, but if you have an odorous discharge or notice new blood—and you are not about to menstruate—you should call the physician to discuss."

RELATED: Good Gyno Hygiene: Debunking Pelvic Myths

6. Know When to Go Bare

You've probably wondered whether going commando is safe for your lady bits. Turns out, it is—if you're comfortable sans that little layer between you and, well, everything else.

"Commando is safe as long as there is no other fabric causing friction on the vulva," explained Dr. Goist.

But there are a few instances where skipping underwear is not in your best interest (and not just when you're in a dress on a windy day).

"First of all, wear undies when you work out," recommended Dr. Goist. "If you don't, the friction from the workout can cause major discomfort and soreness." She also advised never to skip underwear when wearing jeans to prevent painful chafing that can lead to sores—and then possible infections.

Your safest bet is relaxing panties-free at bedtime. In fact, it's sometimes a healthier option at night. "If a woman is having vaginal problems, discharge, or pain then often sleeping commando is encouraged," said Dr. Goist, who gives the go-ahead for snoozing easy and breezy in a nightgown or your birthday suit.

RELATED: 8 Ways to Fall in Lust With Your Body

"There are many different types of panties these days, and somewhere you're bound to find something that feels both nice on your skin and comfortable on your body," said Dr. Piliang. So whether you're a cheeky gal, lacy lady, boy-short lover, or full-coverage fan, always practice these safe and sanitary panty habits to keep your nether regions healthy and infection-free.

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