That goes for summer, too.
Like many women, I'm pretty picky when it comes to undergarments, and I am a loyal cotton wearer. Until the day I ran out of my everyday cotton undies (laundry day, oof), and dug one last pair out of my dresser: a merino wool bikini panty. A PR person had sent me the Smartwool underwear ($32; amazon.com) to test, but they had managed to fall into the black hole of my underwear drawer. It was July in New York, but I decided to take my chances and pulled them on. To my surprise, I stayed cool and dry all day, and they were surprisingly comfortable. I wondered: Are merino wool panties what I've been missing out on?
Cotton is made of cellulose and is an incredibly absorbent fabric, meaning it can take some time to dry. On the other hand, wool doesn't hold onto moisture, so can dry quickly. You can actually wash merino wool underwear with regular laundry detergent, let it sit overnight, and expect it to be dry in the morning, says Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn based in Orlando.
While cotton tends to be an inexpensive option, it's easy to have spares to switch in whenever things get sweaty down there. Merino wool is more of an investment, but with its temperature-regulating characteristics, you can wear the fabric throughout the year, even in warmer months. So, you'll certainly get your money's worth. Also good: wool doesn't hold onto odor.
One thing to keep in mind is that the fibers in wool can be irritating for those with eczema or atopic dermatitis, sensitive skin, or with allergies to lanolin, says New York City-based dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD. But if you're looking for underwear that may not feel as sweaty while you work, merino wool underwear may keep you drier than cotton. "Merino wool is naturally moisture-wicking and has the ability to pull sweat away from your body and may keep you drier than cotton underwear," explains Dr. Jaliman.
Since that July day, merino wool panties have become a mainstay in my undergarment rotation: they're super soft, are non-irritating for me (and I have sensitive skin!), and I don't feel as sweaty wearing them, even on hot summer days. And because they're so quick-drying and easy to clean, I love packing them for trips. Win! The best part? There's a style out there for everyone, from thongs to boy shorts. Here are four pairs we love.