"There is no one explanation as to why people wear underwear, but the most common reason is that it's viewed as a societal norm," Dr. Elizabeth Eden told Good Housekeeping. So, if we're wearing underwear because that's what we've been conditioned to do, is it really necessary?
More and more women are choosing to forgo underwear for comfort, health, or appearance — no one likes panty lines or wedgies. And while wearing underwear has its benefits, going commando may actually do some good, but the decision to wear underwear or not ultimately comes down to personal preference, as noted by Shape. Medically speaking, however, your vaginal area is "most happy and healthy when it has a chance to breathe," Dr. Lisa Masterson of The Doctor's fame told PopSugar. But before you shout, "Hallelujah!" and ditch your panties, you may want to know what happens to your body when you stop wearing underwear.
When you stop wearing underwear, you may reduce your risk of developing a UTI or yeast infection
No one likes getting an infection down there — it can be itchy, debilitating, and downright annoying. Turns out, if you stop wearing underwear, you may reduce your chances of developing a urinary tract or yeast infection, especially for those of you who suffer regular bouts of vaginal infections. Why? According to Dr. Nini Mai, DACM, who spoke with Well+Good, panties "can trap excess moisture and microbes." And that can create a moist environment where Candida, a fungus that causes yeast infections (via CDC), thrives most in, according to Healthline. This can happen while you're sleeping or at the gym, especially if you're wearing non-breathable panties.
Panties may even cause a UTI, according to Bustle, because the material may help "the spread of bacteria from the rectum to the tract," and this is especially true when it comes to thongs (via The Sun). While there isn't hard evidence that directly links wearing no underwear to fewer yeast infections, reports Healthline, experts say it's not a bad idea going commando as an added precaution.
If you stop wearing underwear at night, you may breathe better down there
While ditching your underwear right before bedtime isn't a hard and fast rule, the practice could help give your lady bits a cool break, especially if you wear underwear during the day. Simply put, your vagina needs fresh air sometimes, according to OB-GYN Alyse Kelly-Jones. "I believe the vulva area should be exposed to the air, just like any other area of your body," she told Healthline.
This nightly ritual could be especially helpful for women who are susceptible to vaginal infections. "You really should sleep without underwear if you're prone to vaginal issues," Dr. Nancy Herta, an OB-GYN, told Glamour. As mentioned before, underwear can trap moisture and that type of wet environment is where bacteria grow and causes yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis. "Allowing that area to get some air helps to keep it dry and clean," Herta said. So if you've been wearing cute lace undies all day, it may be a good idea to stop wearing underwear at night for a happy vagina.
You may experience less irritation and chafing if you stop wearing underwear
Whether you feel gross about the idea of going commando or you're all for freeing your lady bits, it may not be a bad idea to stop wearing underwear completely, or at least occasionally, if you're experiencing irritation or chafing down there. "With underwear that's too tight, irritation and chafing of the vaginal area can occur due to the friction generated," OB-GYN Kecia Gaither told Bustle.
Friction typically occurs when the underwear you're wearing is made up of artificial fabrics, which can "chafe and irritate" the skin, including the labia, exposing you to bleeding or injury, Healthline reported. You're actually more susceptible to chafing or injury if you're menopausal, according to The Sun. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists spokesperson Dr. Vanessa Mackay was quoted by the publication as saying older women tend to "have thinner skin down there so are more susceptible to irritation and rubbing."
If you stop wearing underwear completely, you may want to consider what you're wearing
It's true that going panty-free may help prevent chafing and irritation down there, however, that's also dependent on what pants you're wearing. "If you're wearing loose-fitting pajamas or something comfortable, not wearing [underwear] should be fine and allow your private parts to breathe," Florida-based OB-GYN Christine Greves told Refinery29. But if you're wearing tight pants like jeans sans underwear, according to Self, you may be exposing your lady bits to more irritation as the tough fabric can rub against and put pressure on your vulva especially since you don't have an extra barrier like underwear to protect you.
Irritation may come in the form of redness and itchiness, which mimics symptoms of vaginal infections when it's, in fact, inflammation. If you wax or shave downstairs, you may want to opt for a skirt, dress, or loose pants if you stop wearing underwear every day. "The trend to shave or wax or laser pubic hair, which is a natural protective barrier, has made the delicate skin of the vulva even more vulnerable to irritation from tight clothing," OB-GYN Dr. Maria Sophocles told Women's Health.
If you stop wearing underwear during workouts, you may experience a strong smell down there
If you've chosen to stop wearing underwear every day, you should know it's pretty safe to go underwear-free at the gym or on your morning run — but you might notice an odor coming from your lady parts faster. "Perspiration allows skin bacteria in hair-bearing areas, including the genital area, to cause body odor," OB-GYN Alyssa Dweck told Shape. If you're panty-free, there's no barrier between you and your workout shorts or leggings, so, instead of the sweat hitting your underwear, it goes straight to your pants, causing you to notice that sweaty odor you know and hate faster, according to Shape.
Choosing not to wear underwear during a workout ultimately comes down to personal preference, and it may actually even improve your performance. "Some women prefer to go commando during running, elliptical, spinning, kickboxing, etc., which affords less chafing, less visible lines in tighter workout clothes, and gives a sense of more mobility and flexibility," Dweck said.
If you stop wearing underwear during workouts, you may increase your chances of micro-cuts
If you do stop wearing underwear every day when you work out, you may increase your risk of micro-cuts, also known as vaginal fissures, as reported by Bustle, and yes, it is as painful as it sounds. These fissures are often caused by the stretching or irritation of the skin, and occur if you're doing "repetitive workouts in improper gear without underwear." So, just like with your day clothes, it's important to wear soft, breathable pants while exercising.
In a personal essay for Bustle, Teresa Newsome, a Planned Parenthood clinic manager, compared the vaginal area to your knee. "A good fall can scrape, dent, cut, and bruise your vagina enough to get you out of the workout game for a few days (or weeks) until you heal," she wrote. As it happens, working out sans underwear is safer than wearing a thong. "The material causes more friction and irritation, and any friction or irritation can make little cuts or microabrasions in your skin, and those cuts can lead to bacterial infections, which can cause discomfort, itching, redness, [and] pain," OB-GYN Scott Osmun told HuffPost.
If you stop wearing underwear, you should remove wet clothes immediately after a workout
You might be thinking, "If I'm not wearing any underwear, I can get away with staying in my gym clothes post-workout," but you'd be wrong. "Yeast and bacteria thrive in moist, dark, warm places such as in the genital area confined in tight nonbreathable material during and after a workout," OB-GYN Alyssa Dweck told Shape. It doesn't matter whether or not you're wearing underwear. Dweck suggested immediately changing out of your yoga pants or leggings following any type of workout.
Take it from fitness lover Isis Briones, who wrote a personal essay for Health, in which she admitted that, prior to her decision to stop wearing underwear, she'd stay in her wet yoga pants for hours post-workout, even going to eat and run errands before heading home and showering. That was until she realized it was better for her body to "wash myself off right away." It's also just as important to wash your workout pants after every use, especially if you decided to go commando for the sake of good hygiene, Health reported.
You may reduce your risk of experiencing allergic reactions if you stop wearing underwear
If you stop wearing underwear, you may avoid itchy allergic reactions, Fox News reported. Sometimes panties may cause a localized rash known as contact dermatitis. This is often your skin's reaction to certain "fabrics, dyes, chemicals and preservatives" found in underwear, including latex, which is often used for the waistband, New York City-based allergist Tim Mainardi told Fox News. One way to prevent an allergic reaction is to wear latex-free underwear that's usually hypoallergenic, Mainardi said, or skip underwear altogether.
Your laundry detergent can also cause an allergic reaction, Considerable reported. "The tissues that your panties come in to contact with are a lot more sensitive than your elbows," said Dr. Donnica Moore, a women's health expert. So if you're sensitive down there, going commando may be the best thing for your lady parts. And if you're worried about experiencing a pollen allergy down there when sans underwear, an article from Bustle put that myth to rest.
You may see less discharge if you stop wearing underwear
Alright ladies, let's talk about vaginal discharge. It may not be the most glamorous topic, but it needs to be addressed regardless as we all deal with it, and some may be a little more often than others. Turns out there is some good news when it comes to discharging, which is a "combination of bacteria, vaginal skin cells, and mucus and fluid from the cervix and vagina," as OB-GYN Jennifer Paul explained to Self. You actually may experience less of it if you stop wearing underwear altogether, especially if you normally wear non-cotton panties, OB-GYN Falguni Patel told Bustle. Why? Well, Patel said it's because underwear may prevent "proper ventilation" in your lady parts, leading to more discharge.
Discharge is normal and typically not a cause for concern, Patel also said, unless the discharge is a result of antibiotics or stress, which may lead to an infection. But since going commando allows your lady parts to breathe, there may not be as much wetness down there, and you may avoid this problem altogether.
If you stop wearing underwear, you may be more susceptible to public bacteria
If you decide to stop wearing underwear during the day, you may introduce your lady parts to some unwelcome company. Bustle reported that, while it's extremely rare to contract pubic lice or crabs, you may be increasing your chances of foreign bacteria contacting your skin if your skirt or dress accidentally hikes up on a public bus or subway seat. But you don't have to let that stop you from going commando in public — just be careful to keep your skirt down. And if you're at the gym and plan to sit on a workout bench or bike seat, your pants will provide the barrier you need to keep you from any "bugs lurking on fitness equipment," according to Cosmopolitan.
Daily showers are an obvious way to keep your downstairs clean, especially if you're out and about all day sans underwear, OB-GYN Jessica Shepherd told Well+Good. "Showering can remove bacteria and debris, and if you're not showering every day this can lead to excess bacteria leading to vaginal irritation and infections such as bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections," Shepherd said. So as long as you're practicing good hygiene and common sense, going commando in public isn't dangerous.
If you stop wearing underwear, your circulation may improve
If you stop wearing underwear, it may not just be more comfortable but it could also help improve your blood circulation, especially if you've typically worn tight shapewear like Spanx for a slimmer appearance. "If it's really tight, you could have nerve impingement and decreased circulation," women's health professional Dr. Donnica Moore told Considerable. And since shapewear is generally tougher to pull down, some women may find it a challenge to use the restroom. "So when women wear them, they tend to hold it more than they should," Moore also said. You don't have to worry about that when you're not wearing underwear.
If you do wear tight underwear for a long time, you may experience unwanted tingling in the area, a result of poor circulation, the Los Angeles Times reported. There's even a condition called meralgia paresthetica, which occurs when "there is too much pressure on nerves that run through the groin," causing tingling and numbness. Going commando could help prevent this as long as you don't wear pants that could also cut off your circulation. "Again, do what feels comfortable, and if you're comfortable going commando in jeans or your everyday clothes, go for it," OB-GYN Amanda Kallen told Cosmopolitan.
You may avoid digestive issues if you stop wearing underwear
Going commando may help if you suffer from digestive issues like acid reflux and have typically worn tight shapewear in the past, the Daily Mail reported. Tight undergarments may cause pressure on the stomach and, as a result, push acid into the esophagus, causing the digestive condition. "If you don't have a reflux problem yet, but have a predisposition to it, then wearing tight garments could tip you over the edge into being a sufferer," said Jonathan Wilson, a general surgeon at The London Clinic.
If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, tight shapewear can worsen your symptoms, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. This isn't to say that shapewear isn't for you or that making the decision to stop wearing underwear every day is essential, gastroenterologist Jay Kuemmerle told the Los Angeles Times. "But adopting a healthy lifestyle may obviate the need to feel like you have to wear these things," Kuemmerle explained.