The Best Underwear Fabrics For Optimal Vaginal Health

While vaginas are typically self-sufficient, built with natural flora that usually keeps them balanced and healthy, there are a few everyday things you can do to ensure the comfort and health of your vulva and vagina, such as being mindful of the foods you eat.

Underwear is often thought of in terms of style and sexiness, but experts say that your choice of panties can potentially impact your vaginal well-being and overall comfort.

In terms of comfort, board-certified OBGYN Dr. Alyse Kelly-Jones told Healthline, "The vulva is a very sensitive and delicate area, similar to the lips on your face. You want to treat [it] gently." In this way, some fabrics are better suited for vulvar comfort, especially when avoiding harsh chemicals and substances involved in the manufacturing process (per Yoppie).

Beyond this, women's health experts also explain how different underwear fabrics can affect the actual health of your vagina. "If you wear underwear that doesn't allow air to flow, such as those made from synthetic fabrics, yeast and other bacteria can overgrow because they thrive in dark, moist areas," says OBGYN Dr. Diana Hoppe (per HuffPost).

So, when it comes to your panties, you should avoid certain underwear mistakes, considering what fabrics are best for your health and comfort.

Cotton underwear is the top choice

According to experts, panties made of cotton are the best choice for optimal vaginal and vulvar comfort. As explained via Women's Health, cotton panties are good because they're absorbent, breathable, and generally affordable. Just look at this pack of five pairs of underwear from Old Navy, which Glamour lists as one of the best cotton options for women.

Even if you aren't opting for completely cotton underwear, it's best to ensure the crotch lining of your panties is made of the material (per The Healthy). As OBGYN and health expert Dr. Sherry Ross explains, "Everyday underwear can be made of nylon, polyester, and spandex as long as the crotch area has a cotton lining, which is more vulva- and vagina-friendly" (per Huffpost).

This way, you can still enjoy lacy underthings as long as they come with breathable cotton linings. While not all studies link synthetic underwear to an increased risk of vaginal infections, cotton, and other natural materials are likely to be more comfortable against the sensitive skin of your vulva.

Additionally, if you find that you are particularly prone to irritations, experts recommend trying out 100% organic cotton underwear, which is a great sustainable option. Otherwise, regular cotton panties should work great.

Performance fabrics are recommended for working out

While cotton underwear is generally a great go-to for vaginal health, experts mention that they aren't always optimal for working out. "Cotton underwear will feel wetter after a workout, so if you are the type of person who sweats a lot, you may be more comfortable in the synthetics made to wick the moisture away," says OBGYN Jennifer Gunter (per Self).

Dr. Diana Hoppe explains that moisture-wicking underwear is usually made of high-tech polyester, designed to be lightweight and sleek. Even if you are going for a performance fabric, you can still choose a pair with a cotton lining, as recommended by the OBGYN, Dr. Diana Hoppe (per Huffpost).

If you're looking for specific recommendations, Dr. Hoppe suggests trying out Fruit of the Loom's breathable underwear line. While made to keep you cool and dry, these panties also come with a 100% cotton gusset. For something sustainable, check out the sports brief from Girlfriend Collective, which advertises moisture-wicking technology.

Linen is a great breathable option

Besides cotton, women's health experts generally recommend choosing underwear made of natural materials. Listing linen as one of these fabrics, Katie Couric Media explains that these non-synthetic materials often have anti-microbial properties, which link to the prevention of vaginal infections.

According to WAMA Underwear, linen panties are praised for being breathable, lightweight, and sustainable. Made from the flax plant, this fabric is also stronger than cotton and super durable (per Thread Curve). While these are excellent pros, linen underwear is not as common as its cotton counterparts and is often more expensive.

Even though they aren't as accessible, linen underwear can still be a good pick if you're looking for something exceptionally comfortable or particularly interested in sustainability. You can find such panties on Etsy, with the featured pair advertised by the store LacyLinen, or you can purchase them from LG Linen.

Hemp underwear offers many benefits

Although gynecologists do not mention it by name, hemp is another natural material that has grown in popularity as an underwear fabric. As explained by Sweat Pants and Coffee, hemp clothing, which is made from plant fibers, is known for its breathability and comfort.

Hemp is also noted as having antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties, which makes for a great underwear material (per The Hemp Shop). The moisture-wicking feature of this fabric also makes it especially beneficial to vaginal health, as it will help prevent the build-up of moisture in panties.

Additionally, hemp is a particularly sustainable product, as it can be grown chemical-free and in small spaces. While some manufacturers choose to use harmful practices in the harvesting and processing of hemp, it is generally one of the most sustainable materials, making it an excellent pick for those concerned with environmental impact (per CDFA).

Hemp underwear can be found on Etsy, but WAMA Underwear is also a popular seller, offering both men's and women's styles.

Merino wool is anecdotally suggested

Merino wool is another fabric that isn't explicitly named by gynecologists but offers many benefits experts mention as important to vaginal health. Specifically, merino wool underwear is often sought-out by travelers and hikers because of its many great properties, but these pros extend to everyday wear, too (per Switchback Travel).

As explained by Smartwool, merino wool is a soft and comfortable natural fiber that comes from merino sheep. While you might associate wool with a rough and itchy texture, this fabric is extremely soft and thin, with its fibers being ⅓ the diameter of a strand of human hair.

This softness lends itself well to underwear material, but its benefits go beyond comfort. Gear Junkie mentions that this material is odor resistant, antibacterial, temperature-regulating, and breathable. These benefits, paired with its naturalness, make it a prime choice when considering vaginal health.

The primary con to merino wool underwear is its price point, as a single pair is typically quite expensive. Even so, these panties can still be worth checking out, especially if you plan to wear them while traveling or hiking. Try checking out Icebreaker or Smartwool to see more.