Can You Be Allergic To Your Underwear?

The body is a sensitive system, and every day, it's constantly responding to its surroundings. Unfortunately, the modern environment is rife with harmful and irritating ingredients. From toxic chemicals found in sports bras to infection-causing earrings, it's not uncommon that a product will cause you some kind of allergic reaction. When you begin to notice your skin has allergy symptoms, it is often a result of "contact dermatitis." According to JAMA Dermatology, contact dermatitis can be defined as "a rash caused by an immune reaction to various substances that touch the skin."

In addition, they report that contact dermatitis affects 1 in 5 people. One particularly sensitive skin area is found on and around the genitals. Given that this is the exact area your underwear covers, choosing the right pair is a little more important than you may have expected. It's not uncommon to be allergic to your pair of undergarments.

Reasons your underwear could cause an allergic reaction

When determining the source of your allergic reaction, inspect the material your underwear is made of. Ob-gyn Dr. Alyssa Dweck, MD, said to Women's Health, "Synthetic materials like Lycra and nylon can be confining and non-breathable and can lead to irritation, rashes, and infection ..." In addition, you'll want to reconsider wearing thongs. Linda Nicoll, M.D., an assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU, told SELF that "Thong underwear, though fashionable, can create a direct fabric path between moisture and bacteria in 'the back' and the area in 'the front' where irritation can occur."

In addition, you'll want to be cautious about the kind of detergent you wash your underwear with. New York City-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner and allergist Tania Elliott revealed to Allure that laundry products often contain highly irritating and harsh ingredients. Allure summarizes these as "toxic chemicals ..., preservatives, and artificial fragrances and dyes."

How to know you're allergic to your underwear, and what you can do to prevent these reactions

If you notice any discomfort in your bikini area, it is important to take it seriously. Always consult a doctor for professional advice to rule out any serious risks. However, there is a list of symptoms you can look for if you're trying to determine whether you have contact dermatitis. According to Mayo Clinic, "An itchy rash ... Leathery patches that are darker than usual (hyperpigmented) ... dry, cracked, scaly skin ... bumps and blisters ... swelling, burning or tenderness" are all signs you could be allergic to your underwear.

To prevent this, try changing out underwear made from synthetic materials. Nicoll told SELF, "Breathable, natural fabrics such as cotton are a good choice." And, if you are wearing thongs often, Nicoll recommends you opt for a more full-coverage, looser-fitting underwear cut. Lastly, try to select "clean" laundry products free of the previously mentioned inflammatory ingredients.