When You Stop Wearing Underwear, This Is What Happens To Your Body

Deciding to stop wearing underwear may seem like an odd choice. After all, to some, wearing underwear is as much of a routine as breathing. You put it on under your clothes every day before heading to work, school, or the gym. Maybe you prefer boy shorts, barely-there bikinis, or lace thongs — there are a lot of options out there! But why do we wear underwear at all? "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 people 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. Medically speaking, however, your vaginal area is "most happy and healthy when it has a chance to breathe," Dr. Lisa Masterson of The Doctors 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 them altogether.

The risks of developing a UTI or yeast infection can be lower

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 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" that create a moist environment where Candida, a fungus that causes yeast infections, thrives most. 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 by spreading bacteria from the anus to the vaginal area and this is especially true when it comes to thongs. While there isn't hard evidence that directly links wearing no underwear to fewer yeast infections, experts say it's not a bad idea to go commando as an added precaution.

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 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," Kelly-Jones 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. Underwear can trap moisture and that type of wet environment is where bacteria grow and cause 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.

Less irritation and chafing can be expected

Whether you feel apprehensive about the idea of going commando or you're all for freeing your private parts, 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. Moreover, underwear irritation can affect older people more due to the skin's sensitivity. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' spokesperson, Dr. Vanessa Mackay, older women tend to "have thinner skin down there so are more susceptible to irritation and rubbing" (via The Sun). 

Irritation can occur if you go commando while wearing certain material

It's true that going panty-free may help prevent chafing and irritation down there, however, that's also dependent on what trousers 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, you may be exposing your genitals to more irritation as the tough fabric can rub against you, putting 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

A strong smell may be present there during workouts

While it's pretty safe to go underwear-free at the gym or on your morning run, you might notice an odor coming from your private 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.

Choosing not to wear underwear during a workout ultimately comes down to personal preference, and it may 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. 

Your chances of micro-cuts during exercises may increase

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, 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 exercises in coarse clothing 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," Newsome 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.

You risk bacteria and yeast growth if you don't change your clothes often

If you plan to embrace the panty-free movement, make sure to wash your clothes more often. "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 (via Yahoo! Life), 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 decide to go commando for the sake of good hygiene.

The risk of allergic reactions may be reduced

If you stop wearing underwear, you may avoid itchy allergic reactions as sometimes, panties may cause a localized rash known as contact dermatitis. This is often your skin's reaction to certain fabrics and chemicals 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. "The tissues that your panties come [into] contact with are a lot more sensitive than your elbows," Dr. Donnica Moore, a women's health expert, told Hella + Health. So if you're sensitive down there, going commando may be the best thing for your private parts. 

You may see less discharge if you stop wearing underwear

Turns out there is some good news when it comes to discharge, 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 unless the discharge is a result of antibiotics or stress, which may lead to an infection, according to Patel. But since going commando allows your vagina to breathe, there may not be as much wetness around your vulva, and you may avoid this problem altogether.

You may be more susceptible to public bacteria

If you decide to stop wearing underwear during the day, you may introduce your vaginal area to some unwelcome company. While it's extremely rare to contract pubic lice or crabs, you may be increasing your chances of foreign bacteria making contact with 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. 

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 bacteria nesting on the fitness equipment.

Daily showers are an obvious way to keep your downstairs area clean, especially if you're out and about all day sans underwear. "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," OB-GYN Jessica Shepherd told Well+Good. So, as long as you're practicing good hygiene and common sense, going commando in public isn't dangerous. 

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," Dr. Donnica Moore told Hella + Health. Since shapewear is generally tougher to pull down, some women may find it a challenge to use the restroom. "When women wear them, they tend to hold it more than they should," Moore added. 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 your genital area as a result of poor circulation. There's even a condition called meralgia paresthetica, which occurs with excess pressure on the nerves in 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 see a change in your digestive issues

Going commando may help if you suffer from digestive issues like acid reflux and have typically worn tight shapewear in the past. 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," Jonathan Wilson, general surgeon at The London Clinic, told the Daily Mail.

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, tight shapewear can also worsen your symptoms. That's not 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.

Ditching your underwear may allow you to sleep better

While the debate is still ongoing about the number of hours one must sleep each night, there's no denying that having good sleep quality is just as vital to one's overall health. After all, sleep supports a lot of your body's critical systems and organs, from your immune system to your heart health and brain function. Good sleep quality has also been linked to better skin health, even helping wounds heal faster. Furthermore, you might just be able to improve the quality of your sleep by simply ditching your underwear at night.

Whenever a person goes to sleep, they can experience heat exposure or cold exposure. According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, heat exposure, which can be caused by clothing and bedding, tends to decrease slow-wave sleep — the critical stage of sleep that studies have found to support the body's cerebral function. On the other hand, cold exposure, which happens when one sleeps without underwear, doesn't negatively affect slow-wave sleep. This allows the body to enjoy uninterrupted quality sleep throughout the night.

Improvements in your sexual health can occur when you go commando

If you think that you and your partner could use a little more excitement in the bedroom, try going to bed sans underwear. Contrary to some conservative views, there's no shame in opting for a commando approach at night. "There is a fear of the genitals as a result of the sexual taboo that makes us perceive them as something dirty," sexologist Sonia Encinas told El País. "Awakening genital sensations by releasing them from the pressure of panties or tight fabrics can help us connect more easily with pleasure."

In addition, board-certified OB-GYN Maria Sophocles, M.D., offered a similar opinion. "If the habits makes [sic] you feel free and sexy, it may just boost your libido," Sophocles told Women's Health. "Some safe pushing of sexual boundaries can really recharge a stale sex life."

With all that said, individual preferences and considerations should always be taken into account when making choices about sleep attire and habits.

You might develop folliculitis down there

While there are several benefits to ditching your underwear from time to time, there are also some negative side effects. Among them is the likelihood of developing folliculitis, a condition caused by inflammation of the hair follicles that may occur as a result of chafing. Aside from the genital area, folliculitis can also develop in other parts of the body, including the neck and face. 

When folliculitis appears around the genitals, it can become quite uncomfortable, especially when there's tender skin, an inflamed bump, or a cluster of pus-filled blisters. Because of this, it might not be advisable to go without underwear all the time.

Meanwhile, if you're already experiencing vaginal folliculitis, it's better to consult your healthcare provider before it gets worse. Typical treatment options include oral antibiotics or topical medications such as antibiotic gel or antifungal ointment. In some cases of folliculitis, minor surgery may also be recommended to drain the pus and relieve the pain.