Are Thongs Bad For You?
A lot of women (myself included) have a love/hate relationship with thongs. At their best, they make you feel instantly sexy, but at their worst, they are the underwear from hell specifically designed to give you the worst wedgie of your life. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, most women have at least one thong in their underwear drawer. But what you may never have considered was how a thong can affect your vaginal health. Is it possible that wearing a thong could lead to irritation, infection, or worse? Today, we find out.
Debunking the Infection Myth
Most people assume that the design of thongs (you know, having a teeny tiny piece of fabric covering your vagina and an even tinier string of fabric lodged between your butt cheeks) is a one way ticket to infection-ville. However, in my research, I found that one of the biggest myths surrounding thongs is that wearing them leads to infection. While certain types of thongs can increase the risk of an infection, this isn’t the norm - at least for those who aren’t prone to infections in the first place. Numerous studies have attempted to find a correlation between thongs and the three main infections women experience south of the border (yeast vaginitis, urinary tract infections, and bacterial vaginosis), and they’ve all come up empty. There is little to no evidence to support the fact that thongs affect any aspect of the vulvar skin, including its pH, skin microclimate, or aerobic microflora.
Thus, experts agree that if you are healthy, there is a very low risk of contracting an infection solely from wearing a thong. But if you’re someone who is predisposed to infection, it’s a slightly different story. The flimsy nature of thongs means that they tend to move around, which can lead to bacteria from the anus being transferred to the vagina. Yes, that’s pretty gross. But before you go throwing away every thong you’ve ever owned, it’s important to assess the situation “down there,” because for most women who aren’t prone to infection, this transfer of bacteria is a non-issue when it comes to your health.
Assessing the Situation “Down There”
Although the thongs-causing-infection-myth is mostly just that - a myth, it doesn’t hurt to make sure you’re healthy before you start (or stop) wearing thongs for good. The first thing you need to do is find out if you’re infection-prone. In order to do this, try to think of the number of vaginal, bacterial, or urinary infections you’ve had throughout your life. From there, get the opinion of your doctor.
Beyond considering any past run-ins with infection, think about whether or not you have any existing health conditions down there. We’re talking about things like hemorrhoids or lichen sclerosus (a skin condition that causes patchy, white skin in the genital and anal regions). No, wearing a thong won’t give you these conditions, but they can make things far worse if you already have them. Ultimately, just because you’re infection-prone or have an existing health condition doesn’t mean you need to say goodbye to thongs forever. Instead, you just need to take extra precautions, or in the case of hemorrhoids, wait until they’re gone before slipping on your fav pair of undies.
Ditch Lace and Embrace Cotton
Like all underwear styles, thongs come in an array of fabrics. For some women, they see no point in wearing a thong if it isn’t as sexy and lacy as possible. For others, it’s about function - a microfibre thong simultaneously eliminates panty lines and keeps you dry during spin class. With so many fun, colourful, and sexy styles out there, cotton seems quite boring by comparison. But according to experts, the number one rule when it comes to thongs is: Go cotton. The vulva is an extremely sensitive area. Thus, you want to treat it as gently as possible. Cotton is the softest underwear fabric there is (and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). In addition to being soft, it’s also breathable and absorbent, the latter being key as you want your underwear to absorb rather than trap moisture. Synthetic fabrics are known for containing moisture, and all this additional humidity in your nether region can quickly lead to infection or irritation. In essence, save the lace or silk thongs for a night in with your partner when you know they’ll be coming off quicker than you can say “yeast infection.”
The bottom line? If you like wearing thongs and you don’t have any existing health conditions, you do you. But wear cotton styles as much as possible and above all, stay safe. If you experience any sort of discomfort, swap them out for a good old pair of boy briefs ASAP (no one’s judging).
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