I’m a Dermatologist, and This Is What You Should Consider When Buying Bras and Undies

Photo: Stocksy/Ani Dimi
The only thing most people care about when buying bras and undies is the size. And, well, how cute they are. But before you make your next big purchase, you might want to add some other items to your checklist.

While bras and undies seem harmless, Sapna Palep, MD, board-certified dermatologist and the CEO of the online lingerie retailer Journelle, sees her patients dealing with the same issues over and over again in her daily practice. And some of them are caused by seemingly innocent factors, like the material and fit. From underwear causing persistent fungal infections to bras causing pressure cysts, these are the things you should pay attention to when buying lingerie.

The top 4 things to think about when buying bras and undies

1. Underwires

While underwire bras are great at giving your girls a boost, you shouldn't be wearing them all the time. Dr. Palep says it's important to make sure you have non-underwire options in your drawer, too, in order to protect your body.

"There are certain activities and times of the day and year where wireless bras and bralettes are a better solution," she says. "Sweating, for example, can cause increased irritation with a wired bra. Rapid and repetitive movements during busy schedules and exercise are also a frequent cause of pressure cysts, abrasions, infections, and contact or irritant dermatitis."

If you're sleeping in a bra, it's also important to make sure it's wireless. You'll still have the comfort and support you crave, minus the health issues. "Wireless bras are constructed much like underwire bras, but have no wire in the under-use casing. They provide more support than bralettes but less constriction to blood flow than wired bras," she says.

2. Unbreathable fabrics

Have you checked to see which material your undies are made of? If it's not a breathable option, watch out. "Sweat can't evaporate with unbreathable fabrics, leaving moisture trapped on your skin. This can lead to fungal and bacterial growth, and most synthetic fabrics are a known cause for this," Dr. Palep says. Instead, she recommends going with options that use more breathable fabrics—like natural fiber fabrics like cotton, for example.

3. The fit

Yes, it's annoying to get asked if you want to do a bra fitting every time you walk into a lingerie store. But a proper fit doesn't just look better—it's also important for your health.

"Bra fittings should be as frequent as skin consultations," Dr. Palep says. "Wearing bras and undies that are improperly fitted can cause excessive friction and occlusion in areas of high sensitivity. This can lead to cyst formations, infections, abrasions, and dermatitis. For example, cyst formations can be caused from excessive pressure and occlusion of a hair follicle. And improperly fitting undergarments are a common cause for prolonged moisture in the genital area, which can lead to yeast infections."

4. Elastic bands

Peace out, elastic bands. They might have been cute on your underwear years ago, but there's no need to buy any that use it today. Dr. Palep says sticking to free-cut microfiber, cotton, and mesh on the gusset and waistband instead is a much better idea.

"It removes any irritable, constraining, or body-marking elastics from the softer and more sensitive dermal regions of the body," she says. "Much like the option of using wireless bras in place of underwire bras in specific conditions, elastic-free underwear belongs in every person’s drawer."

Here's how to shop for the most comfortable underwear ever, according to a lingerie pro. Then check out the bras that can help with back pain, because we could all use a little more support in our lives.

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