You’re Probably Not Changing Your Underwear Often Enough, According to an OB/GYN

Photo: Stocksy/Marissa Alper
Maybe you forgot to pack an extra pair of underwear in your gym bag or even in your weekend overnight bag. Or perhaps you didn't get the laundry done when you'd hoped (been there), and now, you're fresh out of available pairs. Or maybe you've just spent a full Saturday or Sunday doing little but lounging around, and it doesn't seem like changing your underwear that day is all that necessary. In any case, you've likely wondered at one point or another how often you really need to change your underwear... you know, for hygienic and health purposes.

If anyone should know the answer to that, it's a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and reproductive endocrinologist like Taraneh Nazem, MD. And she says that changing your underwear up to twice daily is ideal if you have an active lifestyle, and once is a must to simply decrease the risk of infection, particularly yeast infections.

Changing your underwear up to twice daily is ideal if you have an active lifestyle, and once is a must.

"Less frequent changes can lead to a build-up of moisture that predisposes [people with vaginas] to developing yeast and skin irritation," says Dr. Nazem. That extra moisture can also cause an accumulation of bacteria that throws off the balance of your vaginal microbiome, potentially leading to bacterial vaginosis (BV), an infection that can cause vaginal pain, itching, and discharge. "Undergarment changes are also preferable to just wearing a liner or pad [in dirty underwear], as these can cause additional irritation and chafing," she adds.

When to change your underwear throughout the day

Certain circumstances may necessitate switching up how often you change your underwear and the style of your undergarments, too. Just like you probably wouldn't wear a ballgown to do yoga or leggings to your wedding, you'll want to avoid certain kinds of underwear (and opt for others instead) when doing different activities.

Experts In This Article
  • Taraneh Nazem, MD, OB/GYN, reproductive endocrinologist, and infertility specialist

"It's recommended to wear a fresh set of underwear before going to bed or after a shower rather than the same pair you have been wearing all day," says Dr. Nazem. "For workouts, you may consider wearing underwear that's well-fitted and designed to absorb moisture. And just like you'd change out of your sweaty gym clothes after a good workout, your underwear should be changed post-workout, too."

How often to get new underwear

Bacteria can accumulate in underwear over time, even after it's washed properly, so depending on how long you've had your underwear, it could be worth your while to get a few new sets.

"In general, regardless of adequate and frequent washing of your garments, you should refresh your underwear collection approximately every six months to avoid excessive bacteria build-up," says Dr. Nazem. "In some cases, depending on the level of soiling, you may consider upgrading to new lingerie as soon as three months."

Gotcha, gotcha. But, rogue thought: What if you simply just don't wear underwear? Well, we salute those going commando; while chafing might be an issue sans underwear (particularly if you're choosing not to wear underwear while working out), there's nothing inherently wrong with that lifestyle choice. The main thing there is that you're consistent when it comes to bathing. "Showering can remove bacteria and debris, so if you’re not showering every day, excess bacteria can grow, which can lead to vaginal irritation and infections such as bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections," says obstetrician-gynecologist Jessica Shepherd, MD.

In any case, you may want to consider having a few spare pairs of underwear for use in special scenarios—for example, during long or intense work-outs, with tight-fitting outfits (that may otherwise squish your bits), or during outings with communal seating. "But, you can skip the nighttime pair, and go commando overnight," says Dr. Nazem.

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