"In recent years, there have been a number of innovations in the underwear category that include materials that are known to be antibacterial and even provide additional support below the belt," says Sherry A. Ross, MD, OB/GYN, Summer's Eve ambassador and author of She-ology. It's true—lately, I've come across new brands like Huha (underwear that's infused with zinc, which helps maintain pH balance), Cottonique (which is 100 percent organic and claims to be hypoallergenic), and Pure (the brand uses a special fabric to protect against moisture).
Because I'm a human, I've worn regular and not specifically "pH-balanced" underwear my entire life. So I raised an eyebrow at the idea of needing to swap over to optimized underpants. Dr. Ross notes it is important to watch the pH of your vagina, though, so I was at least willing to entertain the idea. "When using cleansing products on the external vaginal area, it's important that such products are pH-balanced so that they won't be too acidic or too alkaline and affect the area," she says (FWIW: the ideal pH range is between four and five).
When it comes to underwear, though, it's not really the pH that matters, she says—it's more about the fabrics you're wearing. "Wearing pH-balanced underwear may not be any safer to the sensitive vulva and vagina than non-pH balanced underwear," says Dr. Ross, noting that cotton, for example, isn't marketed as "pH balanced-safe," but has been an underwear material that's been used forever. "As long as the fabrics don't disrupt the delicate balance, that's what matters most. The wrong fabrics can be the main problem causing dryness, itching, and infections—lace, perfumes, fabric softeners, and other irritants on fabrics can affect the vaginal pH in a negative way," she says.
Of course, there's a market for these undies, because otherwise they wouldn't be popping up left and right. Alyssa Dweck, MD, OB/GYN, thinks that pH balanced underwear can be useful—for some. "I see women day after day with complaints of 'an awareness' of their vagina and vulva—and not in a good way," she says. "In some cases, this is due to an infection with yeast or bacterial vaginosis, hormone changes, external irritants such as fabrics or other hygiene products, or a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis. I can see some women who are super sensitive really benefitting from this type of undergarment." Other than that, though? "I don't think pH-balanced underwear is any safer than other vagina friendly fabrics like cotton," says Dr. Ross. So there you have it: pH-balanced undies are helpful to try if you're experiencing any "awareness" so to speak (obviously, also talk to your doc), but if your under parts are doing their thing without a second thought, then keep on keeping on with your cotton six-pack.
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