On this past week’s episode of New Girl, resident heroine Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel) was given some vaginal maintenance advice from an older, wiser lady who told her: “Never wear underwear. Power emanates from the vagina, don’t block it.”
It’s true, vaginas are amazing—but does that mean we should let them roam free, unprotected from the outside world? As Jess herself points out while going commando, “I should have never removed my underwear because now it’s drafty and I feel vulnerable to wildlife.”
I’ll admit, as much as I hate underwear lines, the thought of not wearing anything and sitting on a chair whilst in a dress still freaks me out. What if it touches stuff? Or what if stuff comes out of it? These are serious concerns.
So we looked into the pros and cons of different degrees of underwear use, and here’s what you should know.
Cotton is a girl’s best friend.
Cotton underwear, whether it’s boy shorts, bikinis, or even a thong with a cotton crotch, is the best option if you’re going to wear underwear. “Cotton for sure—at the very least aim for a cotton crotch,” Alyssa Dweck, a gynecologist and co-author of the book V is for Vagina, told Fusion. “This allows for absorption of moisture and thus limits irritation and infection.”
Here’s why: The vagina is a wondrous self-cleaning machine, but as part of that cleaning process, it releases natural secretions and moisture. If all that moisture gets trapped by unbreathable material (spandex, polyester, and other synthetic fabrics) the otherwise perfect balance of bacteria can go haywire. An overgrowth of bad bacteria leads to uncomfortable conditions such as yeast infections and vaginitis. Cotton can prevent this.
Thongs are like a bad boyfriend—really hot or really wrong.
Many women wear thongs to feel sexy or prevent underwear lines. And wearing thongs is generally fine, IF they have a cotton crotch, said Dweck.
“Thongs get a bad rep, and for many people they are just fine—but there are a couple of caveats,” she said. For example, “Constant chaffing from a G-string thong can increase rashes, irritation, and perhaps skin tags.” If you’re prone to infection, you’re at greater risk. Not only that, some gynecologists have pointed out that thong wearers tend to have recurrent urinary tract and vaginal infections.
Here’s why: The thong itself is believed to be a conduit of bacteria, like a little bridge leading from your rectum to your vagina. Yes, gross.
To avoid problems, Dweck suggested either the previously mentioned cotton crotch option or a non-fragrant thong pantyliner.
Going Commando is like the perfect part-time lover.
And finally, we arrive at baring it all. Cottonelle recently released an ad urging women to go commando with the help of their ultra-cleaning toilet paper, and a new company called “Go Commandos” has released a patch to “protect” vaginas from the elements. And of course, Jess unsuccessfully tries going sans underwear on New Girl. So is going commando really good for you?
“Go for it if you dare,” said Dweck, “Nothing wrong with going commando at any time.” In fact, some gynecologists recommend sleeping in the nude, allowing the vagina to air out at night as part of practicing good vaginal health.
And yet, the discharge issue is still very much present. Remember, it’s “if you dare.” As Dweck pointed out, going commando could lead to embarrassment. A little discharge on your bed isn’t so bad—but at school, work, or a bar stool? That’s another story.
Here’s why: “Many women will have a normal physiologic vaginal discharge day-to-day that varies with their cycle. That’s just something to keep in mind to avoid embarrassing moments,” she said.
Other health professionals agree that going commando is fine, but if your pants or shorts are made of synthetic, unbreathable materials, you might want to stick a layer of cotton in-between.
Moral of the story: Going commando depends on the situation—whether or not you’re in the mood to bare it all and if you’re surrounding environment allows it.
Nobody likes the thought of a leaky vagina, but again, bear in mind that that moisture is part of its badass machinery. As Dweck told Fusion: “My favorite rule of thumb when it comes to vaginal health is ‘less is more.’ The vagina is amazing. It cleanses itself and is remarkable in elasticity and function.” RESPECT.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Cottonelle’s new protect as a patch, when in fact, it’s an ultra-cleaning toilet paper.