Is Going Commando Healthier Than Wearing Underwear?

Skipping underwear can bring some surprising benefits.

Women's underwear. Cotton briefs in different colors and a sprig of cotton on a blue background. A p...

As the weather heats up, many of us will cut back on the amount of clothing we wear. In fact, the hot weather makes going commando an enticing choice. But is forgoing underwear actually healthier than wearing underwear altogether?

The answer is, of course, complicated, experts say. But there’s one trick that just might appeal to everyone.

Are there benefits to going commando?

“I’m not sure it does anything,” says Stanton Honig, professor of urology at the Yale School of Medicine.

For those with penises, underwear creates a barrier from less comfortable fabrics like denim and affords some protection in case of arousal. There’s an ongoing debate about whether boxers or briefs are better for sperm count, but Honig says there’s “absolutely no data” that suggests there’s a superior type of underwear for fertility.

Further, Honig says that people who sweat a lot might be at a higher risk for fungal infections like jock itch, but regular bathing should be all most people need to keep that at bay.

Ultimately, he says the options come down to comfort. “Dealer’s choice, basically,” he tells Inverse. Everyone is working with body parts of different sizes, shapes, and sensitivities, so personal preference reigns supreme whether it's boxers, briefs, or nothing.

The story is a little different for vulvas. The vulva is “a perfectly created system as it is,” says Laura Jacques, an OB-GYN at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Health and an associate professor of OB-GYN at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. The vulva and vagina come with self-regulating immune and barrier functions, and they do best with as little intervention as possible from soaps, fragrances, and sometimes, even underwear. That doesn’t mean you have to ditch underwear completely, but Jacques says there are merits to sometimes going without it.

Jacques tells her patients that “sleep is a great time to not wear any sort of underwear or pajama pants.” The reason behind this recommendation, she says, is that the skin around the vulva is particularly sensitive to friction. Further, because the vulva loses water more quickly compared to other body parts, covering it could make it dry out even more quickly.

“When people can sleep without underwear, that can be really helpful because they can alleviate some of that friction-related damage or moisture-related damage,” she says. Nightgowns and oversized t-shirts are her go-to recommendations for sleepwear. She adds that some people may benefit more from going commando than others. For example, those going through menopause can have especially fragile, sensitive skin, as might those with skin conditions.

Less is More

But most important, if you feel fine wearing underwear, let it be. “If it isn't broke, then you don't need to necessarily fix it,” says Alicia Little, a dermatologist and director of the Vulvar Dermatology Clinic at Yale Medicine. Breathable fabrics, like cotton, let the vulva self-regulate optimally. Synthetic, tight fabrics, on the other hand, are more likely to trap heat and moisture, which increases the chance of irritated skin.

“If it isn't broke, then you don't need to necessarily fix it.”

Jacques says that as washing machines have gotten more efficient, we haven’t always adjusted the amount of detergent proportionally, so we use more detergent than we need, which can irritate the delicate skin. Detergents “can have a lot of particulate left on the clothes and with the underwear being right against the vulvar skin, that can lead to allergic reaction or irritation,” she says. You also might want to ditch fabric softeners, which can also leave an irritating residue.

So while going commando isn’t necessarily healthier than wearing underwear, it may be the solution you need for irritation and itching. Just as important is making sure your underwear isn’t too constrictive or made from irritating materials. “Less is more is really the takeaway,” Jacques says.

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