A lot of fabrics are not only made of plastic (a.k.a petroleum), but they’re also almost always treated with chemicals that can have negative health effects.
Buying natural, organic, and toxin-free clothing is almost always a good idea, but it’s perhaps never more important than when it comes to the fabric that’s right up against your privates all day!
So in this article, we’re going to talk about why fabric choice matters for vaginal health and why organic cotton is the best choice, and then we’ll give you the best organic cotton underwear brands that you can feel good about wearing all day, every day.
What Is The Number One Characteristic You Should Look For In Women’s Underwear?
When it comes to picking out underwear, everyone has their priorities and preferences. High-rise or hip hugger? Solid colored or patterned? Full coverage or thong? Waistband? Lace? Stretchiness?
But one of the MOST important things to consider when picking out underwear is the type of fabric, as it can affect your vaginal health.
Can The Material Your Underwear Is Made From Affect Vaginal Health?
According to gynecologists, the type of fabric your underwear is made of can help or hinder your vaginal health, by either preventing or contributing to potential infections.
Not only do natural fabrics like cotton have more breathability, which we’ll discuss more about in a minute, but they’re also free from a list of potentially toxic chemicals that are common in conventional synthetic underwear.
Nylon, for example, is a common fabric used in underwear and is made from petroleum. This and other types of fabrics are commonly finished with permanent chemical finishes that include fabric softeners, formaldehyde, petrochemical dyes, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Additionally, any fabrics that are labeled things like “stain-resistant” or “wrinkle-free” should be a huge red flag for you. The things that give fabrics these “magical” properties are perfluorinated chemicals (also known as PFCs, PFAs, PFOs, and GenX—all of which are in the same family). These chemicals are known toxins that can cause serious health issues, from infertility to cancer. Definitely not something you want next to your hu-ha!
Now, you will notice that most (although not all) of the brands below do contain some synthetic material, like 5 or 10 percent spandex. This is because a little bit of spandex makes a big difference when it comes to comfort, fit, and durability. It’s important to note that spandex (also known as elastane or the brand name Lycra) IS plastic (just like almost all other synthetic fabrics) and that it also can likely be treated with finishing chemicals as well.
Additionally, some people might be more sensitive to spandex than others. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out to the brands you’re shopping from and ask them how their fabrics are treated. Always remember that at the end of the day, you have to make the best decision for yourself!
This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase. We only make recommendations that are genuine and meet our ingredient/material safety standards.
What Does Breathability In Underwear Mean?
Some types of fabrics allow moisture to flow through them, keeping the fabric drier as a result. Other types of fabrics keep moisture trapped. Cotton is generally more breathable than synthetics.
Breathability means more airflow. It means that moisture won’t get trapped in the fabric of your underwear, which means you won’t have to worry as much about sticky, sweaty environments that are more conducive to bacterial and yeast infections.
More breathability helps to prevent things like chafing, too!
Why Organic Cotton Is Better Than Regular Cotton Underwear For Vaginal Health
Conventional cotton is grown using herbicides and pesticides, the residue of which can end up in your underwear. For this reason, organic cotton is almost always better for your overall health.
Not to mention, organic cotton also requires significantly less water to grow, doesn’t strip our topsoil of vital nutrients, and is just better for our environment overall.
Third-Party Certifications To Look For
Look for the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) label; it’s a third-party certification that ensures the cotton was grown and processed according to a strict set of standards and without the use of herbicides, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals.
Also look for the OEKO-TEX label, which indicates that no toxic chemicals or dyes were used to process or finish the fabric or garment.
How Often Are You Supposed to Get New Underwear?
Because of how bacteria that doesn’t always fully come out in the laundry, some gynecologists recommend that you swap out your underwear every 6 to 12 months(!). For many people, that’s a lot!
But other doctors disagree, saying that as long as you’re washing your underwear regularly (after each wear), then you can be safe to keep your underwear for as long as it’s not falling apart, saving you a lot of money and waste!
After all, not all bacteria is bad! Just like our gut microbiomes, vaginas have a microbiome as well. A healthy one is maintained through a balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria.
And when you are ready to do a top drawer swap, there are some underwear brands like Hanky Panky and Knickey that have recycling programs. Instead of throwing your old undies into the trash (a.k.a. landfill), you can send them in where they will be sanitized and recycled into something new (like carpet padding!).
Is ‘Made in the USA’ Better Than ‘Made in China’ (or Elsewhere)?
It’s an easy assumption to make that ‘Made in the USA’ automatically means the product is better than if it’s made somewhere else. If something is Made in the USA, that means it’s of higher-quality, right? It means it’s made ethically and not in a sweatshop, right?
As an American resident, there are plenty of reasons why you might want to buy goods that are Made in the USA. There’s a lower carbon footprint because there’s significantly less shipping the product around the world. Also, buying US-made products contributes to the local economy and keeps manufacturing jobs in the States.
BUT, there are also plenty of factories around the globe that prioritize quality, transparency, and ethics. AND although generally, worker rights and labor regulations are stricter and more tightly monitored in the U.S. compared to other countries in the global south, ‘Made in the USA’ does not always equal ‘ethical’ or ‘sweatshop-free.’ (Yes, there are sweatshops in Los Angeles.)
All that being said, the brands below are all made ethically in the USA out of (mostly) organic cotton!
Best Organic Cotton Underwear Brands (Made In USA)
Araks panties are made from 80% GOTS organic and 30% recycled cotton and come in a variety of gorgeous solid colors. While the organic cotton decreases the amount of pesticide used in the process, the use of recycled cotton decreases the overall ecological footprint of the panties and increases circularity. They also work with a mill that uses solar power and zero wastewater, and prioritizes safe chemical management.
Object Apparels’ underwear is made by hand in Detroit, Michigan out of organic cotton (plus 5% spandex) and non-toxic, water-based dyes. They have a wide variety of sizes and styles so that you can get what’s most comfortable for you. We simply LOVE their beautiful designs and fun patterns! They’re shipped to you in plastic-free packaging, too.
Thunderpants super comfy underwear is made out of 90% fair trade certified New Zealand organic cotton yarn combined with 10% spandex for increased comfort. They have a lot of fun patterns (designed by local artists!) along with solid colors, too. These “wedgie-proof” undies are cut and sewn in a women-owned, minimal-waste factory in Portland, Oregon.
These undies made from a blend of OEKO-TEX certified organic cotton and soft TENCEL (eco-friendly bamboo) are a bit on the pricier side, but they’re worth it if you’re in the mood for a splurge! They’re “handmade in the Northwoods of Wisconsin” and come in a variety of really gorgeous, nature-inspired colors. They have toddler undies, too!
Sustain By Kat set out to make the first 100% natural underwear by cutting out ALL synthetics, even from their dyes, elastics, thread, etc. They carry several different colors of GOTS certified organic cotton undies (yes – cotton grows in color!), along with plant-dyed panties as well. Everything is ethically made in Los Angeles.
Pansy’s panties are made from 90% organic cotton, 10% recycled spandex, and non-toxic dyes. Their organic cotton is grown in Texas, milled in North Carolina, and then their underwear is designed and sewn locally in San Leandro, Novato, and Oakland, California. These come in a collection of gorgeous, nature-inspired colors.
Not all of Hanky Panky’s underwear is organic, but they do have an organic cotton collection that includes briefs and thongs. These are made from Texas-grown organic cotton, combined with recycled nylon for the waistband.
Hanky Panky has been around since 1977 when fashion designer, Gale Epstein, made a panty + bra set out of a beautiful embroidered handkerchief! The company has also been employee-owned since 2017. Check out their Lingeriecycle underwear recycling program, too.
Sizes: S-XL / OS
Brook There’s underwear is made from 94% GOTS organic cotton and 6% spandex. In some of their styles, they use silk for the trim, instead of a synthetic material. Their organic cotton is milled and dyed in California, then the fabric is shipped to a factory in a small Massachusetts mill town where their small team cuts and sews each piece.
Bad’s underwear is made with 64% GOTS organic cotton, 28% sustainable hemp, 8% lycra, and low-impact dyes. They are elastic-band-free and come in black, white, and natural. They’re manufactured by a small team in Southern California using a technique called “flatlock stitching” to reduce fabric bulking and create a better fit.
These panties are made from 28% organically grown cotton, 66% organically grown bamboo, 6% spandex, and non-toxic dyes. Everything is manufactured in America, from start to finish.
Best Organic Cotton Underwear Brands (Not Made In USA)
Below are some more great organic cotton underwear brands that produce ethically, but outside of the United States.
- PACT: 95% GOTS organic cotton and Fair Trade Certified (Made in India)
- Frank & Oak: 95% organic cotton (Made across Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia)
- Knickey: 95% GOTS organic cotton and Fair Trade Certified (Made in India)
- People Tree: 95% GOTS organic cotton and Fair Trade Certified (Made in India)
- The Nude Label: 95% GOTS organic cotton (Made ethically in a family-run factory in Spain)
- Organic Basics: 95% GOTS organic cotton (Made ethically in factories around the world)
Does The Cut/Style Of Women’s Underwear Affect Vaginal Health?
Thongs And G-strings: The Real Reason They Might Cause Problems
When it comes to vaginal health, there are a few other things beyond fabric to consider. Thongs and other cuts of underwear that easily cause wedgies can be problematic for a couple of reasons.
One, because with the fabric so up in your junk, you’re not allowing as much air flow and breathability, which, as we talked about earlier, can create a more moist environment that breeds bacterial growth and potential infection.
Additionally, wearing a thong can move bacteria from the anus, which can obviously cause infections as well.
Wearing thongs with certain outfits or for limited periods of time may be totally fine for most people. But wearing them daily, working out in them regularly, sleeping in them, and wearing them with fabrics that are not breathable may not be the best ideas.
If you are someone who is extra prone to infections, you may want to consider taking your thongs out of rotation for a while to see if it helps.
To Wear Or Not To Wear: Going Commando
In order to increase breathability even more, it’s good to sleep without underwear if you can!
Conclusion: One of the healthiest, most breathable, and best materials for vaginal health is organic cotton underwear!