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Tell the truth: Do you go commando in your workout clothes?
No judgment if you do, but it's worth knowing what experts think about it. Health experts have varying opinions on whether or not it's OK to work out without underwear, but in general, it seems alright to bare it to your leggings if you follow a few safety precautions. Here, two dermatologists and a gynecologist share their thoughts on working out without underwear and how to make sure everything's alright in The Land Down Under.
Wearing tight pants or shorts without something absorptive or moisture-wicking "is probably not the best choice and might be somewhat irritating to the skin if worn for many hours and if significant sweating is involved," says Dr. Felice Gersh, a board-certified OB-GYN.
Without anything down there to wick moisture -- and there is a lot of moisture down there during workouts -- sweat would remain directly on the skin, Dr. Gersh explains. This can lead to chafing, rashes and infections if you don't promptly wash and dry your body.
Jock itch, an infection that can affect both men and women, is a primary threat, says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a New York City-based dermatologist. This itchy, red rash develops when sweat, oil and dirt build up in the groin and cause a superficial fungal infection.
However, the type of fabric might hold more importance than the number of layers of fabric. Cotton underwear won't do you much good, Dr. Zeichner says. "Cotton tends to trap sweat on the skin and get wet rather than allowing for evaporation," he explains, which exacerbates the risk for skin irritation.
Your workout and the weather also matter: "The more sweat-inducing the workout is, the greater the risk for chafing and potential yeast and bacterial infections," Dr. Zeichner points out. "When you work out in hot, humid weather you are more likely to develop skin rashes and infections, including bacterial and fungal infections." This is especially true if you're not wearing moisture-wicking underwear or pants.
You can mitigate all of the above risks by taking a few simple precautions.
First, make sure your workout bottoms are tight. Tight-fitting pants reduce friction between your skin and the fabric, as well as between the skin on both legs, says Dr. Hadley King, an NYC-based dermatologist.
Also look for smooth seams or seamless pants to prevent rubbing, Dr. King says, and make sure to choose moisture-wicking fabric. In other words, cotton leggings will not do your nether regions any favors -- ditch them if you're also ditching undies. Synthetic fabrics such as nylon, spandex and polyester are best, Dr. King says.
Before workouts, you can try adding a bit of body powder to the crotch of your workout pants to absorb excess moisture. Antichafing products such as Body Glide will help prevent skin-to-skin rubbing.
Finally, make sure to wash up as soon as you can after your workout. Letting the sweat sit in your groin area will contribute to rashes and infections, Dr. Gersh explains. If you don't have time for a full shower, at least use a body wipe and change your clothes.
Despite the professional consensus that it's probably better to wear underwear while exercising, many people prefer not to.
I know a lot of people who don't wear underwear when they work out -- all assigned female at birth. I personally can't stand working out without underwear; I need that extra layer of fabric. Because I so despise it, I was curious to find out why so many fellow exercisers went commando in their workout pants.
I asked a few friends and these are the answers I got:
Avoids panty lines in tight pants.
No wedgies to pick out.
No slipping waistbands to deal with during squats and other leg movements.
Feels freer; doesn't restrict leg movement.
Just feels more comfortable.
All in all, it comes down to personal preference. Wear whatever you feel the most comfortable in, as long as you're avoiding chafing, infections and other potential effects as described above. In case you're convinced you do need to wear undies while working out, here are our top picks for the best workout underwear for women.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.