When faced with the choice between sporting underwear lines against spandex or donning an uncomfortable thong for a workout, many women may choose to skip underwear altogether. It makes sense: Having to pick a wedgie or shift around a G-string at the top of every squat can seriously take away from your productivity at the gym. But for some women, the idea of wearing leggings without underwear may sound completely unthinkable.
Whether you’re questioning the comfort or hygiene, both are valid concerns. We wear underwear for reasons, right? Well, we’re here to reassure you that exercising without underwear is actually A-OK—as long as you follow a few simple ground rules.
1. Choose your material wisely.
“It’s definitely safe to do it if that’s your preference,” Marina Maslovaric, M.D., an ob-gyn at HM Medical in Orange County, California, tells SELF. “It’s more a matter of habit or preference. Healthwise, it’s definitely OK,” she says. The key is making sure your pants are made out of breathable material; cotton or something advertised as “sweat-wicking” should do the trick. Some athletic-wear brands now even put a little extra square of cotton material inside the crotch of workout leggings for this purpose.
You might find, though, that some pants made of a synthetic material (which most of those sweat-evaporating technologies contain) can cause a bit of irritation. “If you have more of a synthetic material versus cotton as that first touch, that can increase the risk of chafing,” Maslovaric says. Especially if you’re running or doing another repetitive motion, rubbing can do a number down there if the material is too scratchy.
2. Change out of your sweaty clothes ASAP.
No matter what material works for you, Maslovaric says you should always change into dry clothes after getting super sweaty. She underscores the fact that exercising doesn’t necessarily put you at a higher risk for getting vaginal infections, but for some people who are already more prone to them, sitting around in sweaty gym clothes all day can make matters worse. (It can also just get uncomfortable.)
“I’ve had patients who, if they don’t [change into clean clothes right away], might be more at risk for a yeast infection,” she notes. As long as you change into dry clothes soon after your sweat sesh, this shouldn’t a problem. Showering, too, is ideal if you have time.
3. Wash your leggings after every single wear.
Another must-do: Wash your pants after every use. Many fitness fiends will admit to wearing leggings a few times before washing. (That’s what that antiodor fabric technology is for, right?) But if you’re wearing leggings without underwear, your vagina is in direct contact with your pants, which means your workout gear will collect bacteria faster.
Maslovaric likens it to putting a dirty pair of underwear back on the next day. “You’re sweating, and you’re going to produce discharge secretions,” she explains. And if you experience a little incontinence—which is very common after childbirth—that adds another fluid to the mix. All that said, you should treat your pants like you would your undies in this situation.
If you’re following these hygiene recommendations, go ahead and let your lady parts run free. Just make sure your leggings are thick enough, because some meshy or sheer materials can be a teensy bit see-through. (Nothing like some poorly placed mesh to turn your gym session into an accidental peep show fast.)
And if you’re still set on wearing your skivvies? That’s totally fine too. You should do whatever makes you feel the most comfortable and confident, whether that means donning a thong, boy shorts, bikini-cut panties, or none of the above.