You've got the shoes, the sports bra, the capris and tank, even a matching headband as you walk into the gym. You look good; you're feeling confident and you're ready to tackle this sweat sesh. But you could be missing something really important. Heading into your next workout, you want to make sure your downstairs has the appropriate gear supporting it. The vagina is a very sensitive place. It only takes one sweaty workout to disturb the environment and send you running to the drugstore for ointments and over-the-counter meds.
Quick review: The vagina essentially has its own ecosystem with flora (good bacteria) that regulates and protects it. Nearly everything you do somehow affects it: diet, sexual activity, stress, hormones, hygiene practices, garment choices, oh, and exercise. Click here for 10 facts you might not have known about your vagina.
To avoid the hassle, embarrassment and health issues that stem from underperforming underwear, follow these guidelines:
Cotton is best. It's breathable, flexible, absorbent — pulling moisture away from the skin and allowing your lady land to have some air flow. "The most important thing is to not let moisture build up, which can lead to irritation, yeast infections or bacterial infections," said Lisa Masterson, MD: OB-GYN, spokesdoctor for Monistat's new It's Time for TMI Campaign. "As you might guess, the more sweat, the more moisture builds up 'down there.' If you are planning a heavy sweat session, make sure you are wearing breathable underwear and even plan to change pairs halfway through if possible."
>> Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Yeast Infections
Size it right. Wearing underwear that's too snug can cause skin irritation with rubbing and pinching. Added tightness can also limit breathability and increase your risk for yeast infections. Wearing snug panties that rise up higher can actually make any incontinence worse (click here to take charge of your incontinence!). If you go too large, you'll deal with bunching, and no one has time for that.
Boy shorts, bikini, thong or commando? Well, let's get personal! This is totally up to you. Although thongs cut out the panty line problem, they do tend to slide and shift more, causing irritation. You want to feel comfortable, so if that means going commando, let it go. "If you are wearing breathable bottoms, then wearing no underwear is a great option if you find it more comfortable," Dr. Masterson tells Skinny Mom. "But if you are wearing formfitting or non-breathable materials, like leggings, then cotton is still the best option for keeping nice and dry."
Don't let 'em linger. When you wrap up your workout, hit the shower as soon as you can. No sprays, wipes or douching is going to do more good than a simple rinse in the shower. Pack a change of clothes and shower at the gym, or head home and let that be the first thing you do. If you're in a rush or planning to do more sweaty things after your workout, like yard work or walking the dog, at least change into a fresh pair until you can hop in the shower.
>> Get the best: What to Wear Under Your Workout Gear