How Wearing a Thong Affects Your Health

Thongs have become part of the modern fashion lexicon and wardrobe — artist Sisqó even immortalized the undergarment in his 1999 hit "Thong Song."

But there's more to thongs than a hit song or a way to cover up your privates. Health care professionals say thongs can also affect your health.

Dr. Leah Millheiser, a clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University, told SELF in a new interview that some of her female patients have reported skin chafing after wearing thongs. She said that even though they are safe to wear, thongs can bring people discomfort due to chafing, particularly if the thong is too small for the person.

“Thongs shouldn’t be painful,” she said. “If you notice [chafing] there, it’s too small.”

What thongs mean for people who frequently get genital infections.

Dr. Jill M. Rabin, an obstetrician-gynecologist, told The Huffington Post in 2013 that thongs can create challenges for those who are prone to infections:

“The issue is if you have a predisposition to getting infections, either urinary or vaginal, it may be harder to get rid of it if you’re wearing a thong.”

Go Ask Alice!, a site managed by Columbia University health specialists, issued similar warnings about thongs and bacteria:

"One way a thong might be a culprit of infection is that it can serve as a conduit for bacteria. Since a thong is a continuous and close fitting strip of fabric, it can easily pick up fecal matter and bacteria from the anus, and if the thong moves, can carry that matter forward to the vagina and urinary tract. One gynecologist likened a thong to a subway car transporting bacteria from the rectum to the vagina. UTIs and some types of vaginitis (although not yeast infections) are caused by bacteria, often from fecal matter, which is why thongs could be implicated in some instances of infection."

OB-GYN Dr. Shieva Ghofrany told The Huffington Post that because many thongs are not made of cotton, thong material isn't very breathable. She also said that the thin shape of thongs make the wearer's vulva "more ‘exposed’ to whatever they’re wearing":

"[G]iven the increase in leggings and ‘skinny’ jeans, all of which have Lycra, Spandex, etc., there again is trapped moisture,” Ghofrany said.

OB-GYN Dr. Adelaide Nardone told Women's Health Magazine that she recommended buying cotton thongs, growing out one's pubic hair, and avoiding thongs during exercise to prevent some of these health issues:

"The breathable fabric [in cotton] keeps you drier, so bacteria can't grow as easily. You might also consider growing out that Brazilian bikini line: Hair serves as a barrier between you and your panties, so leaving more carpet on the floor provides cushioning for your vulva, says Nardone. And don't wear thongs when you exercise. Invest in some workout bottoms with cotton crotches and go commando at night."


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