Good news – ESSENCE’s “Ask An OB-GYN” series is back to bring you very public answers to some of your most private questions. When sexual and vaginal health concerns arise, renowned Obstetrics and Gynecology physician Dr. Tosha Rogerswants to ensure you have the answers you need to feel at ease. If you have a sexual health concern or question you want to swing her way, we’ve got you covered.  Email with “Ask An OB-GYN” in the subject line and ask away!

Q: I want to know more about maintaining underwear hygiene. How should I wash them and when do I throw them away?

A: Underwear hygiene has been ignored for so long (especially by gynecologists), but it’s incredibly important.

Your panties are the most intimately engaging garment that you’ll wear as a woman. Discharge happens as a natural occurrence. It’s not always malodorous or infected, and it can be normal. With that being said, your panties are the receptors of all the discharge. You remove your panties at the end of the day and toss them in the wash, which is typically done every week or so. Until laundry day, the discharge is soaked into the cotton crotch of the panties, creating a layer of bacteria (as in vaginitis), yeast and mold. Yes, mold. Unfortunately, conventional (natural or not) detergents are not designed specifically to remove these particular pathogens and mold.

So what happens? The panties become infested with the bacteria, yeast and mold. When up against the skin, not only do these panties carry odor, they cause skin irritation, skin eruptions, itching, swelling and even rash – all of which can also be caused by the harsh detergents that you use to “clean” panties. This might be the culprit in why certain patients feel like they live at the gynecologist. As I always say, everything that itches isn’t yeast.

So how do you fix it? Grab a highlighter, because your answers are here.

  1. Never keep panties for more than 6-9 months. There is a reason that they are $5 ladies: they are not meant to be held as family heirlooms. Buy 4 or 5 new undies every six months and simultaneously toss out 4 or 5 old ones.
  2. Get rid of those “period panties.” I know our mothers may have told us to keep them and reuse them at “that time of the month,” but don’t. Figure out your menstrual needs and act accordingly. If you can, rinse stained underwear immediately in cold water and let them soak.
  3. Always use a gentle detergent like the Clean & Cute Panty Wash to clean all your intimates. It was invented by yours truly (that chemistry degree paid off mom!) It’s all natural, organic, paraben and sulfate-free, cruelty-free and is specifically designed to clean the panties of harmful bacteria. You don’t need fabric softener or bleach. The difference is amazing!
Dr. Tosha Rogers


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