Q: Which type of panty fabric is best for my genital health?

A: This is a very good question with surprisingly little scientific data to address it, considering the vast array of panty choices available at stores. Still, many vaginal health experts agree that cotton generally is superior for everyday wear. Cotton panties are nonirritating and create no friction that could irritate vulvar tissues. Silk, satin and spandex are OK, provided they have a cotton crotch.

When you are exercising or if you tend to sweat a lot, consider a moisture-wicking synthetic fabric or cotton/polyester blend. Excess wetness and heat in the vulvar area can create a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast, increasing your risk for vaginal infections. Whenever your panties do feel damp, switch to a fresh pair as soon as possible.

Avoid panties made completely of nylon, as this fabric restricts airflow and traps moisture. Also steer clear of panties that have scratchy or abrasive lace or seams at the crotch. As a further safeguard against vulvar irritation, when laundering panties, avoid detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets—instead, stick with a mild enzyme-free soap (such as Woolite or All Free & Clear), using only one-half to one-third the suggested amount.