Q: I heard that wearing panty liners can cause irritation to the genitals. Is this true?

A: Yes, especially if you use them every day. We live in a society in which women have been told that wearing a panty liner will keep them fresh and clean—but actually the opposite is true. A panty liner prevents air from flowing freely in the genital area, thus trapping moisture and heat. This creates a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast, boosting your risk for a vaginal infection. A panty liner also can rub against the labia, causing irritation—and sometimes even forming an itchy callus from the friction. If the panty liner is scented, the chemicals used to impart the fragrance can irritate your sensitive tissues.

Most women have a natural discharge, so there is almost always going to be something on your underwear. Discharge is likely to increase depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle and whether you use birth control pills or hormone therapy. That’s OK! Aside from wearing a panty liner on extremely light days of your period or for a special occasion—say, when you’re wearing a slinky dress to a black-tie dinner and don’t want to worry about any discharge—skip the panty liner. Let your underwear do its job of protecting your clothing, changing your panties as needed so you feel fresh.