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There are a host of factors that come into play when it’s time to cycle a fresh supply of underwear into your delicates drawer. Coupled with style and fit, material can have a make-or-break impact on whether you feel cozy and at ease in your skivvies—and, as it turns out, whether you’re taking proper care of the area it covers.

So, what’s the best fabric for underwear?

As a general rule, fabrics that lend themselves to air circulation are the most hygienic ones to opt for. Adequate ventilation may be an inherent property of the textile (such as organic cotton), but can also be built into feather-soft design elements, like lace, which lends itself to breathability.

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the different types of fabric used in underwear design and how to wear, style, and care for the ones beckoning to you.

Textiles 101: Synthetic vs Natural Fabric

Every type of textile used to make clothing falls into two main camps: synthetic and natural.

What are Synthetic Fibers?

Synthetic fibers are created through processing various chemicals, rather than substances naturally derived from the earth. They’re less expensive to produce, which means they can be sold at a higher volume and, generally, at a lower price point.1

Some examples of synthetic fibers frequently used in clothing include:

  • Polyester – A uniquely stain- and wrinkle-resistant synthetic fabric that’s a breeze to wash.
  • Nylon – A pliable fabric with a silky feel that lends itself to highly intricate designs.
  • Acrylic – Often compared to organic cotton because of its lightweight, gentle texture against the skin.

Microfiber is another common type of synthetic fiber, derived from polyester. It’s characterized by its extremely short fibers, which make it impossibly soft and flexible when used to create clothing.

What are Natural Fibers?

Natural fibers refer to any textile created from natural resources, such as minerals or plants. Wool was one of the earliest natural fibers used by humans, but in the modern lingerie world, you’re most likely to come across the following kinds:

  • Cotton – A highly breathable fabric that’s known for its properties in thermoregulation.
  • Silk – A naturally-derived protein fiber and luxury material that’s both cool to the touch and hypoallergenic.
  • Bamboo – A stretchy fabric created from the fast-growing plant that’s both breathable and great at wicking moisture.

To spare natural resources, many types of underwear use a combination of natural and synthetic fibers as their primary material. Viscose is an excellent example of a common underwear textile in this category.

Are Synthetic Or Natural Fabrics Better For Underwear?

Generally speaking, the best underwear fabric depends on how you plan to wear them. If you’re getting dressed for a long day of work and plan on wearing your underwear from 9-5, most experts recommend you opt for a natural, well-ventilated fabric like cotton.2 

However, making sure your lady-bits stay comfortable and taken care of comes down to more than just fabric choice:

  • Fit – Choosing undies that fit you properly plays a major role in staying comfortable and clean. While the cotton fabric allows you to aerate throughout the day, cotton also tends to shrink easily in the wash and isn’t great about snapping back into shape. If you go with cotton underwear, make sure your undies fit you like a glove to avoid being too harsh on your most sensitive area.
  • Care – It’s never easy to part with your favorite undies, but the truth is that even your comfortable underwear has an expiration date. Ideally, you should be cycling your underwear out of your top drawer every year to avoid bacterial build-up that won’t budge (even after a few spins in the wash).2

If you ever grew up wearing day-of-the-week underwear (you know—the kinds embroidered with “Monday” “Tuesday” and “Wednesday,” etc.), you probably came away with a very important lesson: underwear shouldn’t be worn more than one day in a row.

Why? Because no matter what your underwear is made of, the area it covers tends to be on the moist and muggy side, making it prime real estate for bacteria and odor to take root.3 To stay fresh and air out your personal microclimate, make a habit of changing or going without your undies—no matter the fabric—after 8 or more hours of wear.

When (And How) To Wear Synthetic Fabrics

Aesthetically speaking, it’s no secret that most cotton basics don’t exactly pair well with bedroom eyes. So, what is the best type of underwear fabric to choose on those special occasions (or steamy evenings) when you don’t plan on wearing your underwear from dawn to dusk? 

For days and nights like these, there 3 reasons to opt-out of cotton and into something a little more delicate:

  • If you don’t plan on keeping your lingerie on for long, there’s no reason why you should have to choose tighty whities over an exquisite pair of natural or synthetic underwear. 
  • Synthetic styles that use minimal fabric and delicate designs provide more airflow, helping you stay cool, clean, and in the clear from unwanted bacteria. 
  • As it turns out, the style of underwear you wear has been shown to have a profound effect on your sense of well-being.4 

To that end, let’s take a peek at 3 gorgeous lingerie looks spun with both synthetic fabric and natural fibers and designed to make you look and feel divine from the inside out (or, from your bottom layer to your top layer).

#1 Full On Glam

High-waisted underwear has a retro feel reminiscent of the golden years of Hollywood. Spun from nylon, this style draws on gentle, lightweight lace with a scallop trim for breathability and a barely-there texture.

Aside from its more glamorous attributes, underwear that scales the belly has the added bonus of creating an hourglass silhouette and offering you a degree of control up top. To drive up the allure, look for designs that keep your front side contained while favoring a thong style in the back.

#2 Polished And Elegant

If there’s a fabric that will never go out of style, it’s silk. In addition to being a naturally-sourced material, silk has a host of benefits for your physical health:

  • Silk is a non-irritating fabric that’s been shown to soothe temperamental skin.
  • Silk can reduce discomfort, like itching and inflammation, caused by yeast infections.
  • Naturally cool to the touch, silk can keep you feeling comfortable in an area of the body that tends to generate a lot of heat.5

Inspired by the classics, this brief-style underwear is crafted from 100% silk and lightweight tulle so that you can enjoy the pure luxury of silk with any ensemble you may be wearing.

#3 Race You To The Bedroom

Everyone needs at least one pair of undies in her lingerie trove that’s mostly there for eye candy. Thongs are some of the sexiest styles to be found in the top drawer (or on the floor), and the minimal fabric makes fit a first priority for feeling and looking phenomenal.

This racy red specimen from the Full On Glam collection speaks for itself, with high-waisted bands to accentuate your hips. Crafted with nylon and fine scalloped lace detail made with microfiber for a heavenly, soft texture that rivals the coziest natural fabrics.

How To Take Care Of Your Underwear

In general, there are 3 golden rules to follow to get the most out of your underwear:

  • Use a lingerie bag – If you’re following physicians’ advice and whipping through a pair of undies (or two!) in a single day, your laundry pile of intimates will grow rather quickly. Do your underwear and your hamper a favor by storing them in a lingerie bag instead. Once it’s laundry day, toss the whole bag into your machine to keep your delicates from getting tangled and stretched alongside the other clothes you have in the wash.
  • Pick the right detergent – The first step on how to wash lingerie properly is to choose the right detergent. Whenever possible, use natural, hypoallergenic detergent solutions with your delicates, which are gentler on fabrics that are washed as frequently as underwear. You’ll also be doing yourself a favor, as chemical-heavy detergents are known to irritate the skin, particularly in your most sensitive areas.
  • Let it dry au natural – Keep your lingerie panties out of the dryer! The harsh heat can dilute the pigment and break down the fibers of your fabrics more quickly, which can age your undies prematurely. Find a flat surface to let them air dry, or go the European route and pin them on a clothesline—they’ll look cuter dangling in your laundry room anyway.

Every fabric has different requirements for care, so, when in doubt, always check the washing instructions before you chuck your delicates straight into the washing machine!

Enjoy The Finer Underthings by Gooseberry 

When it comes down to it, there’s no reason why the garments you wear closest to your most intimate areas shouldn’t look as good as they feel.

Whether underwear, bras, or bodysuits, Gooseberry doesn’t do plain, stuffy, or overbuilt. As a Bali-based company, we draw our inspiration from French architecture and Indonesian lace to create classic, unstructured, effortlessly elegant lingerie with plenty of room to let your silhouette breathe. 

Each Gooseberry piece is hand-crafted by local artisans to make you feel as heavenly as the lush designs you’re slipping into. So, give your top drawer a sigh (and a swoon) of relief, and shop Gooseberry intimates to find your new favorite piece.


Sources: 

  1. Master Class. Natural vs. Synthetic Fibers: What’s the Difference? https://www.masterclass.com/articles/natural-vs-synthetic-fibers#what-are-synthetic-fibers
  2. Healthline. 8 Underwear Rules to Live by for a Healthy Vagina. https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/underwear-hygiene#1.-Overall,-choose-natural-fabrics-specifically-cotton
  3. Women’s Health. The Most Breathable Underwear For Your Vagina, According To An Ob-Gyn.  https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/g28626566/breathable-underwear/
  4. PR Newswire. Knickers in a Twist? ShopSmart Poll Finds a Woman's Underwear Affects Her Attitude. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/knickers-in-a-twist-shopsmart-poll-finds-a-womans-underwear-affects-her-attitude-111821739.html
  5. Everyday Health. 7 Surprising Benefits of Silk. https://www.everydayhealth.com/skin-and-beauty-pictures/surprising-benefits-of-silk.aspx