Thongs, the style of underwear that has just a thin strip in the back, have been controversial for several years now. Blamed for the over-sexualization of young girls and helping the disintegration of values in America, thongs hit a peak market share in 2003 and have been declining ever since. It turns out there may be another reason to switch from thongs to the newly popular boyshorts or old staples like the bikini cut – personal health.
Rumors that wearing thongs can cause yeast infections or urinary tract infections (UTI's) are prevalent, although possibly unfounded. Freshwoman Savannah Kilner said "I used to [wear thongs], but I stopped because it's irritating and uncomfortable and probably not the most hygienically responsible underwear choice."
While Kilner never experienced yeast infections or UTIs from wearing thongs, she explained her reasoning by saying "[a thong] is a small piece of fabric in a crevice that breeds a lot of bacteria. It just seems unhygienic."
Senior Glodean Champion has a different take. "When I wear underwear, I wear thongs. I consider it a health hazard when they chafe, but I've never had any yeast infections or UTIs from them."
Champion and Kilner's experiences of chaffing as the main problem of thong-wearing is backed up by medical experts.
Dr. Robert Stuart of University Health Services (Tang Medical center) said, "There's no studies or research that have been done on [the health implications of thong underwear.] Anecdotally, I've seen patients who've seen minor irritation in areas where thong underwear would be. Certainly any kind of tight underclothing, particularly anything synthetic, can increase the chances of getting a yeast infection because of moisture. So that would be true of any kind of tight-fitting synthetic thong underwear as well."
Dr. Mark Porter, the resident medical expert on the Web site discoveryhealth.co.uk, dismisses the idea that thongs are unhealthy and recommends to women to "wear whatever underwear you like as long as it's comfortable."
Vagisil, the maker of feminine hygiene products most known for their yeast infection treatments, has a 10 point list on their Web site, titled "Guidelines for better feminine health" that is aimed at teens. Number eight on the list tells girls to "eliminate clothing that can be bad for your feminine health. Tight jeans, leggings and thong underwear may be in fashion, but they can make you vulnerable to vaginal itching and irritation. Look for cotton underwear, or choose clothing that has a cotton crotch. That's especially important for pantyhose. Nylon and other synthetics don't 'breathe'."
While thongs are certainly the best way to deal with the dreaded VPL – visible panty lines – the chaffing they cause may not be worth the aesthetics. But go ahead and wear your thongs ladies, just make sure not to wear them too tight.