Whether you buy your underwear in bulk or don the holy grail of panties (i.e., the trifecta of undies: sexy, comfortable, machine washable), we want to be sure you take into account what is truly the mother of all “must haves” before you seal the deal on what hugs your most personal parts: the right material.
First, we should probably explain why we are so passionate about a topic that, we admit, sounds a little snooze worthy. Well, think of underwear’s job: It cradles, it protects—and not just anything, but our most intimate, delicate parts. And with an important job like that, underwear needs the right tools for all to harmoniously exist. But give it the wrong tools, like synthetic materials, well then you have underwear that’s 1) non-breathable (i.e., a bacteria haven/party in your pants), 2) made with chemicals and dyes (hello toxins!), and/or 3) manufactured using methods harmful to the environment and to the people who work and live near those environments.
Now we’re not saying your underwear will kill you, or others. Dyes and chemicals don’t always equate to inevitable illness. However, here’s what we know:
- Some materials are processed and manufactured with dyes and chemicals (e.g., carcinogens, formaldehyde, insecticides).
- Skin acts as a protector, but is also highly absorbent—especially thin, delicate skin.
- Toxins absorbed through the skin bypass the liver, therefore skipping your body’s natural filtration process and entering your system faster and stronger.
But, let’s get positive and focus on what you should shop for to avoid all of the above nastiness. And while these materials might sound as comfy as tying twigs and straw to your lower extremities, they’re often softer than traditional cotton because they’re void of the dyes, bleaches, and chemicals that stiffen things up. (Though, of course, comfort is subjective.)
hoohoo winning materials
- Organic cotton: Breathable, lightweight, soft, inexpensive, machine washable—what’s not to love? Though, like traditional cotton, it absorbs moisture, so when exercising, opt for another option (see organic wool). A brand we love: PACT
- Organic wool: With natural anti-microbial properties to be odor free, this material is a renewable fiber that’s good for the earth, easy to care for, thermally regulated, wicking and quick drying (it evaporates moisture), and it’s incredibly soft. Added bonus: If you like to sit around the campfire in your skivvies, note that it’s also a natural flame-retardant (read: no formaldehyde). It can be expensive, but is so totally worth it. And be sure to look for cruelty-free wool. hoohoo founder and on-the-go girl, Stacy, raves about the brand Ibex.
- Organic raw silk: Durable, resilient, and hypoallergenic, but also luxurious, organic raw silk is lightweight, though with insulating qualities. It’s also environmentally friendly as well as humane. (Silk worms often experience a sad demise. Seriously, it’s sad. Shop for wild or spun silk.)
- Hemp: Sustainable and biodegradable (farming requires little water, it’s a renewable resource, and it naturally repels insects!), hemp is durable, hypo-allergenic, lightweight and non-irritating. Note that like cotton, it’s also highly absorbent, so avoid wearing for a high-intensity spin class.
- Bamboo: This material evokes “green,” and it certainly is as it’s hypoallergenic, fast-drying, naturally anti-bacterial, and comes from a fast-grow plant that uses less pesticides and fertilizers than most other plants. PLUS, it’s 100% biodegradable and has a great silky feel. So what’s the problem? Not all bamboo is created equal, and there can be issues on how it’s processed and manufactured (i.e., chemicals used), so if buying bamboo, do a little due diligence.
So whether you care about fair labor practices, the environment, animal rights, a healthier body, or all of the above (and we’re kind of assuming all of the above), just stick to the list of safe fabrics, think before you commit, and you’ll find it easy to be good to yourself and the planet.
Have a favorite material or brand you’d share? We would love to hear what you’re wearing.