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Underwear and Lichen Sclerosus: What Kind is Best

Underwear and Lichen Sclerosus: What Kind is Best

Introduction

Underwear and lichen sclerosus is a topic we get asked a lot about at Lichen Sclerosus Support Network. Folks have questions like: “What should I look for in underwear,” “Are there certain kinds of underwear that aggravate lichen sclerosus symptoms” and “What is the best kind of underwear for lichen sclerosus?” These are lifestyle questions seldom addressed at the doctor's office, so today, we will chat about underwear and lichen sclerosus.

In today's post, I will discuss how underwear can sometimes make lichen sclerosus worse, answer the question “What is the best type of underwear for lichen sclerosus,” and then review different underwear options for you to explore. 

*I have no affiliate links in this post. Any brand I mention is either just one I like or one I have heard others recommend. I get no commission if you purchase from any of these links.

How Underwear Can *Sometimes* Make Lichen Sclerosus Worse

Lichen sclerosus can cause symptoms like vulvar itch, pain, soreness, and irritation. This can mean that external factors like fabric can increase and worsen those symptoms for some folks.

Think about it like this.

Most of us have experienced a sunburn before. When you have a sunburn, the touch of your clothing and bedsheets can feel incredibly painful. It is as if your body suddenly has heightened pain sensitivity. 

This is because when the body is experiencing pain or discomfort, materials can make those sensations feel worse.

Same for the vulva with lichen sclerosus. If you are symptomatic, the materials of your underwear may cause more discomfort. 

To be clear, underwear does not *cause* lichen sclerosus, but it can cause irritation, especially if you have symptomatic. 

What are the Best Underwear for Lichen Sclerosus

You may be wondering, “If underwear can irritate my LS symptoms, what is the best type of underwear for LS?”

Image of people with different body types and skin tones wearing underwear as this post discusses underwear and lichen sclerosus

The best kind of underwear for lichen sclerosus is the kind that feels best for you and your body. ‘Best' is subjective to each individual. Some folks love bamboo underwear; others hate them. No one universally agreed upon type or brand works for everyone, and that is OK. 

Similarly, it would help if you avoided underwear that increases your symptoms and does not work for your body.

Cotton Underwear and Lichen Sclerosus

Cotton underwear can be a good choice as it is very breathable and does not retain moisture. Some folks find excess moisture to be irritating. Further, folks with lichen sclerosus tend to prefer breathable materials around their vulva.

Cotton underwear come in many different styles.

For example,

  • Classic brief
  • High cut
  • Hipster
  • Bikini
  • Boyshort
  • Tanga
  • Thong
  • And more

When you are symptomatic, you may want to avoid styles like bikinis, tangas, and thongs, which are often very tight and cause a lot of friction, rubbing, and irritation of the vulva.

When it comes to underwear, my go-to is cotton, classic briefs. 

Pro-tip: Order them a size or two larger than you usually would so they are baggier, and the gusset – the extra layer of fabric sewn into the crotch portion of the underwear – is not sitting and rubbing directly on the vulva.

White, black, and grey cotton briefs among a light pink background.

As for brands, you can buy whatever is most affordable for you. I usually buy a bulk pack of white cotton briefs from Fruit of the Loom because it is my cheapest option.

Boxer Briefs

Boxers are another option folks in the LS community like. Boxers are often made of cotton and can be purchased in bulk. 

It is nice that these do not have material that sits directly on the vulvar skin. Instead, there is a nice amount of ‘free space' between the vulva and the boxers. It is almost like going commando, but you know you are still covered.

Bamboo Underwear and Lichen Sclerosus

Lately, we have heard a lot of good feedback about bamboo underwear. These underwear are made with bamboo, which is a woody plant with a hollow stem (pandas like to munch on it), instead of cotton or other materials.

Here is a quote on the benefits of bamboo underwear from Sustainability Tracker.com

“Bamboo contains an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal bio-agent which is retained through the process of fabrication and after washing. This property also makes Boody garments odour-resistant. This is so important because the structure of the bamboo fibres contains micro-gaps, which provide ventilation and evaporates moisture that causes bacteria to multiply.  

Not only is organic bamboo underwear breathable, but the fabric is also more naturally moisture wicking and absorbent than other materials— which leaves you feeling fresh and dry throughout the day. Fun fact: Bamboo fibre is naturally absorbent and speedily wicks away moisture – up to four times faster than cotton.”

The downside is that these underwear are substantially more expensive than standard cotton. However, it may be worth it if they relieve symptoms. 

There are different styles of bamboo underwear, such as the classic brief, high rise, bikini, boxers, thongs, and more.

Here is one popular site I have heard a lot about. I cannot personally vouch for them; I wear regular cotton underwear or commando.

Silk Underwear and Lichen Sclerosus

Another popular option in the LS community is silk underwear.

I do not personally wear silk underwear. I have heard others in the community say that while they are soothing and gentle, they are terrible at wicking away moisture and have to change their underwear multiple times a day because of excess sweat. However, others swear by them. Try getting one pair and testing out how you like them before buying a ton.

DermaSilk is a popular brand in the UK. They are often at medical conferences. Their clothing and underwear are designed for folks with dermatological conditions, including but not limited to eczema, psoriasis, lichen sclerosus, lichen simplex chronicus, etc.

They ran a double-blind, randomized control trial with one group wearing cotton underwear and the other wearing silk underwear in folks with lichen simplex chronicus.

They state: “The results of the present study provide evidence that silk fabric underwear may be a useful tool for VLSC management by diminishing external sources of irritation and by synergizing with the anti-inflammatory action of topical corticosteroids.” – From their leaflet, I picked up at the British Society for the Study of Vulval Diseases, March 2023.

VLSC = Vulvar Lichen Simplex Chronicus

Leaflet from Dermasilk sharing the above mentioned quote.

DermaSilk markets its underwear as a class I medical device that can preserve the optimal temperature and humidity around the general area. Its antimicrobial properties allegedly remove excessive bacteria and fungi. I cannot corroborate these claims.

Learn more about DermaSilk and Lichen Sclerosus on their page. (They seem to ship internationally).

Silk underwear tends to be very expensive, so buy one pair to see if you like them before buying many different pairs.

Ditching the Underwear and Embracing the Commando Life

Another popular option is to ditch the underwear and go commando. If you are unfamiliar with that phrase, it means wearing no underwear. Many folks opt to do this as they find it less irritating.

It is also the cheapest option because you do not have to buy anything.

I go commando most days (including when I go to the gym), but I stick with plain ol' cotton when I wear underwear.

Should You Throw Out Those Sexy, Lacy Thongs?

If you follow my journey, you know I threw out all of my lingerie and sexy, lacy thongs after my diagnosis.

Truthfully, I regret that now. 

When you are symptomatic, you may need to be more mindful of your underwear choice and temporarily place those lacy thongs on a time-out. However, that does not mean you can never wear them again.

Now that I am in remission, I can wear thongs again without irritation or flares. I rarely do, but I just got used to and prefer going commando, but it is nice to know that I can if I want to.

Image of a pink lacy thong and an orange lacy thong on a clothing line, hanging to dry amidst a clear blue sky.

So if you have sexy underwear, you can always keep them for when you feel better. Alternatively, one tip my gynecologist gave me ages ago was to stick to commando or cotton briefs during the day. When you know you may be intimate with your partner, put them on before so you can feel that sexy feeling, and then back to briefs after.

Conclusion

In sum, underwear and lichen sclerosus can be tricky. The best underwear for lichen sclerosus are the ones that fit your lifestyle and work best for your body. I reviewed different materials and styles you may want to explore. Finally, I addressed the question, “Do I need to throw out all my sexy, lacy underwear.”

In the comment section, let us know what types of underwear you prefer for lichen sclerosus.

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18 Comments

  • Maggie

    Thank you for all the info you provide to this community, it’s invaluable. I have learned so much from you and the LSSN that has made my journey much easier vs from my physician. Keep up the great work!

  • Emily

    I wear cotton underwear. I don’t feel comfortable going without underwear, so at night I wear underwear in which I have cut just the crotch portion out so that my skin can breathe. In that way, I “trick” myself into thinking that I’m still wearing full underwear! I do have trouble with leggings (which I love to wear). And also with the stretchy tight shorts liners that are underneath skorts. I have found that the spandex is irritating and too tight. But if I make sure that there is under 10% spandex in the material, it feels better. I’ve often wondered if I need to give up wearing leggings completely in order to maintain comfort. I often wear casual summer dresses in warm weather just to help maintain a period of remission. I feel like I can have flares by wearing certain things too often. Once I left on my wet bathing suit after water aerobics for the rest of the day, and I had a flare that took months to clear up.

    • Jaclyn Lanthier

      Hi, Emily. Thank you for sharing. OMG, that is such a genius trick! I’m sure others will find that super helpful. We all have different comfort levels, and we love that you honor yours (and found a compromise to make it work). With the leggings, everyone’s body is different. I gave up wearing leggings until I was in remission and symptom-free; now that I have no symptoms, I can wear leggings with no problem. Some folks have no problems with leggings; others can’t wear them and others still can wear them sometimes but not othertimes. I think a lot of it is experimenting and finding what works for your body. Sending you so much love. <3

  • Toni

    Thank you very much for your work in helping us navigate this difficult disease. I have not tried the silk or bamboo options yet. I did go commando in the beginning but found that good fitting…..not loose or baggy….cotton pantie works best for me. Loose and or baggy irritate me. A regular fit but not tight actually makes me feel protected. My symptoms include the anal area and the cotton regular fit feel “safer” especially when I’m sitting but even throughout the night. Of course, this could all change tomorrow!

    • Jaclyn Lanthier

      Hi, Toni 🙂 I love that you found an option that worked for your body and love your realistic mindset of this could change (I too, hold that mindset). Thanks for your comment and support <3

  • Ronn

    I wore bamboo underwear even before I knew I has LS because they are so soft. The brand I wear- Boody has no double layer gusset and no seam at the front. So less risk of irritation there. The only problem with bamboo is it does hold more moisture and takes ages to dry, meaning you can feel too damp down there. I find this a bit of an issue in heat or for exercise and running. Tights are another issue I have not completely resolved. I wore them all the time, especially for exercise. I cut the gusset out of an old pair and wore shorts over to top for running in the cold. This worked great. I will do the same for wearing tights with dresses. It feels kind of weird to do, but no one knows and it worked great! I think in summer for running I will have to try running shorts with different underwear options underneath and hope I don’t chafe, I have a always worn long tights to prevent chafe and sunburn.

  • Ronn

    I wore bamboo underwear even before I knew I has LS because they are so soft. The brand I wear- Boody has no double layer gusset and no seam at the front. So less risk of irritation there. The only problem with bamboo is it does hold more moisture and takes ages to dry, meaning you can feel too damp down there. I find this a bit of an issue in heat or for exercise and running. I wore tights all the time, especially for exercise. I cut the gusset out of an old pair and wore shorts over to top for running in the cold. This worked great.. Not sure what to do for summer running. I think will have to try running shorts with different underwear options underneath and hope I don’t chafe, I have a always worn long tights to prevent chafe and sunburn.

    • Jaclyn Lanthier

      Hi, Ronn! Ohhh, I super appreciate you sharing the brand you use. I really want to try Bamboo. I honestly never heard of bamboo underwear until LS. I have heard similar things in terms of breathability and sweat with the bamboo underwear, so maybe I’ll try them in the winter and stick with cotton/commando in the summer 🙂 Thanks very much for sharing what works for you! Fingers crossed for no chafing with the running shorts! Thanks for your comment and support <3

      • Veronica

        Thanks Jaclyn! Recently diagnosed after about 4+ years (and given very little information) , Your support network and information has been a life saver for me! Still struggling and learning but feel more empowered and my mental health is suffering less! So thank you! Ronni

        • Jaclyn Lanthier

          Thanks, Ronni! We appreciate you. Unfortunately, it’s all too common to get little to no information after diagnosis, but we are working hard to change that <3

  • Jeannette

    Hi Jaclyn
    I am 67 and have had LS for 40 odd years. It never bothered me too much until after I went through menopause and then developed ovarian cancer and had a hysterectomy. 2 years ago it got really bad and I started searching for answers as I got very little and negative information from the doctors. Your site has helped me immensely. I had fusion down there to the point where there was barely a hole to pee. I had years before been given ovestin to insert vaginally but after reading somewhere that the fusion was caused by a lack of oestrogen I started applying it to the fused area 4 times a day. After about 2 weeks it had started to open up and although looked like a tear it continued to open and eventually started to heal. So much better now although still too tight to have sex. It feels like I have a tight rubber band at the vaginal entrance. But for the vulva area I am also getting relief from applying witchhazel and olive oil.
    Jeannette

    • Jaclyn Lanthier

      Hi, Jeannette. Thanks for sharing a part of your journey with us. That sounds so difficult, I’m so very sorry you had to go through all of that. Glad to hear you are feeling better over all. Here’s to more healing and feeling better <3

      • Jeannette

        Thanks to you Jaclyn. I have since listened to your relationship videos and learned about dilators. I contacted the doctor I’m under and suggested to him that they could help my situation. He is sending me some so hopefully that will do the trick. It just staggers me though that the ‘professionals’ are so unhelpful and lacking in information. Just happy to write a script and send you on your way. Thanks so much for sharing your journey and helping others by doing so.
        Much gratitude
        Jeannette

  • shonitra

    I have issues with wearing panties. I have bladder incontinence as well, therefore I wear pads. My most sensitive area is the joint area where the the legs of the panties rubs that area. I’ve tried high-cut but they still rub and irritate. When I’m home I wear thigh length jockey shaping (changing several times), but can’t wear out because incontinence pads will not stick to the crotch. 🙁

  • KAREN

    Hi everyone,
    I’m newly diagosed, as a matter of fact my biopsy is scheduled for Jan 16/24. I really looking for any info that the LS veterans out there can provide. I’ve been using Clobetasol for 5 wks and really want to prevent ANY fusion or permanent scaring of my clitoral hood, labia minora or perional areas, if at all possible! Does this eventually happen to all who have LS, or just to those who took years for a diagnosis. I am 51, and already starting to see minor changes of my clitoral hood and tightness. PLEASE ANY advise appreciated

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