Thong underwear, the middle child of the bikini and the G-string, has just a sliver of a gusset, which sits between your butt cheeks.
This tiny piece of fabric makes them stellar at hiding panty lines under yoga pants and other tightly fitting bottoms, absolutely. But thongs have also been associated with a range of vaginal and anal health issues, including hemorrhoids, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and skin tags.
While it’s definitely tight quarters back there, it’s unlikely that wearing a thong can cause hemorrhoids. That said, they could potentially increase your chances of other *down there* health concerns.
Keep reading to get to the, er, bottom of how thongs might have an impact on your health.
Thongs most likely don’t cause hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids are swollen, bulging veins around the anus or in the lower rectum. They can cause:
- intense itching
- bleeding when you poop
They happen when there’s too much pressure on the veins around your anus, and they’re very common.
But even the snuggest of thongs won’t put enough pressure on your veins to cause hemorrhoids.
That said, if you already have hemorrhoids, the rubbing of a thong could exacerbate the situation.
Early anecdotal reports suggested that thong use increased the incidence of hemorrhoids, explains Felice Gersh, MD OB/GYN and founder/director of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine, in Irvine, CA and the author of Menopause: 50 Things You Need to Know.
Gersh goes on to explain that more recent
Things that can factor into whether you get hemorrhoids:
- straining to poop
- sitting on a toilet for long periods
- chronic constipation or diarrhea
- a family history of hemorrhoids
So, thongs probably won’t give you hemorrhoids. But what about the other potential issues people sometimes associate with thongs?
When it comes to UTIs, it’s not the style of your underpants as much as the fabric that matters, according to Gersh.
“Thongs made from synthetic material that traps and retains moisture and can disperse fecal material into the area of the urethral opening can potentially increase vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections,” says Gersh, who recommends absorbent, natural cotton fibers as a safer material choice.
UTIs are almost always caused by E. coli that makes its way into your urethra (the hole where pee comes out) and bladder. The anus and vagina are close neighbors, which makes the trek from front to back a short one.
Just like wiping back to front increases the risk for UTIs, a thong sliding forward when you move could potentially drag some bacteria with it.
Common UTIs symptoms include:
- pain or burning when you pee
- frequent, intense urge to pee
- pelvic pain
- cloudy urine
- blood in urine
Skin tags are harmless, dangly, flesh-colored growths that most often grow on areas where your skin folds, like your neck.
Friction from fabric rubbing against skin can cause genital or anal skin tags.
No research specifically explores the possible connection between thong use and skin tags. But people who wear thongs may be more likely to grow skin tags where the fabric rubs against the skin, especially if the thong is too small and tight-fitting.
As Gersh pointed out, thongs — especially those made from synthetic materials — can trap moisture and bacteria, potentially increasing the risk for yeast infections and other vaginal infections.
Yeast thrives in a warm, moist environment. So, the close fit of a thong made from an unbreathable and sweat-inducing fabric can create the perfect environment for yeast to grow.
Vaginal yeast infections can cause:
- intense vaginal itching and burning, especially during urination
- thick whitish or yellowish discharge that may resemble cottage cheese
- a sour smell
- discoloration of vaginal skin
Rashes and irritation
Thongs may not cause hemorrhoids or be inherently bad for your health, but they can cause problems for the delicate skin of your nether regions.
According to Gersh, thongs, especially snug-fitting ones, can rub delicate genital skin and cause or worsen vulvar skin conditions and inflammation.
Skin irritation isn’t just uncomfortable, either. It can also make you more susceptible to infection.
If thongs are your chosen style of underwear, it’s important to wear ones that fit well and comfortably, Gersh says.
Pay attention, too, for signs of skin irritation, like:
- skin discoloration
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind: If you often feel the need to adjust your thong, it’s probably too tight.
Unless you have an existing issue that’s aggravated by wearing a thong, you don’t have to stop wearing them unless you want to.
Instead, aim to choose the right thong material and size.
“Choose organic cotton as the fabric type and be sure they fit properly and aren’t overly tight,” Gersh recommends, explaining that these steps can help you avoid:
- rubbing on genital tissues
- creating an excessively moist environment in your vagina
- introducing fecal matter into the vaginal and urethral area
A few additional tips for wearing thongs:
- Limit thong use. Instead of wearing thongs every day, limit use to special occasions (helloooo sexy time!) or certain outfits where thongs just work better than other styles.
- Change your underwear at least once a day. Clean underwear is always important, but because thongs get right up in your business, they’re subjected to even more bacteria and sweat than other styles of underpants. If you work out or sweat a lot, changing your underwear more often can help you stay dry.
- Practice proper below-the-belt hygiene. Your vagina is self-cleaning, but your vulva and anus aren’t. Wash daily with water or mild soap and water, and then thoroughly pat dry. Always wipe and wash front to back to keep backside bacteria away from the urethra.
If you think wearing a thong might be contributing to your symptoms, stop wearing them for a few days to check whether your symptoms improve.
If that doesn’t help, a good next step involves making an appointment with a healthcare professional.
Consider reaching out right away if you have severe symptoms, or you experience any of the following:
- severe lower abdominal or pelvic pain
- unusual vaginal discharge
- vaginal bleeding not related to your period
- rectal discharge or bleeding
- genital sores or warts
- swollen groin lymph nodes
These symptoms could point to an infection or another underlying concern.
Thongs seem unlikely to lead to hemorrhoids. Still, wearing the right size and material (of any type of underwear, really) can help keep them from irritating existing hemorrhoids or causing other uncomfortable problems below the belt.
In short, you’re probably fine to keep wearing them. Just choose your fabric wisely and thong on.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.