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12 Different Types of Fabric for Underwear

Explore the different types of fabric for underwear and see which of these are the healthiest. Wearing the right kind of underwear will keep you fresh and comfortable all day.

A set of black and white underwear with silk cloth on the side.

When it comes to the right choice of fabric for underwear, it’s not just about what looks good or feels comfortable. You also need to consider your health since certain fabrics are healthier options than others. Your daily underwear must be breathable and good for your health since you wear it the entire day.

Underwear fabrics can include natural fabrics and synthetic fabrics, although natural fabrics are the healthiest option. 

The healthiest fabrics for daily underwear are natural fabrics that provide airflow and prevent trapped moisture and heat. These include cotton, silk, hemp, linen, merino wool, and bamboo viscose. Synthetic fabrics used for underwear and lingerie include nylon, spandex, polyester, mesh, satin, and lace. 

We wear underwear for various reasons, including comfort, personal hygiene, and providing a barrier against the external environment. Wearing the right underwear is a must if you want to stay fresh and comfortable during the day, and therefore, it is vital that you know which types of fabric to look for when you’re out buying yourself some new underwear.

Let’s explore the different fabrics that are used for underwear.

Table of Contents

Natural Vs. Synthetic Fabrics For Underwear

Natural fabrics are always the healthiest option for underwear for men and women. Though these fabrics tend to be more expensive, it is worth the money and the healthiest option. These fabrics are breathable, don’t hold on to heat, and prevent moisture from building up.

This ensures that you stay comfortable and at low risk for infections. 

You can wear synthetic fabrics if you’re planning on wearing that particular pair of underwear for a short period of time, e.g., when working out or for one night’s lingerie. However, wearing synthetic underwear the whole day, every day may affect your health in the long term. Synthetic fabrics absorb sweat and aren’t breathable, which creates an environment that can lead to irritations and infections. 

Cotton

Men's folded cotton underwear piled on the bed.

Cotton is a plant fiber that’s mostly made up of a polymer called cellulose. Cotton is one of the best fabrics for underwear worn every day for long periods of time. It is soft and gentle on the skin and therefore helps prevent skin irritation.

Cotton is a very breathable fabric that will prevent excessive moisture and heat from building up. 

Silk

Silk is a smooth, shiny fabric produced by silkworms, which places it on the slightly more expensive side. Silk has sweat-wicking and moisture-wicking properties and is also an unbelievably soft fabric that will provide optimal comfort. 

Hemp

Hemp fabric is a natural textile derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. The fibers in the stalks of the plant are mainly used to manufacture the fabric since these fibers are known to be extremely durable and tensile. Hemp fabric has some amazing properties that make it one of the best types of material to use for making underwear. 

Linen

Linen fabric is a durable fabric derived from the flax plant. The best linen comes from countries like Belgium, where the soil and the climate are perfect for cultivating high-quality flax. Linen is biodegradable and recyclable, which makes it environmentally friendly and sustainable. 

It can easily be washed in the washing machine without losing shape or strength and actually becomes softer and more comfortable the more it is washed and used

Merino wool

Merino wool is derived from Merino sheep, a special breed of sheep that initially came from Spain and Morocco and that share the characteristics of Arabian and European sheep breeds. Merino wool is very durable and has become one of the world’s most popular fabrics. 

Bamboo viscose

We all know what a bamboo tree looks like, but did you know that you can use it to make some of the most comfortable and breathable underwear? Bamboo stalks are shredded down into a pulp and further processed through the use of mechanical spinners that weave them into fine, thin viscose rayon yarn. 

Bamboo viscose isn’t considered entirely natural, yet it is not a completely synthetic fabric either. It’s safe to say that bamboo viscose falls somewhere between natural and synthetic.

Women's synthetic underwear against a white linen.

Nylon

Nylon is a synthetic fabric that is derived from crude oil. Nylon from crude oil is first a plastic, which then undergoes further chemical processing to form the strong, stretchy nylon fibers that work so well as a fabric in clothing. 

Spandex

Spandex is a synthetic fiber that is composed of polyurethane. It is a highly elastic type of fabric and can withstand a large amount of wear and tear. Due to its incredible stretch, spandex is a popular underwear fabric that is best suited to those who live an active lifestyle, e.g., athletes.

Polyester

Polyester is a stretchy and strong synthetic fabric manufactured from petroleum. It is first a PET plastic and then undergoes a process called melt spinning to form polyester fibers that are used to make the fabric. 

Mesh

Mesh is a synthetic fabric made from polyester and nylon woven together to form a lightweight, net-like fabric that works well for making sportswear and underwear. Mesh is a flexible and breathable fabric that will keep the wearer cool, dry, and comfortable. 

Satin

Satin comprises different filament fibers, including polyester, silk, and nylon, that are woven together to create a beautiful, shimmery and smooth fabric that can be used to make underwear and lingerie. Satin isn’t the most breathable type of fabric, and therefore, it is best when it is worn as lingerie for short periods of time and not an entire day.  

Lace

Lace is a synthetic fabric that is made out of linen, cotton, and sometimes silk threads. Lace is a delicate and sheer fabric that can be used to make delicate lingerie and intimate wear. Although some ladies like to wear lace every day, it has a slightly rough, scratchy texture that can irritate sensitive skin.

Leave the frills for special occasions and opt for more comfortable options, e.g., cotton during the day. 

The Best Underwear Fabrics For Women Vs. Men

There’s a big difference between men’s and women’s underwear. Men need comfortable, breathable underwear that offers support, while ladies usually want underwear that is good for their health and makes them look and feel pretty. Fortunately, there are so many fabrics available for underwear, and each of them serves its purpose. 

The Best Underwear Fabrics For Women

Women's cotton underwear surrounded by petals on wide plank floor.

Cotton Underwear

POKARLA Women's High Waisted Cotton Underwear Soft Breathable Postpartum Panties Full Coverage Stretch Briefs Regular & Plus Size(X-Small)

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Cotton underwear will keep you comfortable and dry as you go about your daily business and will stay securely in place. Cotton may not be the best underwear option when you’re working out, though. Cotton isn’t very elastic and won’t allow as much free movement if your workout requires a lot of movement. 

For everyday wear, cotton is one of the best fabrics, but for workouts, you may need to consider a fabric with more stretch and elasticity and that’s still breathable. 

Silk Underwear

Colorful Star 4 Pack Women's Sexy Pure Silk Panties (M)

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Silk underwear is ideal for when you will be traveling long distances because of its quick-drying nature. You can wash them and hand them to dry overnight so that you have a fresh, clean pair of undies for the next day. 

Silk is also a stunning, shimmery fabric that is perfect for everyday wear or for making a beautiful set of luxury silk lingerie. If you have some money to spend on quality underwear, you cannot go wrong with silk! 

Hemp Underwear

Period Underwear: Women Hipster Panties for Menstrual Leak Proof Light-Medium Discharge|S

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Some benefits of hemp fabric include anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties, which ensure that you smell fresh for extended periods of time. Hemp fabric is very breathable and reduces the risk of yeast infections caused by moisture and heat build-up. It is also very soft and comfortable and becomes even softer the more you wash it! 

Hemp fabric is an unbelievably strong material and won’t lose shape as other fabrics do with prolonged use. You don’t have to worry about stretched-out, flimsy underwear if you have a pair of hemp undies! Hemp also holds color very well, so your underwear’s color won’t wash out or become dull either. 

Linen Underwear

3-Pack Baby Girls Ruffle Bloomer Shorts Toddler Cute Cotton Linen Panty Diaper Covers

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Linen looks pretty similar to cotton, but linen tends to be heavier and about 30% stronger than cotton due to thicker fibers. Linen fabric is super lightweight and breathable and a great option for underwear fabric. Linen absorbs moisture, but it won’t leave you feeling damp and uncomfortable.

This natural fabric has a very soft texture and won’t cause any irritation if you move around a lot during the day.  

Merino Wool Underwear

UTENOS 100% Merino Wool Women's Base Layer Underpants Made in EU (Black, XL)

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Although wool sounds like something that should only be reserved for the winter months, this is not the case when it comes to your wool underwear! Merino wool underwear is an excellent option for hot, sweaty days since wool doesn’t hold on to moisture as some other underwear fabrics do. 

Merino wool has moisture-wicking and hypo-allergenic properties provide insulation and have a luxuriously soft texture. It is easy to clean and quick-drying, making them a great option for when you’re on the road. Merino wool may be a bit more expensive than, e.g., cotton or linen, but it’s worth the investment! 

Bamboo Viscose Underwear

Warm Sun Women's Bamboo Viscose Fiber Multi Pack Plus Size Stretchy Soft Breathable High Middle Waist Panties Size 8(XL),( Black,Gray,Purple,Skin,Rouge)

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Bamboo viscose is incredibly soft and has hypo-allergenic properties. The fabric is excellent at preventing heat from building up and will keep you feeling relaxed and fresh. 

The fact that bamboo viscose isn’t an entirely natural fabric puts it at an advantage. Some natural fabrics tend to absorb moisture and are slow to dry. Bamboo viscose, however, does a good job at moisture-wicking due to small holes in the fabric and dries so quickly that you won’t even notice you’re sweating! 

The fabric is also strong and durable and gives you room to move around without having your underwear riding or bunching up. 

The Best Underwear Fabrics For Men

Men's multicolored underwear with cotton flowers.

Micro Modal Underwear

DAVID ARCHY Men's Dual Pouch Underwear Micro Modal Trunks Separate Pouches with Fly 4 Pack (L, Black/Dark Gray/Navy Blue/Olive Green)

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Micro Modal fabric is derived from cellulose that gets extracted from Beechwood trees. The cellulose undergoes various processes until it is finally woven into soft and silky Micro Modal fabric. 

Micro Modal underwear is one of the most comfortable fabrics in men’s underwear. Where the ladies have soft, luxurious silk underwear, the men have Micro Modal underwear. It has the softness of silk but is much less slippery, therefore providing comfort and the necessary support for typical day-to-day activities. 

Micro Modal is extremely breathable and moisture-absorbent and also has anti-bacterial and anti-shrinkage properties. Although it seems to be the most comfortable option for undies, we do not recommend this type of underwear for when you’re working out. Because of its soft texture, Micro Modal underwear won’t give you the support and tighter fit you need when you’re at the gym or doing sports.  

Cotton Underwear

Tommy Hilfiger Men's Underwear 3 Pack Cotton Classics Woven Boxers, Red Plaid Logo Print/Blue Plaid, Medium

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Cotton will always be at the top of the list for best underwear fabrics. Cotton is naturally very soft, comfortable, and breathable. It’s affordable and always readily available, one of the most common fabrics used to make clothing and underwear. 

You can never go wrong with cotton underwear. It is hypo-allergenic and won’t chafe or cause any irritation to the skin. Cotton underwear will keep you dry and prevent a build-up of heat and moisture, therefore also preventing yeast infections or bacterial infections and keeping odor at bay. 

Cotton may not be the best option when working out because it lacks the stretch and elasticity of other fabrics like, for example, spandex. However, if you need a comfortable, breathable pair of underwear to wear on a typical workday, cotton underwear is the way to go! 

Bamboo Underwear

BAMBOO COOL Men’s Underwear boxer briefs Soft Comfortable Bamboo Viscose Underwear Trunks (4 Pack) (L, long boxer briefs)

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Bamboo viscose is an extremely soft fabric that feels even more comfortable than cotton. It is lighter and has a silky texture which ensures that it will be gentle on sensitive skin. Bamboo fabric has thermo-regulating properties that make it an excellent fabric for any weather.

It will ensure that you stay cool in the summer and provide the warmth you need in the winter.  

Furthermore, bamboo is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and hypo-allergenic. The fabric is also anti-static, ensuring that your underwear won’t bunch up or cling to your body. Bamboo underwear is best for all-day wear, with moisture-wicking properties that make it great for long days of sitting when working or traveling. 

Polyester Underwear

Men's Underwear Polyester Boxer Briefs with Cool Cell Structure Design Trunk Underwear

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Polyester fabric is half the thickness of cotton and is a good option for when you are wearing tight-fitting pants or jeans. It is lightweight and breathable and has moisture-wicking properties that cause moisture to evaporate instead of soaking into the fabric or remaining on your skin. Therefore, it prevents odor and lowers the risk for infections and skin irritation. 

Polyester is great for when you’re traveling because it’s wrinkle-resistant and dries quickly when you wash it. With polyester being breathable and durable, it is also a good option for when you’re working out. 

Nylon Underwear

Reebok Men's Athletic Performance Moisture Wicking Nylon Mesh Boxer Briefs (3 Pack), (Black/Dark Green, Medium)

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Nylon underwear is one of the best choices of material for exercising. Nylon has micro-fibers that will keep you dry no matter how much you sweat during your workout. It is also a very strong and durable fabric that doesn’t easily lose color when washing it. 

Nylon is a good fabric for when you’re working out but not one of the most breathable options for daily wear. Because nylon is a synthetic fabric, it tends to trap moisture and sweat when worn for long periods of time. Though it has the same texture and softness as cotton, it doesn’t offer the same health benefits. 

Conclusion

There are plenty of beautiful yet breathable fabric options for the ladies that promote both health and style in a pair of undies. Likewise, there are a variety of fabrics available that will give the men the support and comfort they need. Being comfortable and staying healthy should be a top priority when choosing the right underwear for any occasion.

Make sure you check these two items off the next time you’re out buying your next pair of underwear. 

References:

Healthline: 8 Underwear Rules To Live By

Thehealthy: Healthiest Women’s Underwear You can Buy, According to Gynecologists

Undywears: Best Fabric For Mens’ Underwear

Yourparade: 4 Best Fabrics For Womens’ Underwear

Ministryofhemp: Why You Should Make The Switch To Hemp Underwear Now

Coremerino: Why Merino Wool Underwear?

The Men Hero: Cotton Vs. Polyester Underwear (What Is The Best Choice For You?)

Ufmunderwear: Men’s Bamboo Underwear: Viscose/Bamboo Fabrics Explained

Bamboodetective: Bamboo Underwear: The Pro’s and Con’s