It’s the world’s most embarrassing sign of a good workout: the crotch sweat-spot.
So let’s talk about it. First of all, it’s completely natural to sweat where the sun don’t shine. After all, you’ve got sweat glands. And, when you’re working out, it gets hot down there, says exercise physiologist and certified strength and conditioning specialist Marta Montenegro. While any exercises will raise your body temp (including in the groin area) legs-together workouts like running tend to cause the most crotch sweat. When you’re hitting the pavement or are on the elliptical, the air just can’t get where it needs to go to cool things off. What’s more, since fat insulates your body, any extra throughout your hips and thighs can also keep your groin’s temperatures up, she says.
That said, it can still be hugely awkward—and the need to swear off all workout pants that aren’t black isn’t necessarily the worst part of a sweaty nether region.
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“There are two major types of sweat glands: apocrine and eccrine glands,” explains Jeremy Fenton, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York and New Jersey. Eccrine ones produce the most moisture, whereas the apocrine glands produce the most stank—and your groin has a higher density of them than just about any part of your body, save your armpits, says Fenton. That means: A sweaty crotch it going to be a smelly one.
Those smells can lead to more smells—and itches. “The problem with this sweat is that this area rarely gets to breathe,” says Melissa Goist, M.D., clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “So the skin stays wet and occluded. This environment is perfect for the yeast that lives on your skin to thrive and overgrow, causing external yeast infections.” Trapped down-there moisture can also result in small cracks or fissures that can be itchy and irritating, allowing entry for bacteria that may cause skin infections, she says.
“The best thing a woman can do is keep herself as dry as possible,” says Goist, who recommends changing out of your sweaty workout gear (and washing up!) immediately following your sweat sessions. Wearing loose-fitting pants can also help the skin “breathe,” so it stays cooler and less sweaty, says Montenegro. Plus, whatever sweat you do have can dry more easily.
Montenegro recommends splurging on workout-worthy underwear that help to wick away sweat; many athletic apparel brands, including Under Armour and Moving Comfort, sell them. Both brands even sell undies with microbial technology. Meanwhile, Dear Kate specializes in underwear and yoga pants that boast breathable and leak-free inner liners. (They can hold up to three tablespoons of moisture—sweat, pee, period spotting, whatever.)