A group pf women wearing ethical and non-toxic underwear in various bright and neutral colors while dancing posing and smiling.
July 4, 2024
 in 
Slow Fashion

It’s What’s Underneath That Matters: 17 of the Best Brands for Non-Toxic, Eco-Friendly, and Ethical Underwear

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nyone who’s had to survive a day in lousy underwear knows just how important it is to choose wisely. Underwear can affect how our clothes fit and how confident we feel, and depending on how they’re made, it can also impact our health and even more significant environmental issues.

In this article, we’re going to get intimately acquainted with the world of non-toxic, eco-friendly, and ethical underwear. We’ll look at why it’s worth being more mindful of the undergarments you wear, how to choose items that last, and 17 of the best brands to shop with for your next fresh pair.

Table of  Contents

What is ethical underwear?

“Ethical” underwear is all about paying more attention to how they’re made, especially from a labor perspective. This includes:

  • Fair wage practices.
  • Safe factory conditions.
  • Transparency regarding both of the above, as well as general production methods.

That last point is the most important. No underwear brand can truly call itself ethical unless it’s willing to be open with customers about where their garments are being made and under what conditions. Bigger companies can afford to take this a step further with outside audits and certifications, such as being a B Corp, but any amount of transparency should be celebrated.

Small, local businesses are often an excellent source for more ethical underwear, as production is usually more hands-on. Those making their products in countries or states with strict labor laws are also worth looking out for, as this helps ensure that your underwear was made under more ethical conditions.

What is eco-friendly underwear?

A pair of white panties made with eco-friendly fabric with green leaf resting on top.

The world of eco-friendly underwear covers more traditional questions of sustainability, such as the environmental impact of the garments. When you’re shopping for eco-friendly underwear, it’s best to consider these main factors:

Check the fabric label

As with any clothing item, the material your underwear is made from hugely determines its environmental impact. To get a better sense of this, let’s break down the impact of two of the most common synthetic materials you’ll find in underwear:

  • Nylon: Not only is nylon not biodegradable, but the production of this fiber is energy-intensive and creates nitrous oxide, which is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. 
  • Elastane: This is another energy-intensive, non-biodegradable fabric with the added downside of petrochemicals being used in the production process.

As much as both these fabrics contribute to pollution issues, avoiding them isn’t altogether easy or necessary. Both are extremely useful for underwear because of how lightweight and stretchy they are. The use of some elastane can also improve underwear longevity as it helps the garment “snap back” into shape after wear. To limit environmental impact, more eco-friendly underwear brands will try to use recycled nylon or elastane where possible and generally limit their use to where necessary.

Sustainable underwear will stick to natural, biodegradable fabrics as much as they can. Even within that, however, there are things to check for on the fabric label, such as:

  • Organic materials: GOTS-certified cotton or organically sourced bamboo fibers are two excellent materials to look for when shopping for sustainable underwear, as they mean less water and agrochemicals were used to produce the fabrics.
  • Recycled or Re-Purposed Fibers: About 97 million tons of textile waste go to landfills each year. That’s why a big part of buying more eco-friendly underwear is supporting brands that use recycled materials or re-purposed deadstock.

Unfortunately, making any kind of fabric involves energy and chemicals. There’s no perfect option, but there are better ones, like brands that stick to organic materials or only use recycled nylon. Every bit counts.

Carbon footprint and energy use

Beyond the materials used, making underwear in factories and eventually shipping those items invariably uses a lot of energy and adds to the final carbon footprint. 

Here’s what to look out for in this area when shopping for more eco-friendly underwear:

  • Efforts to reduce water and non-renewable energy usage in their factories, etc.
  • A carbon-neutral program.
  • Sticking to recyclable packaging.

This helps limit the negative impact that may come from the production of the garments, which helps keep our planet a little healthier.

Underwear lifespan and longevity

Even the most sustainably made underwear will eventually reach the end of its life and need to be discarded. The best eco-friendly underwear brands run recycling programs to ensure the fabric doesn’t go to landfills. It’s also important that items are well-made and have decent longevity. The longer your underwear lasts, the less frequently you’ll need to buy new pairs, which helps limit how much goes to waste.

Our criteria for non-toxic underwear (and why it matters)

Woman wearing burnt orange colored panties with flowers lining the outsides symbolizing non-toxic underwear.

Have you ever noticed that certain underwear rubs you the wrong way or makes you feel a bit sweaty within hours of putting it on? Sometimes, it’s because the fit is bad, but it may also be due to less-than-desirable fabrics.

Here are the three main factors that we use to define non-toxic underwear and why they matter for your health and comfort:

  • They are made from predominantly natural and organic fibers. Natural fibers tend to be the most breathable – a highly important factor for vaginal health. Breathability allows the area to stay dry, reducing the risk of bacterial growth and issues like yeast infections. Organic materials further minimize exposure to potentially harmful chemicals such as pesticides. Natural and organic materials are also less likely to cause allergic reactions in sensitive areas, as they’re softer and have fewer irritants.
  • Features non-toxic dyes: Another source of skin-irritating chemicals is the dyes used in underwear. That’s why we think non-toxic underwear should use natural or OEKO-TEX-certified dyes.
  • No nylon or synthetic fabrics are used in the gusset: The gusset is the area of your underwear that directly covers your genitals and should always be made from natural fiber. Again, it’s a matter of breathability, but it’s also worth noting that synthetics like nylon can leach BPAs and other harmful chemicals, which should not be near sensitive parts.

Ultimately, the most critical aspect of non-toxic underwear is that it limits wearers’ exposure to potentially toxic chemicals wherever possible. That way, you can reduce associated health risks and the chance of discomfort.

How to choose underwear that lasts

A store filled with different kinds of underwear to shop from.

There’s nothing worse than wearing underwear just once, only to find that either they’re horribly uncomfortable or that the elastic has already given out. Here’s how to make sure you only buy underwear that lasts.

  • Try to stick to styles that you know complement your needs. For example, seam-free underwear should be worn if it’s essential that lines are not shown. This will ensure you get the wear out of your purchases and avoid creating unnecessary waste. Make sure to also stick to fits you know you like and that work on your body.
  • Check reviews. Even if you’re shopping in-store, it’s worth taking a second to check out online reviews of a brand to see what other customers are saying about how well the underwear has lasted.
  • Consider the fabric. High-quality organic cotton and bamboo, for example, tend to be very long-lasting. Stick to natural fibers where possible, but a blend with small amounts of elastane or nylon can also help strengthen the material.

How often should you replace your underwear?

According to this article, in which multiple OB-GYNs weigh in on the topic, as long as you’re washing your underwear properly, you need only replace it when it becomes uncomfortable to wear. Just make sure you’re using soap and warm water to wash it after each use, and there shouldn’t be any need for concern. That said, if it starts to lose its shape or the waistband gives out, it’s likely time to retire it. 

17 of our favorite brands for non-toxic, eco-friendly, and ethical underwear

Whether you’re looking for more ethical lingerie, eco-friendly underwear options for every day, or the very best natural underwear, we’ve got you (and your bits) covered:

1. Stripe & Stare

You’ve almost certainly seen an influencer talking about this brand with an offer code in their bio, and we’re happy to report that it lives up to the hype. We love both the comfort of their underwear and how charming the styles are.

  • Standout Style: Everything from the brand’s b-edit is biodegradable, but their “original b-edit knicker” is a classic for a reason. They’re soft, comfortable, and understated but still feel special to wear.
  • Material: Mostly natural fibers such as TENCEL™ Micro Modal, SeaCell™, and Roica V550.
  • Product Range: Wide range of women’s underwear and lingerie styles.
  • Sizes: XS-4XL
  • Price Range: $24-$140
  • Sustainability Stats: Uses biodegradable and sustainable fabrics. Certified B Corp. 1 tree planted with every order. Carbon off-set initiative

2. Tomboy X

We’re writing this during Pride Month, which makes featuring this brand feel extra special. Tomboy X isn’t your usual eco-friendly underwear company. They’ve also been extremely innovative in designing gender—and size-inclusive items.

  • Standout Style: The Black Rainbow boyshorts are the brand’s bestseller thanks to its wedgie-free fit and waistband that never fails.
  • Material: Spandex, polyester, and OEKO-TEX Certified cotton.
  • Product Range: A range of queer-friendly underwear for men, women, and non-binary people.
  • Sizes: 3XS-6X
  • Price Range: $20-$100
  • Sustainability Stats: Certified B Corp. Uses OEKO-TEX Certified cotton.

3. Boody

This sustainable underwear brand primarily uses bamboo viscose, which makes for super-soft underwear and means the garments are eco-friendly and non-toxic. We wish they were a little more size-inclusive.

  • Standout Style: Their classic G-string has 4.7 stars from over 1500 reviews, with comfort (they’re so soft!) and quality being the main reasons people love them.
  • Material: Majority bamboo viscose with some regular viscose and nylon.
  • Product Range: Simple men’s and women’s underwear.
  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Price Range: $14-$18
  • Sustainability Stats: Uses sustainable fabrics. Certified B Corp. 1% for the planet.

4. Tentree

Tentree doesn’t offer many options for non-toxic underwear, but what it does have is perfect for everyday use.

  • Standout Style: Their bikini brief is basic in all the best ways, with its neutral color options and four-way stretch that allows for extra comfort.
  • Material: TENCEL™ x REFIBRA™ Lyocell, organic cotton, and elastane.
  • Product Range: Simple women’s and men’s underwear.
  • Sizes: XS-XXL
  • Price Range: $15-$18
  • Sustainability Stats: Certified B Corp. Climate neutral. Part of the restorative coalition. Features sustainable materials.

5. Organic Basics

The eco-friendly underwear styles of this brand might be simple but their approach to sustainability is anything but. Organic Basics does a full lifecycle assessment of each of its products and shares all the information with customers for true transparency.

  • Standout Style: Their bestselling underwear style is the core rib thong, which features a flattering mid-rise cut and all the stretch and softness you need for everyday wear.
  • Material: All underwear is 95% GOTS-certified organic cotton with 5% elastane.
  • Product Range: Simple women’s underwear.
  • Sizes: XXS-XXL
  • Price Range: $12-$18
  • Sustainability Stats: Uses GOTS-certified organic cotton. Shares the total carbon footprint of each item as well as a breakdown of that impact along the supply chain. Partnered with Made2Flow.

6. ColieCo

This ethical lingerie brand is putting the sexy back in sustainability. Their mesh range is made from entirely reclaimed fabrics, and they’ve even managed to make TENCEL™ Lyocell look tempting.  Everything is also handmade to order,, making the pieces feel even more special.

  • Standout Style: The Salema cut-out mesh panties combine the romance of French lingerie with all the sustainability innovations you’d want from eco-friendly underwear. 
  • Material: Reclaimed deadstock and industry off-cuts, recycled polyester, bamboo silk, and TENCEL™ Lyocell. All synthetic fabrics are reclaimed or recycled.
  • Product Range: Women’s lingerie.
  • Sizes: 2XS-3XL
  • Price Range: $22-$44
  • Sustainability Stats: Sustainable fabrics that include OEKO-TEX SteP certification. Handmade-to-order system to reduce waste. Studio and office powered by renewable energy. Water-saving initiatives. 100% recycled packaging. Carbon-offset shipping.

7. Subset

Subset is a one-stop shop for beautiful, organic cotton underwear. Whether it’s ethical boxers you’re after or a thong that’s actually comfortable, they’ve got you sorted.

  • Standout Style: Their low-rise thong is marketed as the “thong for people who hate thongs” and based on the 4.9-star rating and 1300 reviews, it’s clear these live up to the hype.
  • Material: Certified organic cotton, elastane, and nylon.
  • Product Range: Simple women’s and men’s underwear.
  • Sizes: 2XS-3XL
  • Price Range: $20-$28
  • Sustainability Stats: Uses certified organic cotton. Carbon emission offset program. Runs the world’s first intimates recycling program. Factories are Fair Trade certified.

8. Pact

Pact has sold 7.5 million pairs of organic cotton underwear thanks to wearable, high-refined fits. This is the ethical underwear brand to go to if you want something so comfortable you’ll forget you have them on.

  • Standout Style: The fit and comfort of the Everyday High Cut Brief make it one of the best eco-friendly underwear options you can buy.
  • Material: Certified organic cotton and elastane.
  • Product Range: Simple women’s underwear.
  • Sizes: XS-3XL
  • Price Range: $16-$18
  • Sustainability Stats: Uses certified organic cotton. Factories are Fair Trade certified. Carbon neutral.

9. Kent

Kent is one of those rare ethical underwear brands that manages to make 100% organic cotton, plastic-free underwear. This means that their underwear is completely non-toxic, compostable, and hypoallergenic.

  • Standout Style: Super soft, a great fit, and a range of cool colors? There’s nothing we don’t love about the compostable organic cotton bikini.
  • Material: 100% organic cotton.
  • Product Range: Simple women’s and men’s underwear.
  • Sizes: XS-6XL
  • Price Range: $24
  • Sustainability Stats: Uses only organic cotton. USDA-certified biobased product. Plastic-free. 1% for the planet. Climate-neutral.

10. Mighty Good Basics

Don’t let anyone tell you non-toxic underwear can’t be flattering. Mighty Good Basics is managing to make simple, beautiful underwear with natural dyes and organic cotton. It’s the kind of underwear that looks good and makes you feel incredible.

  • Standout Style: The mid-rise bikini brief has just been redesigned to be even softer and more comfortable. 
  • Material: Organic cotton and elastane.
  • Product Range: Simple women’s and men’s underwear.
  • Sizes: XS-3XL
  • Price Range: $20-$30
  • Sustainability Stats: Fairtrade certified. Partnered with the Australasian Circular Textile Association. GOTS-certified natural dyes.

11. WAMA

WAMA’s non-toxic underwear is all about comfort. They’re hypoallergenic and available in the kinds of fits you can just as easily wear out and about as you can at home on the couch.

  • Standout Style: The boyshorts are a personal favorite because they are so versatile. They can be worn under skirts and dresses, used as activewear, or even as pajamas. That’s how comfortable they are.
  • Material: Hemp, organic cotton, and spandex.
  • Product Range: Simple women’s and men’s underwear.
  • Sizes: XS-4XL
  • Price Range: $26
  • Sustainability Stats: Uses organic and sustainable fabrics. SCI and WRAP-certified factories with transparent supply chains. OEKO-TEX Certified. Green America Certified Business.

12. Pansy

Even the most sustainable underwear brands often resort to using synthetics for their elastic waistbands. Pansy, however, uses natural rubber elastic to complete its designs. We love that it’s also a small, women-owned business.

  • Standout Style: Pansy’s French-cut underwear is a wardrobe stable. Not only are they comfortable, but the chic colors make them feel just a little elevated.
  • Material: Organic cotton and rubber elastic.
  • Product Range: Simple women’s underwear.
  • Sizes: XS-5XL
  • Price Range: $32
  • Sustainability Stats: Made from natural, sustainable materials. Transparent sourcing and production. Non-toxic fiber-reactive dyes.

13. Cou Cou Intimates

As its French name suggests, there’s a definite flirtatiousness to this ethical underwear brand. Expect bows, frills, and floral prints that make everyday styles feel like lingerie.

  • Standout Style: The black Pointelle thong is the perfect, barely-there underwear. It’s comfortable enough to wear under sweats but special enough that you won’t mind if someone sees them.
  • Material: GOTs-certified organic cotton, bamboo, elastane, and polyamide.
  • Product Range: Simple women’s underwear with lingerie elements.
  • Sizes: XS-XXL
  • Price Range: $22-$42
  • Sustainability Stats: Uses organic and sustainable fabrics. Transparent production.

14. Thunderpants

This one’s for anyone looking for ethical underwear brands with a little funk. Thunderpants' patterns are always joyful, and they’re made even more so by the fact that the underwear itself is totally wedgie-proof.

  • Standout Style: The original Thunderpants are high-waisted, full-coverage, and available in a range of delightful colors and prints. They might be practical, but that doesn’t mean you miss out on any of the fun.
  • Material: Organic cotton and spandex.
  • Product Range: 
  • Sizes: XS-XXL
  • Price Range: $26-$28
  • Sustainability Stats: Uses organic cotton. Transparent, ethical production practices.

15. The Very Good Bra

As it happens, this eco underwear brand doesn’t just make a very good bra, but a very good pair of briefs. Members of the Big Knickers Gang will find themselves right at home.

  • Standout Style: The Very Good Briefs are forever going out of stock, so don’t be surprised if you have to buy them pre-sale. There’s a reason for that. The signature side split on this design makes them extra comfortable and cute.
  • Material: GOTs-certified organic cotton, cellulose thread, Cradle to Cradle Gold certified elastic.
  • Product Range: Simple women’s underwear.
  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Price Range: $25-$28
  • Sustainability Stats: Uses organic and sustainable fabrics. OEKO-Tex certified label printing. Audited and transparent production.

16. Hara

This eco-underwear label has a cult following thanks to its cool-girl basics. Everything is functional yet quietly chic.

  • Standout Style: The Eva G-string is regularly praised for its comfortable fit and unusual colors.
  • Material: GOTS-certified organic Lyocell bamboo.
  • Product Range: Simple women’s underwear.
  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Price Range: $34
  • Sustainability Stats: 1% for the Planet. Low-impact, non-toxic, reactive dyes. BetterWork and WRAP-certified factories. OEKO-TEX certified.

17. Oddobody

Few brands are taking vaginal health as seriously as Oddobody. Not only have they designed the perfect light, breathable, organic cotton undies, but they also offer a free doctor-approved manual with all orders. The manual is filled with useful information meant to empower people with vulvas with better knowledge about their bodies.

  • Standout Style: Oddobody’s string bikini style is all kinds of 90’s cool with its low-rise fit and cheeky cut. This is the kind of everyday, 100% cotton underwear that will still make you feel sexy.
  • Material: 100% organic cotton.
  • Product Range: Simple women’s underwear.
  • Sizes: XS-6XL
  • Price Range: $28-$50
  • Sustainability Stats: Uses only 100% organic cotton. Fairtrade certified. GOTs-certified.

The underrated world of sustainable underwear

Hopefully, by this point, we’ve shown that choosing non-toxic, eco-friendly, and ethical underwear doesn’t mean saggy granny panties. If anything, it opens up your options to some of the softest, most innovative designs out there. No matter if comfort or cuteness is your priority, there’s a brand making sustainable undergarments to suit.

FAQs about non-toxic and ethical underwear

A group of women wearing non-toxic underwear with flowers in their hair

What is the healthiest underwear to wear? 

100 percent cotton underwear is generally considered the healthiest because it provides excellent breathability, but bamboo and hemp work similarly well. Even just having a gusset made from natural fibers is beneficial.

What is the safest material for underwear? 

The safest material for underwear is probably 100 organic cotton that only uses non-toxic dyes as it’s both breathable and free of possibly harmful chemicals. 

Does cotton underwear have chemicals? 

Conventional cotton can have chemicals in it as it’s grown with quite intensive pesticides, etc. Organic cotton, however, is generally free of these risky chemicals.

Is not wearing underwear healthy for females?  

Not wearing underwear isn’t necessarily healthy or unhealthy for females, as it depends on the kind of clothing you’re going commando in. For example, not wearing underwear with a dress or skirt is fine, but with a pair of pants may cause irritation and chafing. 

What is the best sustainable material for underwear? 

There is no one absolute best sustainable material for underwear but generally sticking to natural and organic fabrics is considered preferable.

What is the safest fabric for underwear?

Organic cotton is often recommended, but any natural, non-toxic, and organic fiber that allows for breathability will work.

Is cotton underwear biodegradable?

Yes, cotton underwear is biodegradable, but only if not blended with synthetics like elastane.

Is organic underwear worth it? 

If you’re concerned about your comfort, health, and sustainability, organic underwear is absolutely worth it.

What are the disadvantages of cotton underwear? 

There aren’t many disadvantages to cotton underwear. It’s breathable and tends to be very comfortable. That said, conventional cotton may feature chemicals, especially if intensive dyes have been used, which is why organic options are usually preferable.

Last Update:
Jul 5, 2024