No matter how "sweat-wicking" or "quick-drying" a high-end pair of workout leggings claim to be, sometimes you leave a workout wondering if you peed your pants or sat in a puddle because your crotch is so damn sweaty. Crotch sweat is uncomfortable, and it can be momentarily embarrassing for those who suffer from it — but it's also a completely normal bodily function.
"You have a ton of sweat glands in the pelvic and groin region, so it is absolutely normal to sweat down there, says Leah Millheiser, MD, FACOG, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Stanford University. "I don't know anyone who works out and says they don't feel wet in their groin region." Whether you're sitting in a car on a hot day, working out, or just trying to exist outdoors, your groin is going to get sweaty because it's also a very warm area of the body, she says. But if you are prone to crotch sweat, then there are a few health concerns that you should be aware of.
Crotch sweat is special because the type of sweat glands that you have around your groin region (called "apocrine glands") release sweat into your hair follicle, then your skin, according to the Mayo Clinic. If there's a lot of friction (from leggings, running shorts, or an indoor cycling bike) and warmth in you, then the hair follicles can get inflamed and lead to a skin disorder called folliculitis, Dr. Millheiser says. "It's essentially like getting a breakout down there," and it can be painful or lead to boils, she says.
In addition to friction, damp sweaty leggings create an ideal environment for a yeast infection, Dr. Millheiser says. "Yeast lives on heat, so the more of a moist, wet, hot environment the better," she says. "So, you can end up with a yeast infection, not only of the vagina but also of the skin." Although it's less common, if you have deeper folds of skin around your groin (or if your breasts hang in a way that cause skin folds), then it's possible for yeast to grow in those nooks and crannies, she says.
While these conditions seem less than ideal, the good news is that there is an easy way to prevent them. "The minute you're done working out, whether you're at the gym or you run home, just don't stay in your workout clothes," Dr. Millheiser says. In terms of prevention, it's a good idea to wear sweat-wicking fabrics and breathable underwear. Some crotch-sweaters may be inclined to use baby powder to prevent the sweat in the first place, but applying baby powder containing talc around your genitals is not advised. So, your best bet is to bring a dry change of clothes with you to change into, and you'll be good to go. At least, until you have to go outside and get sweaty all over again.