Image credit: Boody
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Updated by Lucielle Salomon April 2022
What we wear underneath our clothes is as important — if not more — as the cute, sustainable outfit we put on. Underwear sits so close to our skin, so making sure it’s made with eco-conscious materials should be at the top of everyone’s shopping list.
The good news is that the intimates category is one where ethical and eco-friendly options are readily available — as long as you know where to look and what to look for. If, like me, you’re looking to grow your collection of comfy underwear, here is how you can do so in a way that minimizes environmental harm and supports small businesses and producers.
What to Look for in the Best Eco-Friendly, Comfy Underwear Brands:
Certified, natural fabrics: As these pieces are the first layer of clothing, it makes sense to prioritize breathable, natural fibers like cotton and bamboo. To make sure you’re factoring in sustainability as well as comfort, look for certifications like Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) for cotton or Ecocert for bamboo viscose.
Semi-synthetics: If you’re looking for soft and silky plant-based fibers, check out underwear made out of Modal or Tencel, a plant-derived fiber that is produced without the toxic chemicals of traditional man-made cellulosic fibers rayon/viscose.
Minimal spandex: To give your undies that snug fit, most underwear brands have to blend in small amounts of synthetic material like spandex (also known as elastane or by brand name Lycra) for stretch. For potential recyclability, look first for brands that utilize minimal spandex. Then, prioritize brands using recycled synthetics certified by the Global Recycled Standard (GRS).
Plant-based dyes: You’ll see that several of the brands below make underwear in earthy, muted tones. That’s because they are using natural, plant-based dyes to color the pieces, which are less toxic than their synthetic counterparts. Other sustainable dyeing methods are those that are Bluesign certified, which means the dyeing process is safe for both humans and the environment, or OEKO-TEX certified, which means the dyes are produced without any toxic chemicals.
PFAS-Free: A period-proof underwear brand has been sued after an investigation found its products contained synthetic chemicals, known as polyfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFAS). These chemicals make the product impervious to liquid. But the problem is, PFAS don’t ever break down or go away. Once washed, they can make their way into our water systems, contaminating wildlife and even our bodies. PFAS have been linked to various human risks, including cancer, miscarriage, infertility, hormonal disruption, and obesity. We’ve listed below an option for PFAS-free period-proof underwear.
Fair labor and transparency: Finally, check for fair labor practices. Check how much brands share about their supply chains and suppliers and how much information is backed up with third-party certifications like Fair Trade.
Here are our top picks when it comes to small brands stocking the coziest, most sustainable underwear:
For the V comes from the team at For the Feel, who is launching a line of underwear on Kickstarter. Free from harmful chemicals and toxic dyes, made using 95% GOTS organic cotton, the goal is to create a product made for people, funded by people (not by profit-hungry investors). For the V underwear are also made in the US using 100% ethical labor and transparent supply chains.
Toad&Co makes underwear out of eco-conscious fabrics like TENCEL due to its moisture-wicking, durability, and low maintenance. Its products carry a host of different third-party certifications such as bluesign and OEKO-TEX. All of its orders are processed, packaged, and shipped by the Planet Access Company warehouse, which is an organization the brand co-founded to give employment and training opportunities to adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. Toad&Co also has some great goals for the next decade, like transitioning to 100% recycled synthetics by 2025 and 100% certified Responsible Wool Standard by 2024.
British brand JulieMay creates certified allergy-free, hand-crafted underwear. The brand’s naturally hypoallergenic bras and briefs are constructed exclusively from pure mulberry silk and ultra-soft organic Pima cotton from Peru. Nickel- and rubber-free, all underwiring is made from bendy, non-metallic glass fiber and thoughtfully encased in silk to minimize any possibility of discomfort, and the inner lining of most JulieMay bras is 100% silk, too. Find inclusive sizing, ethical production, and movement-friendly designs. JulieMay has got you pretty covered (extra emphasis on the pretty).
PACT’s underwear are certified organic, Fair Trade, and some of the most affordable organic underwear available. The brand uses low-impact dyes and processes that decrease water use, too. Pact’s paper envelopes are made from 100% post-consumer recycled paperboard, and its cardboard boxes are made with 98% post-consumer recycled materials; both are 100% recyclable.
Founded in 2018, The Very Good Bra is a B Corp certified brand that creates underwear with 100% botanically sourced materials. From the elastic, sewing thread and organic cotton base fabric, every component of the underwear is designed to break down in nature at end-of-life and leave no trace. The Very Good Bra doesn’t use spandex, polyester or nylon, even in its sewing thread, elastic and labeling. The undies are printed with REACH dyes in Italy, and both the sewing thread, which is 100% Tencel and the elastic used are Cradle to Cradle certified.
Complete with double-bonded seams and invisible elastic for a truly seamless look, Warp + Weft underwear offers its underwear in an inclusive range of sizes. The brand uses sustainable and absorbent modal, along with processes that cut down on emissions and prioritize fair conditions for factory workers.
Huha makes undies out of tree-derived fabrics such as lyocell, and 2% spandex. Its underwear is also enhanced with naturally antibacterial and soothing mineral zinc oxide. Whenever possible, Huha steers from clear plastics throughout every step of its operations, opting for paper or glass.
In Common is an environmentally conscious basics brand that is built for a community surrounding progress and positivity. All of its bras and underwear are predominantly made from modal fibers, which are derived from natural materials and use significantly less energy and water than traditional cotton.
Organic Basics uses eco-friendly materials like GOTS certified organic cotton and Tencel, as well as recycled wool and nylon. Everything is made transparently with certified factory partners around the world, where workers have safe working conditions and are paid a living wage and benefits. The brand also publishes an impact index measuring the amount of waste, chemicals, energy, emissions, and water used in its production processes.
You probably know Allbirds for its sneakers, but the brand sells undies too! Allbirds has soft and comfy briefs, boyshorts, and thongs made from eco-conscious TENCEL mixed with its signature merino wool to give it a moisture-wicking quality to keep you feeling fresh. And it’s inclusive, with sizes up to XXXL.
Born in Australia and sold in the US, Boody is a basics brand that uses organic bamboo textiles throughout its range of underwear, which are made from sustainably-sourced natural bamboo with a closed-loop water system and non-toxic solvents. Workers are paid a living wage, and garments are sewn in a way that significantly reduces fabric waste. Boody also uses recycled cardboard and vegetable-based ink for its packaging.
Knix makes period-proof underwear that are a safe and sustainable alternative to your usual single-use pad and tampon monthly routine. Its products are PFAS-free and made with OEKO-TEX certified nylon.