Whether you prefer a hip-hugging style, thong, or high-waisted brief, the best pair of underwear is comfortable and supportive to you. And yet, finding a pair with the right fit, material, seam stitching, and cut can be quite an undertaking in such a saturated market.
Underwear is very personal, as preferences can be very specific, but it can be made easier by committing to at least one criterion, like material. Cotton is breathable and absorbent, making it a very comfortable material for undergarments, with high-quality versions boasting benefits like durability and color retention. Plus, when it’s produced sustainably, cotton is free from toxic or hormone-disrupting substances that can cause cancer, birth defects, and other serious illnesses, according to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), a processing standard for organic fibers that factors in ecological and social impact.
We’ve taken all of this into account—as well as pricing, positive reviews, and our conversations with experts Ra’el Cohen of ThirdLove and Heather Viskovic, Director of Merchandising at Bare Necessities—to decide our top picks.
Keep reading for the best cotton underwear worth buying.
ThirdLove Pima Cotton Hipster
For an easy, comfortable, and soft pair of cotton underwear, there’s ThirdLove’s Pima Cotton Hipster. With a low rise and moderate coverage, this hipster underwear is “no-fuss” and stays invisible under any outfit, Cohen assures. It’s made from Pima cotton, which is known to outlast and hold color longer than competitors like upland cotton.
Price at time of publish: $15
Material: Pima cotton, nylon, and spandex | Size Range: XS-3X | Colors: Black, Sea Salt +more
We’re fans of Uniqlo for economical essentials, like this hip-hugging style for under $7. It’s made from a blend of cotton and spandex, with the waist and leg openings lined with tape from nylon and spandex for a snug fit.
Price at time of publish: $7.90
Material: 95% cotton, 5% spandex | Size Range: XS-XL | Colors: Gray, Black, Off-White, Green
Negative Underwear Cotton High Waist Brief
Soft and super stretchy, this style is as comfortable as it gets, according to reviewers. The full-coverage style is made from cotton and a high percentage of spandex for the most seamless fit. “They don’t ride, the seams don’t dig, and they are highly breathable,” notes one reviewer. Others say they’re great after abdominal surgeries and C-sections because of their barely-there feel.
Price at time of publish: $66 for 3-pack
Material: 79% cotton, 21% elastane | Size Range: XS/S, M/L, XL/XXL | Colors: Black, White, Buff
SKIMS Cotton Jersey Cheeky Tanga
For a narrower cut in the back than the average bikini style but more coverage than a thong, there’s the cheeky cut. SKIMS' version in cotton hits just below the natural waist and has a bit of stretch so that wearers can adjust the sides to best suit their shapes. Reviewers say they love the style because it’s both sexy and sensible.
Price at time of publish: $20
Material: 90% cotton, 10% spandex | Size Range: XXS-4X | Colors: Bone, Mineral, Kyanite, Iris Mica, Camel +more
H&M 5-pack Shortie Briefs
You can never go wrong with a pair of simple boxers, which are great for lounging. Made from a blend of cotton and spandex, reviewers say this style is comfortable, soft, and breathable.
Price at time of publish: $17.99
Material: 95% cotton, 5% spandex; 100% cotton gusset | Size Range: XS-XL | Colors: Light Gray/Black, Black, Light Pink/Light Yellow, Light Purple/White
ThirdLove Everyday Cotton Mid-Rise Brief
ThirdLove’s briefs are a foundation piece, Cohen says. Made from cotton and spandex, the mid-rise brief comes in many colors and detailing options, including lace trim and athleisure-inspired striped elastic.
Price at time of publish: $14
Material: Cotton and spandex; 100% cotton gusset | Size Range: XS-3X | Colors: Berry Crush, Sunflower, Periwinkle, Sea Salt, Ginger, Atmosphere, Black, Blue Topaz +more
Best Boy Short
SKIMS Cotton Jersey Boy Short
SKIMS' Cotton Jersey Boy Shorts are soft and breathable, complete with a 2-inch inseam and a design that hits just below the natural waist for true full coverage. Reviewers say they love the style because it’s equal parts flattering and comfortable.
Price at time of publish: $22
Material: 90% cotton, 10% spandex | Size Range: XXS-4X | Colors: Bone, Soot, Mineral, Camel +more
Knickey High-Rise Brief
These high-waisted briefs have the appeal of a high-waisted cheeky bikini bottom and all of the support of a granny panty, for the best of both worlds. Reviewers say they are practically seamless and hold up well in the wash, so you can expect a pair of underwear that will last a while. The brand touts its several sustainability efforts, like GOTS and OEKO-TEX® certifications, as well as a recycling program to support the circular economy.
Price at time of publish: $17
Material: 95% certified organic cotton, 5% elastane | Size Range: XXS-XXXL | Colors: Midnight Moon, Lunar, Twilight, Bon Bon, Butterscotch +more
Calvin Klein Carousel Bikini Bottom
Calvin Klein’s Carousel Bikini Bottoms combine form and function with extra soft, stretchy cotton. They’re designed with the brand’s signature logo elastic waistband and rear coverage. One of our tried-and-true favorites, we love them for their comfort and breathability.
Price at the time of publish: $33 for 3-pack
Material: 90% cotton, 10% elastane | Size Range: XS-L | Colors: Black, White, Gray +more
Amazon Essentials Cotton Stretch High-Cut Bikini Panty
Amazon Essentials makes a simple cotton-stretch bikini panty in a handful of assorted colors and prints, which you can purchase in packs of six or 10. Made of mostly cotton with a hint of spandex for some stretch, these panties have earned a 4.6/5 rating on Amazon (and that's out of about 30,000 reviews). They're meant to feel breathable, secure, and comfortable.
Price at time of publish: $15.50 for 6-pack
Material: 95% cotton, 5% elastane | Size Range: XS-3XL | Colors: White, Black, Warm/Cool Assorted, Neutral Assorted +more
Hanky Panky Cotton French Brief
Hanky Panky mixes spandex, lace, and luxe Supima cotton (a type of Pima cotton) for elegant comfort. The latter is a fine type of cotton with a strong, extra-long-staple fiber that delivers durability and color retention as well as softness. Viskovic says it’s one of her favorite styles.
Price at time of publish: $34
Material: 96% Supima cotton, 4% spandex | Size Range: S-XL | Colors: Black, Cabernet, White, Cucumber, Red +more
Fruit of the Loom Thermal Waffle Bottom
You’d be hard-pressed to find a pair of thermal underwear with a strong cotton base, but this style by Fruit of the Loom from 80 percent polyester and 20 percent cotton will provide moderate warmth and great breathability, reviewers say. For under $10 each, they’re also very economical.
Price at time of publish: $12.77
Material: 80% recycled polyester, 20% cotton | Size Range: XS-4X | Colors: White, Black, Merlot Heather +more
SKIMS Cotton Rib Dipped Thong
Skims’ Cotton Rib Dipped Thong is perfect for those who prioritize a no-show look and barely-there feel. It’s designed with a dipped front that can be worn high or low on the hips, depending on the wearers’ preference.
Price at time of publish: $20
Material: 95% cotton, 5% spandex | Size Range: XXS-4X | Colors: Bone, Mineral, Soot, Kyanite, Umber +more
H&M MAMA Hipster Briefs
For expecting mothers, H&M makes a lace-lined hipster brief in organic cotton jersey that maximizes comfort by providing breathability and a great fit. Reviewers say they offer “perfect coverage,” with wide sizes and medium coverage in the back, and don’t show obviously through clothes.
Price at time of publish: $17.99 for 5-pack
Material: 90% cotton, 5% rayon, 5% spandex | Size Range: S-XXL | Colors: Black, Dark Gray, Powder Pink +more
Meet the Expert
- Heather Viskovic is the Director of Merchandising at Bare Necessities. She has an extensive background in merchandising and has worked at Ralph Lauren, Randa Accessories, and Fossil.
- Ra’el Cohen is the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of ThirdLove. She has been the lead lingerie designer at the company for more than six years and holds a degree in fashion design from FIDM.
What to Look for in a Pair of Cotton Underwear
Not all cotton is created equal, so it’s worth reading the fine print. As you can perhaps tell from this list, great cotton underwear is made from cotton or a blend of cotton and at least one synthetic material, like spandex, polyester, nylon, and rayon. Even just a small amount of spandex helps fabric mold to the body for a snug fit. Meanwhile, tape-like waistbands and lace trims are generally made from synthetic materials.
Not every cut will suit each wearer exactly the same, so you should consider which styles will be most comfortable with your prospective outfits. For example, a high-waisted hipster and a boy short might work equally well as the underpinning for a mini dress, in which case it would come down to whether you feel more comfortable with more material around your core and butt. To avoid lines but keep some structure, go for a high-waisted cut. And if you’re looking for a barely-there look and feel, there are quite a few others that might be to your liking, from thongs to bikini styles.
What are the benefits of wearing cotton underwear?
There are many benefits to wearing cotton underwear, like breathability and softness. “The breathability and natural absorbency of cotton underwear can help to prevent odor, itching, and infection,” says Cohen. “It’s gentle on sensitive skin and so soft and smooth you’ll barely know it’s there.”
Is cotton underwear breathable?
Cotton underwear is extremely breathable and gentle on the skin, according to experts. A great benefit of breathability includes natural absorbency to soak up any excess moisture.
What is a cotton gusset?
Cotton gussets in underwear provide breathability and comfort to the most sensitive areas of the body. So, underwear made of synthetic materials will still contain a cotton gusset for breathability, natural absorbency, and overall comfort, according to our experts. “[It] can reduce chafing and the risk of infections,” Viskovic says.
Will cotton underwear shrink?
As long as it’s washed correctly, no, it won’t shrink. “Most cotton is already pre-shrunk so you don’t have to worry about any shrinkage from the washer or dryer,” says Cohen. “It’s always a best practice to follow the instructions on the care tag to extend the life of your garment.”
How We Researched
To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like materials, size range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.
Why Trust Byrdie
This shopping guide was written by Byrdie contributor Hayley Prokos. A seasoned commerce writer and editor, she’s constantly on the hunt for products with the most comfort and ease of wear. Her work has appeared in SELF Magazine, Newsweek, and the daily Greek newspaper Ekathimerini, and she holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. For this roundup, she spent upwards of 10 hours researching the best cotton underwear on the market.