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Fecal bacteria and vaginal secretions found in new swimsuits

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

Wearing underwear when trying on swimsuits — Consider it girl code

Please leave on undergarments when trying on swimwear. We've seen the signs in dressing rooms but according to new research from New York University's School of Medicine, we are all ignoring them. Dr. Philip Tierno knows this because he examined "new" swimsuits and found them to be "riddled with organisms" thanks to all of us going commando in the dressing room. What, you thought you were the only one?

The cellulite, the harsh lighting, the many unflattering cuts — trying on swimsuits is plenty bad enough without getting an infection. And yet it's so hard to see how a suit will look at the pool when you have your bikini briefs poking out under your bikini. Which is why the skimpiest suits carry the most bacteria, according to the study. The more revealing the cut, the more likely ladies are to take off their undies and the more likely the suit is to be contaminated with skin, fecal and respiratory tract bacteria, along with vaginal organisms like yeast.

Another problem, according to Tierno, is we all put too much faith in those little sticky "protective" liners in the crotches of suits. "Some women may not be aware that the strip is not as protective as they think," he said. "Sometimes they put them on backward, with the sticky side down. Other people may just take it off altogether." Bad news for both the woman trying on the suit and everyone who tries it on after her.

The solution is obvious, women: We need to make a pact to protect the sisterhood. We all need to wear our underwear when trying on suits, every time. Yes, it looks silly. Do it anyhow. I don't want your germs and you don't want mine. Remember that time you took a pair of running shorts into the dressing room to find an, ahem, spot in the crotch and you wondered what kind of animal gets their bodily fluids all over something and then returns it? Well it still counts as bodily fluids even if you can't see them — especially if it's a contagious bug like Hepatitis A, traveler's diarrhea, MRSA, streptococcus, salmonella and norovirus (all germs found in the study).

Either that or we all eat some more vitamin C and exercise. "The good thing is that most people have a very robust immune system, so they can usually fight off the small number of organisms they may get on their body," said Tierno. "The fact that you come into contact with one doesn't mean you're going to get sick."

I vote for keeping our panties on.

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