How to Prevent & Treat Chafing

July 12, 2015

While some consider bleeding nipples or chaffed legs to be badges of honour, war wounds as evidence of an epic battle which one has just reigned victorious, us mere mortals suffer agonisingly while we wait for these to recover. I'm sure you have experienced thigh rubbing so painful your legs felt like they'd brushed against a cheese grater? Or cross a finish line, realising that the spectacle of your blood-streaked shirt is eliciting horror from spectators? Chafing, a runner's rite of passage, is the result of friction that occurs when skin rubs against itself or clothing. As anyone who has endured an excruciating postrun shower on freshly grazed skin knows, prevention is key. Here's what works.


Ditch cotton. It absorbs sweat and stays wet. Wear synthetic, wicking fabrics.

Go seamless, tagless. Seams and tags on a shirt or bra can cause irritation.

Get a proper fit. A too-snug sports bra can dig in; the excess material of a baggy shirt can rub you raw.

Protect your legs. Compression shorts can save your inner thighs from abrasions.

Cover 'em up. Nipple protection is critical for guys. NipGuards and Band-Aids are common shields.

Get greasy. Apply lubricant to chafe-prone body parts. BodyGlide and petroleum jelly–based products are classic salves. When heading out for a long run, stash ChapStick or a travel-sized deodorant in a pocket.

Hydrate. Drinking minimizes the salt concentration of sweat. Salt has a sandpaper effect on skin, says Fayne Frey, M.D., a dermatologist in West Nyack, New York.

Moisturize. "Skin that's well moisturized—apply lotion twice daily—is less prone to chafing," Frey says.


Wash up. Shower ASAP after running, keeping water lukewarm. Use antibacterial soap to ward off bacteria that can creep into exposed skin and cause problems like folliculitis, a skin condition that Santa Monica dermatologist Tanya Kormeili, M.D., says occurs in athletes.

Soothe it. Pat—don't rub—skin dry and apply an ointment such as Desitin or A+D Zinc Oxide cream (diaper-rash creams containing zinc oxide are antibacterial).

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