Problem solved: chafing Simple solutions that will help
Feeling rubbed raw after a workout? Or the summer heat is taking its toll on your skin? Here are some simple solutions that will help.
It’s a familiar scenario: after a sweaty workout your inner thighs are red, raw and painful – as though you were wearing sport shorts made from sandpaper. Yes, you’re experiencing chafing, a rash-like inflammation (medically known as intertrigo) that happens when moist skin rubs against other moist skin or clothing. It’s especially common in skin folds where sweat becomes trapped, such as the groin, armpits, and under the breasts, and after walking or other forms of exercise.
And because raw, moisture laden skin invites microbial overgrowth, a skin infection can follow. “Abrasion from moisture and friction makes microscopic cuts in the skin, and salt from sweat can exacerbate the irritation,” says dermatologist Dr Cameron Rokhsar. Want to avoid chafing this season, or at least lessen its severity? Follow this advice.
INTERRUPT THE FRICTION A thick, slippery cream applied on chafe prone areas reduces friction and prevents abrasion. Brands like Body Glide and Neat 3B are tailor-made to prevent chafing. Don’t rely on oily lotions, which won’t last as long. “You want a product that you have to scoop out of the jar or is specially formulated for chafing,” says dermatologist Dr Temitayo Ogunleye. If needed, reapply after about three hours.
TRY AN ANTIPERSPIRANT Over-the-counter antiperspirants contain aluminium chloride, which can block sweat in any moisture-prone skin folds, such as under breasts or in the inner thigh or groin area. Apply a light layer and let it dry before any activity. Consider adding an antifungal powder to help further wick away moisture and protect against infections, but avoid putting it on or around places that are meant to be moist, like the vagina.
WEAR PROTECTIVE CLOTHING Cotton traps moisture so isn’t your friend when it comes to chafing – instead, choose synthetic fabrics like polyester or Lycra, which aren’t as absorbent. Look for garments that have flat seams or are seamless, and remove any interior tags; this also helps prevent skin irritation. Even when you’re not working out, wearing close-fitting, moisturewicking athletic gear like compression shorts (slip them on under a flowy dress) can reduce friction and create a barrier between two skin surfaces or between skin and clothing.
CLEANSE WITH CARE Wash inflamed areas with a gentle body wash or plain lukewarm water to soothe irritation from dried sweat and help control fungal growth. Pat dry, don’t rub – then, if you can, let the skin air out for a few moments to make sure all dampness is gone. “You might even dry the area with a fan or a blow dryer set on cool,” Rokhsar says. CALM IT WITH OINTMENTS Treat chafed areas twice a day with a zinc oxide ointment or a balm such as Bepanthen or zinc and castor oil cream to soothe the abrasion and restore damaged skin. If you need something stronger for a one-time incident, try applying a topical over-the-counter corticosteroid twice a day for three days, then taper off and quit before the two-week mark.
“You don’t want to use steroids long-term due to potential side effects like thinning skin, stretch marks and spider veins,” Rokhsar says.
CONSIDER MEDICAL OPTIONS If chafing is from excessive sweating, you may have a condition called hyperhidrosis, which can be treated with prescription strength aluminium chloride antiperspirants, Botox injections in the problem spots or prescription medications. You can also talk with a dermatologist about laser treatments that eliminate sweat glands in problem areas.