Runner's World (UK)

HOW CAN I STOP MY SKIN CHAFING

ON LONG RUNS?

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SOMETIMES YOU CAN GRIN of chafing when you run, but when you get in the shower afterwards, even the faintest red patches can cause searing pain. Chafing is caused either by skin rubbing against skin, such as between your thighs, or fabric rubbing against skin, such as under bra straps or waistbands. Factor in the dampness caused by sweat and you have a recipe for chafing. Skin sheds its top layer of epithelial cells naturally, but when friction and rubbing accelerate this loss, the lower layers of cells become exposed. These cells are not designed to be, or haven’t matured enough to be, on the outside.

Nerve endings and small blood vessels are exposed and surroundin­g skin gets angry and inflamed, too.

Chafing can be treated, but the best bet is prevention. Well-fitting clothes made from the right fabrics will make a big difference. Close-fitting kit that sits snug to the skin tends to rub less than baggier clothes, which move around more. Lycra shorts or leggings will stop thighs rubbing against each other. Many men, however, report they chafe less in loose-fitting shorts, so it can be trial and error. Sports bras can be trickier, as there’s a lot of natural movement, but the best fit possible and soft, seam-free fabrics generally help. Wet clothes rub most, so choose a fabric that wicks well. For problem areas that always seem to rub, apply a skin-protecting lubricant before running, to add an extra layer of protection. This is especially useful if you’re going to get wet. For sweaty body areas, try using your antiperspi­rant.

TREATING CHAFED SKIN If, despite your best efforts, you find yourself with an area of sore, inflamed skin, here’s what you should do: Clean the area thoroughly with warm water and a mild soap. Avoid using anything too strong or perfumed, which may make the situation worse.

Afterwards, pat the skin dry with a soft, clean towel.

Apply a soothing antiseptic cream or protective balm. Nappy creams that contain zinc oxide are ideal. If possible, allow the skin to be exposed to the air. Baggy clothes are the best option.

Protect the skin from further damage. This may mean covering it with a sterile dressing to stop it sticking to clothes or getting rubbed again.

Your skin will heal in a few days. While a little itching is normal as it does so – please don’t scratch the area! – watch for signs of infection, including a sticky discharge, an unpleasant odour and increasing redness around the wound.

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