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Chafing happens when skin rubs together and the friction causes redness, irritation, and discomfort.
Common areas for chafed skin include the inner thighs, armpits, buttocks, groin, and even the nipples. Sometimes, chafed skin can be so irritated that doctors call it friction burn.
The good news is that you don’t have to let chafed skin get you down. In this article, we’ll take a look at five simple home remedies that can help ease the pain and discomfort of chafed skin.
Although your skin is tough and can protect you from many things, it can break down if it’s overworked. Repeated friction, especially when combined with moisture, can result in chafed skin. Some of the most common causes include the following:
- Carrying extra weight. Excess weight in the thighs, arms, or abdomen can increase the risk of skin rubbing against itself and causing irritation.
- Breastfeeding. Nursing moms often experience skin chafing due to moisture on the nipples compounded by wearing a nursing bra.
- Running. Chafing tends to be common with distance runners due to the repetitive motion of running, combined with sweaty skin and clothing that rubs on the skin.
- Bicycling. When the thighs and buttocks repetitively rub against a bicycle seat, it can cause the skin to chafe.
- Tight clothing. Clothing that’s too tight, like an excessively tight bra or underwear, can repeatedly rub on your skin and cause chafing.
- Diapers. Chafing can affect babies, too. Diapers that are too small, wet, or tight can cause skin chafing.
These are just a few examples of how the skin can get chafed. Any combination of moisture and your skin rubbing against something can cause chafing.
It’s important not to ignore chafed skin. Inflamed, moisture-laden skin can lead to a skin infection if left untreated.
The first step to treating chafed skin is to cleanse the area with a gentle body wash and lukewarm water. Pat the skin dry, and let the chafed area air out for a few minutes before applying one of the following home remedies.
Aloe vera is a succulent that has a long history of being used for medicinal purposes. The clear gel that’s found inside its leaves has been used for centuries to soothe and treat burned skin and other surface wounds.
It may also help reduce the irritation and inflammation caused by chafing.
If you have an aloe plant at home, you can break off a leaf, squeeze the gel out, and apply it to your skin. You can also buy aloe vera leaves at some natural food stores.
If you can’t find aloe vera leaves or don’t want to extract the gel yourself, you can buy aloe vera gel at a drugstore or online.
Because it provides a slippery surface and isn’t quickly absorbed into the skin, petroleum jelly may also help prevent chafing.
Creams with zinc oxide are also effective at blocking moisture and preventing chafing.
Although coconut oil can help heal raw, irritated skin, it may not remain on the skin for long. This makes it ineffective at preventing chafing.
Cornstarch has the ability to absorb extra moisture from the skin and to reduce itching. It can also create a silky feeling on the skin that may help prevent further friction and irritation.
Cornstarch can be used as an alternative to talcum powders, which have raised some concerns due to their possible link to cancer.
These remedies are typically safe to apply to moderately chafed skin. However, if your skin has blisters or open sores, it’s best to leave them free of powders or lotions until the skin has healed to form a protective barrier.
The one exception to this is petroleum jelly. Apply it to the wound until it heals, and keep the area covered with a bandage.
If home remedies don’t help, or if you want a stronger treatment, you can use a topical corticosteroid cream. You can purchase these topical creams at most drugstores.
Talk to your doctor if you’re not sure what type of cream is right for you.
To help prevent your skin from getting chafed, you can:
- Apply balms or creams to areas prone to chafing. Petroleum jelly, zinc oxide, or other anti-chafing balms or creams (see product recommendations below) can help protect your skin from the friction of repetitive motions.
- Wear protective covers or nipple shields. Whether for nursing moms or distance runners, these protective covers can reduce nipple friction when running.
- Wear protective shorts. Leggings or bicycle shorts can prevent the skin from rubbing against itself. These shorts are usually made of soft elastic materials that can reduce friction.
- Switch to larger diaper. For little ones, using a slightly larger-sized diaper or applying the diaper more loosely can reduce skin chafing. Also, frequently changing the diaper when soiled will reduce chafing and diaper rash.
If you’re prone to chafed skin, you may want to consider using an anti-chafing gel or cream to protect your skin. You can also use these products to reduce friction while your chafed skin heals. Some products that work well include:
- Body Glide Original Anti-Chafe Balm. Made from plant-derived ingredients, you can apply this nongreasy balm on a daily basis to any area that’s prone to chafing.
- Chamois Butt’r Original Anti-Chafe Cream. Developed by a cyclist, this anti-chafing cream is a favorite with athletes. It contains ingredients like lanolin, glycerin, and mineral oil that can reduce friction.
- Squirrel’s Nut Butter All-Natural Anti-Chafe Salve. This salve uses natural nut butters to reduce skin friction. It also contains vitamin E oil to help keep skin soft.
Chafed skin is a common issue caused by repetitive friction that can break down the skin and cause redness, irritation, inflammation, and discomfort.
Topical corticosteroid creams can help soothe chafed skin, as can several home remedies, like aloe vera, coconut oil, shea butter, cornstarch, zinc oxide, and petroleum jelly.
If your chafed skin doesn’t improve with home remedies or over-the-counter creams, be sure to follow up with your doctor.