Do you chafe when you run or surf or walk? If so, you have probably experienced the awful reality of chafed skin. Chafed skin is actual raw skin; friction removes the top, layer of skin cells, creating a definitely-not-welcome painful situation.
Chafing can occur anywhere on your body, but the thighs, groin, underarms, neck, and nipples are particularly vulnerable. Skin-on-skin contact and clothing-on-skin can both cause friction so you'll want to address both skincare and clothing solutions.
You Can Prevent Chafing
Prevention is the key to not letting friction ruin your race or training day. A few simple pre-exercise steps can make a big difference in your fight to keep your skin healthy and ready for the next day.
Keep Dry. Keep a towel handy if you can to keep your skin dry throughout an intense workout. In addition, you'll want to avoid cotton clothes and focus on moisture-wicking gear. Don't forget to check your socks to be sure they, too, are moisture-wicking. A good pair of Coolmax socks can make a difference. If you're running in the rain or snow, you'll want breathable rain gear to help you stay dry. If your clothes get wet, get out of them as soon as you can.
Use Lubricant. Lubricants can help reduce friction by providing a thin layer of protection to the skin. Lubricants help ensure skin slips instead of grabs and will also moisturize and hydrate sensitive skin. Use before you exercise and touch up as needed if hot-spots develop.
Not all lubricants are created equal, though. Look for natural, non-petroleum based ingredients like castor oil, which is a natural alternative to silicone. Aloe vera, beeswax, and shea butter also provide a protective barrier while moisturizing and hydrating. You want a product that will go on easily, last long enough, and will rinse off easily. Some products will even work post-workout to help provide relief to the chapped and chaffed areas. Try bluerub's CHAFE which has only natural ingredients that are also good for your skin.
Check your Fit. Wear proper-fitting, moisture-wicking clothes, such as those made with synthetic fibers. Remove any tags that rub you the wrong way, and check for seams that create hot spots. You can apply a CHAMOIS or CHAFE around the neck of a wet suit or under your bra to help reduce friction, but not having a friction point at all is your best bet. We also recommend you don't wear new clothes on race day!
Raw, blistered, chapped skin is not just painful but can lead to infection and skin breakdown if not treated right. If you do end up with chafed skin, first you'll want to gently clean the chafed area with warm water and pat it thoroughly dry. Once dry, apply a product like bluerub's CHAFE or a diaper cream or other protective balm.
Do not use products on affected areas that contain essential oils like mint, pepper, capsicum, menthol, camphor, or any other ingredients that create a sense of warmth or coolness. Balms or lotions that contain lavender, helichrysum, or chamomile are probably safe, but you'll want to test an area before you go all in.
If you end up with chaffed skin, give your skin some time to heal. Just like you need to heal from pulled muscles and other injuries, skin injuries require rest, too. Continued friction will only make it worse and could lead to infection.
If the chafed area is very painful, swollen, bleeding, or crusted, check with your health provider to see if you need something medicated to help prevent infection.
If your skin does not improve with these self-care measures, see your health provider.