As the weather starts to warm up, a few things come to mind: cute shorts, swimsuits, sundresses, and the uncomfortable thigh chafing that often accompanies all of the above. For some of us (Hi, hey hello!), the heat and humidity can be tough on sensitive skin. Add a dash of sweat and a sprinkle of friction, and it's a one-way ticket to chafe city.
Of course, chafing doesn’t only pertain to thighs. According to board-certified dermatologist, Naana Boakye, MD, MPH, who is the founder of Bergen Dermatology in New Jersey, chafing can occur between butt cheeks, against nipples, and within armpits, too.
“Chafing occurs when the skin rubs together for a prolonged period of time,” she explains. While the friction alone is enough to turn up the heat in an unpleasant way, Dr. Boakye says that the rubbing also disrupts the skin barrier, which can promote increased moisture and, potentially, maceration.
While you might think that ultra-moist skin is a good thing, it can actually lead to long term damage and discomfort. According to Wounds Canada, a charitable organization with a focus on wound prevention, when skin becomes over-hydrated, it can deteriorate, thus separating the layers of skin and potentially evolving into a full-blown wound. Most commonly, maceration is associated with incontinence-associated dermatitis and trench foot, but in extreme cases, Dr. Boakye admits that long-lasting chafing, if left untreated, can as well.
Thankfully, she has all the tips for how to prevent chafing and staving off the moisture that can pool up problematically. Check them out, below.
How to prevent chafing, according to a dermatologist
Clean the area thoroughly and make sure it’s completely dry
Warmer weather means more sweat and more opportunities to take a dip in any given body of water. In both instances, letting the moisture remain on your skin can enhance the effects of chafing and make them more uncomfortable. (As counter-intuitive as that may sound). As such, Dr. Boakye says to keep any chafe-prone areas dry and clean. That way, if they do become re-hydrated, at least bacteria will be kept at bay.
Use a powder that can help keep the affected area dry
Since it’s unrealistic to constantly dab off your skin while busy enjoying the warmer weather, Dr. Boakye recommends powder applications, as they’ll help to absorb the moisture and prevent chafing. If you hate the idea of sprinkling old school powder between your thighs, though, there’s always the option to reach for a powder-finish gel.
The Monistat Chafing Relief Powder Gel ($6) is my absolute favorite. I carry a tube of it everywhere I go during the summer, even if the branding makes it seem like something else is going on... (Though, yeast infections are nothing to be embarrassed about either! It’s high time we normalize these things.)
Wear proper fitting clothing
If you find that your thighs, bum, or armpits are chafing while covered in clothing, Dr. Boakye says it might be time to rethink your outfit. When it comes to the thighs, she recommends ensuring your pants or shorts are pulled up to fully cover your thigh skin. (Hello, bike shorts.) Or, if you're wearing a dress, slip the Jockey Life Slipshorts ($10) underneath, which Well+Good editors have dubbed a, "secret weapon" against chafing. And don't worry, they'll make sure you breathe *down there.*
Speaking of breathablity, if your booty is the culprit, try wearing moisture-wicking undies, preferably made from cotton. It can even be a thong, just as long as you're left dry on even the swampiest afternoons.
Consult your dermatologist
If no product or clothing can keep the discomfort of chafing at bay, Dr. Boakye admits that a topical steroid may be needed to assist with the inflammation. As such, it’s never a bad idea to let your dermatologist know what’s going on to get a professional tailored opinion as to how to best proceed.
Chafing is totally normal. Whether it’s your thighs rubbing up against each other or your clothing rubbing up against bare skin, it’s incredibly common for skin irritation to occur—just as long as you treat it the right way. But before you get to that point, put Dr. Boakye’s tips to the test to enjoy your most comfortable, chafe-free summer yet.
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