Chafing: Tips for prevention and relief

The best way to avoid chafing is to take preventive measures. Luckily, there are many ways to both treat and prevent chafing.

Tips for prevention

The best way to avoid chafing is by taking preventive measures. While it is not always possible to avoid chafing, following these tips can reduce the severity and frequency:

  • Wearing proper clothing during exercise. When exercising, people should wear well-fitting, fast-drying fabrics, such as nylon, polyester, or spandex. Sports clothing is designed to help skin “breathe.” People can wear compression shorts to reduce inner thigh chafing during exercise.
  • Staying dry. Moisture on skin makes chafing worse. Before heading outside, people can apply powders or antiperspirant deodorant to areas where chafing commonly occurs. They should also change out of wet or sweaty clothes as soon as possible.
  • Using lubrication. Apply petroleum jelly, oil, or lotion to areas where skin rubs together to reduce friction and allow surfaces to glide against each other.
  • Applying soft bandages. People can apply soft, flexible bandages to areas that are especially prone to chafing, such as the feet or nipples.
  • Washing after sweating. When sweat dries on the skin, it leaves a gritty layer of salt behind that causes friction.
  • Taking care of the nipples when breast-feeding. Keep nipples clean and dry while breast-feeding. Avoid wearing irritating fabric. Bras designed for breast-feeding have soft pads that can ease discomfort. Placing disposable pads in the bra can help to reduce moisture.
  • Checking the weather. Consider participating in exercise or other outdoor activities, such as yard work, in the early morning or late evening to avoid the hottest parts of the day.

Chafing is skin irritation that can occur when clothing rubs against the skin or skin rubs against another part of the body. Exposure to moisture and irritating fabric also contribute to chafing.

Prolonged irritation causes the skin to become raw and reddened and can lead to stinging and burning. In severe cases, chafing can also cause swelling, crusting, or bleeding.

Chafing can occur on any skin surface of the body but most commonly occurs in the inner thighs, groin, armpits, buttocks, feet, and nipples.

Causes of chafing

Repeated rubbing, especially combined with moisture, makes skin more susceptible to damage.

Common situations that cause chafing include:

  • Being overweight. Excess body fat makes it easier for the inner thighs to rub together.
  • Breast-feeding. Some women experience chafed nipples from pads and bras.
  • Endurance sports. Athletes can experience chafing from repetitive movements, loose-fitting clothing, or excess moisture from sweat.
  • Wearing skirts or dresses. People who frequently wear skirts and dresses can experience chafing of the inner thighs, particularly in hot and humid weather.
  • Poor-fitting clothing. Clothes that do not fit well can repeatedly rub and irritate the skin.
  • Sweating. Dried sweat can leave a layer of salt on the skin, making irritation from friction worse.
  • Diapers. Moisture from feces and urine, as well as the diaper against the skin, can lead to chafing or a diaper rash.


People can prevent chafing by wearing well-fitting clothing, keeping the skin dry, and moisturizing often.

When chafing occurs, people can use a lubricant such as petroleum jelly to protect and soothe affected skin, as well as allow a couple of days for the skin heal.

If the area shows any signs of infection, a person should speak to a doctor.

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