How to Prevent & Treat Chafing

Don't fall victim to one of running's most common war wounds.

Blane Bachelor |

Ever experience thigh rubbing so painful your legs felt like they’d brushed against a cheese grater? Or cross a finish line, realizing that the spectacle of your blood-streaked shirt is eliciting horror from spectators? Chafing, a runner’s rite of passage, is the result of friction that occurs when skin rubs against itself or clothing. As anyone who has endured an excruciating post-run shower on freshly grazed skin knows, prevention is key. Here’s what works.

Prevent It

Ditch cotton. It absorbs sweat and stays wet. Wear synthetic, wicking fabrics.

Go seamless, tagless. Seams and tags on a shirt or bra can cause irritation.Get a proper fit. A too-snug sports bra can dig in; the excess material of a baggy shirt can rub you raw.Protect your legs. Compression shorts can save your inner thighs from abrasions.Cover ’em up. Nipple protection is critical for guys. Band-Aids are common shields.

Get greasy. Apply lubricant to chafe-prone body parts. Vaseline and petroleum jelly–based products are classic salves. When heading out for a long run, stash some lip ice or a travel-sized deodorant in a pocket.

Hydrate. Drinking minimises the salt concentration of sweat. Salt has a sandpaper effect on skin, says dermatologist Fayne Frey.

Moisturise. “Skin that’s well moisturised—apply lotion twice daily—is less prone to chafing,” Frey says.

Treat It

Wash up. Shower ASAP after running, keeping water lukewarm. Use antibacterial soap to ward off bacteria that can creep into exposed skin and cause problems like folliculitis, a skin condition that dermatologist Tanya Kormeili, says occurs in athletes.

Soothe it. Pat—don’t rub—skin dry and apply an ointment such as baby rash creams containing zinc oxide.

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