Chafing is the term given to skin irritation caused by repetitive friction. When your skin repeatedly rubs against skin or clothing, it may become red, irritated, and extremely painful.
This problem usually occurs in areas like the inner thighs, armpits, nipples, groin area, and neck area. It is more common in people who are exercise enthusiasts, runners, those who are overweight, and those who have sensitive skin.
This uncomfortable condition is very common and anybody can suffer from it. Severe chafing is also known as friction burn.
What Causes Skin Chafing?
The main causes that lead to this condition include:
- Excessive weight: Being overweight increases the risk of chafing. Excess body weight makes it easier for the inner thighs or the armpits to rub together.
- Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding mothers may also experience chafed nipples due to the regular use of pads and bras.
- Rigorous physical activities: Those who are into endurance sports are also at a higher risk due to repetitive movements, loose-fitting clothing, or excess moisture from sweat.
Other reasons behind skin chafing are:
- Wearing skirts or dresses, particularly in hot and humid weather
- Wearing ill-fitting clothing
- Wearing clothes made of rough materials
- Excess sweating
- Sand from the beach drying on the skin
- Use of diapers or sanitary pads
Signs and Symptoms of Skin Chafing
Chafing is accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Red marks or sore patches
- Burning sensations
- A stinging sensation when the affected area comes in contact with water
In severe cases, chafing may also cause:
Treatment for Chafing Skin
Ignoring skin chafing could only worsen the damage, make your condition significantly more painful, and even give way to infection.
It is, therefore, important to stop all those activities that can further aggravate the condition and tend to the affected area at once.
Moreover, if you suspect that your clothes are contributing to the skin irritation, change into something that does not rub your skin the wrong way.
The first line of treatment entails gently cleaning the chafed area with water and to dry it thoroughly. After cleaning the area, apply an appropriate anti-chafing lubricant such as petroleum jelly, which will help reduce friction and allow surfaces to glide against each other instead.
Moreover, applying a gentle talcum powder can help rid the affected skin of unnecessary sweating and moisture.
In the event that the area becomes painful, inflamed, starts to bleed, or develops a crusty surface, your health care provider may recommend a medicated ointment to provide relief.
Natural Treatment Options for Chafing Skin
Here are some home remedies for skin chafing.
1. Keep the Area Clean
- For cleaning, use water and a bar of mild, unscented soap.
- Once you are done with washing the affected area, dry the area properly using a clean cotton towel. Pat your skin dry and don’t rub as this can further irritate the skin.
2. Apply Cold Compress to the Affected Area
You can soothe your chafed skin by applying cold compresses over the affected area. This will reduce the redness and itchiness and relieve the irritation.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, cold compresses help with skin issues that cause itchiness, which is one of the main symptoms of skin chafing.
- Wrap a few ice cubes in a towel.
- Place the ice pack on the affected area for 5 minutes.
- Take a break and reapply.
- Repeat a few times daily for a few days.
You may also wash the affected area with cold water.
3. Keep the Area Dry
Excessive sweating can make chafing worse as sweat contains minerals that can further irritate the skin. Hence, it is very important to keep the affected dry and sweat-free.
For this, you can use talcum powder, baby powder, or even cornstarch. All these products help absorb moisture, keeping your skin dry and reducing friction.
- Clean the affected skin with a bar of mild antiseptic soap and lukewarm water.
- Thoroughly pat dry the area with a soft towel.
- Lightly dust talcum powder, baby powder, or cornstarch over it.
- Reapply two or three times daily.
4. Reap the Benefits of Aloe Vera Gel
The glycoprotein present in aloe vera helps reduce pain and inflammation, and the polysaccharides stimulate skin cell repair. Aloe vera also speeds up the healing process and reduces the risk of infection.
- Slit an aloe vera leaf and scoop out the gel. Apply the gel directly on the affected skin two or three times daily. If you don’t have an aloe plant, purchase 100% aloe vera gel from a pharmacy.
- Alternatively, mix together ¼ cup of aloe vera juice, 1 cup of brewed green tea, and 10 drops of lavender essential oil. Transfer the mixture into a spray bottle and use it on your chafed skin twice daily.
5. Take an Oatmeal Bath
Oatmeal comes loaded with medicinal properties. It can cleanse, moisturize, and help soothe the affected skin.
A study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology suggests that oatmeal acts as an excellent anti-inflammatory agent to help soothe and protect the skin.
Another study published in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology demonstrated that colloidal oatmeal is a safe and effective ingredient in personal care products due to its moisturizing, cleansing, antioxidative, and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Mix 1 to 2 cups of oatmeal powder in a bathtub filled with lukewarm water. Soak in it for 20 to 30 minutes. Rinse off your body with lukewarm water. Pat dry your skin using a soft towel. Use this remedy at least once daily.
- You can also use any cream or lotion containing colloidal oatmeal on the affected area, two to three times a day.
6. Turmeric Paste can be Beneficial
Turmeric is rich in curcumin, which is believed to possess antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It can protect your chafed skin from infections and reduce the healing time. Furthermore, it reduces the risk of scarring.
A study that can be found in the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology (2007) suggests that curcumin works as a potent nontoxic agent for treating skin problems.
It protects the skin by eliminating free radicals and reducing inflammation through the nuclear factor-KB process.
- Make a paste by mixing 3 teaspoons of turmeric powder with enough water (about 2 tablespoons).
- Apply the paste on the affected area.
- Cover the area with a soft cloth and let it sit for 30 minutes before rinsing it off.
- Repeat this two or three times a day.
7. Coat the Area with Coconut Oil
Coconut oil can be used to treat chafed skin due to its powerful moisturizing property. It also helps by facilitating the healing process.
Coconut oil can also help keep away infections and prevent scarring. After taking a bath, take a few drops of coconut oil on your palm. Apply it directly on the affected skin. Repeat this remedy a few more times throughout the day.
8. Trust the Healing Potential of Calendula
Being rich in flavonoids, calendula protects the skin from damage caused by free radicals. It even speeds up the healing process.
- Apply a few drops of calendula oil directly on the affected area two or three times daily.
- Alternatively, boil 1/3 cup each of dried calendula flowers, green tea, and dried chamomile in 8 cups of water. Allow the mixture to cool, strain it, and add the liquid to a lukewarm bath. Soak in it for 20 minutes, and then pat your skin dry. Enjoy this healing bath once daily for a few days.
9. Dress Accordingly
When it comes to treating chafing, you need to determine the cause of the friction and stop it from occurring to help the chafed skin heal. One common cause of this friction can be your clothes.
- Belts, tight underwear, and clothes that cause you to sweat may lead to chafing.
- Clothes made of materials that are coarse, scratchy, or moisture retaining should be avoided.
- While exercising, do not wear clothes made of cotton as it absorbs sweat and stays wet. Wear clothes made of synthetic, sweat-wicking fabrics instead.
- Wear seamless and tag-less clothes to avoid skin irritation.
- Wear clothes with an ergonomic fit. Loose-fitting garments increase the chances of rubbing, particularly in hot and humid weather.
How to Prevent Skin Chafing?
The following tips can help you prevent chafing:
- Wear properly fitting clothes, especially while exercising.
- Obesity can lead to chafed thighs. Eat a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole-wheat grains. Exercising regularly may help prevent excessive weight gain and aid in weight loss.
- Incorporate foods rich in vitamins A and C, zinc, and beta-carotene into your diet.
- Drink enough water to stay hydrated and eliminate dryness that can lead to chafing.
- Keep your skin dry. You may apply talcum powder to sweat-prone areas to keep them dry and fresh. Change wet or sweaty clothes immediately.
When to See a Doctor
Though it is not dangerous at all, chafing causes a lot of discomforts. It can lead to broken skin, which increases the risk of infection and other complications. The symptoms may aggravate and worsen if not treated timely.
Visit your doctor if you experience symptoms including bleeding, discoloration, swelling, and crusting.
In some cases, people suffering from this condition may need a prescribed steroid to soothe the skin and help in the healing process.
Mild cases of chafing can be treated without the intervention of a medical expert. To ease the pain and burning associated with chafed skin, you can use some simple home remedies and lifestyle changes.
- Find out what is causing the chafing and adjust as needed to prevent it from recurring.
- Apply calamine lotion on the affected area to provide relief from itching and speed up the healing process.
- Applying a lubricant such as petroleum jelly over the area also helps reduce further friction.
- Avoid wearing tight clothes. Belts, tight underwear, and tight clothes can cause you to sweat, which can worsen your chafed skin.
- Use unscented baby powder to keep your skin dry.
- When exercising, wear clothes made with synthetic fibers. This help reduce perspiration and dry faster than natural materials. Use compression shorts, spandex cycling shorts, and athletic tights that stretch and cause no friction.
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