What Causes Chafing, and How to Prevent It?

We've all been there - whether you're out for a run, hiking with friends or taking a stroll through the park. Chafing is enough to ruin your day or, at the very least, make you uncomfortable.

Athletes are no strangers to chafing either, and some experience it while exercising outdoors as well as indoors. Well, no more! We uncover what causes chafing and what you can do to prevent it.

Read on to find out more and stop chafing once and for all.

What Causes Chafing?

In essence, chafing is a friction rash brought about by excessive skin rubbing. This can happen if your skin gets too much friction from clothing or a different skin area. Symptoms of chafing can include the following:

  • Itchiness
  • Tender skin
  • Stinging or burning sensation
  • Redness or bumps
  • Dry and flaky skin

To top it off, moisture from sweat can cause more bacteria to pool around the area, which can worsen your symptoms. Repetitive movement from sports or physical activity can result in intense chafing. In severe cases, chafing turns into painful open skin wounds, like blisters.

Where Does Chafing Occur?

Chafing happens wherever your skin comes into contact with another body part or piece of clothing. However, some parts of the body are more prone to excessive skin rubbing. Here are some common examples of where people usually experience chafing.

Thigh Chafing

Anyone who lives in a hot and humid area is familiar with thigh chafing. It's natural for our thighs to rub against each other while walking or running. This often occurs when you're wearing shorts, as they allow your thighs to create friction without a protective barrier. 

People also tend to sweat around their inner thighs, which can contribute to irritation. However, you may also experience chafing when wearing loose shorts, pants, or leggings. Clothes with bulkier seams are more likely to create friction when you're moving.

But chafing can also happen in cold, dry climates too with skin rubbing on skin.

Groin Chafing

Groin chafing is more common than most people realize. The skin between your thighs and groin is sensitive. Combine friction, sweat, and tight clothing to the mix, and you'll get chafing.

Groin chafing is most prevalent among bikers, runners, and sufferers. Overweight individuals may also experience groin chafing since that sensitive area is more capable of generating heat. However, it's important to keep in mind that the groin is not only prone to chafing.

Irritation can also be a sign of other skin conditions, like jock itch. This is a fungal infection that can manifest with a crusty border. Some also mistake chafing for folliculitis, a bacterial infection.

If skin irritation or itchiness persists, it's best to consult a medical professional.

Butt chafing is also common due to the amount of skin area it covers. This can happen between your butt cheeks or where your butt meets your upper thigh.

Underarm Chafing

The armpit consists of a lot of folds that are prone to rubbing against each other. This area is also where most people sweat, which can then result in chafing. The skin on our underarms is also sensitive, which can make it difficult to ignore chafing.

Runners, athletes, and overweight individuals are more prone to experience chafing in this area. This can also affect people who work in construction or live in humid environments. Shaving can sometimes cause chafing, as the hair can cause irritation.

Nipple Chafing

Yes, you heard that right! Nipple chafing is a definite possibility if you're not wearing the proper clothing. Women are most likely to experience nipple chafing if they don't have adequate support around their breasts.

At the same time, chafing can occur under the skin folds of the breasts. This area is prone to the buildup of sweat. It can also get irritated if you aren't wearing a well-fitting bra or singlet.

Foot Chafing

Everyone has experienced foot chafing at some point in their lives, even if they don't have an active lifestyle. Look at your foot and point your toes side to side or the back. The part where your skin folds is where people tend to chafe and catch blisters.

Anything from a long walk or ill-fitting shoes can cause foot chafing. Standing or walking for an extended period can cause your feet to swell. While this is normal and not a cause for concern, it can make it easier to chafe.

Watch Chafing

We mentioned that chafing usually happens when skin rubs against skin or clothes. However, skin irritation can occur even when you're wearing a watch! Some watches consist of segments that can bite and nip at your skin, but chafing can occur regardless of the type of watch you wear.

People often opt for watches to track their fitness goals since it's easier than holding their phones. The band around your wrist will cause you to sweat more around that area. They can trap sweat and bacteria, which can cause friction rashes.

How to Prevent Chafing

Chafing happens to the best of us, it's something that happens to you. It can, however, feel uncomfortable and distracting, especially if you participate in extended periods of exercise or strenuous physical activity. This doesn't mean that you have to give up your morning run or your cute clothes.

Using the right strategies can help you minimize chafing and discomfort. Here's what you can do to prevent chafing.

Use Petroleum-Based Products

Petroleum jelly or similar products create slideage, preventing excessive skin friction. This creates a smooth surface so your skin glides instead of rubbing together uncomfortably. In addition, petroleum jelly is moisturizing.

This allows your skin to stay hydrated and reduce inflammation along the way. The best part is that you probably already have petroleum jelly at home! Almost everyone has this product in their medicine cabinets, so you don't have to go out of your way.

Buy Chafing Sticks

If you feel like petroleum jelly is too messy, consider investing in chafing sticks. These products are specially designed to prevent chafing and blistering. You can apply this on your thighs, armpits, or the back of your feet.  One our favorites is Body Glide.

Wear the Proper Clothes

The clothes you wear can have a huge impact on how likely you are to chafe. Clothes that are too loose are more likely to rub against your skin. On the other hand, clothes that are too tight can trap sweat and make it overall hard to breathe.

Take a look at your wardrobe and think about whether it's time for a makeover. If your biking shorts are too short, it may be time to invest in a longer pair. It also helps to pay attention to seams when shopping for activewear.

Skin is more likely to get irritated around bulky seams. Look for clothes that are supportive and non-restrictive.

Invest in Moisture-Wicking Clothes

Excessive sweat and bacteria can increase the risk of chafing. Though you can't stop yourself from sweating, there's one way to make yourself more comfortable during your runs. Moisture-wicking fabrics are better at evaporating sweat.

This prevents chafing and also allows you to stay cool and dry. This is a worthy investment, especially for avid runners or hikers.

How to Heal Chafing

Minor chafing usually goes away on its own, but the wait is usually uncomfortable. Here are some tips to heal your skin and prepare yourself for your next active session.

Clean the Area

Practicing proper hygiene is essential when healing broken or irritated skin. Get in the shower and gently clean the affected area. Use mild soap, as harsh scents can further irritate the chafed area.

Pat dry with a clean towel. Avoid rubbing so as not to harm your skin.

Use Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a holy grail when it comes to treating sunburns. Luckily, it's also great at treating chafed skin. Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties.

This will promote healing and offer some relief if your skin is feeling warm and tingly. You can also use a healing ointment or a gentle, unscented lotion to restore moisture to the skin.

Wear Clean Loose Clothes

While at rest, opt for a fresh batch of loose-fitting clothing. Your skin needs to be able to breathe in order to heal. Avoid wearing clothes that can cause friction and further irritation.

How to Prevent Chafing Once and For All

So, what causes chafing? Chafing is caused by clothes rubbing on skin in conditions that are very humid or very dry.  Investing in anti-chafing sticks or rubbing on some petroleum jelly can help you stay comfortable and free from chafing.

If you're an avid runner, chafing is not the only thing you have to deal with. That's where we come in. Spibelt focuses on creating products that help make the run more enjoyable, so check out our shop to see what fits your fancy.