How to Prevent Chafing: Causes Explained

Chafing is a painful result of skin rubbing against itself or your clothing. Chafing usually happens to certain parts of the body, such as:

Luckily, there are ways to prevent chafing and also ways to deal with it in the event that you're already afflicted.

Why Does Chafing Occur?

chafing runner

So why does chafing occur? There are two main ways chafing can occur.

  • The first is wearing loose-fitting clothes that causes friction on different parts of the body such as the nipples or armpits which results in skin to skin friction.
  • The second is the humidity and warm weather which results in sweat.

Chafing is essentially caused by friction when your skin is repeatedly rubbed against your clothing or itself. This friction results in a red, raw skin patch. Then if you couple this friction with warm weather, humidity, and sweat it makes the problem even worse. If you've ever had salty sweat on an open wound then you know how deadly this combination can be.

Luckily, chafing can be prevented and treated easily. Keep in mind that if you know where chafing happens on YOUR body then the situation is a lot easier to deal with.

How to Prevent Chafing

Lubing Up

You can reduce friction with a lubricant like Vaseline. It might sound counterproductive to introduce a material that moisturizes the area, but a thick lubricant will help to grease the area and eliminate friction.

Apply the lubricant in areas where chafing affects you.

Clothing and Gear

Clothing and ill-fitted gear is a culprit of chafing for a lot of people. For instance think of backpack that slides around on your shoulders during a hike. How about your boots that aren't tied properly and can rub against your ankles and heels. You also have shirts that are too loose and can cause "runner nipples."

nipples chafing

Material like microfiber or sweat-wicking material will help keep moisture at bay and minimize friction.

Leaving a Little Hair Down There

Having a clean shave can often make you feel refreshed, whether it's your face, armpits, or your nether region. However it might be beneficial to have a barrier around those parts. Hair grows in these areas for a reason and it might be ideal to trim these areas as apposed to completely shaving them and making them vulnerable to friction and chafing.

Moisture Reduction

Consider using a drying-powder like Gold Bond that can help to absorb moisture. Gold Bold also contains menthol which can offer a cooling and soothing sensation for the skin.

Wash or Clean Yourself

This goes without saying but proper hygiene is essential. Small amounts of dirt, sweat, skin cells, etc can act like sandpaper and literally "sand" areas like your thighs, nipples, and armpits. Washing these areas will help to remove dirt and grime before it causes harm.

Chafing Treatment

If you're already affected by chafing then you can follow these steps to treat it.

  1. The raw skin is like a blister and it's best to stop all activity once you feel it developing. Ignoring it won't do much.
  2. Wash the affected area and clean it. Don't perform a "rubbing" motion when washing or drying as it can cause more harm than good.
  3. Apply a soothing cream like a coconut oil, Vaseline, or bag balm.
  4. Lastly, rest. The body will repair itself through thorough rest. Repeat the above process daily until you feel back to normal.

Robert Woods
At POP, we strive to provide practical preventative advice. We strive to figure out ways to prevent problems that people might have trouble grasping. We've found that other sources have trouble articulating concepts in a way that regular people can understand.
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