How To Prevent Thigh Chafing


Thigh chafing is a common complaint — especially during the summer months. Thankfully, it’s one that we’ve been much more open in talking about in recent years. This has led to all kinds of innovative products to prevent it happening in the first place.

Wondering where to look? Well, let’s start at the beginning and get clear on what exactly chafing is and why it happens.

What Is Inner Thigh Chafing? 

No matter what you call it; chub rub, thigh chafing, sweat rash, groin rash, etc… thigh chafe is a painful experience. But what is it and why does it happen?

Inner thigh chafing occurs when delicate skin between the thighs rubs together, or when other materials rub repeatedly across the skin. These repeated movements can cause the skin surface to become irritated.

Chafing Is All About Friction

The problem is really about the friction; either of skin rubbing against skin, or other materials rubbing against the skin of the inner thighs. This friction creates tiny tears in the skin which become red and irritated. If the skin is shaved, stubble and hair regrowth can also add to any friction.

It Can Happen Anywhere Skin Comes in Contact With Other Skin

Although we’re focusing on inner thigh chafe, chafing can happen anywhere on the body, for both men and women. Common body areas susceptible to chafing include:

  • Thighs
  • Groin
  • Underarms
  • Under breast and nipples 
  • Feet and ankles (new shoe chafing!)

But It Happens Most to Delicate Skin

One thing all these areas have in common? The skin is delicate. It makes sense that more delicate skin would have a harder time withstanding friction. It’s just like delicate fabric - you need to treat it more gently. 

Sweat Exacerbates Chafing

You know the old adage about rubbing salt in wounds? That’s literally what happens when sweat comes in contact with chafed skin. It causes further pain and irritation. This is because sweat contains salt. When sweat evaporates, tiny salt crystals can be left on the skin. These exacerbate the friction, which just keeps the problem going.

… Which Means It Happens More in Summer

The sweat/chafe connection means that chafing happens a lot more in summer… which makes sense. After all, we all sweat more in summer months.

But there’s another reason too: We wear less clothing in summer so our skin comes in contact more often. Yep, there’s a double-edge sword to those cute summer dresses… which can just seem entirely unfair. But don’t worry - we’ll get to steps to prevent chafing (and keep you in your floatiest, prettiest summer frock!)

… & to Athletes Who Repeat Certain Movements

Friction is always exacerbated by repetition. This is why it can happen when walking, hiking, running, cycling. These repetitive movements (along with the sweating that usually accompanies them) means that chafing is often a natural (albeit frustrating) byproduct of exercise.

Thigh Chafing Can Happen to Anybody, No Matter What Your Weight

The fat activist community lovingly coined the phrase “chub rub” to normalize and destigmatize talking about chafing. However, thigh chafing (and chafing in general) can happen to anybody. 

Thanks to these body positive activists, we’ve all become more comfortable discussing this reality (and now have many more solutions to choose from!) So let’s keep the conversation going!

How to Prevent Chafing

Now that we’re all on the same page about what chafing is and why it happens, let’s look at how to prevent it from happening in the first place...

Stay Clean & Fresh!

Sweat and bacteria definitely exacerbate chafing (and may even cause infection), so it’s important to stay clean and fresh. This means showering regularly with a mild soap, changing your underwear daily and washing clothes that have become sweaty (especially workout clothes) after each wear.

Wear Tight (But Breathable) Clothing to Reduce Friction

Creating a physical barrier between the skin can go a long way to preventing chafing. But let’s not forget that certain fabrics can cause chafing too. This is why so much performance clothing is very form-fitting; so that it stays put and doesn’t add to the friction inevitably created by your activity. Wearing leggings, for example, will reduce friction and  prevent the thighs rubbing against each other.

Pay Attention to Seams 

As mentioned, chafing doesn’t just happen when skin rubs together. It can also happen when materials come in contact with skins. Clothing seams are often a particular source of friction between the legs as the material is usually thicker and rougher at the seams. Pay attention to where seams sit, and opt for off-set seams or seamless clothing and underwear!

...Or, Wear What You Want &  Simply Switch Up Your Underwear

Although it may seem that we’ve all spent the last year of the pandemic living in our leggings, it’s totally reasonable not to want to wear leggings 365 days a year. Don’t worry - you can wear your favourite summer frock and still prevent chafing. Simply switch from regular underwear to anti thigh chafing shorts and wear all your favorite things!

Explore Personal Anti Chafing Products, Like Anti Chafing Lubricant

There are many anti chafing products hitting the market to help combat (and treat) thigh chafing. Some of these include anti-perspirant and some are more balm-like. Often packaged like deodorant sticks, these products are designed to create a barrier that sits on top of sensitive skin of the inner thighs and helps the thighs “glide” past each other rather than rub and create friction.

It might take some trial-and-error to find an anti chafe product you like, but they might be worth trying. Some notes to consider: 

  • These anti chafe products might rub off on, or stain, clothing, and
  • Of course they will run out and need to be replenished!

Use Powders (Not Talc!) to Minimize Moisture

If sweat is a major source of bother, moisture-absorbing powders can help keep the groin and thighs dry. Look for non-talc all-natural products with ingredients like kaolin or cornstarch to absorb moisture. Other ingredients, like aloe and lavender can cool, soothe and have antibacterial properties.

Note: Talcum powder may increase risk of ovarian and uterine cancer, so avoid using this type of powder in the genital area. (source)

When Exercising, Look for Performance Sweat Wicking Fabric

If you’re doing any athletic activity and are prone to chafing, it’s worth looking into specialty workout gear. Bike shorts, for example, are designed to be form-fitting, cushioned, have offset seams and are moisture wicking.

Even if you’re not a hardcore athlete, you might want to up the ante on your workout clothes to minimize chances of irritation, and ensure you actually enjoy your activity!

How to Treat Thigh Chafing, if it Occurs

If you have chafed skin, here’s what to do about it:

Do Not Further Irritate the Skin (Use Mild Cleansers)

This is not a time for body scrubs, scalding hot water or aggressive towel-drying. Irritated skin needs to be left alone as much as possible to calm down. Use mild cleansers to ensure the area is clean and gently pat the skin to dry. 

Protect Your Thighs from Further Irritation

Nothing begets irritation like further irritation. So take a break from whatever friction-inducing activity you were doing. Or at least swap into clothing that creates a physical barrier between your thighs. Try wearing anti-chafing shorts during the day so you don’t further exacerbate the irritation

Irritation can often become a lot more... irritating at night. So swap your nightdress for PJs or cotton leggings so your thighs aren’t in contact while you’re trying to doze off.

Moisturize to Soothe

To soothe the skin and help it heal, try applying a light layer (don’t slather it on) of petroleum jelly, like trusty old Vaseline. Some people also have success with baby’s diaper rash creams. 

When to See a Doctor?

While painful, a little bit of chafing is generally nothing to worry about and will heal itself if not further exacerbated. 

However, keep an eye on the area because there’s always a risk of infection when skin is torn. Here are some signs that you might want to schedule a doctor’s visit:

  • A wound open up and doesn’t scab over in a few days (assuming it’s not further exacerbated)
  • You notice blood or pus coming from a chafing wound
  • The skin is very hot or swollen
  • Redness spreads beyond the point of chafing

It’s worth noting that the above rarely occurs, but prevention is always the best course of action.