What Is Thigh Chafing?
Thigh chafing can happen to anybody at any time. But when it does happen, what can you do about it? Obviously not moving isn’t really a practical option, so how can you allow the skin to heal from its irritation?
In this article, we’ll cover steps to offer immediate relief when your thighs have become chafed. We’ll also look at steps you can take to prevent it happening again in the future. But first, let’s understand inner thigh chafing a bit better.
Understanding Skin Chafing: Why Does it Happen?
No matter what you call it; chub rub, thigh chafing, sweat rash, groin rash, etc… thigh chafe is a painful experience.
Skin chafing is the result of friction. That friction can occur when the skin rubs against itself. For instance: As you walk or run, your inner thighs brush past each other. If they are not covered (e.g. you’re wearing a dress), this movement can cause friction which builds the more you move.
Another possible source of friction is your clothing. Seams (whether tight or not) can sometimes rub against your skin and cause minor irritations along that contact point.
It’s worth noting that skin chafing can happen on many different body parts (armpits, under your breasts, around waistbands, heels and toes etc.) However, inner thigh chafing can be particularly problematic during the summer.
Some other notable features of chafing:
1. It Happens More on Warm Days
Warmer temperatures mean the skin is already warmer so friction can further heat the body. But - more obviously - it’s on hot days that we tend to shed layers of clothing. The fact more of our skin is exposed means more opportunity for the skin to rub against itself.
2. Delicate Skin Chafes Faster
Skin contact definitely causes chafing, but it’s delicate skin that is most susceptible to chafing faster. The skin of our inner thighs is usually quite soft and sensitive. In general, if you have more sensitive skin, you are more likely to see chafing.
3. Sweat Exacerbates Chafing
Another reason chafing happens more in the heat is because we sweat more when it’s hot outside (or when we’re exercising). Sweat contains salt crystals and when sweat evaporates it leaves those miniscule crystals on the skin’s surface. Those crystals can increase the friction, literally rubbing salt in your wounds...
4. Chafing Is Not Really About Size or 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. For example, you could be an athlete who has significant muscle bulk and experience chafing. Or sometimes just the shape of our body means our legs come into contact at certain points.
Thanks to 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!
Immediate Relief When You Have Chafed Skin
So, you have chafed skin on your thighs. You’re probably in quite a bit of pain. What can you do right now to offer relief? Try these steps:
Use Mild Cleansers & Pat Dry
As mentioned, sweat can exacerbate chafing and unclean skin that becomes irritated is more susceptible to infection. So if you find yourself with chafed skin after a walk, run or hike, do hop in the shower.
However, avoid scalding hot water and aggressive cleaning. Instead, shower in cooler water and use a gentle cleanser. Pat the skin dry gently too. You don’t want to further aggravate the chafed skin.
Apply Petroleum Jelly (e.g. Vaseline)
Once your skin is dry (and hopefully feeling a little cooler) apply some lubricant. Petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) is something most of us have handy in our medicine cabinet. Some people also have success with baby’s diaper rash creams.
...Or Try Coconut Oil
One friend of mine prefers coconut oil to Vaseline and swears it is more effective at keeping the skin moisturized without feeling excessively greasy. You could also try Argan Oil. Lots of choices here, but the key is some form of moisture that will help soothe. Stay away from moisturizers with fruit acids, AHAs or strong scent as they may cause further irritation.
Let the Skin “Rest”
It can be hard to stay still but if you can rest up a little. Maybe this is a good time to catch up on Netflix. While it may feel unseemly, sitting with the legs stretched apart will allow air to circulate which will help calm and heal the skin.
Prevent Further Thigh Friction
We get it - it’s unlikely you can sit still until chafing is completely healed. So make sure you’re not worsening it when you do need to be up and about. You can 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
Sleep in Leggings or Shorts
Ever notice that bug bites itch so much more at night? That’s because as your body winds down it feels every little irritation so much more. Chafing is the same. To ensure a good night’s sleep, think about wearing something to bed that will keep your thighs from rubbing together while you sleep. Cotton leggings or shorts will do the trick. Try to pick breathable fabrics so the skin does not get hot and clammy.
Use (Non Talc) Powder to Keep the Area Dry Until Healed
As you resume your favourite activities, like walking, hiking and running, think about ways to minimize sweat. Moisture-absorbing powders can help keep the groin, thighs and other body areas (like feet) dry.
Look for non-talc all-natural products with ingredients like kaolin or cornstarch to absorb moisture. Other ingredients, like aloe vera 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)
You Should See a Doctor If….
Chafing will usually heal in due course. 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
The good news is that chafing rarely warrants a visit to the doctor and now that you know how to prevent chafing in the first place, you’ll hopefully avoid a repeat incident.
In the Future: How to Prevent Inner Thigh Chafing
Hopefully that helps you take care of your chafing today. For the future, you can use a lot of the same steps to prevent it happening in the first place. But here are some additional tips:
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. 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!
If you’re doing any athletic activity and are prone to chafing, it’s worth looking into specialty sweat-wicking workout gear. Bike shorts, for example, are designed to be form-fitting, cushioned, have offset seams and are moisture wicking.
...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!
Experiment With Other Anti Chafing Products
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. 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!
We hope we’ve helped set you on the path to a chafe-free summer!