Chafing is a kind of skin irritation that occurs when there is constant rubbing of the skin against one’s own skin or clothing. Chafing results in red sore patches on the affected areas. The most common places for chafing include the inner thighs, underarms, etc. The red sores result in pain in the affected areas, making mundane everyday activities tedious and painful.

Chafing Picture

As mentioned earlier, chafing is an abrasive skin condition that is caused by friction between two body parts and/or clothes. Sweating and rubbing are the main causes for chafing. People who are overweight and exercise enthusiasts often experience skin chafing. It is equally common in men and women, and any activity that results in prolonged friction between skin surfaces, especially on the inner thighs results in chafed skin.

Symptoms of Chafing

People whose skin is subjected to prolonged or severe friction against skin and clothes are more likely to experience chafed skin. Chafing between thighs can be quite an unpleasant and even painful, making even simple tasks like walking to work or to a shop difficult. Although, skin chafing can occur anywhere in the body, the vulnerable areas include the inner thighs, the nipples, underarms, and the groin area. The common symptoms for chafing include:

  • Stinging
  • Burning sensation
  • Inflammation and swelling in severe cases
  • Excessive irritation
  • Itching

The affected area also becomes sore and extremely tender. Touching or getting water on the affected area may cause a burning sensation.

Causes of Chafing

Several factors make chafing more likely. Skin irritation from thigh rubbing can cause chafing thighs, resulting in rashes. Rashes caused by skin chafing are painful, sore and uncomfortable. Chafed skin also results in itching and inflammation. The main causes of skin chafing are as follows:

  • Obesity, wherein the accumulation of fat causes folds to develop resulting in constant friction with skin rubbing against skin.
  • Certain exercises and activities that require you to move into a position wherein your skin may experience friction against skin or clothing.
  • Excessive sweating, resulting in inflammation and rashes in certain areas that experience friction, thereby increasing their susceptibility to chafing.
  • Tight body hugging clothes and wet clothing tends to cling to the skin causing friction every time you move.
  • The fabric of your clothing can also contribute to the problem as synthetic clothing causes more chafing than cotton clothing.

Remedies for Chafing

While you can follow preventive measures to get rid of chafing, it may not always be practical to avoid activities that can cause chafing. Excessive dryness of the skin and environmental conditions could also contribute to the problem of chafing and it is not always possible to avoid such conditions. Home remedies come in handy when dealing with such situations where chafing is inevitable to minimize the risk or remedy the problem.

  1. Applying any one of the following on the affected area will provide relief:
    • Petroleum jelly
    • Baby oil
    • Almond oil
    • Lavender oil
    • Vitamin E cream
    • Aloe Vera gel
  2. Homemade lubricants can be made using petroleum jelly, Vitamin E cream, and aloe Vera cream, with help of a commercially bought ointment. Lubricating the prone areas minimizes the risk of chafing and also helps to sooth chafed skin.
  3. Cornstarch or talcum powder can be applied on the affected area to keep it dry.
  4. Calendula oil has healing as well as anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Medical ointments and creams containing caledndula are also available and all of these could help to get rid of skin irritation due to chafing.
  5. Zinc oxide helps to heal chafing. Olive oil or mineral oil can be used to wipe off zinc oxide.
  6. Aromatherapy oils are also believed to help reduce the inflammation and irritation. However, aroma therapy oils must never be used directly on the skin unless they are diluted with some carrier oil. You should consult an aromatherapist for advice regarding which oils to use.
  7. If obesity is the causes for chafing, shedding the excess pounds is the only way to cure chafing.

Preventive Measures for Chafing

To prevent chafing, one should minimize the amount of friction to the skin. Here are some tips that can help reduce or avert skin chafing.

  • Keep Skin Dry: Wet skin is one of the main causes for chafing. Dry skin prevents chafing. This does not mean excessively dry, as dry skin problems can also cause chafing. Applying talcum powder to the areas that get the sweatier can control moisture buildup in the area and minimize friction of the skin. Keep in mind that when the skin becomes too dry, it will again be prone to itching. Keep yourself well hydrated and use lubrication and skin moisturizers to get relief from dryness if this is contributing to the problem.
  • Wear Right Clothes: Wearing clothes that are not too tight and of fabrics that allow your skin to ‘breathe’ will also help, as the air flow and absorbent nature of the clothing reduces perspiration and facilitates faster evaporation of excess moisture. One should avoid coarse and wet clothing as well. Friction can also be eliminated by wearing appropriate clothing for the activity.

Diet for Chafing

Although there is no specific diet to treat chafing, incorporating certain foods in your diet can help to heal chafed skin faster and better. Anyone who suffers from chaffed skin on a regular basis should include vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, and beta-carotene rich foods in their diet. Vitamin A along with beta-carotene provides antioxidants that protect body, particularly the skin. Vitamin C helps to boost immunity and is also considered good for a healthy skin.

  • Yellow and orange vegetables and fruits are generally rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene.
  • Spinach, animal fats, and egg yolks are also rich in vitamin A.
  • Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits.
  • Vitamin B1 is a natural supplement to help treat chafing.
  • Staying away from fats and sugars helps in losing weight and reduces skin folds and helps to prevent chafing.

Suggestions for Chafing

  • To treat chafed skin, the affected area should be washed with mild soap and lukewarm water. Apply an antibacterial ointment or spray and then cover it with band aid or sterile gauze.
  • Although chafing is not a serious condition, one should not neglect it as it may lead to an infection. If the broken skin gets infected, it could result in complications.
  • If chafing continues for more than two days, it is time to see a dermatologist.
  • People suffering from herpes tend to confuse it with chafing symptoms. If one has the slightest suspicion, he/she should visit a doctor at once.


  1. Kligman AM. The chronic effect of repeated mechanical trauma to the skin. Am J Industrial Med. 8:257-264, 1985
  2. Stauffer L.W. Skin disorders in athletes: Identification and management. Physician Sportsmed. 11:101-120, 1983

Chafing - Frequently asked questions
9 Chafing remedies suggested by our users
Natural treatment for Chafing
suggested by Patsy on Sunday, February 10, 2008

Corn starch rubbed on irritated areas prevents friction that causes chafing and is better than powder because it does not clump and retain moisture. It's inexpensive and free of allergens such as fragrances.

diaper rash cream
suggested by claudia on Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Diaper rash cream goes on smooth and cools your skin to keep it dry.

chafing anywhere
suggested by [unspecified] on Saturday, October 20, 2007

I use Gold Bond Medicated powder before I go to bed if I'm starting to feel symptoms and by the morning its almost gone.It works great. But really, any powder helps, as long as it helps you stay dry.

Use Glide
suggested by G on Saturday, July 28, 2007

Rei sells this great product that is non greasy. It is called Glide. I use it between my legs when running and on my feet while backpacking. It is odorless and works great. I have gotten all my backpacking friends to use it. Good for the nipples too!

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