1. BodyGlide Skin Formula, 37g, £11.99
The days of slathering yourself in Vaseline to stop chafing, prevent blisters and ease the removal of wetsuits are long gone, and for that we have Bodyglide, the granddaddy of anti-chafing products, to thank. While the old petroleum-based formulae worked, they tended to rot your wetsuit, leave your hands greasy and your chamois clammy in the process. BodyGlide comes in a ‘stick’ dispenser, so there’s no spillage or waste, and its firm, waxy consistency makes it easy to target application to specific areas to prevent wetsuit rubbing, saddle sores, blisters and all manner of skin afflictions. The all-natural lubricant is lightweight and scent-free, so much so that there is a tendency to over-apply because you can’t quite believe you have put enough on (though you probably have). It doesn’t rub off on clothes and stays put even after sweating and swimming – you’ll need soap and water to get it off completely. BodyGlide is a great multi-use option for triathletes – it’s easily portable and just as handy for slicking inside the heel of your trainers for a smooth T2 as for preventing seams rubbing. But the standout use for me is in averting neck rub when swimming in a wetsuit. I prefer baby oil on wrists and ankles for smoother wetsuit removal and I find that I need a more specific, dedicated product to prevent saddle sores. The biggest downside? It melts in hot weather.
2. 2Toms Butt Shield 45ml, £12.99
The fantastically-named Butt Shield is a silicone-based liquid roll-on formula that promises to stop irritation before it starts by creating a frictionless barrier between your clothes and skin. It’s a little tacky on first contact, but it then seems to disappear into your skin (or your chamois, to which it can also be applied), so I was impressed that it was still doing its thing after a few hours in the saddle. An unscented, barely-there silicone formula is a great option if heavier chamois creams don’t appeal or upset your delicate areas. As the name suggests, Butt Shield is designed primarily for cycling-related chafing and irritation but it’s also ideal for inner thigh or armpit rub during running, or for use with a wetsuit (it’s waterproof, until washed off with soap and water). Skin soothing ingredients including shea butter and calendula extract prevent your skin feeling dry after use and seemed to keep the dreaded bottom rash at bay, too. I’ll be keeping this one in my saddle bag.
3. Reflect Sports Hoo Ha Ride Glide 236ml, £19.99
Full day rides are a feat of endurance in anyone’s book, but by far the greatest challenge for me is enduring the discomfort of staying in the saddle when my nether regions are crying out in pain. It’s been a longstanding problem for me (quite literally at times!) Adjusting my bike set-up has helped somewhat, and while the hunt for the perfect bike shorts continues, any product that promises to eliminate or reduce saddle sores and friction is music to my ears. Particularly when it’s called, er, Hoo Ha. This women-specific cream from the United States was designed by female cyclists and can be applied safely to every nook and cranny as well as to the chamois of your shorts or tights to create a friction-free barrier. With anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory ingredients including tea tree, lavender, eucalyptus and peppermint oils along with licorice extract), Hoo Ha doesn’t have the bracing aroma you might expect, just a subtle herbal scent, and a slight cooling effect that isn’t too over the top. I’m delighted to say I have no chafing or post-ride soreness to report, but I wasn’t enamoured with the ‘wet nappy’ sensation of pulling up cream-slathered bike shorts. Hoo Ha promises to soothe and assist the healing of existing friction burns or chafed skin, too. But for the record, by far the most successful product I’ve found for that is Assos Skin Repair gel.
4. Ultimate Performance Skin Shield 45ml, £7.99
If you are a runner who is plagued by blisters (or who, like me, just can’t get on with those blister plasters), a liberal application of this silicone-based roll-on with vitamin E and aloe vera might be just the answer. It creates a smooth, invisible coating on the skin which protects against friction. I can vouch for the fact that it doesn’t rub, sweat or slide off, either – my feet endured 20 miles of hard trail running, including numerous immersions in water, and came out unscathed. I’ll be giving it a try in my next triathlon on a sock-free run – my only worry is that my feet may be slippy on the way through T1. But you don’t need to limit application to below the ankles -Skin Shield can be used anywhere that skin meets fabric, footwear or equipment, such as helmet and bra straps, race belts and wetsuits, though it should not be used on already-irritated or broken skin. A good value product, though a little stickier and heavier than Butt Shield.
5. Skinstrong Slik 118ml, £11.99
I’ve tried creams, gels, balms, roll-ons and even powders in my anti-chafing quest but this is the first spray I’ve encountered. I’m impressed. The consistency of this pleasant-smelling formula is so smooth I misread the name as Silk. And while, like many anti-friction products, it contains silicone, it also boasts a number of plant oils including olive fruit, sesame seed, wheatgerm and evening primrose. According to Skin Strong, the benefit of a spray pump spray is that it gives even coverage, allows you to get to hard-to-reach places, like the skin beneath your bra clasp or between your toes, and its hygienic for sharing (so you might make some new tri buddies at your next race!). Where Slik really excelled in my test-out is on wetsuit removal. I pitted it against another product – one used on each side of my body- and the Slik-ed wetsuit arm and leg slid off with the greatest of ease. The non-staining formula is waterproof, non-greasy and pleasant to use. A great find.