How to prevent and treat chafing

Photography by Matt Rainey

Ever experience thigh rubbing so painful your legs feel like they’ve brushed against a cheese grater? Or cross a finish line, realising that the spectacle of your blood-streaked shirt is eliciting horror from spectators? Chafing, a runner’s rite of passage, is the result of friction that occurs when skin rubs against itself or clothing. As anyone who has endured an excruciating post-run shower on freshly grazed skin knows, prevention is all-important. Here’s what works.

Prevent it

Ditch cotton: It absorbs sweat and stays wet. Wear synthetic, wicking fabrics.

Go seamless and tagless: Seams and tags on a T-shirt or bra can cause irritation.

Get a proper fit: A too-snug sports bra can dig in; the excess material of a baggy T-shirt can rub you raw.

Protect your legs: Compression shorts or running tights can protect your inner thighs from abrasions.

Cover ‘em up: Nipple protection is critical for men. NipGuards and plasters are common shields.

Get greasy: Apply lubricant to chafe-prone body parts. Vaseline is a classic salve, and it’s cheap but it contains petroleum jelly, which might stain gear and can’t be used on neoprene wetsuits in a triathlon.

BodyGlide and SportShield For Her are excellent non-oil-based options. When heading out for a long run, stash a ChapStick in a pocket to fix any sore spots on the go.

Hydrate: Drinking minimises the salt concentration of sweat. Salt has a sandpaper effect on skin, says dermatologist Fayne Frey.

Moisturise: ‘Skin that’s well moisturised is less prone to chafing,’ says Frey. Apply lotion daily. Try Activbod Cooling Finish Lotion.

Treat it

Wash up: Shower as soon as possible after you finish your run, keeping the water lukewarm. Use antibacterial soap to ward off the bacteria that can creep into exposed skin and cause problems such as folliculitis, an often unsightly skin condition that dermatologist Tanya Kormeili, says is more common in athletes.

Soothe it: Pat – don’t rub – skin dry and apply a healing ointment such as Sudocrem. Creams such as this are antibacterial, as they contains zinc oxide.

Pack rules

Facebook friends weigh in on chafing remedies.

  • ‘A piece of cling film under your bra band prevents chafing.’ Becky Morris Craig
  • ‘Turn your running bra inside out so the seams can’t rub you.’ Melody Wohlgemuth Gunter
  • ‘Coconut oil on my thighs and bra line.’ Megan Weber
  • ‘I cut the foot off an old sock and wear it on my arm under my iPod armband.’ Chrissy Snider
  • ‘I use duct tape on my nipples. Taking it off after a run helps me toughen up.’ Scott Partenheimer
  • ‘If you forget to put glide on and you chafe, put it on before you get in the shower. It has prevented many a scream.’ Kerry Lenny

READ: 3 ways to save your skin

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