Like many of life’s more private issues, skin chafing is something we don’t tend to discuss openly. While that’s understandable- chafing can be painful, unsightly, and embarrassing- the reality is that it’s an extremely common condition that most people will experience at one time or another. Without treatment, repeated chafing can start to negatively affect your life and daily routines, but luckily there are simple and effective products to bring it under control, so you can continue to live your life without discomfort.
What is Chafing?
Put simply, chafing is a skin problem caused by repeated friction on your skin. This often happens during repetitive motion like walking, running, or cycling, with close parts of your body rubbing together (like your inner thighs or armpits). Badly-fitting clothing or irritating fabric can also chafe as it rubs against your skin. Sweat or other moisture can make this worse, as it can overly soften the skin and make it more vulnerable to damage from the friction. When moderate to severe chafing occurs, your damaged skin will become red and painful, and when it’s really bad, skin can bleed, swell, and become extremely sensitive to the touch, making it difficult to move normally.
How Do I Treat It?
Clearly, it’s in your best interest to prevent chafing before it starts, and there’s a few obvious yet important tips to consider. For starters, always make sure you’re wearing comfortable, properly-fitting clothing with adequate ventilation, especially when exercising. Change your socks and underwear at least once a day and be sure to dry off completely before getting dressed after you shower. Using a body powder can also help deal with friction and sweat for minor chafing issues.
However, even with all of that, you may still have problems, and you may be interested in a cream or stick that’s purpose-built to combat chafing. While people used to use household products like petroleum jelly, this can both clog pores and leave an unpleasant greasy residue. There are several much more effective options on the market, but depending on your specific needs, you’ll want to choose the correct product. Here are the results of our testing, and what we recommend to make your chafing woes a thing of the past.
Best for Your Gym Bag
If you’re looking for one product to keep in your gym bag or locker that’s perfect whether you’re deadlifting, playing basketball, or hitting the treadmill, it’s hard to argue with the convenience and effectiveness of the Body Glide stick. Originally invented by surfers looking to minimize wetsuit chafing, this convenient deodorant-like stick is ready at a moment’s notice, and can be applied liberally to any area where your skin might be rubbed. Made of all natural ingredients, it applies clean and clear, with no messy residue, and provides excellent skin glide while still staying light enough not to clog pores, allowing your body to continue to sweat and cool. While it’s not quite as effective as the most heavy duty options, it’s more than enough to tackle everyday exercise. Try it after a shower underneath work clothes as well- the light, comfortable formula works well and lasts for hours even with moderate sweating and heat.
Best for Cyclers
Cycling is a specific, repetitive motion that can lead to targeted chafing and irritation in a particularly uncomfortable area between your legs- a spot between your balls and your butthole known as the gooch. Preventing chafing in this area requires a thicker, heavier barrier that will protect for hours without melting under the heat and sweat, and we’re pleased to say Gooch Guard, which is specially designed for cyclists, is up to the task. This aloe and sunflower oil based balm applies thicker and lasts longer than the other brands we tested, so it’s perfect for long-distance rides even in intense weather. While it would also work well for running or gym workouts, the thicker consistency might be annoying on parts of the body that are open to the air, and as one of the pricier products we tested, you’ll want to save it for its intended purpose. But if you’re a serious rider in need of some extra protection, Gooch Guard works wonders.
Best Heavy Duty Cream
While all of these products offer protection against sweat and water, truly grueling extended exercise and/or extreme wetness (think triathlon) can push even the most effective products to their limits. We’ve had the best results in the most intense conditions with Blue Steel Sports Anti-Chafe Cream, a thicker, heavier silicone-based cream that forms a more effective waterproof layer on the skin to stand up to swimming, trail running, and other conditions that might wash away other products on this list. As a bonus, it’s loaded with tea tree oil, providing a great soothing sensation when applied to irritated skin. While an all-natural, slightly lighter product is probably more suitable for everyday use, this is an excellent cream to have in your arsenal for your next extreme water-based adventure.
Best for Everyday Use
If your chafing issues are less exercise related, and more to do with the daily frictions of work clothes or walking to the bus, you may not need to pay a premium for some of the more athletically engineered products we’ve already discussed. Gold Bond Friction Defense Stick is a convenient, affordable solution to minor everyday chafing, providing perfectly effective protection for less extreme irritation. Treated with aloe and Gold Bond’s medicated formula, it provides a nice soothing coolness upon application, which can help with existing chafing problems. Also, as it’s not meant to absorb moisture, it doesn’t contain talc- a plus for those who avoid Gold Bond Powder for over health concerns related to that ingredient. While it can’t quite stand up to vigorous exercise in the same way the sport-driven products above can, if you just suffer a little irritation now and then, it’s just what you need.
Best All-In-One Solution
The reality of chafing is that it doesn’t occur in a vacuum- the same wet, hot, friction-heavy conditions that can cause painful chafing can also cause fungal infections such as jock itch, embarrassing odor, and additional discomfort from heat and sweat- the dreaded “swamp crotch.” Bozak Cream addresses all of these issues at once with a convenient, effective formula that can be applied liberally to the thighs and groin area, where it quickly dries to form a powder layer that absorbs an impressive amount of sweat while also reducing skin friction and preventing chafing. It soothes existing discomfort with a cooling dose of menthol and eucalyptus and contains miconazole nitrate to eliminate jock itch and protect against future recurrence. It’s a powerful product we’d be proud to use even if we didn’t make it.