Thigh chafing may be associated with warmer weather, but if you’re anything like me—as in, curvy and always sweating regardless of the actual temperature—you already know that “chub rub” can be a year-round debacle. It also has little to do with one’s actual weight: My thighs have always rubbed together, no matter my size.
I learned this the hard way, just as I hit puberty. I was 11 years old, and not only was I the first of any of my friends to get my period, but I was also the only one whose thighs ended up chapped after wearing shorts and dresses; sometimes to the point of bleeding. I didn’t understand what it was or meant, but I knew I felt embarrassed. So, I didn’t tell anyone for years, shamefully applying oversized bandages and deodorant (intended for armpits) to the area, hoping the issue would eventually go away.
My chafing didn’t go away, but I did learn to manage it, thanks to nearly two decades of trial-and-error, as well as guidance from actual experts. Read on for my—and dermatologists‘—tried-and-tested tips on how to treat and prevent thigh chafing, plus which products they recommend for the job.
What exactly is “chafing?”
First things first: Let’s define what “chafing” actually is, and what it means when it happens to your thighs. “Chafing refers to skin irritation that can appear red or discolored, and results from rubbing or friction,” Dr. Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medicine, tells Glamour.
Dr. Brendan Camp, MD, double-board certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology, concurs, adding that the unfortunate phenomenon is not necessarily exclusive to the thighs. “Chafing occurs as a result of skin rubbing on skin, or skin rubbing on a coarse fabric that causes a superficial abrasion in the skin over time,” he says. “Because chafing is the result of repeated frictional forces, it occurs most often in areas like the underarms, under the breasts, groin, and thighs.” And both derms agree: Chafing is both common, and normal, so no, nothing is wrong with you or your skin.
How do you treat chafed skin?
If your thighs are chapped from rubbing together, Dr. Peter Young, MD, board-certified dermatologist and medical director at Facet, recommends gently cleaning the chafed area with cool or lukewarm water (not hot!) as soon as possible. “Pat it dry with a soft towel, and apply a lubricating agent like petroleum jelly or Aquaphor,” he says.
Garshick echoes this, noting that most moisturizing lotions, creams and ointments will help the skin heal and recover. “This is important because with persistent rubbing, even mild signs or symptoms of chafing can worsen, so it is always important to give the skin an opportunity to heal,” she says. “For a great nourishing and moisturizing option, I love the Dove Body Love Sensitive Care Body Lotion which contains a restoring ceramide serum to strengthen and support the skin’s moisture barrier while also soothing the skin.”
You’ll also want to invest in moisturizing and protective skin care products to help protect the skin, Young explains. “Harsh soaps and hot water are particularly damaging to this outer layer [of skin], and therefore it is important to use mild cleansers and lukewarm water when bathing,” he says, suggesting simple and hydrating cleansers for people who are prone to dryness and chafing of their skin.
How can I prevent chafing?
As for how to prevent your thighs from chafing in the first place? According to Camp, you’ll want to stick to comfortable clothing that limits the amount of friction between your skin and the fabric, such as breathable shorts. “Many athletic apparel stores offer workout attire that avoids thick seams or places them outside areas of friction,” he says, also suggesting powder, such as Burt’s Bees Dusting Powder, as dry lubricants that minimize shearing forces and absorb excess moisture.
It’s also helpful to apply a barrier cream to minimize potential for rubbing, adds Garshick. “When looking for something to prevent chafing, you are looking for something to create a barrier between the skin, or the skin and tight clothing, that will prevents irritation that caused by rubbing or friction. This can be achieved through specific creams, balms, powders and certain types of shape wear,” she says, pointing to MegaBabe’s Thigh Rescue Stick as an example.