5 tips to prevent chafing and how to heal chafed skin quickly, according to dermatologists

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5 tips to prevent chafing and how to heal chafed skin quickly, according to dermatologists
Deodorant acts as a lubricant, thereby preventing chafing.LaylaBird/Getty Images
  • Chafing is when skin becomes red, sore, and painful due to repeated rubbing of the same spot.
  • To prevent chafing, lubricate the area, wear loose-fitting clothes, or try an anti-chafing stick.
  • To heal chafing quickly, gently clean the area and then apply an over-the-counter medicinal cream.

Nothing can put a damper on a nice walk or run more than the discomfort of chafing.

Chafing is a common skin irritation more likely to occur in people who are athletic, live in warmer environments, and have areas of skin that rub together, says Alexis Parcells, MD, a plastic surgeon and owner of Parcells Plastic Surgery.

Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to stop chafing in its tracks.

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What is chafing?

Chafing is when skin becomes red and sore due to something repeatedly rubbing against the same spot. This can be consistent contact from skin, clothing, or another material, such as a seat.

According to Susan Bard, MD, a general and procedural dermatologist at Vive Dermatology, symptoms of chafing include:

  • Pain
  • Oozing
  • Burning
  • Redness
  • Peeling

Note: Chafing may be uncomfortable, but in almost all cases it does not require a medical visit.

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Chafing can also occur anywhere on the body but is more common in certain areas including:

  • Nipples
  • Inner thighs
  • Upper arms
  • Butt
  • Groin
  • Penis
  • Feet

While chafing is common, it's also preventable. Here are some techniques to stop chafing in its tracks.

1. Apply deodorant

Deodorant acts as a barrier against chafing. You can apply deodorant to anywhere you've experienced chafing, including the inner thighs and groin, says Parcells. "Choosing a fragrance-free deodorant with clean properties [like aloe vera] can also aid in the healing process," she says.

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Note: Avoid applying products with fragrance to an area prone to chafing as it can further irritate the skin.

2. Lubricate

Similar to deodorant, lubricating areas prone to chafing with products such as petroleum jelly can prevent discomfort.

In fact, a 2004 review of marathon runners found petroleum jelly to be effective in reducing friction on the feet and nipples.

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"Lubrication eliminates friction," says Parcells. "Products with waxes aid in protecting the skin and providing a friction barrier."

You can also lubricate with products like coconut oil or shea butter, which may soothe skin thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties.

3. Dress right

Related Article Module: What to wear running: How to find the best running shoes and attire for every type of weather

What you wear can have a significant impact on whether or not you chafe.

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When exercising, wear natural moisture-wicking fabrics, says Bard, which can help prevent and absorb sweat.

Moisture-wicking fabrics include:

  • Polyester
  • Nylon
  • Merino wool

How your clothes fit can also make a difference between chafed or soft skin. "If the clothing is overly small or tight, switch it up for something more comfortable and less constricting," says Parcells.

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4. Anti-chafing sticks

Anti-chafing sticks are products designed to prevent chafing - sort of like a specialized deodorant. They moisturize or lubricate to create a barrier between the skin and other materials using ingredients such as aloe and coconut oil. Anti-chafing sticks are available at most drug or sporting goods stores.

5. Remove wet clothes

"Removing sweaty clothes after a workout is helpful in avoiding and preventing chafing," says Parcells. That's because wet clothing sticks to your body and, therefore, is more likely to rub against the skin.

How to heal chafing quickly

  • Gently clean the area with water
  • Use petroleum jelly, aloe vera, or chafing cream on any affected areas
  • Avoid products with any alcohol, fragrances, or irritants
  • Get an over the counter pain medicine like topical corticosteroid creams to reduce discomfort and minimize inflammation

Insider's takeaway

Chafing is a common skin irritation that does not require a doctor's visit. However, it can be uncomfortable and painful.

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Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent chafing, such as lubricating your skin and removing wet clothes as soon as possible.

If you experience chafing, there are many at-home remedies to heal your symptoms, like applying aloe vera or taking pain medicine.

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