Chafing (skin)

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Chafing (skin)
Chafing of skin

Chafing refers to the irritation of skin caused by repetitive friction, usually generated through skin to skin contact of multiple body parts. Chafing is usually contracted in the inner thighs and inner glutes; armpits and nipples can also develop chafing although it is less common. Severe chafing is known as friction burn.


Chafing is caused by clothing rubbing against the skin. Chafing can also be caused by improper or overly loose fitting clothing generating extra friction. Obesity is commonly thought to be the leading cause of thigh chafing, and in some cases losing body fat may help the issue, but the problem is just as noticeable in athletes with well developed quadriceps and people with tight bone structures. Chafing is quite prevalent among long distance athletes such as cyclists or marathon runners due to the extensive time periods during which the skin is in irritating conditions.

Chafing may be caused by the salt and residue left behind after sweat evaporates. If sweat is allowed to dry, and exercise is resumed, the salt may intensify the friction and cause further irritation. Other contributing factors include hot weather, sensitive skin, sand from the beach getting into problem areas, and prior skin irritation.

Prevention and treatment[edit]

Staying dry may keep the skin from the developing further chafing, although this can be next to impossible in hot weather and requires avoiding exercise. After the workout, you must take a bath daily because sweat will evaporate and its salt causes chafing or you can use certain products such as baby powder, potato flour or antiperspirant may help with keeping the problem areas dry. An alternative to staying dry is lubricating the skin with petroleum jelly or other lubricants in order to reduce the friction and allow the body parts to glide without forming a rash. In many cases, however, especially those involving the upper thighs, clothing is the biggest culprit. Cotton clothes should be avoided as should anything with large seams. Sports focused underwear and clothing made from polyester, nylon or spandex can largely reduce or entirely solve the issue in some cases. Problems caused by salt residue from evaporated sweat can be solved by using wet wipes to clean problem areas before resuming exercise.

Once the source that caused the irritation is taken away, the affected skin area will normally heal in a few days. Severe cases (friction burn) may become infected and require medical attention. They may also leave scars upon healing.

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