You’re out for a relaxing run, enjoying the beautiful weather and the simple sound of your feet hitting the pavement. Everything seems right with the world -- until you’re hit with a shock of burning pain every time your thighs rub against one another or your twins bounce around in your poorly fitting sports bra. Although you might equate these skin-chafing sessions with excess weight, that assumption is not always true – chafing can be a problem for even the most athletic and skinniest women.
The Short Answer
Chafing occurs when there’s friction against the skin. During exercise, certain areas of your body are prone to rubbing -- whether against other areas of skin or your clothing. Sweating only makes the problem worse, since wet skin is more prone to damage. As skin or fabric rubs against moist skin, the friction wears away the top layer of skin cells to reveal a very painful, reddened and raw area. If the friction isn’t fixed, the destruction continues -- and might eventually lead to bleeding.
Where it Happens
Chafing is common on the inner thighs, nipples, under the arms and around the band of your sports bra. However, these aren’t the only locations that chafing can occur. If you’re a bicycling babe, you might chafe along your derriere where the bicycle seat meets your seat. If you enjoy long-distance runs, your skin might chafe where your socks or shoes hit against your ankles.
Stop the Chafe
Although it’s common, chafing certainly isn’t unavoidable. In fact, following just a few simple tips should greatly reduce your risk of chafing. Wear workout clothes that fit snugly against the body. If you don’t feel comfortable hitting the gym in spandex, at least make sure your clothing seams are smooth and the fabric doesn’t rub against your skin as you move. You’ll get extra anti-chafing points if your workout garb is made from moisture-wicking fabrics, which pull sweat and moisture away from your skin. Apply petroleum jelly or body lubricant on your prone-to-chafing parts. If you don’t like the feel of lubricant, you can also use talcum powder, cornstarch or potato starch to keep your skin dry.
Ease the Pain
Although it’s not quite a medical emergency, chafed skin often feels as painful as a more serious injury. But unfortunately, only time will heal your workout wound. Cleanse the area with warm water and antibacterial soap. Apply a thin layer of antibiotic cream and cover with loose gauze -- which lets the area breathe, while also protecting it from germs. Cold compresses can help relieve the pain -- just make sure there’s a thin towel or cloth between the compress and your skin.
Krista Sheehan is a registered nurse and professional writer. She works in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and her previous nursing experience includes geriatrics, pulmonary disorders and home health care. Her professional writing works focus mainly on the subjects of physical health, fitness, nutrition and positive lifestyle changes.