Chafing is a seriously uncomfortable thing. Heck, even the word "chafing" can be enough to make you flinch a little. Those terribly sore patches of irritated skin are as annoying as they are painful, and they tend to happen most frequently when you exercise. After all, there's a lot of friction happening between your skin and clothes when you work out, and if you add sweat to that equation, too, well, then you've likely got some major chafing afoot. So, learning how to stop workout chafing is pretty important, since the pain and discomfort alone can be enough to throw a wrench into an otherwise great exercise routine.
So why does chafing happen in the first place? According to Dr. Beth Donaldson, medical director and family physician for the Copeman Healthcare Centres in Vancouver and West Vancouver, chafing happens when repetitive rubbing — aka friction — breaks down the skin, and it's often experienced during endurance sports, repetitive-motion exercise (such as running), or other high-intensity activities. Additionally, Dr. Donaldson explains, chafing is typically a result of excess moisture from sweating or poor-fitting clothing, which can lead to more rubbing. "Flesh on your thighs and underarms rubbing together can cause the same thing," she tells Elite Daily.
While chafing isn’t dangerous long-term, it's definitely painful and frustrating. "The biggest risk is when the skin is irritated on a cellular level; its protective barrier is compromised with microscopic tears," says Dr. Donaldson, adding that this can then present an opportunity for germs to get in and cause infection.
"If you do experience chafing, you want to try to avoid further skin breakdown by keeping the area clean and dry, and avoid continued rubbing in that area," she explains.
One way to be mindful of workout chafing is to recognize which activities are most likely to cause that kind of rubbing and discomfort. According to Martise Moore, a running coach based in Los Angeles, California, running and hiking are two of the biggest chafing offenders, though she says biking or cycling can lead to it, too. However, this doesn't mean you need to quit these workouts altogether if you have patches of skin going up in itchy, stinging flames.
"Highly repetitive movements can create chafing in the most inconvenient places," Moore tells Elite Daily. "The best way to avoid chafing is to slather on Vaseline or Body Glide in between your thighs and under your armpits."
Dr. Adeeti Gupta, OB/GYN and founder of Walk In GYN Care, views the whole chafing thing from a vaginal-health perspective, since exercise can also cause chafing, discomfort, and even potential bacterial issues down there. In general, to avoid chafing, she recommends using coconut oil on your body twice daily. Dr. Gupta also suggests you use either Desitin or A+D cream to treat any irritations that have already formed on your skin. And when you're in the shower, she adds, make sure you're using gentle, unscented soaps.
All of these products can be used on your vaginal area as well, says Dr. Gupta, and they'll help you make sure you aren't rubbing or itching yourself too much. If you find that you frequently chafe down there, she says you might want to stick to cotton underwear, and when you're going to sleep, you may also want to consider going commando to keep things generally dry, open, and aired out.
"Get out of your spandex or other tights ASAP after completing the workout, and shower right away," Dr. Gupta adds. "Do not catch up on your grocery list on the way home. This can lead to bacterial infections such as bacterial vaginosis."
Not to mention, the faster you treat any irritations, the faster you can wave goodbye to the chafe.