It’s a beautiful day. You’re out for a run. Your heart is pumping, you’re sweating, and all the stress of your day just melts away.
Then you feel it – the discomfort, pain, itchiness, and irritation. It's just a small scratch now, but you know how it’ll end. It could even have you down for the count for a couple of days or weeks.
The most common areas of chafing in athletes include inner thighs, armpits, and the groin. For long-distance runners, you have to face the ominous “runner’s nipple”.
Chafing can really put a damper on your outdoor activities. Learning the causes of chafing can help you tackle it. Keep on reading to learn about the 6 common causes of chafing and what simple steps you can take to prevent chafing.
Causes of Chafing
Once you understand the causes of chafing, you can figure out a way to prevent chafing and protect your sensitive skin. Anything from sweating to the type of clothes you wear can cause chafing.
1. Sweat and Moisture
Sweating is a normal part of life. Whether you’re sitting at home watching a tense game or having drinks with friends, your body will sweat. Approximately 15.3 million people in the United States also deal with excessive sweating.
As you sweat, moisture gathers up in certain parts of your body, especially your inner thighs and armpits. When your clothes rub up against that sweat and moisture, it creates friction that can lead to redness, irritation, and even blisters.
2. Heat and Humidity
Heat and humidity are major causes of chafing because your body will gather moisture, resulting in friction and inevitably chafing. Summer days are great for enjoying the outdoors, but you also have to deal with the humidity and the chafing.
If you are exercising right, you will be increasing your heart rate and sweating. Combine that with repetitive motions like running where your thighs rub against each other or boxing where your arms are constantly moving will lead to added friction. Any exercise, including running, CrossFit, or cycling, is a major cause of chafing.
Did you know that heat can make your running performance suffer? Running in the rain can boost your performance as the rain naturally cools your body down. Unfortunately, moisture and wet clothing can lead to more chafing.
4. Type of Clothes You Wear
The type of clothes you wear also cause chafed skin. Rough and heavy fabrics that rub against the sensitive parts of your skin can cause chafing. Poor-fitting clothes like underwear or shorts that are too tight can also lead to thigh chafing.
Remember cotton and other fabrics absorb moisture. Wet clothing rubbing against your skin will lead to chafing over time.
5. Shaving or Hair Removal
When you shave or wax anywhere on your body, your skin can be more sensitive for a while. If you then go for a run or wear rough clothing, you will further antagonize your sensitive skin. Continued friction on those sensitive areas can cause chafing.
6. Large Thigh Muscles
All those squats and lunges are great for your heart and muscles. You look great in shorts with those large thigh muscles. But, they can also cause more thigh chafing because your thighs will inevitably rub against each other through the day.
How to Prevent Chafing?
Now that you know the 6 most common causes of chafing, let’s talk more about how you can prevent chafing. Simple things like drinking water and changing the material of your clothes can help to prevent chafing. If that still doesn’t work, you can use creams, salves or balms to soothe and protect your sensitive skin.
The first key to preventing chafing is to stay hydrated. When you are dehydrated, your sweat contains more salt, which can lead to more irritation. Also, dehydration leads to dry skin, which can be rougher and cause more friction.
As you drink more water, your skin will feel more moisturized and elastic. Your skin will bounce back easier. Drinking water is just one step towards preventing chafing.
Since most of the chafing is because of sweating and moisture, you can prevent chafing by staying dry. Change your clothes often, especially in the summer. Make sure your clothes are not too tight and the fabric is not too rough on your skin.
Wearing moisture-wicking clothing that fit well can also help you stay dry through the day and especially when you are working out. Unlike cotton, these clothes are specifically designed to dry faster.
Use Anti-Chafe Sticks
Consider using anti-chafe balms or salves like Squirrels Nut Butters anti-chafe stick. You need something that is weather-resistant and long-lasting. All-natural ingredients can also help, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Applying anti-chafe balms on your skin before activities can protect your skin from chafing. Apply it on all sensitive areas where chafing can occur including underarms, thighs, crotch, nipples, and feet.
If you have a rash or irritation, you may also need to get an anti-bacterial ointment, like the Saddle Butter Cycling Salve. Ingredients such as tea tree oil in the salve kill certain bacteria and fungi.
Also, the zinc oxide in the salve lowers skin inflammation caused by rashes and irritation, while preventing bacterial infection. All-natural products can also be great for those who are more sensitive, so consider vegan products to add to your chafing treatment collection.
Protect Yourself From Chafing Today
Now you know that causes of chafing are anything from sweating, moisture, heat, humidity, and even the type and fit of your clothing. At the end of the day, remember that chafing is normal and is not only a problem for those who are overweight. You can prevent chafing by staying hydrated and dry.
You can also protect your skin from chafing and blisters by using all-natural, anti-chafe salves. Using coconut oil and cocoa butter, Squirrel’s Nut Butter anti-chafe creates a slick barrier that is effective and long-lasting. It’ll keep your skin moisturized and chafe-free.