Chafing is an uncomfortable and annoying condition that commonly occurs when skin rubs against skin or another material such as clothing. However, home remedies may help prevent or provide relief from chafing discomfort, such as petroleum jelly or coconut oil.
Doctors often refer to chafing as intertrigo. It typically occurs due to friction in body folds, such as the groin, buttocks, or underarm, due to constant or repetitive movements.
Chafing typically presents as a rash and can cause redness, pain, and sensitivity in the affected skin. Other factors, such as sweating, can also contribute to chafing, which can be an issue in the warmer months.
This article explores a variety of home remedies that may help relieve chafing.
Chafed skin should heal on its own after a few days’ rest. However, if a person cannot stop the activity that causes chafing, they should take preventative steps to reduce skin irritation.
The best way to avoid chafing is with preventative measures. The following home remedies may help prevent chafing or promote the healing process. However, before applying a home remedy, it is advisable to cleanse and pat dry the affected area gently.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, petroleum jelly can help heal minor wounds and prevent chafing. A person can simply apply petroleum jelly to problem areas such as the thighs.
Petroleum jelly brands also suggest that their products can help lubricate skin and reduce friction that may lead to chafing.
Research indicates that coconut oil may help reduce inflammation, promote wound healing, and prevent the growth of potentially harmful bacteria on the skin.
With this in mind, applying coconut oil may help soothe chafed skin. However, while the substance may help irritated skin, it may not stay on the affected area for long. So, a person may need to reapply coconut oil often for optimal results.
Research indicates that argan oil may help improve skin elasticity and hydration while softening and relaxing the skin.
Argan oil is a common ingredient in many beauty products. Manufacturers harvest the oil from the kernels of the Argania spinosa tree, which grows almost exclusively in a forested area of Morocco. However, this may make it one of the more expensive remedies on this list.
Aloe vera gel
People have used the gel in the leaves of the aloe vera plant for centuries to treat skin complaints.
Dermatologists state that aloe vera gel may possess antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. Research also notes that aloe vera is a medicinal plant that can help improve skin integrity and promote wound healing.
Another advantage of the substance is that it generally does not stain clothing, unlike other oils on this list.
Applying cornstarch to chafed skin may help absorb extra moisture. This can be useful when chafing occurs in sweat-prone areas, such as the groin or underarm.
Research suggests that cornstarch may have antibacterial properties, which may help prevent damaged skin from acquiring infections.
Chafing happens when skin rubs against other skin or material. It is more likely to occur when a person’s skin is moist or warm.
Areas of the body where chafing is most likely to occur include the following:
- inner thighs
- under the breasts
- within other folds of flesh
The most common causes of chafed skin include:
- Obesity or overweight: Having excess weight may increase the likelihood of skin rubbing and irritation.
- Diapers: Wearing diapers that remain tight or wet for prolonged times can lead to chafing or a diaper rash.
- Sports: Activities that include repetitive motions may cause clothing to rub repeatedly against an area of skin. Additionally, heat and sweat from physical activities can make chafing worse.
- Nursing: People who breastfeed may experience skin damage around their nipples. They may also encounter further friction from maternity bras.
- Certain items of clothing: Individuals who frequently wear specific clothing, such as skirts or bathing suits, may experience chafing of the inner thigh, particularly in warmer weather.
- Ill-fitting clothes: Poor fitting clothing may repeatedly rub and irritate the skin. For example, people may experience chafing from ill-fitting bras and sports bras.
- Sweating: Sweat can irritate the skin. In particular, dried sweat can leave a layer of salt on the skin, making irritation from friction worse.
Chafed skin will heal once the skin barrier has had a chance to repair itself. Anecdotal evidence suggests that if a person can protect the chafed skin from further damage, chafing should improve within 2–7 days.
However, if people are unable to prevent the cause of chafing, some remedies may help them manage symptoms until they can rest or receive treatment.
Sometimes, home remedies are not effective in treating skin chafing. However, there are alternative treatments, including:
- creams containing zinc oxide
- plant-based balms and ointments
- petroleum-based products
In some cases, doctors may prescribe mild topical steroid creams, such as hydrocortisone. However, prolonged use of steroid creams can lead to skin thinning, so use them sparingly.
To help prevent skin chafing, people can try:
- Applying an anti-chafing cream or balm: Using these products on chafing-prone areas may provide a protective barrier that can reduce friction and help heal irritated skin.
- Washing: Showering or bathing after exercise can help remove sweat and cool the skin.
- Taking care of nipples: Wearing protective nipple shields may help people who breastfeed or participate in endurance sports such as running and cycling.
- Staying dry: Moisture on the skin can make chafing worse. Therefore, a person can use powders or antiperspirant sprays in areas where sweating commonly occurs. People may also wish to change out of sweaty or wet clothes when possible.
- Regular diaper changes: It is advisable for parents or caregivers to remove an infant’s diapers when possible and change them regularly to avoid a buildup of moisture and warmth.
- Appropriate clothing: When exercising, people may wish to wear well-fitting, fast-drying fabrics such as spandex, nylon, or polyester. Individuals can also wear specialist clothing, such as compression shorts, to prevent certain areas from rubbing.
Occurrences of chafing can be extremely painful and challenging. However, a variety of home remedies, such as petroleum jelly or argan oil, may help reduce discomfort from chafing.
In addition to using home remedies, people can take preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of chafing. This can include wearing appropriate clothing, using antiperspirant sprays, and washing after exercise.
However, if these methods to prevent or treat chafing are not effective, a person may consider speaking with a doctor to rule out other skin conditions.