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Bicycling shorts are padded with what is known as a chamois to help protect the rider from undue stress on sensitive areas, but the chamois can build up with sweat, causing friction that can lead to hot spots or saddle sores. To prevent such chafing, cyclists often use chamois cream to help lubricate the chamois and the area of the body prone to friction. Chamois cream can also help protect the body from bacteria that inevitably builds up in cycling shorts. When choosing a chamois cream, look for a cream that is long-lasting and at least a little bit resistant to absorption.
In some cycling circles, the best chamois cream is not a cream at all. It is called Bag Balm®, and it it meant to be used on cow udders after milking. It protects the udders from drying or chafing, and it does the same thing on humans. Bag Balm® is a petroleum jelly with lanolin, and it is thicker than most other chamois cream varieties, meaning it stays on the chamois much longer. Use Bag Balm® just like you would use chamois cream: spread the balm on the pad of the shorts thoroughly, as well as on sensitive parts of the inner thighs and buttocks.
Many chamois creams are touted as protecting and conditioning the chamois better than other brands. Most cycling shorts today, however, are not made from actual chamois, which is an animal leather. Most shorts now are made from synthetic materials that are made to feel like chamois, so they do not need conditioning the way true chamois does. The primary concern when considering different chamois creams is how long it will last while riding to prevent chafing and friction. Some creams come with witch hazel, which can provide a cooling sensation. Using such creams is a matter of preference; some people enjoy the cooling sensation, while others do not, and triathletes should expect an extra jolt of cold when entering the water.
Another consideration when choosing between chamois creams is the container in which the cream comes. Most cream varieties come in plastic tubes, but others come in tubs. A tub allows you to get every last bit of cream out of the container before discarding it, but it can also provide a breeding ground for bacteria, especially if more than one person is using the product. A tube is more sanitary, though you won't be able to get every last drop of cream out of it.
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