What Causes Skin Chafing?

Christina Edwards

When a piece of skin constantly rubs against something, it can become irritated, or chafed. Skin chafing is generally more common in skin folds, and it can result in raw, painful spots of skin. This problem is generally exacerbated by sweat and tight clothing, and people who are very active or overweight are generally more likely to suffer from skin chafing. Loose-fitting and moisture-wicking clothing can also help prevent chafing. Areas prone to chafing can either be sprinkled with powder to absorb sweat or covered with a thin layer of petroleum jelly to reduce friction.

Petroleum jelly, which can help with chafing.
Petroleum jelly, which can help with chafing.

Skin can become chafed when it is constantly rubbed against another object. This might be a piece of clothing or even another piece of skin. Areas where two pieces of skin meet, such as skin folds, are generally more prone to skin chafing than other areas of the body. For example, the underarms, groin, and the area under the breast are particularly prone to skin chafing.

Cornstarch can be used on skin to relieve chafing.
Cornstarch can be used on skin to relieve chafing.

One of the main symptoms of skin chafing is redness. Chafed skin is also usually very sore. In severe cases, the area may also bleed.

Chafed skin that begins to crack and bleed should be inspected by a medical professional. These spots can easily become infected. Topical or oral antibiotics may be necessary in this case. If antibacterial treatments do not clear up the infection, it may be caused be a fungus. In this case, an anti-fungal cream is usually needed.

Sweat will usually make skin chafing worse. This condition can also be worsened by certain fabrics. Coarse fabrics can rub skin raw, for instance, and people who are prone to chafing should avoid these types of fabrics.

Overweight individuals who have problems with skin chafing should wear loose-fitting clothing made from soft natural fabrics. Cotton is usually recommended. Active individuals who have problems with chafing, such as athletes, are usually advised to stay away from natural fabrics like cotton, since they can hold moisture next to the skin. Instead, synthetic moisture-wicking fabrics are usually recommended.

Chafed skin should be kept clean and dry. Several anti-chafing products are also available. Many of these products are powders designed to absorb moisture in the areas. Cornstarch, however, can be used as a natural anti-chafing treatment. Some doctors also recommend rubbing petroleum jelly on chafed skin, since it lubricates the area and helps eliminate friction.

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