Dermatologists Get Real About How To Fight 'Chub Rub'

The horror. The horror!
Jasper Cole via Getty Images

Ahh, spring. Flowers are in bloom, the sun is shining, the air is still crisp… and your thighs are burning.

Well, many thighs, at least. Higher temperatures lead to sweat, and that sweat can collect in places where skin touches skin ― no matter the body type. In warm weather, friction from constantly-touching inner thighs or underarms can lead to burning, then pain, then sometimes even bleeding.

There is a rude, if evocative, term for this chafing: “chub rub.”

For many people who like to wear dresses, skirts or shorts during warm months, chub rub can be a painful and embarrassing feature of every spring outing, made all the more worse if you’re gallivanting around town with other people. Who has the self-confidence and presence of mind to ask your crew for a quick sitting break so that you can woman-spread and get some cooling air up in that burn?

To avoid that situation altogether, we’ve rounded up four strategies for how to keep your skin irritation-free all spring and summer:

Keep things cool and dry

One way to avoid painful chafing is to keep skin cool and dry, notes San Francisco dermatologist Dr. Marie Jhin, author of the book Asian Beauty Secrets.

"In the summer time you’re sweating more, and when things are a little bit more wet, the skin is a bit more vulnerable to the chafing,"Jhin explains. "People are also more active in the summer, exercising and doing other things that can cause more chafing."

To cut down on chafing, don’t wear wet clothes for a long period of time (say, by keeping your swimsuit on all day after a dip). And to make sure things stay as dry as possible, Jhin advises using an absorbent powder like baby powder or cornstarch between the legs or under the arms.

Dr. Lauren Ploch, spokeswoman for the American Academy of Dermatology in Augusta, Georgia, also tells patients to use powder. But she has one warning for anyone who’s trying it out for the first time.

"The only thing I tell patients is that powder can clump off and become a source of chafing as well,” she said. Good to know!

Slather on the grease

Another way to tackle the issue is to go in the opposite direction: lots of lube. Dr. Janellen Smith is a professor of dermatology at the University of California, Irvine, and she’s not a fan of the powder method.

“I’ve never found that powder works terribly well,” Smith said. “I think grease is the way to go.” Smith advises lubing up your inner thighs and underarms with things like Vaseline and A&D ointment before going about your day.

Before you say anything more, yes, A&D is a diaper rash cream. And yes, this is the same skin care routine parents employ to prevent diaper rash on their infants. It makes sense because both chafing and diaper rash can be caused by friction, Ploch notes.

Try a balm

This is similar to the grease suggestion, except the makers of the popular anti-chafing and anti-blister balm Body Glide claim the product is “derived from plant waxes” that repel moisture. Smith says her patients who run marathons love using Body Glide to avoid friction, and there’s no reason that it can’t work just as well for normals who chafe simply by walking down a pair of stairs (me!).

Other options in this category include stick deodorant and antiperspirant. While there are some at HuffPost Healthy Living who swear by the trick (and keep a stick in their purses for just this reason), Lesley over at xoJane noted that during her own test, the deodorant on her thighs rubbed off in about 30 minutes. Consider yourself warned.

Your clothing matters

Preventing chafing is also a matter of placing a barrier in between the parts that hurt. And to protect the inner thighs, skirt-loving people might consider wearing spanx or short bike shorts underneath. Sure, it defeats the purpose of feeling cool and breezy down there, but it’ll save you from red, angry skin later on.

Jhin also advises people to wear loose clothes made of synthetic fibers instead of cotton. Cotton is textured and extremely absorbent, which means it traps moisture instead of letting it evaporate.

“Synthetic fibers won’t be as abrasive,” she explains. "It’s looser, thinner, it doesn’t cause that rub-on-rub."

And if all of these techniques don’t work, or you’ve come to this article a little too late and are now dealing with irritated skin, Jhin advises using Aquaphor or Cicalfate restorative skin cream to help heal things up fast. Ploch’s favorite products are Vaniply ointment and Cerave.

Finally, if your skin is very red and painful, or you’re very uncomfortable, a visit to the dermatologist is in order. Skin docs can make sure you don’t have a more serious infection in that rash, and can also suggest a low-dose steroid ointment to calm the skin.

Now go forth, enjoy the warmer weather without fear of friction. Your body is ready.

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