Chafed Skin: What Can You Do to Prevent It?


Noticed redness and irritation after activities such as walking, exercising and wearing tight clothes? What you are experiencing is skin chafing. It happens due to skin rubbing against skin or fabric. Recurrent friction and moisture lead to irritation, rash, burning and in some cases, swelling or bleeding. In this blog, we’ll help you understand chafed skin, its causes and how you can prevent it. 

Areas Where You May Develop Chafed Skin

  • Thighs
  • Arms
  • Buttocks
  • Groin
  • Nipple
  • Feet

What Causes Chafed Skin?

Skin is strong, flexible, and the largest organ in the body that aids in protecting and maintaining health. Despite the ability to withstand immense wear and tear, it cannot go beyond a specific limit. When it continues to rub against skin or fabric for a prolonged period, it can lead to chafed skin. Some of the common causes include:

Due to Excess Weight 

Those who are overweight ( especially carrying weight in the areas like abdomen area, arms or thighs) have higher chances of skin chafing due to the constant rubbing of the skin. 

Tight clothing 

Wearing tight-fitting clothes can also cause chafed skin. Examples of these type of clothing are underwear and sports bra.  


Distance runners usually face it. While they are running, skin and cloth along with sweat constantly rub each other causing chafed skin. 


Often, nursing mothers experience skin chafing because of the moisture on the nipples and wearing a nursing bra.


It can happen to babies as well because of wearing diapers that are tight, small or wet. 


While cycling, if your buttocks and thighs continually rub against the bicycle seat, it can lead to skin chafing. 

How to Treat Chafed Skin?

As soon as you notice it, ensure that you stop whatever is causing the issue. For example, if it is due to ill-fitting clothes, remove and wear something comfortable. It will help avoid skin irritation and rubbing. Next, pat the skin dry gently and apply petroleum jelly to the affected area. You can also use a soothing lotion, balm or oil but make sure that they are fragrance-free. Your doctor may suggest medicated ointment to provide relief and heal the chafed skin if the condition is severe. 

How to Prevent Chafed Skin?

Keep Your Skin Dry 

Moisture or wet skin can worsen things for you. Hence, keep the areas dry that generally get sweaty. You can apply talcum or alum powder to these areas. Powders help absorb excess moisture away from the skin. Avoid staying in wet or sweaty clothes. 

Choose the Right Clothes to Avoid Skin Chafing

If you are exercising, cycling or running, wear clothes that can absorb moisture and have breathable fabric. Do not wear cotton clothes while performing exercises, as they can keep your skin damp. You can wear sports-specific clothing and even compression shorts, which cyclists wear to avoid skin chafing. Apart from this, choose clothes that have smooth seams to prevent rubbing. 

Remember to Apply Creams or Lubricants

You can apply petroleum jelly, anti-chafing creams or zinc oxide to areas that tend to get affected due to skin chafing.  

Wear Nipple Shields or Protective Covers

Nursing moms or distance runners both face nipple chafing. Wearing protective covers or nipple shields can decrease nipple friction. 

Use Large Diapers for the Little Ones

Switch to a larger diaper or tie it loosely to reduce skin chafing in babies. Also, change their diapers frequently to avoid rash or chafing. 

Some Quick Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Never use hot water as it can harm and make your skin dry. 
  • Never use hydrogen peroxide or iodine to clean chafed skin. Instead, use a mild soap or water to clean the area. 
  • Do not rub the affected area and instead pat dry it gently. 
  • You can use deodorants to prevent sweating. 
  • Use an ice or cold pack for some time to help relieve pain. Do not forget to pat dry after using ice. 

When to See a Doctor for Skin Chafing

If you feel that it’s going way beyond mild redness, consult a doctor. A few other signs that indicate you may need medical attention are bleeding, crust, swelling and discolouration. 

Summing Up

Chaffing is normal and can happen to anyone. The best way to treat chafed skin is prevention. Despite trying your best, you may still face chafing. Therefore, notice the areas that are prone to chafing. Buy clothes and products to limit chafed skin. Figure out the root cause and ways to prevent it. For example, if it’s due to weight, try weight management. Maintain personal hygiene and follow the tips mentioned above. Talk to a doctor if you see no improvement or your condition becomes severe. 


  1. How long does it take for chafed skin to heal?

Typically, it takes about two to three days. Though, it would also depend on your condition or if you have left the chafed skin unattended. 

  1. Are scars due to chafing permanent?

If you face skin chafing frequently, it can cause discolouration or permanent scarring. You can also share your concern with a doctor, and based on your situation, she/he will suggest treatment. 

  1. Is baby powder good for skin chafing?

Baby powder can help absorb excess sweat in the area, thus preventing chafing. However, it will not help treat it.

  1. Can rash due to chafing spread?

Chafing by itself is not contagious. However, if you develop a secondary infection in the area which is irritated and inflamed, the infection (bacterial or fungal) can spread via skin to skin contact. Ensure to not wait for the area to get infected. Get it treated and evaluated right away. 



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Chaitali Nayak

A writer and a skincare fanatic, Chaitali believes that words and kindness can transform the world. She has a master’s degree in Advertising & Public Relations and has worked for various advertising agencies and digital marketing firms. With the help of expert dermatologists at CureSkin, she works towards creating content that helps eliminate misinformation related to skincare. The aim is to educate yet bring something exciting and new every time for the readers. When not busy writing, you can find her talking to her plants, eating, drawing or watching movies.