Skin Chafing Prevention, Causes, and Treatment

Woman running in a field
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Chafing is a common ailment among runners and can be extremely painful during and after running. Here are some tips to prevent and treat chafing.


The most common symptom of chafing is a painful stinging or burning sensation. The area is usually red,  raw, and tender.


Chafing is caused by repeated motion—specifically, skin rubbing against loose fabric or other skin.

Chafing most often occurs around the bra line (women), nipples (men), inner thighs, groin, and under the arms. Moisture, either from sweat or rain, can worsen chafing. It can also be caused by a poorly fitted bra and clothes with rough seams.


Before long runs (you don't have to worry too much about chafing during your shorter runs), spread a thin layer of BodyGlide or Vaseline on vulnerable areas.

To prevent chafing, wear running attire made of synthetic materials such as CoolMax that wick moisture away. Tight spandex sports may help reduce chafing on your inner thighs.

Don't wear cotton clothing because once it gets wet, it stays wet. In addition, cotton is a rough material and when it's constantly moving against your skin, it can rub your skin raw. If you've ever seen a male runner with bloody nipples, he's most likely wearing a cotton shirt.

For men, to avoid nipple chafing, petroleum jelly, Body Glide, patches, or tape can be placed on your nipples to reduce friction.

For women, make sure you're wearing a synthetic sports bra with smooth seams. Spread BodyGlide or other lubricant on the skin along the bottom of your sports bra, an area very prone to chafing.

If you're doing a long distance race such as a marathon, you should assume you could chafe, even if it's never happened to you before.

Use Body Glide or other lubricant and make sure you race in clothes and gear that you've tried out during your long runs.

Proper hydration is also important to preventing chafing. Make sure you follow steps to stay hydrated during your runs.

Since chafing can be caused by loose running clothing, you may prefer to wear running clothes that are snug. Some runners like to run in spandex bike shorts to prevent chafing between their legs. Get more tips on what not to wear when running.


If you experience chafing, apply some A+D ointment (available in the Baby Care section of most drugstores) to the dry/chafed areas—it should clear up in about a day. Be sure to cover up areas that were affected with BodyGlide or Vaseline before you head out for a run. Once you've chafed in a certain area, you're likely to get chafed there again if you don't take precautions.

If your skin chafing does not improve after self-care treatment, make an appointment to see your doctor. You may need treatment with an antibiotic ointment if the area becomes infected.


Skin Chafing: Causes and Treatment,