How to stop chafing in the summer

Young woman enjoying the hot weather. (Getty Images)
Chafing can occur more in summer and during a heatwave. (Getty Images)

With the UK on a yellow weather warning alert this week and temperatures set to hit 31C in parts of the country it's likely that combating chafing will be even more of a challenge.

While we love having the opportunity to wear a summer dress, the mere motion of moving in the heat can cause our thighs to rub together and bring on the dreaded chafe.

Then there’s the under-boob chafe (which is equally as annoying, and not to mention painful), and the chafe from exercise, such as cycling. The list goes on.

The problem is if it isn’t dealt with correctly, the affected chafed area can become quite sore and irritated – and we don't want summer, now that it has decided to show up, to be ruined by a pesky skin problem.

The technical term for chafing is actually intertrigo, which originates from Latin whereby inter (between) and terere (to rub) help explain the condition.

"Chafing is caused by areas of skin rubbing together or skin rubbing with fabric and causing friction," explains Dr Sophie Momen, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic.

"It can occur anywhere where two areas of skin come in contact with one another, e.g thighs, buttocks, under breasts and under arms."

Two women enjoying a sunny day. (Getty Images)
Chafing: the hot weather irritant that could destroy your summer. (Getty Images)

Dr Momen says symptoms can include mild redness and itching or in more severe cases the skin can start to blister and break down.

What's more, symptoms can be worse in warmer weather as you will sweat more and this will make the area moist and skin more vulnerable to irritation and breaking down.

There are many myths about who is more likely to experience the dreaded chafing, but contrary to popular opinion it impacts men and women equally and it doesn’t only affect those who are overweight.

"Chafing can occur in any area where two areas of skin or skin and fabric are in close contact independent of weight, but it is more common in people who sweat more," explains Dr Momen.

It seems, overall, prevention is better than cure.

"To prevent chafing, avoid the affected areas from becoming hot and moist, because moisture can worsen it," advises Abbas Kanani, superintendent pharmacist at Chemist Click.

Kanani also suggests avoiding wearing tight outfits and clothes made from materials which are not breathable, such as polyester, because this can restrict air circulation and increase friction between the skin and clothing, making chafing more likely.

"Maintaining good hygiene is also vital," he adds. "Sweat, dirt and bacteria can irritate the skin and exacerbate chafing.

"Good skin health is maintained though adequate hydration, so drinking plenty of water throughout the day can also help."

Couple riding a bike together in the summer. (Getty Images)
Men can experience chafing in summer too. (Getty Images)

If you've already succumbed to the dreaded chafe, Kanani says petroleum jelly, talcum powder, silicone-based lubricants or anti-chafing balms and creams will help to quickly elevate symptoms.

In worse case scenarios, if the area affected is red, sore, bleeding and swollen, Dr Ross Perry, medical director of Cosmedics recommends visiting your GP who can recommend a topical steroid cream.

"If you’re someone who suffers from frequent chafing you can add a soft bandage which will help to pad the skin," he suggests. "When exercising wear suitable clothing, including shorts that are either padded or with a chamois if you’re a bike rider."

You can look to use chamois creams that contain anti-bacterial aids and will also prevent germs from clustering.

"Always take off sportswear when home and head for the shower to avoid bacterial build-up," Dr Perry adds. "And wear fresh shorts and comfortable underwear each time you ride a bike."

Vaseline could help with chafing. (Getty Images)
Petroleum jelly could help prevent chafing. (Getty Images)

In previous heatwave times, sales of anti-chafing bands have gone through the roof, while others swear by anti-chafe balms.

Meanwhile social media users have explored an alternative solution, which involves a product you likely already have in the back of your bathroom cabinet – roll-on deodorant.

People began rubbing the underarm product onto their inner thighs to protect them from chafing.

The idea is that the roll-on deodorant acts as a sort of lubricant, meaning your thighs will simply glide past each other, without the friction that causes the chafing.

But while you’re no doubt eager to dig out the deodorant, it's wise to first check it can be used safely in the area you need.

Dr Sanjay Trikha, one of the medical directors of Trikwan Aesthetics, also previously had a word of warning for those who find their irritation is persistent.

“There are many potential skin issues which may present in a similar way to chafing,” he says.

“If prolonged symptoms persist or there are signs of infection, then you should immediately contact a healthcare professional to get it formally diagnosed.”