Ask FGG: “How Can I Prevent Chafing Between Fat Rolls?”

8 Jun 10 - Ask FGG, Health + Beauty - Angela - 26 Comments

Avoiding and treating chafing and body rash

Bare essentials: chafing prevention starts here (image by Zerbetron)

Summer weather and climbing temperatures are upon us, and whether your preferred term is “perspiration,” “glistening” or just plain old “sweat,” the fact is we’ll be doing a lot of it over the next few months. Which makes this a perfect time to answer the following reader question:

Dear FGG,

This is totally embarrassing, but I’m hoping you guys have an answer. How can I prevent chafing between my rolls of body fat, especially when it’s hot outside?

Sure, it’s a decidedly unglamorous, potentially embarrassing subject. But we’re nothing but honest here at FGG, and the fact is if you’re an overweight woman, you likely have places on your body where your flesh folds onto itself and collects excess sweat. Fortunately, we have a few great tips to prevent chafing that will hopefully help keep you dry and comfortable during the summer and beyond.

Preventing chafing where skin touches itself

Chafing is caused by moisture, which increases the friction between skin and itself (or between skin and clothing, like when jeans or unlined dress pants rub your thighs as you walk). Therefore, avoiding chafing is as simple — and as complicated — as keeping the areas clean, cool and dry. Wash between any rolls or folds carefully each time you bathe, and don’t get dressed while your body is still damp. Take special care to dry the places that often get overlooked — rolls on your stomach/back/sides, your navel, the “belly apron” area under your tummy (if it hangs), areas under breasts or between the breasts & underarms, the spot where your thigh meets your pelvis, and even the areas where thighs meet the back of the knees. (I’ve even heard recommendations for blow drying areas using the ‘cool’ setting!) Once  your skin is clean and dry, there are several different options for keeping it that way during a long day.

For professional advice, we turned to plus-size aesthetician and skin expert, Daniela of Daniela’s Facial Studio in Chicago. Having previously schooled our readers on the down-and-dirty business of bikini waxing, Daniela didn’t shy away from chatting about chafing: “One of the most effective, cooling and non-[pore]-clogging remedies is plain old corn starch,” she says. Daniela recommends avoiding products made with talc, which can clog pores and may increase the risk of ovarian cancer, and instead keeping corn starch in a shaker jar or applying with a large makeup brush.

To further reduce friction, Daniela suggests skipping petroleum jelly (which, in addition to feeling greasy, may not provide long-lasting protection because skin eventually absorbs it) and instead trying products made with silicone. We covered a number of these creams and roll-ons (from Monistat to Anti Monkey Butt) last fall as FGG discussed chafing under skirts and dresses, and now you can add one more brand to the list — Lanacane® has just released an Anti-Chafing Gel.

Other good suggestions: For clothing that rests between parts that touch (underwear that sits at your waist between love handles, for example), breathable cotton helps, as does moisture-wicking fabric designed for workout wear, like these Junonia QuikCool™ briefs. And in the “never would have thought of it” category, Daniela says, “For chafing in the breast area, you can actually put panty liners at the bottom of your bra to absorb moisture without adding bulk.”

Treating chafed skin and ‘fat rash’

Without proper prevention, rolls and folds often gather moisture or rub together, leaving the areas sensitive and stinging; the affected areas may also take on an unpleasant odor. This could be a sign of intertrigo, a type of inflammatory infection that’s specific to skin folds. The odor some women experience is caused by the accumulation of fungus and/or bacteria, and it generally won’t improve without treatment. Over-the-counter yeast infection remedies or Desitin® cream may help, but if the problem persists you’ll need to see a doctor for expert advice.

If the area is chafed and the skin is broken but no odor is present, try an antibiotic ointment with pain reliever on the raw areas, and keep them covered with a large bandage, Daniela says. Be careful not to re-aggravate the sore spots by allowing further skin friction before the areas heal completely and again, if you’re at all unsure, see your health care provider for an expert opinion.

Don’t let summer heat — or discomfort during any time of year — keep you from enjoying all the season has to offer. Preventative measures can go a long way toward helping you feel dry, comfortable and secure in your own skin.

Readers: Have we left out your favorite anti-chafing tip? Tell us how you keep cool & comfortable in those awkward areas.

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Teresa says:

I bought those under the belly roll fabric things…forget what they are called. They were expensive and really too large, but it really helped. Bath, get really dry and I put some baby powder on it and place under the pannus (belly fat). Then a home health nurse told me to take one of those men’s wifebeater t-shirts and lay it out flat and cut it into strips across the body of it. One shirt will make a bunch of strips about 2-3 inches wide and about 10 to 12 inches long. Placed under the pannus, the strip absorbs moisture all day long. Some days you may have to change it midday and always be sure to remove it at night and allow time for your skin to breath or you could cause a rash.

shelly m says:

Hello,

I have found a anti-chafing body wrap that works great on my heels and between my thigh’s when I walk. Its like wearing a skinny bandaid but it never falls off. I really think you should add it to the list of remedies because it’s not a gel or a powder, it doesn’t ruin your clothes and it lasts the entire marathon without re-applying. Check it out at Chafeaway.com

Charlotte says:

Body Glide, marketed for runners, is great for inner-thigh chafing. I use it for my chub, and you can also put it on your feet to prevent your shoes from rubbing!

Another thing that I tried on impulse is InterDry AG wound dressing. You can buy small packages (about 3′ of it) online, although much larger packages are available. I cut a few pieces of it and lay them on my belly so that they can wick sweat from under my tummy hang. I’m apparently not as big as I thought, because I had to tape the fabric on so that it stayed in place, but it worked GREAT. Within a week, my skin had completely healed.

Monika C. says:

My daughter is 15 yrs old. I have SEVERE stretch marks & the tummy hang over from carrying her. I have noticed in the past yr that the stretch marks under my tummy hang has become VERY sensitive. If I get a small itch in that area then I have to be careful not to break the skin while scratching or rubbing. I have to pat dry instead of rubbing the towel across after a shower. I have night sweats also so I put anti-perspiration under the tummy hang and breast after night shower. It use to help. Now it doesn’t and I have noticed a odor. How do you know you have a yeast or fungi infection without going to the doctor?? I have read many of the post and none explain the difference. I want to try some of the suggestions but I do not want to make this problem any worse. HELP with the Odor, Sweating, Chafing and Skin Breakage. Thanks

Chafing; Not a subject people speak openly about and that is why we are ready to erase it!!! All activities running, gymnastics, dancing, biking, roller derby etc. etc. etc.

Our name is ThighGlide and we are a smooth anti-chafing body wrap worn on the skin to protect those sensitive parts of the body. It is simple to apply, non-latex and lasts longer than the gels. Best of all, it is recommended by medical professionals as an easier alternative to anti-chafing messy powders, greasy petroleum and lotions.

Whenever I get a rash in my belly fat roll or under my breasts, I use either an anti fungal foot spray or cream…Lotrimin I believe is the name of it. My cousin told me about this and I used it, and the rash went away in a matter of an hour’s time! This really helped me. Hope it helps someone else out there too! For the odor problem, I use this wonderful smelling Este Lauder powder right after I towel dry.

shaun buzis says:

Personally I use baby powder with corn starch … Works amazingly well haven’t had a rash in years!

Diana says:

What about antiperspirant? I use it under my tummy hang every day after showering! Sometimes I use it under the girls, too!
If I get a rash, I try to catch it quick and swab with hydrogen peroxide twice a day, and then use deodorant after that dries.

amy says:

Watch out with the cornstarch if you are having rash…if it is a fungal rash, it will feed on the cornstarch…not good!

Maria says:

Ok, I have dealt with this for quite a long time. I run 400 and I did a lot of research to find out how to do help myself overcome the chaffing. I spoke to my doctor and he gave me the same old information. I tried everything he said and none of it worked. I started to lose hope, then one day while talking to a pharmacist at CVS, he told me that it was a similiar thing to the way that fungus is created in athlete’s foot (from lack of air and sweat). The pharmacist told me to purchase dandruff shampoo and use it for a body soap/scrub. It has an antifungal in it. After using the dandruff shampoo, you have to follow up with a product called Zeazorb (it does not have a pleasant smell, somewhat chemical), but it works like a dream and you don’t have to use very much of it. It costs like $9 a container, but one container lasts about a month. I am telling you, I have not had one instance of chaffing in over a year or any redness, soreness or discomfort.

Holly says:

I found that nappy rash cream that you get the really cheep ones helps when it get sore, i put it on a nighttime and its fine in the morining no more pain.

Amy says:

I am 420 lbs and have a large fat roll on my right inner thigh…have been using baby powder to soak up the moisture but it’s chafing anyway and is painful to the point where I don’t want to even walk anymore…..what can be done….it was at the point where it was itching horribly and I used Monistat on it, but that seemed to cause a rash????

Carole says:

I have battled this chafing all summer long. Be careful using powder because when it absorbs sweat and stays there until the nighttime bath, the sweat-powder mixture will blister/chafe the skin. I have used diaper rash ointment also, but what I have found that seems to really work is anti-itch cream/ointment. It is lightweight, but it seals out moisture and it cuts down on any itching that might occur.

janice says:

I use corn starch as a dusting powder for my body. But for areas of serious friction (namely my inner thighs) I use Secret Shield from skindura. I use it when I wear skirts to prevent painful rub rash.

sara clement says:

I use olive oil. It provides a nice healthy glide on my thighs and stops chafing very nicely. I don’t use a ton…just enough to get the light glide. It works better than anything else. I discovered it in Hawaii when living in a swimsuit…..the chafing was horrible, but the olive oil healed it up, and prevented any further assaults. Now if I wear a skirt…I just do that, and I’m golden.

Kate says:

With two small kids in the house, I have a ton of the thin baby wash cloths. I find that “sandwiching” one of them between skin folds while I have a chafing outbreak helps to keep the area dry and stops the painful friction. Usually one day of this clears the matter up and the cloth is so thin I don’t even notice it’s there.

living400lbs says:

I use the dryer and also dust with baby powder.

Moe says:

I’m with Celeste, I also use the dryer. It’s amazing the improvement it makes. It’s also important to change out of wet/damp clothing as soon as possible. If you know you will be sweating bring a change undies/bra and top with you to change. In the summer I can change my undies up to three times a day. Changing out of wet gear reduces the wetness and the chance of skin/yeast outbreaks.

On a side note that photo is totally awesome.

I wear light weight cotton long line bloomers underneath my skirts to prevent chub rub between my thighs. I also use unscented Arm & Hammer Anti-Perspirant under my breasts and my back fat. I also use a big powder puff to apply powder to my inner thighs, underarms, and behind my knees when it is really hot and humid. The powder puff makes the application feel luxurious and less messy.

Celeste says:

Just drying off with a towel is not enough. I dry my hair right after showering, and then I use the hair dryer on skin folds. It’s surprising how much dryer this can get the skin, and I think it’s more effective than powders. I do have some powder I use for situations when I know I will be sweating heavily. I think it’s key on those days to shower afterwards and really get that skin clean and dry. If all fails and you get a fungal infection with telltale weeping of the skin and odor in the folds, you can first try cleansing and application of an OTC cream like Lotrimin-AF. If that doesn’t clear it up, your doctor can give you a prescription skin cream that clears it up in a day or so.

Trina says:

Lycra bike shorts under skirts!!!