Skin Chafe: What causes skin chafing & when do you know?

Skin Chafing can be caused by physical activity involving the continuous rubbing of skin against skin and/or clothing material. The friction generated in this process damages the top layers of the skin and exposes the raw and more sensitive skin below.

Often, the first time that the chafing problem reveals itself is when a stinging, or burning, sensation is noticed in the affected area. The result is the familiar redness and soreness on the surface of the skin. There are many common areas where chafing occurs including on the nipples, inner groin and thigh, under and between breasts, between buttocks, under arms, under specialised sporting equipment, and on the feet.

What factors influence the level, or intensity, of the chafe?

The degree of chafing is influenced by the level of the frictional forces and the number of times that the skin comes in contact with other skin or the material involved in the rubbing process.  The level of the frictional force may depend upon the physical build/characteristics of the person, and/or on the clothing material and/or fit.  It will also depend on the intensity of the activity, with longer and more intense levels of activity usually resulting in a higher level and frequency of rubbing, as well as increased sweat production.

Therefore, it is important for an individual to be aware of those areas on their person where they have chafed on previous occasions, or where they are likely to chafe.

Ideally, the activity should be terminated as soon as the problem becomes apparent. This is not always possible, or even desirable, from the individual’s point of view. If the activity cannot be terminated when this soreness first becomes apparent, then the inflamed skin surface may begin to ooze, or, in some cases, even bleed. 

What steps can be taken to protect your skin from chafe?

One of the traditional approaches to reduce friction is to use a petroleum jelly, or petrolatum, based lubricant. There are many examples of these products in the market. However, these products tend to sit on the surface of the skin, holding water in the skin, and preventing evaporation. This ingredient characteristic is called 'occlusive'. 

The occlusive function is acceptable in some circumstances, e.g., in skin moisturising.  However, petroleum jelly is less effective than other product types in preventing chafing during activity, i.e., they are not good skin lubricants.

The alternative to an occlusive product is a non-occlusive one. These include products based on silicones and vegetable and nut oils, butters and waxes. Silicones, in addition to being non-occlusive, have the following characteristics: they are clear, have low odour, high spreadability and are water repellent.

There is also an overarching need for you to look after your skin in those areas that are prone to rubbing. This means that it is important to use an anti-chafing product every time that you exercise so as to minimise repetitive damage to the surface of the skin.

You should also consider wearing well-fitting clothing made from appropriate technical fabrics.

What Striderm products protect the skin from chafe?

Striderm manufactures three products: 

Striderm Anti Chafe Extreme contains a blend of silicones, and is designed for individuals participating in endurance events. 

Striderm Chafe No More contains a blend of silicones in a vegetable-based emolient, and is designed for everyday use.

Striderm WetsuitEZE Balm is designed for wetsuit wearers and is a blend of silicones with vegetable oils and waxes.