How to Treat and Prevent Chafing in Your Groin Area and Anywhere Else

Chafing is a fact of life, but that doesn’t mean we have to sit back and tolerate it. There is not a man in the world who doesn’t know the specific hell of chafing, but if you’re especially active, it could be something you have to deal with more often than not. The combination of moisture and friction is a recipe for irritated and uncomfortable skin in mild cases and welts and sores in extreme ones. But while chafing is a fact of life, there is plenty we can do to treat and prevent chafing in the groin area and everywhere else.

What Is Chafing?

Most chafing happens where there is skin-to-skin contact, like the groin or inner thigh area—most common among men—or arm pits. It can also happen places like your nipples, where clothing can aggressively rub against skin, like in the case of distance runners. Doctors call it intertrigo, which basically means inflammation in the areas of skin that are touching each other. “What is chafing but disruption and damage to our skin barrier,” says dermatologist Kenneth Howe, MD. Mild chafing shows up as red, irritated, uncomfortable skin but some cases can open the area up to infection from bacteria or yeast.

What Causes Male Chafing?

“Some people are predisposed to chafing because they just have sensitive skin,” says Dr. Howe. “Another factor is hairiness, which can present a problem.” It seems counterintuitive since you’d think hair would prevent skin-to-skin contact, but Dr. Howe notes it goes to the root of what causes chafing in the first place. “Perspiration makes the skin surfaces tacky so they don’t slide against each other properly,” he says. In addition to chafing, hairy areas could also become inflamed (called folliculitis), which can make chafing worse and possibly get infected.

Other issues that could lead to chafing, according to Dr. Howe, are how we work out. “When we use machines in general, like stationary cycles, there’s a little less variation in position and that means there’s more constant stress on the same patches of skin,” he says. And while excess body weight can be a factor in how much skin is touching itself, it doesn’t in itself cause chafing. More often, people who start new exercise routines and are doing more or new repetitive movements may see more chafing.

The good news about chafing is that, as uncomfortable as it is, it’s entirely treatable and preventable. Here’s how to get rid of chafing quickly and make sure it doesn’t come back.

How To Treat Chafing

1. Take a Break From Physical Activity and Clean the Area

If you notice chafing while you’re working out or doing any other kind of physical activity, take a break from it. “Don’t work out or don’t do the exercise that led to it for a while,” says Dr. Howe. You need to give your body a chance to recover instead of pushing through. You should also thoroughly clean and dry the area before doing anything else.

2. Reduce the Inflammation With Chafing Cream

Dermatologists like Dr. Howe typically use steroid creams to treat chafing and reduce the resulting inflammation. However, chafed skin, especially in the groin area, is also prone to yeast infection since yeast thrives in moist areas and can quickly overtake skin with a compromised skin barrier. Adding a steroid like hydrocortisone can actually make a yeast problem worse, so use an antifungal, anti-yeast cream like Lotrimin first for a couple of days, then follow it with a hydrocortisone cream if the irritation is still there.

3. Moisturize the Chafed Area

Even though chafing can be caused by perspiration and moisture, protecting the skin with good moisture can help soothe pain. Apply a “gentle and bland” moisturizing lotion like Lubriderm or CeraVe to the area as needed to help calm down irritation and manage the pain. Avoid lotions that contain fragrance or active ingredients “that do things like exfoliate or have anti-aging properties,” says Dr. Howe. They won’t help in this situation and will “just be annoying.”

4. Try Apply Tea Tree Oil to Chafed Skin

“A lot of people use tea tree oil and that could actually be quite helpful for chafing,” notes Dr. Howe. Tea tree oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that could help treat the underlying causes of chafing. Apply a few drops of the oil to the area with a cotton pad or mix a few drops with some coconut oil to help moisturize the area as well.

How To Prevent Chafing

1. Keep Your Groin and Other Chafe-Prone Areas As Dry And Cool As Possible

To prevent chafing from happening in the first place, the most important thing to do is to keep chafe-prone areas like your groin and armpits as cool and dry as possible. “It’s a big ask given that we’re talking about working out,” says Dr. Howe. One way to do this, though, is reconsider what you’re wearing. Wearing moisture-wicking and breathable fabrics could help cut down on how much moisture sticks around as you work out. If you’re wearing compression garments, always make sure they fit properly and breathe well.

2. Powder Up Your Groin Area

Dr. Howe recommends powders, especially in the groin, to help soak up excess moisture and help prevent skin from rubbing too much. Avoid powders that contain talc, which some claim is linked to a variety of health concerns, including some forms of cancer. If you find applying powder to your nether regions too messy, look for a lotion-to-powder formula which applies like a gel, but dries to a powdery finish. And if you’re concerned about fungus, Dr. Howe recommends doing double-duty by using an antifungal powder, like Zeasorb.

3. Add Some Lube to Chafe-Prone Areas

If powder’s not your thing, you could go in the other direction and lube it up. Skin lubricants, like Vaseline All-Over Body Balm Stick, are popular among distance runners and cyclists to help keep skin from rubbing and tugging. Things like oils or petroleum jelly can form a protective barrier on top of skin to help give it slip and not tug on itself. It’s the same theory as powder, but the opposite in execution. And while Dr. Howe notes that it may not “hold up over the course of a relatively long workout,” it’s a good option for guys who are powder-averse.

4. Trim Your Body Hair to Prevent Chafing

Since sometimes body hair can make chafing worse or can lead to other issues like folliculitis, Dr. Howe recommends trimming the hair around chafe-prone areas. Use a body hair trimmer to trim it regularly to help cut down on the rub, but don’t completely shave it, since bare skin can also chafe easily when it rubs against other bare skin. Yes, it’s a fine line.

5. Wear Protective Clothing While Working Out to Prevent Chafing

While skin-on-skin contact is what usually leads to chafing, sometimes skin can chafe when it’s rubbed the wrong way by other materials, including workout mats. “Sometimes there can be damage to skin, especially on the lower back, from mat-based exercises, like

Garrett Munce writes about men’s style and grooming.