Thigh chafing - that is, when your thighs rub together and cause friction that leads to a painful rash - is one of the worst parts of summer. Here, InStyle explains how to prevent the condition, and how to treat it if you already have it.
I can confidently say that my thighs have been together — like, really, really together — for my entire life. I was a solid loaf of a baby with the kind of thighs that required my mother to clean between the folds. I grew into a pudgy child, a fat teenager, and eventually a robust 33-year-old woman. I have absolutely no concept of what it might be like for my thighs to have space from one another, to not be touching at absolutely all times. I have never known a thigh gap. I’m fine with it, great in fact, but this means is that I have a literal lifetime of experience figuring out how to prevent thigh chafing — and how to treat it once you’ve made the mistake of letting it happen.
For any lucky asshole out there who has yet to visit this particular circle of summertime hell, thigh chafing is the nightmare that occurs when your thighs rub together, generate friction, and ultimately succumb to redness, blistering, and a deep, unrelenting burn. Also known as chub rub, the threat grows much stronger during the summer months, when your thighs aren’t even separated by pants (shorts and dresses are complicit in this, sadly) and your body is covered in a layer of sweat at all times.
Some of my earliest memories are walking home from the local pool during summer, damp and exhausted and miserable, trying to keep my little legs from touching one another after the chafing had set in. When I was in college, I went on a long summertime hiking trip, during which the inner quadrants of my thighs got so red and raw, I seriously considered stopping altogether and living out my days on the side of a mountain like a goat. As little as two summers ago, I took a long walk home from a bar in a short dress on the hottest day of the year, and by the time I got to my apartment, all I could do was lie down in bed and point the fan directly at the inside of my legs while praying for the sweet release of death.
Simply put, thigh chafing is hell, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Luckily, I’ve finally learned how to manage it — and believe me, I’ve tried everything. Here’s what actually works, according to the experts (and by that, I mean myself and my two beautiful thighs).
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For starters, I’ve learned over the years that the key to avoiding thigh chafing is prevention. Unfortunately, not all prevention methods are created equal. Sorry, grandma, but baby powder just isn’t going to cut it — it congeals too easily with summertime sweat and can make your inner thighs look like you just tried to roll out a pie crust onto them. Plus, it gets all over your clothes.
In my experience, the lace and nylon thigh bands made specifically for preventing thigh chafing are also not a great solution. I’m not sure if it’s just the way my legs or shaped, or if there’s something peculiar about the way I walk, but they simply do not stay put on my thighs, which inevitably leads them to exacerbate the problem. However, it’s worth noting that my opinion isn’t shared by everyone — some people love them, and for what it’s worth, they look kind of hot under shorts and skirts.
For my money, the best prevention methods boil down to two options: Bike shorts, and balm.
Let’s start with bike shorts, particularly Knix’s Thigh Saver.
This is by far my favorite iteration of the chafe prevention short, because the material is so nice. It’s a slippy, super comfy combination of nylon and lycra, and you barely even realize the shorts are there. They’re long, totally seamless, and have moisture-wicking and anti-odor technology built in. They come in two colors, black and beige, and are available in sizes S-XXXL, which corresponds to 2/4 to 24/26. They’re a bit on the pricey side — $36 each or three for $90 — but when I tell you they are worth it, believe me. I have one pair and regularly consider swapping out all of my underwear for a rotating arsenal of these bad boys.
If you’re looking for a slightly more affordable option, I’ve also had major success with Jockey Skimmies Slipshort.
These come in a variety of lengths and colors, and are made of out of nylon and spandex. The material is a touch less comfortable than Knix’s Thigh Saver, but the option of having short or long cuts, depending on what you’re wearing, is crucial. Jockey Skimmies are also available in sizes S-XXXL, and cost $20 per pair.
If you prefer a smaller underwear situation, don’t fret: Body balms are here to help. They look like sticks of deodorant, and all you have to do is give your inner thighs a few swipes with the product and you’re good to go. I’ve tried a bunch of different formulas, but there are two that stand out far beyond the rest. The first is the Body Glide Anti Chafe Stick, which you can use on your inner thighs, feet, nipples, underarms, or anywhere else you might experience chafing. The formula contains no petroleum, parabens, or phthalates, is totally sweat resistant, and cruelty free. The Body Glide Anti Chafe stick comes in four sizes, and I love the teensy .35 ounce version to toss in your pocket when you don’t even feel like carrying a bag.
Then there’s MegaBabe Thigh Rescue, the body balm created by plus-size influencer Katie Sturino. If Body Glide is your tough, no-frills jock friend who helps you paint your kitchen, MegaBabe is your effervescent BFF with a 10-step skincare routine who is constantly telling you to treat yourself.
Like Body Glide, MegaBabe is petroleum-, paraben-, and phalate-free — but it’s also got ingredients like aloe, vitamin E, pomegranate seed extract, and grapeseed oil to protect and hydrate your skin. It also comes in undeniably cute packaging, making it perhaps the very first product to inspire me to put my thigh chafing issues on Instagram.
Both Body Glide and MegaBabe give your thighs a friction free glide that doesn’t feel slippery or oily, lasts all day, and won’t leave marks on your clothing. I can safely say that I will never summer without them.
But what if all of your bike shorts are dirty, and you forgot to cop a stick of anti-chafe balm? What happens when you spend a hot summer day toddling around with your thighs rubbing together, feeling the slow and steady burn developing between your legs? If it’s too late for prevention there are a couple of worst-case scenario treatment options that actually work, too.
The first is the Monistat Chafing Relief Powder Gel. Though you may associate Monistat with the holy terror that was your last yeast infection, the brand also makes a truly killer chafing treatment product. You can use the gel-to-powder formula for prevention, of course, but it also works to soothe and relieve your damaged skin while providing a silky barrier that prevents further damage.
The Monistat Chafing Relief Powder Gel is available at most drug stores which makes it perfect in a pinch, but for my money, there’s simply nothing better than CeraVe’s Healing Ointment. It’s a super creamy, hyaluronic acid-rich cream that legitimately feels amazing to apply, and it also has three essential ceramides that repair skin while giving your thighs a smooth layer of protection so you can go about your business. I also love using it on razor burn, and CeraVe recommends it as a treatment for those with psioriasis and eczema.
The bottom line? Summer is hot, but it shouldn’t burn. Over three decades of thigh-related misery have taught me one thing: when it comes to thigh chafing, the more proactive you can be, the better. Keeping your thighs apart all summer isn’t a realistic option, but giving them the tools they need to play nicely together is.