Don't let friction get between you and fitness


Starting a new exercise regime or sport sometimes results in uncomfortable skin chafing - but don't let the frustration of friction derail your attempts to get fit. Here are some handy pointers on how to prevent and treat chafing.

No matter what sport you do or what high-tech gear you're wearing, chances are high that you'll have to deal with chafing at some point in your sporting career. "Chafing is when skin rubs against skin or clothing, and it can be very painful," says Mari Leach, a biokineticist at Discovery Vitality. It can happen anywhere on the body, but skin on the thighs, groin, underarms, and nipple areas is particularly sensitive to chafing.

3 ways to prevent chafing

Although high-tech fabrics can help to protect your skin from chafing, they don't always work perfectly, especially if you're an endurance athlete. Leach shares her top three ways to help reduce friction:

  1. Keep dry: Chafing powders or even baby powder can help to absorb moisture from your skin and reduce the friction. These can also help prevent blisters developing on your feet. Simply dust your feet and the inside of your socks with powder. Wearing a moisture-wicking fabric layer under your workout top can also help absorb moisture and provide some protection from chafing.
  2. Moisturise: A thick gel or moisturiser can help protect against chafing by reducing the friction to the skin. Petroleum jelly is the most affordable solution, but there are many moisturisers you can try.
  3. Choose your outfit wisely: Choose the clothes you wear when you work out based on where your most significant areas of chafing tend to be. Wear clothes that fit correctly in synthetic fabrics that wick moisture away from your skin. Pay attention to the seams of your clothing to make sure they are tightly-woven and smooth.

Plasters, pads, grips and gloves can either help or hinder - so make sure you pick a comfortable size and try not to repeat too many of the same movements consecutively. Change up your routine to give irritated skin a bit of relief in between.

How to treat chafing

Chafing is more than annoying; it's a wound. The chances of it getting infected increase when you exercise because your sweat can allow bacteria to enter the wound. When you get home, clean the chafed area with water and dry it carefully. Use an over-the-counter ointment to help prevent it from getting infected.

If the area is bleeding, swollen, or very painful, ask your pharmacist for something medicated to help with the wound. Chafing should resolve within a few days, but if it gets worse after treating it, visit your doctor to check that it's not infected. Finally, don't engage in the activity that caused the chafing until the wound is properly healed.

Don't let chafing cut short your sport

If you're prone to cycling cysts or 'the runner's rub', give these tips a try, says Leach. "Don't ignore skin irritations and just hope they'll disappear with time, or give up your training altogether. Try combinations of different preventive measures to find what works best for you, and keep your skin happy and healthy!"


Save on your skin care with Vitality HealthyCare

Enjoy up to R1 000 back per family per month for buying everyday personal and family care items at Clicks and Dis-Chem.
The HealthyCare range includes thousands of sun care products, dental care, chronic care, over the counter medicines and much more. Activate the HealthyCare benefit today.
Not a Vitality member? Join Vitality today and get rewarded for living well!

Related articles


Replace those resolutions! (with small, effective habits that last)

How many times have you made a New Year's resolution to "get healthy" that didn't last a month? Don't worry, we're not judging. Fact is - it's pretty tough to stick to resolutions. And according to behavioural economists, it takes a lot more than sheer willpower.


How to become a morning exercise person

You don't have to catch worms to enjoy the merits of being an early bird. Exercising in the mornings has many advantages, so it's worth rearranging your daily schedule to fit it in. Here's why and how to give it a go.


Catapult your cycling with 3 simple exercises

Want to take your cycling to the next level this year? Instead of spending more hours training in the saddle, achieve the endurance you need by strengthening your core muscles. Here's how.

Log in