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As happy as I get for the summer, I dread some of the issues that come with it: humidity, sweat, and most of all, chafing. If you have bigger thighs, as I do, you’ll know just how much you can suffer during this sunniest of seasons. Or rather, how much they can suffer when you forget to use the best anti-chafe products (which you can find in a variety of forms, including topical powders, creams, and even the right pair of underwear).
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A smart anti-chafe plan starts and ends with specific ingredients and materials. For insight into the ones that work best, we chatted with board-certified dermatologist Dr. Leah Ansell of Treiber Dermatology Associates in Rye, N.Y. Here are her tips on finding the best products to prevent chafe this summer—or any time of year when your legs just can’t seem to get enough of one another.
To Talc or Not to Talc?
Powder-based products have long prevented moisture accumulation under the belt, thus preventing the sweaty friction associated with chafing. And for a long time, those powders and powder-based creams used talc as their primary ingredient.
Talc had a bad spell for a while there, because some supplies found traces of asbestos. (It was famously discovered that Johnson & Johnson’s powders used potentially cancerous talc between 1971 and the early 2000s.) So understandably, talc’s reputation took a hit. And yet, it’s still common in many products today, while other brands proudly brandish their products with the words “Talc-Free”. This all begs the question: Is talc still important to avoid?
“Today, most products that contain talc specifically test and ensure there is no asbestos present,” Ansell says. “If there’s ever a safety concern about a product on the market, I advise that if the product is needed, to use it sparingly and only for a short period. Ideally, I advise finding an alternative though, whenever possible.”
Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives to choose from.
The Best Ingredients in Anti-Chafe Products
If you don’t want to chance it with talc, what then are the best ingredients to look for in an anti-chafe powder or powder-based lotion? Ansell’s favorites include rice starch, silica, zinc oxide, and tapioca starch, as they are all considered safe for use. Add to that roster some additional favorites of ours, which are also safe for use: corn starch, arrowroot powder, and even traces of kaolin clay for added moisture absorption.
The Best Anti-Chafing Products
Body Glide Anti-Friction Cream
One of the banner brands in the anti-chafing arena, Body Glide’s clean-recipe cream contains arrowroot powder and kaolin to absorb moisture as well as coconut oil to encourage smooth rubbing.
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First Aid Beauty Anti-Chafe Stick
Tapioca starch gives this stick its moisture-absorbant powers, while ozokerite wax and colloidal oatmeal work together to promote smooth conditions and soothed skin.
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Hiki Anti-Sweat Powder
Generously sprinkle some of this powder (corn starch, silica, kaolin) in your drawers for a tingly-fresh feeling—and one that prevents you from having to sit in your own swampy filth all day, in addition to preventing chafing.
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Happy Nuts Body Powder Spray
Embrace the cheeky name. This tapioca, corn starch, and silica powder isn’t like other powder-based spray-on; it is quite literally powder, that is smartly directed at its target so that it doesn’t make a mess. Point it into your underwear, and on the insides of both thighs (and anywhere else you want to keep fresh and sans friction). It also cools and soothes skin with aloe.
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The Best Anti-Chafing Materials
It’s easy to assume that the most breathable fabrics would be ideal for well-ventilated summers, but it’s actually not the case, since cotton, silk, and linen all retain moisture. “When these natural fibers absorb and moisten from sweat, they bunch up and get heavier, which contributes to more friction,” Ansell explains. She suggests switching to synthetic fabrics such as neoprene, nylon, spandex, microfiber blends, polyester, and lycra. “Synthetics don’t absorb sweat and help keep the area dry, helping prevent friction,” she says. Perhaps you’ve seen the term “moisture wicking” before; this is what many of these synthetic materials do exceptionally well; they pass the moisture through the fabric and allow it to evaporate on the other side, rather than trapping anything against the skin and creating friction, chafing, and some gnarly fungal situations, too.
Product design can play a factor in chafe prevention, too. Wearing nylon or spandex boxer briefs that hug the thighs and extend far enough down to rub against one another (as opposed to the skin rubbing against itself) can be hugely beneficial to anything with thick thighs, or who has to wear rough, unfriendly pants like denim, or a moisture-absorbent one like khaki.
Best Anti-Chafing Underwear: Nike Dri-FIT Ultra Stretch Micro
These hyper-stretchy polyester and spandex shorts won’t bunch, plus they prevent both rubbing and moisture accumulation in the thighs and groin.
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How to Treat Chafed Skin
Treating chafing looks a little like those preventative measures, in that you want to cover the affected area with proper fabrics as well as a protection layer of barrier-like zinc oxide. These two steps will also prevent additional chafing from occurring.
For severe cases, get an appointment with your board-certified dermatologist right away. “Sometimes patients need prescription meds such as cortisone or antibiotic ointment becaise [severe] chafing can lead to irritation dermatitis or even a superficial skin infection,” Ansell warns. So, do what you can to minimize chafing at the first sign of wear, and always do what you can to prevent it in the first place.
Best Anti-Chafing Cream: Desitin Zinc Oxide 40% Maximum Strength Cream
It might seem weird to buy a diaper-rash treatment as an adult, but products rendered safe enough for babies are typically the safest across the board. And this is Dr. Ansell’s recommendation for treating pre-existing chafing since it provides the highest OTC defense in a thick, soothing barrier. But it can leave a chalky residue on fabrics, so be sure to wear some long boxer briefs or athletic shorts to bed.
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