Summer is officially here, which means it's time for shorts, sundresses and swimsuits. It also means that one dreaded problem is bound to return — chafing. The ultimate culprit of discomfort during the summer months, chafing can turn a good day into a painful one and likely make you reconsider your outfit choices for the rest of the season.
If you stocked up on breezy dresses ahead of the summer and don't want to sacrifice style for comfort, an anti-chafing balm can help relieve some of the irritation, whether it's on your thighs, arms or chest.
Since chafing affects nearly everyone on some level, there are plenty of anti-chafing products that are designed for different skin types and preferences. To help sort through them all, we reached out to dermatologists to find out which products can keep you feeling fresh, dry and your best all summer long.
How to prevent chafing
Chafing occurs when skin continuously rubs against skin or clothing. Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take to combat the irritation. According to Chief Medical Officer of Ideal Image, Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, the best way to prevent chafing is using a barrier ointment.
"In general, when looking for something to prevent chafing, you are looking for something to create a barrier between the skin, or the skin and tight clothing, to prevent irritation that can be caused by rubbing or friction," New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick added.
Anti-chafing balms, powders and creams can help create this barrier prior to exercising or other activities that may cause chafing or irritation.
You can also benefit from wearing certain clothing and accessories. Since the inner thighs and bra line are areas that are vulnerable to chafing, Robinson recommends "clothing materials made of neoprene, microfiber and Lycra which help prevent irritation since they wick moisture away off the skin." Bike shorts are also a good option to wear since they are super comfortable, lightweight and have moisture-wicking technology.
What should you look for in anti-chafing products?
"In general, you should look for ingredients that provide protection for the skin surface and help calm and repair the skin," said Dr. Y. Claire Chang, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City. "I recommend looking for emollients and occlusive ingredients in an anti-chafe balm, which provide a physical barrier to help protect against excessive irritation and moisture." She also recommends looking for calming skin care ingredients like aloe and vitamin E.
According to Robinson, other ingredients that prevent chafing are "petroleum jelly, dimethicone and glycerin. Zinc oxide is also fantastic at creating a barrier at the skin’s surface — it’s the active ingredient in mineral sunscreen and commonly found in diaper rash treatments, so you know it’s gentle!"
Keeping your skin protected is key, but if chafing has already occurred, New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Hadley King says you should clean and dry the area thoroughly.
"Wet skin can make chafing worse," King said. "Apply powders to absorb moisture and don’t stay in wet or sweaty clothing."
While balms, creams and powders can help reduce chafing, it's best to consult your dermatologist if irritation is painful or swollen to determine the best treatment option.
How to apply anti-chafing products
"Reapply as needed if you’ll be active for a period of time," shared Dr. Robinson. "Ideally, you can wipe your skin down with facial cleaning wipes in-between applications."
She also suggests using a spray antiperspirant, powder or cornstarch to keep the area dry throughout the day.
Dermatologist-recommended anti-chafing products
Chang recommended this stick since it contains zinc oxide for extra protection.
"Zinc oxide is a skin protectant that forms a barrier on the skin surface to protect it from moisture and irritation," Chang said.
Garshick also notes that it is unscented and non-greasy.
Chang, Garshick and King all recommend this balm to help create a protective barrier on the skin. Garshick notes that it is small enough to carry around, so it is easy to use on-the-go and is both sweat- and water-resistant.
Associate editor Emma Stessman says that the balm "saved" her skin while training for a half marathon. "I'm pretty prone to chafing, especially during exercise, so one of my biggest concerns while training was how to prevent irritation. Thankfully, I didn't have to worry, because I bought this balm and stayed chafe-free throughout the whole process, during months-worth of sweaty runs all the way to race day. Before getting dressed, I would apply it on my thighs, along my bikini line, under my arms and anywhere else that I thought might cause me trouble, and I would stay chafe-free all day! Beyond running, I've also been using it whenever I wear shorts or dresses to prevent that dreaded thigh chafe and it works like a dream. I also love that it's small enough to put in your bag and isn't messy."
King recommends this "thigh rescue" stick and notes that its ingredients can help relieve the skin.
"It contains aloe for cooling and anti-inflammatory properties, and grapeseed oil for hydration," King said.
"While more often thought of for diaper rash, this zinc-based cream can also help to prevent chafing by serving as a barrier cream," Garshick told us.
The smooth and creamy formula also includes zinc oxide, which protects against moisture.
Garshick says this cream can provide protection anywhere on the body. The non-greasy formula currently holds a near-perfect 4.7-star rating on Amazon.
King recommends this easy-to-apply product that provides protection against friction, blisters and general chafing. Even better? The formula is waterproof and sweat-proof, so King says you don't need to worry about reapplying.
Chang says this bestselling gel "applies like a primer" and works to prevent irritation and chafing in sensitive areas. It combines the protective benefits of powders and lotions in one to help alleviate friction and redness along the inner thighs, bikini area and more.
Other anti-chafing products to shop
When you need to feel extra dry, this powder formula will smooth any sweaty surfaces. The formula absorbs moisture while the vetivert oil refreshes your skin.
"It makes you feel so good, especially in your sweaty places. It really does feel like silk on your skin," said one customer.
For days when moving around feels super painful, rub this chafe gel on your skin. The non-greasy formula can be applied under your chest, inner thighs or underarms for a soft sensation. Customers love this gel for its lightweight and non-sticky texture.
This all-natural skin lubricant combines aloe vera, vitamin E, green tea extract, almond oil and more for long-lasting wear that will feel comfortable through every step.
"I ride thousands of miles each year on the road, on gravel, and on trails and have used a variety of creams. In my opinion, this one is the best for comfort and longevity," shared one verified buyer.
Keep things smooth with this silky formula that contains cocoa butter and jasmine. Your skin will stay sweetly scented and dry thanks to the essential oils like benzyl cinnamate and linalool.
With over 1,200 five-star ratings, this is a fast-acting formula great for outdoor enthusiasts who need extra protection from friction.
"I love the menthol in this cream as it creates a soothing layer between me and my shorts, and has the added benefit of preventing the itch that can become a problem in the warmer months," added one shopper.