Let's talk about summer chafing: how to deal with the uncomfortable skin condition as the heat rises

From the right clothes to the best creams, here's how to manage this unpleasant side effect of summer

Chafing is an uncomfortable skin condition that can worsen in the heat. Unsplash
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While year-round sunshine is often touted as one of the best things about living in the UAE, there are a few weeks each summer when the heat can be too much for even the most devoted sun worshipers.

Those hot summer months, for many, mean staying as close to air conditioning units as physically possible, but inevitably there will be times when we are required to endure the near 50°C heat.

And, as well as the sweat and all-round unpleasantness that comes with that kind of heat, there is an added evil that summer brings about – chafing.

Walking in hot and sweaty conditions can cause the uncomfortable skin condition thanks to the top of your legs or your underarms rubbing together. The result can be a sore and itchy rash, which can lead to further discomfort when heading out into the heat.

Contrary to popular belief, chafing can affect people of all body shapes and sizes, and is a problem often suffered by athletes as they compete in sporting events such as racing and rowing.

“Chafing is an inflammatory condition of skin folds, induced or aggravated by heat, moisture, maceration, friction and a lack of air circulation,” says Dr Ghada Ashour, a specialist dermatologist at Medcare Hospital.

While there is little we can do about avoiding the heat here in the UAE, there are steps you can take to prevent chafing, or make the effects of it a little more bearable.

“Prevention can be achieved by good hygiene, weight loss, wearing cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes, especially in the summer months,” says Ashour. “All of the above measures will reduce friction and superadded bacterial and fungal infections.”

Wearing loose clothes without visible seams can help to reduce chafing, eliminating anything else that could rub against your skin to irritate it. Adding an extra layer, such as bicycle shorts under skirts and dresses, for example, will also help by limiting skin to skin contact.

And while it can be tempting to use plasters on areas that are likely to rub, this can actually make matters worse by causing bacteria to gather, so it is best to avoid them.

Chafing can be uncomfortable, especially in the heat. Unsplash

Mild cases can be treated with simple moisturisers, Ashour says, while infected cases may need to be treated with antibacterial, antifungal and low potency steroid creams.

Coconut oil also works well as a natural remedy and to reduce friction, while cosmetics companies such as Lush stock special products dedicated to preventing and treating skin irritated by chafing.

The best time to apply these products is at night while you sleep, to allow them to sink into the skin while you are rested.

Chafing can also be worsened by the kind of material you come into contact with, so it's best to avoid synthetic fabrics, such as  polyester or nylon, and choose lighter more natural fabrics, such as linen or cotton.

While chafing may not be considered a long-term problem for most people, often only occurring in extreme heat, continuous chafing in one area, such as the inner thigh, can cause damage to the skin barrier and micro-tears, which can allow more bacteria to enter the body.

When washing an area affected by chafing, be sure to use a gentle soap and not to scrub, as not to make the condition worse.

The most important thing is to rest when you feel your skin condition worsening because of chafing, especially if you are regularly playing sports. "Exercising should be interrupted and the area should be washed with warm water and dried gently followed by the application of a moisturiser or Vaseline," Ashour says.