Armpit Chafing: Underarm Chafing while Swimming and Running, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Armpit Chafing
Armpit Chafing

Chafing is a painful and irritating skin condition. It commonly affects areas of the skin with folds and those that are subjected to friction. The underarm area is one of them. Armpit chafing is less common compared to the thighs and butt. If you sweat too much, if you are overweight or exercise too much, you’ve probably experienced underarm chafing. Here is more on causes and effective treatments for underarm chafing.

Armpit Chafing

Underarm chafing basically refers to the irritation of skin due to repetitive friction through the skin to skin contact. While it can occur anywhere in the body, parts of extra skin and folds are most vulnerable.

According to Michele Green, a Certified Dermatologist, armpit chafing is caused by a combination of dry skin, sweating, and friction. Accumulation of sweat may create favorable conditions for growth of bacteria and yeast.

Armpit Chafing Symptoms

Underarm chafing happens when skin rubs against skin or skin against the fabric.

Symptoms include;

  • Rash
  • Blisters
  • Sore patches
  • Red and raw skin
  • Stinging and burning sensation especially while showering or when in contact with sweat

Causes of Underarm Chafing

Like I mentioned above, armpit chafing is mainly due to friction. Causes include anything that predisposes or aggravates the situation. Here are common causes of underarm chafing;

After Shaving

Armpit hair surely has it pros which include, cleaner zero smell underarms. However, frequent and wrong shaving methods are common causes of armpit chafing. Use hair removal methods that do not involve continuous rubbing of the skin like razors. Go for methods that are long-lasting.

Running and Swimming

If you have an active lifestyle, you probably have experienced skin chafing at some point in your life. Increased movement of the hands such when swimming and running increases friction in the armpit area.

Heart Rate Monitor

Strap on sports equipment such as the heart rate monitor could cause armpit chafing. This is especially so if they are made of a rough material or tightly fitting. Choose monitors that do not need to be strapped to the upper arm such as watches.

Does being Overweight cause Armpit Chafing?

The presence of fat and excess skin in people who are overweight predisposes to armpit chafing. However, this does not mean that you are definitely overweight if you have underarm chafing. This can happen to anyone regardless of your weight.

Other causes include;

  • Poorly fitting sports bra
  • Seams and badges close to the underarms
  • Fabrics made of rough material and those that do not absorb moisture
  • Moisture- humid or wet rainy seasons

Who Is at Risk of Getting Armpit Chafing?

  • If you are dehydrated
  • If your skin is extremely sensitive
  • People with long working hours
  • If you experience excessive sweating
  • Activity such as running, swimming and weightlifting
  • If you exercise in the rain

How to Prevent Armpit Chafing

To effectively prevent underarm chafing, it is most important to reduce friction to your skin. You can do this locally by getting rid of the friction or by getting rid of the underlying cause such as getting treatment for excessive sweating.

So how do you prevent chaffy skin problems?

Wear appropriate clothes

The most common cause of armpit chafing is friction and accumulation of trapped sweat. Wear clothes made of breathable fabric. It absorbs away sweat and leaves your skin dry and irritation free.

Wear properly fitting clothes. Clothes such as a sports bra that is too tight digs into your skin creating a point of irritation. Choose bras and shirts that have smooth seams to avoid rubbing on the skin.

Avoid loose fitting clothes especially if you have an active lifestyle such as sports. Clothes with excess material such as a baggy shirt leave your skin bare and vulnerable to skin to skin contact.

Hair Removal

Armpit hair that gets caught up in between your skin and clothes can wreak havoc. It is recommended that you wax to remove armpit hair as compared to shaving.

If you have to shave, then you have to do maintenance grooming. You sure do not want to deal with those pesky sharp hairs feel when they grow out in a few days.

Continuous shaving also irritates the skin- that’s how you end up with dark armpits.

Read more on how to lighten dark underarms naturally

Keep your Armpits Dry

Talcum powder and cornstarch have been used to keep babies’ bums dry for ages. And there is a good reason for that. They absorb moisture. Sprinkle powder or cornstarch on your armpits. It will keep you dry and also create a barrier between your armpits.

There is a catch though! DO NOT apply too much. Talcum powder has a tendency to form clumps which will lead cause more irritation.


Drinking enough water, to reduce the concentration of your salts in your sweat. Your system produces lots of salts as waste products. These salts and excreted through urine and sweat. If you are poorly hydrated, the salts form crystals or grains on the skin. With dehydration, the body can’t effectively wash away the salts.

Once the skin dries up, the salt grains behave like sandpaper in between your skin and clothes. Hello, skin irritation!

Drink up! And even more on active days or events.


If your armpits are prone to chafing, use anti-chafe products to prevent chafing. Most people use petroleum jelly to create a barrier- prevent skin to skin contact. There are natural alternatives too.

A lubricant, whichever, you decide to use is meant to reduce friction by allowing the skin to easily slide on each other.

Armpit Chafing Treatment

Use these three steps to provide relief for chaffed underarms

  • First, gently clean the area with warm water. DO NOT use soap- it will irritate the skin.
  • Dry the area and apply a topical cream with both healing and moisturizing properties.
  • Give yourself a break especially from sports activity. It will allow your skin to heal.

The best way to treat chafed armpits is knowing and understanding the cause. Understand that chafing is an injury to the skin. It is painful and difficult to deal with. Understanding the causes helps to know how to effectively cure chafed underarms.

Soothe skin irritation at home. Clean the area and dry it up. Apply a rich moisturizing cream to provide a barrier- to protect the injured skin and allow it to heal. Most healing balms have natural ingredients such as Aloe Vera and jojoba oil to promote healing

If these home treatments don’t seem to work, seek medical care from a doctor. Chaffed armpits have raw and open skin. Open skin is vulnerable to infections. Speak to your doctor. He will examine the injured skin and if necessary prescribe topical creams to treat secondary infections. He will also provide remedies to help with rash and redness.

At the hospital, you will also get nutritional advice if dealing with overweight issues. You may also benefit from in-office treatments such as laser hair removal.

Home Remedies for Armpit Chafing

Use these at home remedies to soothe skin and hasten healing

Aloe Vera

Reduces pain and inflammation. It also stimulates the repair of skin cells and speeds up the healing process.

  • Apply fresh Aloe Vera gel to the affected skin on armpits up to 3 times daily.
  • Alternatively, you can use 100% Aloe Vera juice sold at pharmacies


It is an excellent anti-inflammatory that also helps soothe chaffed underarms

  1. Add 2 cups of oatmeal powder into a bath filled with lukewarm water
  2. Soak in this mixture for 20-30 minutes
  3. Rinse off with lukewarm water
  4. Pat dry with a clean soft towel
  5. Do this at least once daily

Avoid scrubbing the affected skin.


  • Avoid friction
  • Apply anti-chafe products before working out
  • Use an anti-per spirant instead of a deodorant if you experience excessive sweating


All you need to do is determine the cause of friction and stop it. The treatments and remedies discussed above will only help to heal skin that is already chaffed.

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