9 Stylish Solutions For Summer Thigh Chafing
The Debrief: Come, enter the circle of trust. Let’s give the issue a good airing
Summer is here! And as Hamlet would have said: ay, there's the rub.
Friends, humans, countrywomen, lend me your talcum powder. Then lend me your ears, because I am going to talk into them for a long time about a very raw issue. A problem that has (probably) cursed humanity since we first crawled out of the primordial swamp and decided to put on a sundress – and yet gets no publicity, beyond whispered conversations in ladies’ loos and lube aisles.
I ask you: when bare-leg weather means three months of solid, sweaty agony, why do we STILL not talk about thigh chafing? Or ‘lady rubbage’, as it was known colloquially in my student house? Why must we walk round in silence, the picture of carefree summer fun, all the while ducking into public toilets every 20 minutes to sit briefly with our legs wide apart, whimpering?
If a) you have thighs that meet in the middle and b) sweat glands, walking long distances on a hot day with bare legs will probably make them rub together. That is just biological fact. It’s one of the shitter design flaws in the human body, along with hiccups, spots that won’t pop and not being able to give birth through a roomier orifice, but I’m pretty sure it is nature’s fault – not ours. But it’s almost certainly society’s fault that so many of us are forced to steam our way through summer in black opaques or (please no) nude tights, rather than just stand up and say 'GODAMMIT, MY THIGHS ARE ON FIRE. PIGGY-BACK ME TO THE NEAREST UBER.'
Long before the thigh gap was an Instagram aspiration, we somehow picked up the idea that touching thighs = unacceptable. They can’t be mates. At most, distant acquaintances who nod awkwardly at each other across a corridor. And we’re definitely not meant to admit it when they get so friendly they chafe themselves bloody on a picnic. When Amy Schumer posted an Instagram vid of herself applying deodorant to her inner thighs before the Met Ball last week with the hashtag #nothighgapnoproblem, it felt like A Proper Moment. Are we finally ready to take strides for our thighs?
The first time I discovered I wasn’t the only person for whom summer means intimate friction burns, I was 17 and on holiday with two friends in Paris, in July. After two days of wincing my way round the city, I couldn’t take it anymore and confessed. 'YES! US TOO!' they cried, and the relief was like balm to my poor sore thigh skin. We immediately fashioned DIY ‘comfort shorts’ by cutting the bottom off pairs of tights. It was a triumph.
Since then, my thighs and I have been on an odyssey. Every summer, the same aim: to go bare-legged for a day without ending up with skin like beef carpaccio. I would study other women, trying to work out how they were doing it. Were there shortie Spanx under that diaphanous slip dress? Has she coated her skin in a special lacquer? Is she just doped up on Nurofen? How does Beyonce do it? How??
Along the way I’ve tried lotions and potions, lycra and nylon, smoke, mirrors and every other anti-chafe device I could think of or make with a pair of scissors, a glue gun and a little imagination. It’s been a long, hard road but I finally have some answers. Allow me to present my findings.
1. Talcum powder
Since it’s usually sweat or general between-leg moistness (my drag name) that really causes thigh-rub, it makes sense to dry it out or mop it up before the problem strikes. Which is where your Auntie Val’s favourite Lily of the Valley bath set comes in.
Talc works well on skin friction but only up to a point – there’s the risk that as soon as you start sweating again, it might form a kind of... er, paste. Remember Ross from Friends in his leather trousers? Of course you do. We all do.
This works on a similar principle to talc, without leaving dubious clouds of white powder behind on people’s floors. And for low-level stickiness, maybe at the office or a day where you’ll mainly be sitting in a beer garden, a good anti-perspirant can do the job.
But let’s not waste time pretending that a spritz of Soft and Gentle in the morning is going to carry you through a day of hot holiday sightseeing without friction rash, anymore than it will mean you can suddenly climb a rock face or ace that Big Work Presentation in a crease-free trouser suit. We’re not idiots.
For anyone who’s ever hovered at the Smashbox counter wondering how to justify dropping £25 on invisible face goo, here’s how: slap it on your legs too! I’m not saying it’ll let you hike up a mountain in a pair of denim cut-offs, but the silicone-rich formula of a good primer can perform the same slippy, silky magic on your thighs as it does on your face.
See also: hair serum, if you’re desperate.
4. Runner’s lube
Onto the heavy-duty tactics now; there’s no doubt that runner’s lube is fit for purpose. Whether we’re chafing because we ran a half marathon or because we went on a lunch date that ended with a spontaneous three-mile amble along the canal in a maxi dress, it’ll provide a reliable, albeit temporary, cure. There’s Lanacane Gel, which comes in a tube, or BodyGlide which comes in a handy portable stick and has a special lady version in pink (which is half the size but only a quid cheaper, so thanks to the patriarchy for throwing us that bone).
But while anti-chafing powders, gels and balms all work on thigh-rub to varying degrees, there’s still the hassle of reapplying them frequently throughout the day when you’d rather be making hay (or rolling in hay) while the sun shines. Plus you’ll use them up and need to buy more – unlike the fabric-based options that could be your pal for life.
Which leads us to…
5. Comfort shorts
Sexy they may not be, but stretchy, long-line Spanx-style pants will protect your inner thighs all the live long day – and there are plenty out there, if you know where to look.
These nude dudes from Sloggi promise 'SECRET COMFORT' (because being publicly comfortable would just be a leap too far), and as a bonus will make you appear Ken Doll-smooth from the waist down under clingy skirts and bodycon dresses.
6. Cycling shorts
Cycling shorts are another solid anti-chafing option, less secret but also less surgical-looking than control pants. If you can find attractive ones like this lace-trimmed pair from American Apparel, they work well poking out proudly from under short skirts and dresses in an early-90s, Clarissa Explains It All-kind of way.
7. DIY shorts
Of course, if you’re thinking you’d rather spend the whole summer lying in a darkened room than spaff actual money on stretchy shorts, there is another way. An artisan craft solution that many bare-legged pioneers have discovered in their hour of need.
Simply take an old pair of tights or leggings, cut them off above the knee and voila: happy thighs all summer! Just call me the Kirstie Allsopp of sweaty chafing solutions.
If you’ve read this far, congratulations – because I saved the best ’til last. There’s a solution with all the reliability of shorts and long pants, but none of the unpleasantness that comes from adding an extra layer of lycra to a frankly already sweaty situation.
Like the top part of a hold-up but without the tights below, bandelettes are designed specifically to combat thigh chafing. And they’re a game-changer. They do the job beautifully, stay put thanks to grippy plastic strips on the inside, and even manage to look vaguely sexy while they’re at it. I discovered them three years ago and have honestly never looked back – except to shout 'MY WHAT A LOVELY SUMMER BREEZE AROUND MY NETHERS' as I climb cheerfully up hills in a midi skirt.
9. Or wear culottes
Obviously there is one more way to avoid thigh-rub (apart from being carried everywhere in a sedan chair by servants) – just don’t wear a skirt at all. We are living in the Age of the Culotte, a joyful time when we can still get our legs out while keeping a tactical layer of fabric between our thighs at all times.
We don’t know how long it’ll last before fashion banishes the culotte and says we all have to start wearing hooped petticoats or something instead, so let’s make the most of the bountiful harvest on the high street right now.
Inner thighs, you’ve been through a lot. Have a holiday.
(Right to left) 1. Striped cutlotte jumpsuit, £59, Warehouse ; 2. Polka-dot cropped trousers, £79, Finery; 3. Woven cullotes, 28, ASOS; 4. Wide-legged frilled cullotte jumpsuit by Rare, £49, Topshop 5. Cullote jumpsuit, £48, Finery
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