Swimmers’ Chafe

By Jana Taylor

Chafing is a very common complaint among swimmers.  Although all chafing is caused by friction, there are actually three specific ways that chafing occurs when in and around the water.


  • Skin-on-skin. This one is more common in triathletes, overweight persons, or people who are swimming a lot.  It is simply skin-on-skin friction caused by repetitive movements.   It can occur anywhere on the body where skin rubs against skin, but most frequently occurs on the thighs.
  • Fabric-on-skin. This chafing can occur with an ill-fitting swimsuit, goggles, wet suit, or any other items worn against the skin that rub and cause irritation.
  • Hair-on-skin. This last type of chafing is more common with men and it is caused when facial and body hair are causing chafing.

Chafing is very common, but there are lots of things you can do about it. First and foremost, we recommend having a tube of Chafe Rescue® on hand.  Use liberally before and after activity where chafing may occur and you may not ever have to deal with chafing again!   Beyond that there are other things you can do to minimize your risk of chafing:

  • If you are a competitive swimmer, change your stroke mechanics if you find it’s giving you trouble.
  • Shaving can eliminate a lot of issues with hair-on-skin chafing.
  • Fabric-on-skin chafing can be reduced by utilizing skin lubricants and medical or kinesiology tape. Certain styles of suits that cover shoulders are particularly problematic, and you may want to consider a different choice.
  • Pay attention to your sun exposure and apply sunscreens with zinc before and after being in the water.
  • Do shower and moisturize your skin after swimming, especially if you are in saltwater.

Jana Taylor Jana Taylor is a staff writer for Peaceful Mountain.