Ah, summertime. Lazy days on the beach, warm nights, gelato and of course, boob sweat. No two words instill boob-related dread in me more. Underboob rash, or intertrigo, usually rears its ugly head during summer months, but it can occur during any time of the year.
What is intertrigo exactly?
Intertrigo is a type of fungal rash that usually occurs between skin folds. Some of the common places on the body that can be affected by intertrigo include the armpits, the genital area, the under side of your belly, neck creases, and of course, under the breasts.
What causes underboob rash?
Excess moisture caused by sweat, heat, and lack of air circulation all work together to cause intertrigo.
All of these factors work together to create a perfect breeding ground for yeast, fungus and bacteria.
Your skin rubbing together tends to exacerbate the symptoms as well and make it feel worse.
There are many risk factors for intertrigo. Some of the common ones include obesity, diabetes, excessive sweating (caused by genetic or environmental factors) and poor hygiene amongst other things.
To sum it up, basically any place on the body where there is a perfect storm of moisture, heat, a lack of air circulation and skin rubbing together is a ripe breeding ground for intertrigo.
What are the symptoms?
If you’re here reading this, you probably already have an idea of what rash under the breasts looks like and feels like. Just in case, here’s what to expect:
• Skin that feels raw and itchy
• A rash that is red or brown in color
• Cracked or flaky skin
• A bad odor
Really serious cases can result in open sores or bleeding.
My own struggle with underboob rash
When I was a teenager, I suffered from intertrigo every summer. The combination of being an extra sweaty, hormonal teenager who was carrying extra weight and had big boobs in ill-fitting bras did not do me any favors.
During the worst of it, I developed a dark brown rash in the crease under my breasts, right where my underwire sits. After a while, my skin started to break. It hurt to put on a bra. It hurt to put anything on it, even creams that were supposedly meant to soothe. Worst of all, I was too embarrassed by the problem to seek medical help or tell my mom.
I just tried to manage it on my own with baby powder, deodorant, bunched up Kleenex, and by airing it out as much as I could. It worked, eventually, but knowing what I know now, I could have solved the problem quicker and with a lot less pain. For obvious reasons, I don’t recommend this approach.
How to manage and prevent intertrigo under the breasts?
Once you’ve determined that this is what you have, there are many easy things you can do to manage it. All of them revolve around either reducing the level of moisture around the affected area, reducing the friction, or increasing the air circulation.
Sort out your Bra
Make sure that your bra of choice fits properly, and supports you well. You know that underboob effect you get when you insist on putting on that favorite bra even though it doesn’t quite fit anymore? That’s not helping things.
You want to wear a bra that fits in such a way that it prevents your skin from rubbing together. While your biggest concern should be lifting your breasts away from the skin on your chest, you also want to avoid bras that have your breasts rubbing against each other and create a uniboob effect.
Look for materials that are breathable to cut down on cleavage sweat. If you can find a good, supportive cotton bra, wear one of those during summer months. Spacer bras or bras that are made with specially-formulated breathable material are another good option. Check out my article on spacer bras and how they work here.
If your skin is super irritated, and you have a supportive wire-free bra around, you can wear this as well. Just make sure that your breasts are lifted enough so that the area under your breasts is as aerated as possible.
Wear a clean bra daily. We are all guilty of not doing this. Most of us don’t have a big enough bra rotation that we can wear a different bra every day without doing a ton of laundry. In summer months, try and rotate your bras and try not to wear the same bra without washing it, especially if you’ve had a sweaty day. The germs that cause your intertrigo can live in your damp bra as well, so make sure to wash your bra properly.
Back when I was a teenager using baby powder, I was on the right track, and baby powder certainly does keep moisture away. The trouble with baby powder is that it doesn’t really take long before sweat soaks it all up. While it might be great for evening time, or when I’m at home, it doesn’t cut it when I’m out and about during the day.
If you can get past the name, I highly, highly recommend Lady Anti Monkey Butt Powder . I switched to this after it became super hard to get the Asics powder I used to use.
You can use it on all parts of the body and the active ingredients are cornstarch (like the Asics powder) and a calamine-based powder. There’s also the original Anti Monkey Butt Powder, but seen as the active ingredient is just talc… you’d be better off with baby powder because it’s cheaper.
Though rash under my breasts doesn’t plague me like it used to, I still chuck a bit of this on between my legs when I’m wearing a skirt or a dress in the summer, so my inner thighs don’t chafe.
Another solution I’ve discovered recently is Fresh Breasts.
I’m a sucker for products with names that go straight to the point (and get the job done). It’s a good alternative for people looking for a more natural solution. It’s free of parabens and aluminum, and instead of using talc, this cream opts for oatmeal. It also contains tea tree oil, which is a great natural anti-bacterial.
This one basically does the same thing as the powder, reducing moisture and acting almost like a natural anti-perspirant. Once it dries, it feels like you’ve got a light layer of powder on your skin.
You only need to apply a light layer too, for it to be effective. Be careful about applying too much, as it can leave a bit of a residue. It might take you a couple applications to figure out the sweet spot, but once you do, this cream will become a staple in your arsenal against underboob itch.
I guess I was on the right track too when I was putting deodorant under my boobs back in the day. The only trouble with deodorant is that even though it was keeping things dry, the alcohol that was in it was drying out my skin and making it itchier.
Nowadays, I have graduated to the anti-chafe stick. I use Bodyglide Anti-Chafe Balm. Most of the time, I use it between my legs as a preventive measure before I leave the house. Though powder is awesome, it’s messy. I like the fact that Bodyglide goes on dry and smooth and seems to last for ages, without making you feel like your skin is excessively dry.
They also sell a ‘For Her’ version that is supposedly specially formulated, to keep skin soft. I haven’t had any experience with this one, but the reviews seem quite positive. I might try it next once my Body Glide Stick finally runs out.
Anti- Chafing Gels
If you’re like me, the name Monistat conjures up a whole other host of lady problems. Monistat actually makes a great chafing relief powder gel. Just like Lady Monkey Butt, it can be used all over the body, not just under your breasts.
Though my preferred product is powder, I like to keep a small tube of gel in my purse because I find it easy and way less messy to apply if I’m ever out and about and realize things are about to get sweaty.
Creams containing clotrimazole, miconazole and cortisone can be bought over the counter and can help to treat other co-occurring skin complaints. They can go a long way toward getting rid of fungal rash on your breasts.
Bra Liners: The sensitive Skin Option
Just as you can imagine, bra liners are a pieces of fabric that can be worn on the underside of your breast. They’re meant to create a sweat-absorbing barrier between your breast and your underwire.
This is a good option if you have extremely sensitive skin and prefer not to put any topical products on the affected area. Not only are they good for absorbing sweat, they can be helpful for alleviating underwire pain, if they are properly fitted. Bra liners come in both disposable and non-disposable formats.
Good Habits to Practice
In addition to the use of the products above, always remember to shower daily and dry yourself well with a clean towel. Use a mild cleanser like Cetaphil to minimize irritation. If you can, avoid wearing clothes that are tight and restrict airflow.
Another thing that is worth doing once you towel off, is drying the affected area with the cool setting on your blow dryer. I found this to be a pretty soothing way to make sure my breasts were as dry as possible.
When to see a doctor?
If you have chronic intertigo, or it gets to the point that your skin is breaking or you’re not seeing any progress, despite using the methods above, you should consult a doctor.
In some cases, you may need prescription-strength cortisone creams and other medications to clear the infection. There is no one size fits all answer to this question, and you know your body better than anyone else. If the situation is persisting and you are in a lot of pain, go and see a medical professional.
Chances are, if you have intertrigo, or have had it in the past and are trying to prevent it, a combination of the above methods that I listed is probably the best way to go. I am lucky enough that I haven’t suffered from intertrigo for some time now, and it has never been as bad as it was when I was a teenager.
A combination of wearing properly-fitting bras, practicing good bra hygiene, and using powders, gels, and sticks has worked for me. In the long run, I can say too that losing weight has helped the situation as well.
Don’t get frustrated if you try one method and it doesn’t work out for you. Try another one, or seek help if you need it. Most importantly, don’t suffer alone. It’s an embarrassing problem, and though there are no clear stats on intertrigo in the general population, it’s a safe bet that someone around you has likely had it too.