nipple chaffing

Nipple chaffing guide

Chaffing is a sensitive topic. It’s difficult for people to talk openly about it. It affects sensitive areas of the body. It’s taboo. We don’t need to feel ashamed or embarrassed. We don’t have to deal with it in secret. I’m here to say that it is okay to talk about it. That’s how we tackle this beast. I am going to venture into this delicate area, to expose it for what it is, an effort to help you prepare for and prevent it from happening to you. That sensitive area is nipple chaffing.

What is nipple chaffing?

Chaffing occurs when there’s rubbing, either skin against skin or skin against clothing. This causes irritation, redness, and a shit ton of discomfort. And it can happen anywhere on the body including thighs, groin, underarms, and yes, nipples.

Causes of nipple chaffing

Nipple chaffing happens when a sweaty shirt rubs against nipples. This causes friction and it usually occurs during sweat-inducing activities, like running. It is extremely common for men who run in the summertime or in hot climates. The heat and exercise cause the body to sweat. This sweat causes the clothing to become wet and heavy. A heavy shirt that rubs against nipples causes friction. And over a long period of time, this can create nipple chaffing.  

Bloody horror story

When you start a training run your shirt is dry. After running for a while, you start sweating and this causes your shirt to become wet and heavy. A heavy shirt rubs your nipples, and not in a good way.  

The damage to the nipple tissue is directly correlated with the length of the training run. If you’re out for a quick 3 miler, there’s minimal damage. But, if you run 15 miles or more, your nipples will look like a scene out of a Tarantino movie. If you have ever been at the finish line of a long-distance race in the spring or summer, you may have seen that unfortunate soul who attempted to run without proper protection. It manifests itself with red circles over the nipples, usually with bloody streaks down the front of the shirt. It is unmistakable. I have been that unfortunate guy, and I wouldn’t wish that pain upon even my worst enemy.

nipguard

Prevention of nipple chaffing

With all the scary news about nipple chaffing, the good news is that it is actually quite simple to avoid.

Clothing

Choice of clothing has a lot to do with preventing chaffing. Wearing the right running clothes minimizes the effects of nipple chaffing. It doesn’t completely stop it.

The wrong clothing soaks up a lot of sweat. And this causes friction. 100% cotton shirts will soak up a lot of sweat, get really heavy, and cause the most friction on the nipples. Steer clear of that. There are many clothing options that wick sweat away, which keeps clothing relatively dry. A dry shirt creates much less friction. The first step in prevention, wear moisture-wicking running clothes.

Stay dry

When I first started running, I wore shirts and shorts that were 100% cotton. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. One Saturday I went out on a run in the rain. As you can imagine this made the whole chaffing situation much, much worse. As a means of prevention, stay dry.

Lubricate

Let me just say, I’m not a huge fan of loobing up nipples. I don’t like lotions and creams on me. It makes me feel weird and slippery. I have talked to other runners and they do like the outcome of using a lubricant on their nipples. Lubricant creates a barrier that can minimize friction which lowers the probability of chaffing.

Cover the nipples

There are a lot of products out there that are very effective. I use a product called NipGuards. You apply these circular bandages to the nipples. And they act as a barrier between the nipple and the shirt, which prevents chaffing. They work great. You can find them online for about $10 for a package of 10 pairs. For those of you that have 2 nipples, it will cover you for 10 training runs. Your CPN (cost per nipple) is about 50 cents. This can be a more pricey option if you’re in the middle of a rigorous training program.

nipple chaffing

There are some other options along the same lines, one of which is a product called NipEaze These are similar to NipGuards, just a little cheaper. They will run you about $7 for a package of 15 pairs. Your CPN is about 23 cents vs. the other brand.  Your CPN will decrease if you buy in bulk.  If you are starting a long training program, buying in bulk may be the most cost-effective choice.

Band-Aid makes a circular adhesive bandage that is pretty reasonable. 3 boxes of 50 (150 total) are under 9 bucks. That puts your CPN at about 5 cents. Which is awesome if you are running a lot of miles.

Covering your nipples on a budget

If you’re training for a race and running multiple times per week, buying these special nipple-specific coverings can break the bank. A great option that I have used is regular Band-Aids. There are a number of different varieties, colors, styles, brand names, generic, etc. No need to go out and special order, you can use what you’ve already had. I have tried many different kinds and found that the wide fabric strips work the best. I will usually criss-cross them into an “X” shape to ensure full coverage.

The bottom line on nipple protection all comes down to personal comfort. If the NipGuards work for you, great. Use them. If you feel better using a couple of generic bandages that you’ve cut to your exact nipple diameter, awesome. Do it.

How to treat nipple chaffing

Nipple chafing should be treated quickly. Don’t ignore the pain. Believe me, it will be hard to ignore that pain. Here’s what to do:

Clean the nipples

To prevent infection, clean the chaffed area with soap and water and dry completely. Assess the damage to determine the severity. If your nipples are still swollen, crusted, or bleeding, you may need to contact your physician. In extreme cases, a doctor may prescribe a medicated ointment.

Soothe the nipples

The remedy that works really well for chaffed nipples is slathering them with ointments, gels, and creams. This can really soothe the burning and irritation. Here are a few that can be most helpful.

Aloe Vera

This succulent has a long history of being used for medicinal purposes. The clear gel inside its leaves has been used for centuries to soothe and treat a variety of skin wounds and irritations. It is also helpful in reducing irritation and inflammation of nipple chaffing.

If you have an aloe plant, break off a leaf, squeeze the gel out, and apply it to the nips. You can also buy aloe vera leaves at some natural food stores. If don’t want to extract the gel yourself, you can buy aloe vera gel at any online retailer.

Coconut oil

Another natural remedy is coconut oil. It has been known to reduce inflammation, help with chafe healing, and even kill bacteria on the skin. Dab a small drop of coconut oil on the nipples as needed.

Creams and ointments

A more medical remedy for chaffed nipples is creams and ointments. These are designed to help with skin irritation and chaffing on any area of the body, not just nipples. These include brands like Aveeno, Aquaphor, or Eucerin. You may have these in your medicine cabinet. They are a safe and effective way to soothe the burning of chaffed nipples.

Rest the nipples

You know yourself and your body. You’ll have to determine the severity of your chaffing. A break is never a bad idea. This will give your skin some time to heal. The continued friction may make it worse and could lead to infection. If your skin chafing does not improve after trying these self-care measures, make an appointment to see your doctor. You may need an antibiotic ointment if the area becomes infected.

Final thoughts on nipple chaffing

No matter what you’re training for nipple chaffing will affect you. You can spend a lot of money to alleviate the issue or you can come up with your own solution. They are your nipples. Do whatever you need to do to protect them. Do it. You don’t want to be that guy at the finish line with the unfortunate red stripes on his shirt. It is not a situation you want to be in. And believe me, that’s not a lesson you need to learn the hard way.

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