Chub Rub & Thigh Chafing: A Traveler’s Toolkit (I Tried It All, so You Don’t Have to)
Summer is coming. (At least in the northern hemisphere.)
For a girl like me, summer means later nights, warmer weather, and a more immediate imperative to get out and see new places. Do you know what it also means?
And not just any pain — the most excruciatingly evil pain known to womankind: chub rub.
What is chub rub, you ask? Oh, my sweet summer child. If you have to ask, you don’t know. Because once you know, you know.
Those of us without a thigh gap (AKA MOSTHUMANS) are very well acquainted with what I’m talking about, but for everyone else, picture this: A window screen (I know, just go with me here). Take a window screen (a mesh one made of metal wire), and fashion it into a pair of mini-shorts that only cover the inside of your thighs. Put those shorts on, set them on fire, and walk around the Sahara Desert for a while.
(Don’t actually do this.)
That is sort of what chub rub feels like.
Chub rub is chafing.
And chafing is friction. It’s a thing that happens when skin rubs against skin. It’s exacerbated by things like moisture (AKA sweat — thanks, summer!). It’s the center of the Earth slowly belching out lava, but from your crotch. It’s like that kid in elementary school who grabbed and wrung your arm in opposite directions because he thought it would be “fun!” to give you a painful burn. It’s tug-of-war when you lose, and the stiff rope forces its way through your clutching hands, except that rope is positioned about where a bicycle seat would be. It’s strep throat, but on the outside, and much lower. It’s Beyoncé on the U.S. Top 40 charts anytime she drops a new single. Okay, maybe not that one.
And as a fat girl who alsotravels a lot, this translates into Travel Packing Panic (TPP™) before trips to any destination with weather that is anywhere between temperate and hot. I am always stressing about what items I can get through airport security, how uncomfortable I’ll be or weird I’ll look if I have to wear leggings under my dresses or skirts, and how to say things like “baby powder” and “hydrocortisone” in foreign languages.
Is it too much to ask that I not have the fire of Satan burning between my legs when I go about my travels? Can’t this fat girl just look cute and express her fashion identity without walking around looking like she’s pregnant and her water just broke?
YES, SHE CAN.
A few summers ago I decided that I couldn’t take this anymore, so I made some promises to myself, and I am here to make them for you as well, dear reader:
NEVER AGAIN may I let TPP™ dictate my life and use up valuable space in my disintegrating one-quart carry-on bag for ointments and gels that I’m not even sure will help in the case of a chub rub emergency.
NO LONGER must I overdress, wearing long leggings under other garments on the hottest of days, in the humidest of climes.
NEVER AGAIN will I be that person making excuses to stay in the hotel room all night, spending my evening periodically waddling to the bathroom to splash cold water between my legs in a fruitless attempt to soothe my skin while the rest of my friends go bar-hopping in Paris’s Place de la République and end up singing Journey songs at karaoke until 4 o’clock in the gosh-darn morning and then drunkenly stumbling back and waking me up, recounting how fun that night was for the rest of the trip. (This is a thing that happened almost seven years ago, and I am maybe still bitter about it.)
To all of this, we say: NO.
It’s time to treat our thighs the way they need — nay, DESERVE — to be treated.
So I set out on an experiment to discover the best of the best that exists against chub rub. These are my findings.
First, there are two main ways to handle chub rub:
Prevention and treatment.
I like to take the preventative approach because obviously we’d all rather put on shoes before walking around a city on a 90° day than have to care for blistered feet after venturing out barefoot. You know what I mean?
Next, there are two main options for preventing chub rub:
Topical products (ointments, gels, powders, etc.)
Physical barriers (shorts, bands, hosiery, etc.)
I tend to prefer the latter. I am on the larger side of sizes that humans come in, and I like having more coverage or protection without having to worry about reapplying a product throughout the day, especially on a particularly hot one because we all sweat, and more sweat makes things wear off quicker. Plus, who wants beads dripping down their inner thighs when they can have a nice, cushion-y, something extra between their legs to absorb it? I also wear a lot of black, and, frankly, powder is pretty noticeable on a black skirt.
For the purposes of this experiment, I used both topical products and physical barriers and tested:
Effectiveness at preventing chub rub
Longevity of effectiveness
Look and feel
Not included: bike shorts and regular products for purchase at any department store or clothing retailer. These can be great options! But I focused on products made specifically for thighs or chafing.
All of these items were tested on regular spring and summer days in New York City (where I live), going up and down subway stairs, walking down the street, etc. Testing did not include hiking, exercising, or any other high-movement activity beyond brisk walking and stair-climbing.
Full disclosure: I was offered free samples of some (not all) of the products here. I indicate which ones with an asterisk (*) next to the product’s name. I want to stress, however, that every comment and opinion is 100% honest and comes from me and me alone. I was not paid, bribed, or asked to say anything by any of these companies, and, across the board, every representative I spoke to (including those who wouldn’t give me free samples!) was incredibly friendly and supportive of this piece. You can read Wanderful’s disclosure statement here. All prices are approximate, and in USD.
I don’t like having goopy things between my legs, so I am wary of all products (including this one) — until I tried it and realized that this is no goop, my friend, but rather like liquid silk for your skin. It comes in a roll-on tube, which makes it very easy to stick in a carry-on bag. Though you’ll definitely feel it on your thighs (I have yet to find anything that truly makes it seem as though nothing is there.), it’s clear and has a very thin consistency, managing to keep you away from that hot, slimy feeling a lot of other products like this produce. You won’t feel dry, but you will feel protected. On a really hot day you’re going to sweat anyway, but at least this will stop that sweat from turning into raw thighs. I felt so moisturized after using it, I wanted to roll it over my whole body.
It needs to be reapplied once every few hours, but I think it’s totally worth it.
This stuff reminds me a lot of baby powder in that I am constantly worried that my butt looks like I just sat in a pile of cocaine (don’t wear black with this). It smells lovely, though, and is one of the better options on this list for soaking up sweat, plus the calamine in it is incredibly soothing — it absorbs and soothes where most other things on this list do just one or the other. However, having to reapply this in the middle of the day just seems like a recipe for powder-covered disaster.
Baby powder, for what it’s worth, I recommend as a post-chub rub treatment more than a preventative measure when compared to the other things on this list. (A recent lawsuit alleges that talcum powder, which baby powder is made of, is a carcinogen, though, so proceed with caution.) Anti-Monkey Butt also contains talcum powder.
The thing about Body Glide is that it’s pretty noticeable (you can feel it, even if you can’t see it) but still works sort of well. My thighs still rubbed together and felt a bit moist from the application, but they didn’t hurt. I also felt like I needed to reapply it a lot throughout the day for it to really do its job. It says it doesn’t sweat off, but I felt like it did. I could see this being super-effective on days when you’re not doing quite as much walking.
Extra perk: You can buy it in tiny, little, roll-on tubes, which are perfect and lightweight for lugging around while you’re on the go. Otherwise, I might just recommend using whatever deodorant you already have, which has (in my experience) essentially the same effect.
As we have established, I am very anti-goop. And that’s pretty much what Chamois Butt’r is. Though all the many butt-related puns in its packaging and advertising are delightful, I can’t get past how using this stuff feels like slathering petroleum jelly between my legs. It will for sure keep you protected — I can’t imagine feeling any chafing when using this — and will undoubtedly help to soothe chafed thighs once bitten by the ‘rub. It also feels like it’ll take a while for this product to wear off, but you’re giving up feeling dry (and I am unconvinced that this stuff won’t stain my clothes).
Side perk: This stuff is sold in (in my opinion) the most brilliant way of any of the products on this list: tiny, little, single-application pods! Perfect for travel. If you don’t mind having a thick ointment between your legs, go for it. It’s just not for me.
OH GLORY BE. I sort of want to bathe in Fresh Breasts every morning for the rest of my life. (There’s a pun in there somewhere.) It goes on like a lotion but dries like a powder. When you sweat, it gets moist, but it keeps you lubricated. When it dries, it has a similar powdery, white texture to most of the other powder options on here, but you don’t have to worry about accidentally sneezing and emerging from a chalk cloud afterwards. Just make sure you wash your hand after applying.
I won’t say it’s my favorite thing on this list, but it’s definitely one of my favorite topical products I reviewed. I felt so fresh! Plus, I am a huge fan of using it for its intended purpose — as a way to keep my breasts from sweating and sticking (and chafing) to my stomach or in my bra. Fresh Body (makers of Fresh Breasts) also produces Fresh Balls (guess who that’s for). I am pretty sure they are the same exact thing, just with different labels, and both miraculously cost the same.
This is another of those preventative options that I think works better as a treatment. It rolls on (as you can see from its roll-on design) and feels thick and heavy (although not goopy) enough to provide a barrier for a little while. I don’t think it works hard enough to provide much long-lasting prevention for my thunder thighs, so I wouldn’t use it as my main chafing barrier. But I can absolutely recommend it as a post-rub relief option, and if you’re on the smaller side, it’s likely an excellent option for daily use!
Lanacane reminds me a lot of Fresh Breasts in its application (goes on like a gel, dries like a powder) but acts more like Body Glide once it dries, which is apparently now my basis for most of these products. I do find it very helpful as a chub rub treatment, if not the best at preventing it, like many others on this list. I am also partial to thin tubes like this, because they’re much easier to shove in a plastic bag for when you’re in an airport security situation.
The thing I love most about Lush is that if you can get to an actual store, you can get free samples of most of their products, so you can test things out before actually committing! And if you know anything about me, you know that I am afraid of commitment.
Silky Underwear smells like something a lavish princess would wear (so naturally I am a fan) and has a little more staying power than straight baby powder. I like it more as a post-rub soothing option or as something to be used in conjunction with a physical barrier for ultimate dryness and frictionless-ness. And, as with other powders, I forever fear getting it all over myself when applying. The good news about powders, at least, is that they’re much easier to get through airport security. This stuff, unlike baby powder, does not contain talc.
This gel is super effective but needs to be reapplied lots, which means it loses its value for me, and the reason is twofold: For one thing, travelers know that bathrooms have a tendency to be the most mysteriously un-findable of beasts just when you’re looking for them. For another, $6 may be relatively inexpensive for a product like this but if you’re going through a whole tube in a week, it gets really expensive really fast. I can recommend using it, but only do so at your wallet’s risk. It does that awesome applies-as-a-gel-but-dries-as-a-powder thing that a few others on this list do, so I’m a huge fan of it for that reason.
(For the record, I did not plan or intend for all of the following garments to be blue and black; my life just tends to work out that way.)
Price: $16 Sizing: A (21”-22” thigh circumference) to F (31”-32” thigh circumference)
Everyone seems to love Bandelettes! (I am sort of one of them!) I think for most people they’d be perfect. They’re cute and stylish and aren’t the kind of thing you’re afraid of someone seeing underneath your skirt or dress. But with thick thighs that fuse together as fiercely as mine, I might as well become an actual mermaid, and as a result I can feel those super tiny holes in the lace material that makes up most of their styles (pictured above, left side/right thigh).
However, their unisex style (pictured above, right side/left thigh)? HALLELUJAH. No holes! They come in black and light beige, and I’m told they’ll soon be available in chocolate as well.
I also LOVE that their sizes are literally based on thigh circumference and nothing else, because you may be a size 20 waist, but what does that even mean for your thighs? The one weird thing I will say about Bandelettes is that they always sort of feel like they’re sliding down, but they almost never are.
YES YES YES. Bless the beautiful mastermind who thought of these. They’re like longer underwear (although I still suggest wearing actual underwear with them) that are extra-enforced at the top and bottom, to ensure limited rolling up or down, and in the inner thighs, to ensure limited rubbing apart. Praise hands emoji for life. They’re like the control-top part of control-top tights that don’t actually slim you down or suffocate you but make sure you’re all tucked in and safe. I love ‘em.
We all know how much I love talking about menstruation, so hooray, period panties! If you’ve heard of Thinx, Dear Kate is a very similar concept, and I believe have been around longer. I wanted to try Thinx as well, but they seem to be sold out for all of eternity.
Someone suggested wearing period panties (or at least moisture-wicking underwear, which these are) in addition to using a topical product or thigh band to help prevent crotch sweat from making its way down to my thighs. Crotch sweat and chub rub are like Batman and Robin — you can have one without the other, but if you have the other, you’re almost always guaranteed to have one.
Anyway, I LOVE these for that purpose. I paired them with my Bandelettes and was totally covered. Plus, they work amazingly well for their intended purpose! Also, any place that calls plus size “Queen Size” is a place after my own heart (because I am the Chub Rub Queen, naturally).
PRAISE BE. I might love these more than the Big Tights Company products, but only because they come in more color options. Wearing my teal pair under a long black skirt always makes me feel like I’m hiding a fancy secret. (Let it be known: I am almost always hiding a fancy secret.)
I can’t imagine something more comfortable and softer that also STAYS PUT. A lot of my problems with other shorts are that they roll up or down or compress my belly. These do none of that! The material seems thin and like it’ll wear through quickly, but I’ve worn these a lot over the past year and have yet to experience that. Definitely worth the purchase.
Luvees are so lacy and decadent that I felt like I should be wearing a petticoat over them and fanning myself among the gardens of Versailles.
They offer two options:
Thigh Coverall: This functions a lot like Bandelettes but has a thick, silken, inner-thigh guard, which I found much more comfortable on my poor, rubbed-out thighs than any lace material.
Panty Coverall: These are like shorts but with that same thick, silken, inner-thigh guard (these are what I’m wearing in the photo above).
I preferred the latter option, as I found the Thigh Coveralls didn’t stay in place like I needed them to. The material of the Panty Coveralls seems very thin and like it would wear through pretty quickly if I washed them too often, but the inner thigh guard is thick enough that at least that part won’t be wearing through anytime soon. They’re also by far one of the cuter options on this list.
Thigh Society Panty Shorts are THICK. I like them for that on the hottest days because they are undoubtedly the thing that will absorb the most sweat, and the high-rise ones offer the most coverage out of everything on this list. If you like shorter (or even knee-length) skirts and dresses, go for the mid-rise style, unless you want them very obviously showing underneath. The high-rise style is long (but sometimes that’s what you need).
I did find that on less hot days, the material can be too heavy and slides up for down. I also find that their sizing runs a bit big, so if you’re between sizes or unsure, definitely go with the smaller one. They stretch a lot too. But they are undeniably the option here that made me feel the most protected.
Fun tidbit: Thigh Society was founded by Marnie Consky, and her official title is “Chief Anti-Chafing Crusader.” I’m into it.
Finally, something on this list with more than just a few (and super cute!) color options. Undersummers are great, in theory. They’re stretchy, feel very durable (so won’t wear out too quickly), look adorable, and go up to a 4X. But I don’t think their larger sizes were actually made with fat bodies in mind because most fat bodies are not smooth and flat and without dips and curves.
Undersummers are quite long, so fit both low (don’t wear mini skirts with these unless you don’t mind them showing) and high, but the top has no extra give in the belly area, and the top band is made with a hard elastic, which cuts into my stomach when I sit. I found myself constantly adjusting them to avoid pain. To be fair, I do have a particularly large front, but I still think a softer elastic or fabric would be more comfortable for more people.
So, there you have it.
The most comprehensive run-down I can give you of chub rub and thigh-chafing options.
I am more partial to the latter half of this list than the former, but there are some excellent products all over it. There are also some excellent non-chub rub-specific options that are not covered here. (I’ve heard good things about these Comfy Cotton Bike Shorts from Re/Dress.)
Travelers, with your newfound knowledge, go and let your wanderlust (and thighs) be free!
Do you have a go-to chub rub remedy? Share in the comments!
All images, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of Ariel Goldberg.