I still remember, vividly, the first time I realised I wasn’t a freak for having thighs that rubbed together in summer.
It was 2006, before the “thigh gap” was an aspirational hashtag, before “mermaid thighs” were its body-positive counterpart – although several years after I’d stood in front of the mirrors at ballet class next to a friend who cheerfully pointed out, “Look, my legs don’t touch at the top and yours do!” I was on holiday in Paris with two of my best friends. It was July and it was trop chaud. Très… whatever the French for “sweating like a pig” is. After several days of wincing round the tourist spots barelegged in our best sundresses, one of us finally asked, in hushed tones, “Are anyone else’s thighs…. sore?”
“OH, THANK GOD,” we cried – and immediately our inner thighs all stung a little less. They were soothed, like sisterly balm, by the relief of realising it’s Not Just You.
Unfortunately the Sisterly Not Just You Relief Balm is a metaphorical concept I’ve made up, not a product you can buy in Boots. So until it is, we need practical solutions to stop summer shredding our thighs like old tissue.
It’s an issue that affects basically everyone with sweat glands and thighs that meet in the middle, should they want to take their tights off in a heatwave
The one we devised that day in Paris was a classic: cutting off a pair of tights above the knee. It’s a method that women have used to ward off chafing for decades, ever since we’ve been able to flash a bare calf in public without scandalising the vicar. It’s thrifty, easy and doesn’t require messy reapplication, but has significant disadvantages, too – one, that the tights tend to roll up, immediately rendering them useless, and two, that if anyone catches a glimpse when the wind blows, they look a bit like a surgical accessory.
Since then, my thighs and I have been on a mission – to find the perfect solution, and also to give the topic an airing as often as I possibly can. Because it’s depressing, but hardly surprising, that chafing remedies still haven’t made it into the mainstream fashion-and-beauty market. If my anecdotal research findings (ie the droves of women replying, “Omg THIS!!” every time I rant about it on Twitter) are anything to go by, it’s an issue that affects basically everyone with sweat glands and thighs that meet in the middle, should they want to take their tights off in a heatwave – and yet we still can’t walk into a shop and buy a prettily packaged bottle of “Chafe-B-Gone” alongside our serum and instant tanner.
Instead, we’re forced to go guerrilla and invent our own DIY methods, passing them on like folklore through whispered tips in changing rooms and public loos. Or else buy embarrassing tubes with euphemistic names from the same aisle as the hemorrhoid cream. We have to hide in the shadows – metaphorically and also sometimes literally. With our legs apart, using a flyer as a makeshift fan.
So, in the interests of saving everyone another summer of secret suffering, here are the best anti-chafe methods in my arsenal, as tested and rated by my own sisterhood of the unravelling pants. All in favour, say, “Thigh.”
Science still hasn’t concluded whether we should be worried about talc or not – one study in 2003 suggested that the absorbent mineral might increase our risk of ovarian cancer, while other research has found no link. But if you’re happy using it, a good talcum powder can mop up sweat and keep friction at bay for a short while. Just be prepared to reapply regularly, and to leave a suspect trail of white dust in your wake. 3/5.
By the same logic of absorbing moisture and stopping friction, a powdery dry shampoo should be a thigh’s best friend – but although a spray can makes application much easier than talc, my intrepid tester reports that “it turned into a paste really quickly”. And if the Friends episode with Ross’s leather trousers taught us anything, it’s to stop right there. Emergencies only. 1/5.
Body Glide The Original Anti Chafe Anti Blister Balm
A little like applying Pritt Stick to your thighs, Body Glide is a heavy-duty barrier balm that promises to resist sweat and protect your skin all day. It works a treat on blisters and under bra straps, but on tender thigh skin my tester found it more of a nuisance than a help. “I was just very aware of it at all times,” she says. Let’s not talk about the identical “For Her” version that comes in a pink tube, either. 2/5.
Lanacane Anti-Chafing Gel
Working on the principle of keeping your skin slippy, rather than dry, Lanacane Anti-Chafing Gel gives the same silky finish as a silicone-based face primer – and, in fact, it has cult status among beauty vloggers as a cheaper alternative to Smashbox. On the thighs, it feels nicely soothing and reduced friction up to a point, but on a long, sticky walk we found it actually made things more uncomfortable. Best for short-shorts, where a fabric barrier would look weird. 3/5.
We’re talking long-line, microfibre pants, somewhere between Spanx and long johns. Jockey Skimmies Slipshorts are some of the best and their US range features five different nude skintones. They give reliable protection, but the main drawback is that they add an extra layer of insulation to what is, frankly, an already sweaty situation. Best for cooler days and spontaneous cartwheels. 4/5.
Like the lace tops of hold-ups without the tights below, Bandelettes were invented specifically to prevent thigh chafing and look vaguely sexy, not surgical. Much breezier around your nethers than cycling shorts or tights, once they’re on they stay put all day and a pair could last you years. I discovered them a few years ago and have never looked back – except to boast about my unchafed thighs as I hike cheerfully up hills in a midi dress. The Holy Grail. 4.5/5.