What is chamois cream, how to use and apply it, and the best brands in 2019.
Chamois cream is a viscous cream that is outstanding for preventing chafing. It is most commonly used by bicyclists, but hikers can benefit from its properties just as well. When traveling long distances, it is inevitable that the repetitive rubbing of your clothes against your body will cause chafing which, if neglected, may grow into open wounds that make it painful and uncomfortable to walk.
The invention of chamois cream dates back to the 1940s. At the time, bicyclists would use shorts which design included a thin leather padding that prevented the fabric of the short from rubbing against their legs. That piece of leather took the name of the animal it was made out of, the chamois (pronounced sham-eee). Chamois cream was initially invented to nourish the fatigued leather and later evolved into the anti-chafing cream as we know it today.
1. Eliminates Friction: The chamois cream forms a protective layer between the skin and your clothing so your body will glide smoothly without any friction.
2. Prevents Friction: Most creams also have antibacterial and antifungal agents that help prevent infection
3. Relieves Minor Aches: Some creams feature compounds that trigger a light anesthetic and cooling effect on the skin.
4. Washable: Unlike petroleum jelly which is hard to remove and can stain clothing, chamois cream easily washes off your skin and clothing with soap and water.
Note not all formulas include ingredients to treat chafing. See our chafing prevention article to learn how to prevent and manage it better.
WHERE TO APPLY
Skin (Preferable). Chamois cream goes where chafing and sweating are most common: the inner thigh, the crotch area, the butt cheeks, and the underarms. Be generous with the amount to make sure you cover all the areas likely to get irritated, but don't overdo it; a quarter-sized dollop per application should be sufficient. Be careful to avoid intimate areas.
Clothing (Optional). Some users, especially cyclists, prefer to apply the cream directly to their shorts instead of their skin. Lather it liberally on the high-friction points of the saddle.
HOW TO APPLY
Applying chamois cream to shorts. Note applying directly to skin is preferable.
Some formulas use petroleum-based products such as mineral oil or synthetics like Propylene Glycol, while others use natural ingredients. Some creams have a cooling or tingling effect that comes from witch hazel, menthol, and similar compounds. Other elements include aloe, vitamin A/E, cocoa butter and other antifungal and antibacterial components.
FORMAT: TUB OR TUBE?
Chamois cream is most commonly available as a tub of cream that you can apply using your fingers. Just be sure to wash your hands in between applications, so you don't contaminate the container after applying the cream to your nether region. Some companies package their creams in a tube to discourage the not-so-hygienic practice of double dipping, while others avoid the messiness of a cream altogether by using a hard stick that you rub on like deodorant.
MALE VS FEMALE CREAMS
Be aware that there are male and female formulas for chamois cream and they are made differently for the different anatomy. Most women's products remove the menthol or mint oil that tend to burn and sting a women's sensitive area. Buy the correct product for your gender or opt for a unisex version.
There are less expensive alternatives to chamois cream including ag Balm, Queen Helene’s Cocoa Butter Creme, Udderly Smooth, and Noxzema Cream. These don't often wash off as easily as chamois cream and don't offer the same combination of lubrication, emollient and anti-bacterial qualities. In the end, you should try a variety of products to find the best one that works for you.
Prefer a DIY option instead of a commercial formula? There are homemade recipes that use all natural ingredients like this recipe from Coach Levi or Hannah Nicklin. It takes a little bit of effort but you can tailor make the recipe to your preference.
Cost: $20 for an 8-ounce jar on Amazon
Ingredients: Peppermint oil, tea tree oil, cocoa seed butter, sunflower seed oil, menthol, melaleuca oil, hamamelis, the Wu-Chu-Yu herb, and organic silicone compounds.
Buttonhole is a long-lasting, vegan chamois cream that uses all-natural ingredients. It is a thick cream that has a distinct minty scent and produces a tingling feeling that helps keep high-friction areas feeling cool.
It is also available in a tingle-free version.
Cost: $18.97 for a 4.7-ounce container on Amazon
Ingredients: Water, Glycerine, Propylene Glycol, Decyl Oleate, Polydecene, Witch Hazel Extract, Almond Oil, Sorbitan Stearate, Menthol, Cyclomethicone, Oak Bark Extract, Methylparaben, Retinyl Palmitate, BHA.
A mainstay in the kit of many cyclists including Lance Armstrong, Assos cream is known for its cooling and analgesic effects. The cream is thick, easy to apply and long-lasting. Its great reputation also makes it one of the more expensive chamois creams on the market.
Cost: $20 for an 8-ounce jar on Amazon
Ingredients: Water, Mineral Oil, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Glycerin, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Leaf Extract, Lanolin, Tocopheryl Acetate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Zea Mays (Corn) Oil, Retinyl Palmitate, Cholecalciferol, Schinus Mole Fruit Extract, Menthol, Potassium Sorbate, Peg-100 Stearate, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Disodium Edta, Cetyl Hydroxyethylcellulose
Paceline Chamois Butt'r is as popular as the Assos cream but less expensive. Chamois Butt'r is a medium thick cream that spreads on evenly. It is available in two versions - the Eurostyle which includes menthol, and the original which doesn't. Again, this is to accommodate people who are not fond of the icy-hot sensation that menthol creates.
Because it is one of the more runny chamois creams out there, it is available in tubes as well as jars.
There's also a women's specific version that is pH-balanced and does not use menthol. Ingredients in the female version include aloe vera, green tea leaf extract, tea tree oil, shea butter, and lavender oil.
Cost: $16.95 for a 4.25-ounce jar on Amazon
Ingredients: water, aloe, sunflower oil, beeswax, tea tree oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, castor seed oil, echinacea.
Gooch Guard uses all natural ingredients to lubricate and soothe regions prone to chafing. The cream is similar to a hand or foot cream in consistency and goes on smoothly. Gooch Guard is effective for up to four hours. It's a unisex formula and does not contain menthol.
Cost: $10 for 1.5 ounces on Amazon
Ingredients: Allantoin, caprylic/capric triglyceride, cetearyl alcohol, d-panthenol (pro vitamin b), fragrance, glyceryl behenate, glyceryl dibehenate, ozokerite wax, stearyl alcohol, tocopherol (Vitamin E), tribehenate.
Made by Body Glide, Chamois Glide is an allergen-free, plant-derived formula that can be applied directly to your skin, shorts or undergarments. Because it is a stick, Chamois glide goes on dry and is not sticky or gooey after application. However, a downside to this format is that you cannot (should not) share the product with other people.
Cost: $20 for an 8-ounce jar on Amazon
Ingredients: Aloe barbadensis (Organic Aloe Vera) Juice, Cocos nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Emulsifying Wax NF, Palm Stearic Acid, Hamamelis virginiana (Witch Hazel), Cetyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Xanthan Gum, Mannan, Tetrasodium EDTA, Tea Tree Oil, Citric Acid
With aloe and coconut oil as its primary ingredients, Doc's Skincare Natural Chamois Cream is a loose formula compared to the other leading brands. People either love or hate its fluidity. It includes tea tree oil and witch hazel which protect against fungal and bacterial build-up.
By Kelly Hodgkins: Kelly is a full-time backpacking guru. She can be found on New Hampshire and Maine trails, leading group backpacking trips, trail running or alpine skiing.
About Greenbelly: After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.
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