Wearing the wrong sports bra can seriously ruin a workout. If you're wearing an ill-fitting sports bra, as you exercise and perspire, the accumulated sweat and dampness within your sports bra can cause chafing, irritation or a skin rash on, around or between your breasts
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In many cases, good hygiene and choosing the right bra can alleviate this uncomfortable condition. If your rash is severe or does not respond to home-care remedies, see your doctor.
If your sports bra causes you to sweat and even get a rash, you have to make some changes. Get the right fit and a bra that has moisture-wicking ability.
Rash From a Sports Bra
A common type of rash from a sports bra is heat rash. Heat rash between your breasts or underneath your breasts is caused by excessive sweat getting trapped under your skin and blocking your sweat glands, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
You can prevent heat rash by wearing a lightweight, breathable sports bra, according to Flo Health. Additionally, keep your skin clean and dry to allow your irritated skin to heal (or prevent a rash from occurring in the first place). After exercising, shower and wash the area well with a mild soap. Pat your skin dry, ensuring that you dry well under your breasts.
Avoid using oily sunscreens or moisturizers, which can block your sweat glands even more, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Wash your sports bra after each use because allowing perspiration to dry on the bra and then wearing it again could cause further irritation. In some cases, perspiration causes a rash when mixed with residue from laundry detergent. Try switching to an unscented brand of laundry detergent.
Sports Bra Chafing
Chafing happens when parts of your body rub against your sports bra over and over again, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Moisture — aka sweat — can make chafing worse.
Chafing typically looks like a red rash, raised bumps or dry skin, and you may feel itching or stinging in the affected area, according to the Cleveland Clinic. More severe chafing may look like blisters or sores and can bleed.
To treat the area of your skin that's been affected by chafing, use mild soap and water to clean it and then dry it thoroughly, per the Cleveland Clinic. You can apply aloe vera and/or petroleum jelly to help it heal and prevent irritation.
To prevent sports bra chafing, you need to wear a properly fitted sports bra (more on that below). It may help to get fitted by a professional. Avoid wearing sports bras made from certain materials that increase the likelihood of chafing, like cotton. Last, you can use anti-chafing products, like petroleum jelly ($5.10, Amazon.com) or Body Glide anti-chafe balm ($8.99, Amazon.com) to prevent chafing as well.
Choosing Your Sports Bra
Pick a sports bra that fits snugly, without rubbing or riding up, but that is not too tight. If your bra moves while you exercise, it could chafe the skin on the areas that it touches. You should only be able to fit one finger between your skin and the band.
Once you've worn and washed your bra several dozen times, the elastic might start to stretch, causing the bra to be too large. At this point, you might need to replace the bra if you cannot adjust it to make it tighter.
Buy a bra made of breathable, moisture-wicking fabric, such as Coolmax, according to the University of Colorado Hospital. The fabric is a blend of polyester fabrics — not the cotton you might expect — that sport oblong fibers with lengthwise grooves. It's these fibers that wick sweat away from your skin.
Treating Bra Rash and Irritation
Once your rash is washed and dried, treat the rash to minimize discomfort and to allow it to heal. If it's a dry rash, such as one caused by eczema, applying a thick moisturizer and hydrocortisone cream can help.
If the area is chafed, go braless if possible and wear a loose, cotton shirt to allow your skin to breathe. Cool compresses can help relieve itching and burning reports Mayo Clinic. A severe rash warrants a trip to the doctor because you might need a topical antibiotic.
If you're prone to a rash under or in between your breasts, drying the area with a hair dryer after showering might help prevent irritation.
- University of Colorado Hospital: "Choosing a Sports Bra"
- Breast Cancer Care: "Intertrigo (Rash Under the Breast)"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dermatitis - Lifestyle and Home Remedies"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Heat Illness"
- Flo Health: "Rash Under Your Breasts: What You Need to Know"
- Mayo Clinic: "Heat Rash"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Chafing"