The People's Perspective on Medicine

Fighting Fungus in Sensitive Places

Young woman allergy scratching her abdomen stomach with fingers isolated on a white background

This is the time of year that fungi thrive. Heat and humidity are the lifeblood for mold and mildew. Just check your shower curtain or the crawl space under your house in August to see signs of fungal growth.

Your body is also susceptible to a variety of fungal infections when heat and humidity crank up. Yeast is a type of fungus especially likely to occur on the skin. Creases and other warm damp areas are most vulnerable.

Male athletes frequently complain about jock itch this time of year. Men are not the only ones who suffer, however. Women can experience problems with fungus in the groin area. They also complain bitterly of bra itch.

Many have shared their difficulties and their solutions on fighting fungus in sensitive places on our website (PeoplesPharmacy.com). Here are some of the favorites:

“I have been using Gold Bond Medicated Body Powder for this problem for years. I use it every morning after showering. Just make sure the area under the breast is dry, then rub a generous amount of powder over the entire region before you put on your bra. It works wonders, you don’t need a prescription and it’s not expensive.”

Gold Bond Medicated Body Powder contains menthol and zinc oxide to protect the skin and ease itching. Zinc and menthol seem to have anti-fungal activity, which may explain the benefit (Molecules, Jan. 7, 2009).

Several people have found that old-fashioned amber Listerine helps keep the fungus and itch under control. Men have been using it (cautiously) to control jock itch. Here is one woman’s report:

“I splashed Listerine on under my breast and the itching was gone in a couple of minutes. Eight hours later, the itchiness had returned, so I repeated the treatment. The itching disappeared again. Neither rubbing alcohol nor salt water worked as well.”

Listerine contains a number of herbal oils with anti-fungal properties, including menthol, thymol and eucalyptol.

Other women have found that Desenex powder helps. This athlete’s foot treatment contains the anti-fungal drug miconazole along with cornstarch.

Keeping the area dry is oft-repeated common sense. One woman remarks,

“Keep it dry and clean and use an anti-fungal product when needed. It’s basically like having athlete’s foot under the breasts so you have to treat it like athlete’s foot.”

Several women warn that the elastic in bras can exacerbate irritation and suggest wearing only cotton bras. Another approach is donning the bra as infrequently as possible, or changing it every day if skipping it is not practical.

Another fascinating approach is milk of magnesia applied to the area:

“Once you get the fungus under control, try MoM [milk of magnesia] under the breast. Blow it dry [use a low heat setting] before getting dressed.”

People have used this ubiquitous laxative on skin for a variety of conditions from dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis to acne or underarm odor.

The best way to discourage yeast is to deprive it of moisture. That may be why many of these home remedies are so successful. Old-fashioned ingredients like zinc, menthol and thymol can also be surprisingly helpful in the never-ending fight against fungi. You can find more stories about fighting fungal itch and remedies to fight fungus and yeast at PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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    About the Author
    Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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    I work outdoors year-round in Florida and always get the summer itch under my bra from sweating. I wear a cotton yoga -type bralette so it is not latex, and it is only seasonal. I tried cornstarch, but it dried my skin out so bad, I itched for a whole different reason. My trick is to shower well, dry off and apply aloe gel mixed with a few drops of tea tree oil, an antifungal. I can’t use OTC powders due to perfumes & fragrance.

    I’ve had terrible rashes for about a year, and the only thing that really helped was a little bottle of FungiCure from the drugstore. It’s made for use on toenail fungus, but I paint it on my rashes under the bra (and on my shins) twice a day and it helps immensely. It doesn’t harm the skin, but it’s a little oily. I leave it on for a few minutes, then rub the excess off lightly before dressing to protect my clothes.

    Would LISTERINE work for a nail fungus? Have also heard that Vick’s vapor rub helps on this too.

    Thoughts?

    I used straight tea tree oil on a nasty toe nail infection. Worked within days. Not sure I should have used it without diluting, for safety, but it did work.

    I have itchy labia that stings. Also noticed that there are small like spots that out break that are tender and sore. I have STD and the GPS HSBC given me a strong steroid cream which helps but once stopping, it comes back again. I’ve been told to use it sparingly. Will I have to use this forever, as it thins the skin?

    If corn starch isn’t good to eliminate yeast infection under breasts, is talc ok?

    I have bumps which burn and/or itch on the buttocks and have had 27 different ointments prescribed and some over the counter creams such as what is used for diaper rash (zinc ointment, vitamin A & D ointment) and Gold Bond. Also tried anti-itch creams. All this has cost me a fortune and nothing works. I have also done olive oil sitz baths twice daily per one of the doctors. No help.
    I also have had several biopsies and they comeback as undetermined. I have seen 4 dermatologists without success. Also, saw a dermatologist who did allergy testing on my back, not for seasonal allergies, but things like metal, plastic, nickel, even preservatives – he tested me for 82 different things and nothing was positive. I don’t have this problem anywhere else on my body. I live in a city with a top notch medical center and I have seen the best of the best. Any ideas from anyone?

    Wouldn’t crotch fungus feed on corn starch in body powder? I am looking for a medicated pure talc powder.

    This sounds like hives which is a reaction to something. I suffered from hives for years, went to many doctors and had the 180 pokes & pricks from allergists. I figured it out myself that I had developed a food sensitivity, which is different than an allergy. You typically develop a food sensitivity from eating too much, too often of a certain food.

    Mine was anything in the fruit family, which includes tomatoes & peppers. I have found oral Benedryl helps to calm down the reaction. Topically, I mix a few drops of tea tree oil, a few drops of peppermint oil (cooling) in aloe gel & apply liberally after a shower. It helps heal and relieves the stinging & itching.

    I have constant itchy rashes also. I also have tried a lot of things. The best so far is Rite Aide brand hydro-cortisone ointment, it has to be the ointment not the cream. It is rate on a scale from one to ten as a ten in effectiveness. The other thing is to sit on ice packs. But make sure over your clothes because ice would burn the skin. I hope it helps.

    Women should not use talc in their crotch area- it can cause cancer. Just and fyi for future readers in case that have not heard.

    Hello,
    I had been diagnosed with oral thrush, but this quickly got worse after using prescribed mouth wash. The thrush stayed at back of throat. I don’t know what to use to get rid of this. I hate not eating all my regular foods. I’ve been on the candida diet for 6 weeks with no relief (just a little weight loss). It really bugs me throughout the day. Any suggestions?

    Bra liners or bra guards are a huge help when combined with body powder. They’re a soft strip of fabric that protects the skin from underwire chafing against the rib cage, and they wick away moisture as well.

    I can not eat any dairy. No products with milk in it,which I learned even Bugles,the snack,have milk in them. I was surprised . It is worth a try,maybe you can not tolerate dairy. Good luck. So late in seeing this. Gee

    He should try hydrogen peroxide for toenail fungus. Full strength! My husband used it and it took awhile, but now gone. Good luck

    I had the breast thing and if you can prevent it from the beginning then a remedy may not be needed as much. I rub deodorant under my breasts when I dress. It prevents me from really sweating most of the time, so I rarely get the yeast/fungal issue. Sometimes just a little, but not like before the deodorant. Don’t leave a wet bathing suit on too long either this really creates a problem especially if it has an elastic or a bra built in under your breasts.

    Hi Tracy,
    I couldn’t find the original post that mentioned corn starch, but your comment sure rang a bell with me. In my case, I had always used vasaline to lubricate my anus after every bowel movement to keep my hemorrhoids from becoming engorged. Then Terry mentioned that she used extra virgin olive oil as a vaginal lubricant in a surprisingly forthcoming revelation, on air. So that got me thinking that I should replace the vasaline with EVOO, which I did. It was about two weeks later that I noticed the itching from the fungal infection around my anus, and from then on it seemed the more diligently I applied the EVOO, the worse the itching became. So my guess was that the olive oil was providing a much more hospital environment for the fungus than was the vasaline. After I got rid of the fungal infection with iodine, I went back to vasaline, and have had no problems since then.
    So thanks for reminding me that some “cures” can actually exacerbate the problem.
    Sincerely, Russ

    Don’t use cornstarch to fight a fungal/yeast infection. The cornstarch “feeds” the infection. That’s why you haven’t gotten relief. It does suffer symptomatic relief, for an hour or so, ultimately, it does more harm than good. I know that some people say they’ve gotten relief from cornstarch, but everyone’s different. I really urge not to use it.

    Beware of SPANX and other ‘shape wear.’ By pressing the upper thighs, bottom, and belly so close together, I’m convinced these products create a perfect breeding ground for bacteria to thrive. After buying a pair of SPANX panties once…wearing them just once…I contracted a very painful and itchy Candida Albans infection. It cost me a couple of hundred dollars to treat, as I have a very high deductible on my medical insurance. I’d rather let my tummy pouch hang out there, than go through that misery again.
    I wrote to the company in a polite, FYI fashion and they were cordial but very dismissive. Not surprising.

    Several years ago I was suffering from fungus under my breasts. I began tucking a thin cotton washcloth or a man’s handkerchief over the vulnerable area and tucking the edge of it into the bottom of the cups of bra.
    It is a fungus-keep it clean and dry.

    I rub natural deodorant under my breasts in the summer before putting on my bra. It has stopped the itching.

    Hi…I’ve been using full-strength Listerine to treat fungus on the scalp. My first experience was while serving in Vietnam during the mid-sixties. Whenever I have an ‘itch’ I rub in Listerine and after several treatments the problem’s solved. Try it you can’t go wrong! B

    I had fingernail fungus several years ago and used Listerine. I dipped my fingers in Listerine and let them dry a short time then rinsed. In a few weeks the fungus was gone. It was a miracle, thanks to Listerine!

    What is the difference between using apple cider or white vinegar? My husband has been soaking his fungal toenails in white vinegar for several years, using it for 15-20 minutes in the evening. It’s taking a very long time, but they seem to be getting better.
    I’ve had a terrible time with a yeast infection under my full- figured breasts– they will heal and then break out again very quickly and the peeling skin is painful. I use lots of cornstarch baby powder on them when I get dressed, which helps keep the skin dry, but doesn’t clear up the infection. I’ll try the vinegar next time it erupts.

    I just had, what I consider to be, a rather severe anal rash with black streaks. So I assumed it was a fungus. I treated it with three applications of 10 drops of 5% iodine solution in a shot glass (applied with my finger), 8 hours apart. After three days the rash was gone. YeeHah! It cost about 10 cents. Eat that, Big Pharma.
    Sincerely,
    Russ

    Could you be allergic to the corn in cornstarch? Most all corn products are GMO too.

    Don’t use cornstarch! Use yogurt, Greek because it’s thicker and will stay on better. after it is cleared up, keep it dry and clean.

    Many years ago, I lived in Florida and contracted a vaginal itch that was so bad I went to the doctor. He said it was caused by humidity and prescribed a small tube of ointment, cost? $60.00. Needless to say, the itch continued. I received another tube, quite useless, as the itch continued and my skin was red and leather-like from my knees to chest. I spoke to a friend and she recommended plain vinegar. Charm! It worked.

    Coconut Oil is Remarkably Effective! It is also splendid for many, many other things. Moisturizing face and body, rough skin, under breast fungus, athlete’s feet, hangnails, poison ivy itch, insect bites…the list goes on! It is sold in the Cooking Oil department of many grocery stores. I recommend Fresh-Pressed Virgin, Whole Kernel Unrefined – readily available at
    health food stores. It is almost like “magic in a jar.” Google it!

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