When weather gets hot and sticky, many people find their skin reacts in unpleasant ways. Rashes near the groin and under the breasts are especially common in the dog days of summer. What can you do to treat under-breast rash or jock itch?
A Cry for Help to Treat Under-Breast Rash:
Q. I have large breasts and have had an unpleasant rash under them for about a week now. I have tried a bunch of home remedies that I found on your website. Coconut oil was too greasy. Paper towels get stuck to my skin and baby powder leaves tiny clumps under my breasts. I even tried Desitin diaper rash cream but it dried the skin out too much. Do you have any other advice for me? I am feeling desperate.
Ways to Ease Uncomfortable Rashes:
A. Under-breast rash, or intertrigo, is an exceptionally common problem at this time of year. Heat and humidity encourage the growth of fungus that can cause a rash. It is the same type of organism that causes jock itch. While there are a number of approaches you can try to treat under-breast rash, we urge you to see a doctor and make sure that it is nothing more serious.
Some men have found that using Cetaphil cleanser for the affected area can help control jock itch. The propylene glycol it contains has antifungal activity. We would expect this cleanser to be equally effective in easing under-breast rash.
One reader offered the following innovative approach:
“I have read your advice on the heat rash women often develop under their breasts. I myself have tried many things, but then I experimented with wiping the area twice a day with hand sanitizer.
“Applying hand sanitizer stings for a minute, but the rash dried up in far less than a week. If I am careful to use this remedy at the first sign of redness, the heat rash never really gets a start. I am sure the antibacterial activity of hand sanitizer is what makes it work so well.”
Although we have not seen research confirming that a rash under the breasts is caused by yeast, we suspect that is often the culprit. That is presumably why many women find that antifungal creams or powders help them overcome under-breast rash.
Another popular remedy is using dandruff shampoo to wash the skin that has the rash. Be gentle: fungal infections should not be scrubbed or irritated.
Other people, both men and women, have utilized the antifungal activity of old-fashioned amber Listerine for jock itch or to treat under-breast rash.
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Elaine of North Carolina told her story:
“Listerine works wonders on this rash under the breasts. Apply it daily following a shower. It doesn’t hurt to apply it before bed as well.
“Once the Listerine has dried, pat on cornstarch or a good body powder without perfume. Results should be seen in less than a week. Once control has been established and rash disappears, apply Listerine every few days to maintain rash-less state.”
Milk of Magnesia:
Jim in Virginia contributed this:
“I’ve had tremendous success with most skin irritations by just applying Milk of Magnesia. I’ve seen it work on shingles (mine), jock itch (my brother), a scalp rash that was diagnosed as a viral infection that persisted after two years of treatment (a business associate), diaper rash…you name it, it works. Amazing. I buy the generic version at the dollar store.”
Antifungal Creams or Diaper Rash:
Some women find that OTC antifungal creams or ointments do the job, while others devise absorbent bra liners that can be replaced easily when they become damp. Remedies that work for diaper rash can often overcome under-breast rash as well.
Helen M. wrote:
“I am using a baby ointment with zinc oxide; when this is finished I plan to go to straight zinc ointment. I use the ointment every day, under my breasts, under my belly and in my groin. What with being diabetic, I have a tendency towards yeast infections. If one slips by my prevention methods, I use Bag Balm to treat it.”
Tea Tree Oil:
Some people like to use a lotion containing tea tree oil, which also fights fungus. Be careful, though. Tea tree oil can trigger an allergic reaction similar to contact dermatitis in sensitive people. That is the last thing you need in that delicate area.
Here is one last suggestion, from another reader:
“Put two green tea bags in a medium size bowl with water. Let this sit for a couple of hours. Use a clean washcloth dipped in the solution as a cold compress a few times a day. I have used green tea bags in bath water when the kids had diaper rash, and it did wonders.”
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. Read Terry's Full Bio.
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Aladag H et al, "Antifungal activity of green tea leaves (Camellia sinensis L.) sampled in different harvest time." Pharmacognosy Magazine, [serial online] 2009 [cited 2019 Jul 29];5, Suppl S1:437-40. Available from: http://www.phcog.com/text.asp?2009/5/20/437/59772
Steinmann J et al, "Anti-infective properties of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a component of green tea." British Journal of Pharmacology, March 2013. DOI: 10.1111/bph.12009
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