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What Are the Best Remedies for Under-Breast Rash?

Yeast or fungus in warm skin folds can trigger a painful under-breast rash. Women offer a range of remedies to cope with this problem.
What Are the Best Remedies for Under-Breast Rash?
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Women rarely talk about one delicate problem that many of them experience. It is especially common when the weather is warm and humid. These conditions favor the growth of fungus under the breasts that leads to under-breast rash.

Drug companies may be unaware of the problem. As far as we can tell, there are no FDA-approved products specifically designed to ease the redness, itching and discomfort these infections create. As a result, women have come up with their own approaches for treating this problem.

What Do Women Do for Under-Breast Rash?

We have heard from hundreds of readers about their ingenious remedies for under-breast rash. Here is one recent letter.

Q. I read with interest the letter from the large-breasted woman with a possible fungal infection under her breasts. She mentioned that cornstarch hadn’t worked. I was told by a doctor that the fungus actually FEEDS on the cornstarch and to avoid it. Do you have any information on this?

I do use amber Listerine and also milk of magnesia. Yes, the Listerine stings if I have a rash, but it leaves me feeling cool and dry. For me, the milk of magnesia seems especially effective in fighting the rash. In addition, I wash my underwear after every wearing.

A. Thanks for sharing your experience with under-breast rash. There is a medical term for this condition: inframammary intertrigo. However, relatively little research has been devoted to it.

What’s the Story on Cornstarch and Fungus?

Many doctors as well as patients are convinced that cornstarch can fuel skin fungus. Despite searching, we have been unable to find studies confirming this belief. The one study we found that addressed it directly found that “cornstarch and talc powders do not enhance the growth of yeasts on human skin” (Pediatric Dermatology, April 1984).

Zinc oxide:

Keeping skin dry and reducing friction are pillars of preventing irritation. Some people find that a diaper cream containing zinc oxide can be helpful. One reader reports, however, that this can have an alarming effect at the airport.

Q. I used zinc oxide cream under my breasts, and it helped tremendously to heal up a red, itchy rash. It also set off the metal detectors at the airport.

The next time I flew, I didn’t use the cream that day. Despite that, I still set off the alarms. I now avoid the cream for two days before flying, since I guess it soaks into my skin.

A. Thanks for the caution. Although zinc is a metal, we haven’t been able to determine whether most airport metal detectors react to zinc oxide creams.

We did find another possible explanation, though. Some diaper rash products or other zinc oxide creams contain glycerin. TSA screening for explosives will sometimes pick this up because of the chemical similarity to nitroglycerin. Avoiding the cream for a few days before air travel seems prudent.

Silver against under-breast fungi:

Health care providers have recommended moisture-wicking textile with silver for under-breast rash, to keep the area dry (Wound Care Canada, vol. 11, no. 2, 2013). Silver also has antimicrobial activity, but these cloths are sold as wound care and are a bit pricey.

Listerine also kills microbes. In addition, menthol and methyl salicylate in the formula trigger a cooling sensation. Washing underwear after each wearing seems like a sensible precaution to avoid re-infection.

Athlete’s foot medicine:

“I had a fungus rash under my breasts. There was some Tinactin antifungal cream for athlete’s foot in my bathroom cabinet. I used it twice a day and in about a week the rash was gone.”

Diaper rash medicine:

“Under my breasts I get a very painful ‘rashy type redness’ that has a bad odor. It even seeps liquid sometimes from the rash. My solution, not ‘cure’, is to wash, pat dry and then apply Zincofax (for diaper rashes). Within ten minutes all the stinging and burning is gone and in a few hours everything has dried up and the skin is back to normal for the time being.”

Zincofax is zinc oxide, which has been used for decades to protect skin from moisture and irritation.

Vaginal cream:

“Do you think vaginal cream will work as well? I’ve been having this rash for close to a year now.”

Many women do use Vagisil or similar products for yeast infections to treat their under-breast rash.

One reader offered her solution, Monistat Chafing Relief Powder Gel:

“I have had this issue (under-breast rash) my entire life. Like my mother and grandmother, I started using cornstarch or baby powder. That worked, but it has to be applied twice a day or more often depending on how badly you sweat. Getting powder everywhere at work was embarrassing. When I started driving a big truck, trying to apply the powder became even trickier.

“Zinc oxide protected the skin, but it felt gross. I can’t remember how I was introduced to it, but I started using Monistat Chafing Relief Powder Gel. It is primarily dimethicone. This product goes on like a gel, but feels like a silky powder. It doesn’t dry, but gives just the right amount of slippage.

“I use Monistat yeast infection cream first for the required number of days to heal any yeast infection. Then Monistat Chafing Relief Gel protects the skin from moisture and friction.

“I apply it in the morning and it will actually last all day. It is a little on the expensive side, but it reduced the number of boils caused by hair follicles, sweat, heat and friction that powder usually didn’t prevent.

“I have been using this product for years and I tell my doctors about it every chance I get. They are often surprised at how healthy my skin is under my breasts, under my stomach and in my groin.

“Other products that contain dimethicone don’t feel the same. The closest alternative I have found so far is Lanacane Anti-Chafing Gel, but it isn’t as silky as Monistat. It changed my life.”

What Other Remedies Can Ease Under-Breast Rash?

Other remedies that have been shared include coconut oil, old-fashioned amber Listerine, Vicks VapoRub, Zeasorb powder and apple cider vinegar. Many women also suggest using a cotton handkerchief or absorbent pads under the bra to keep the area dry. You can read even more about such remedies here.

Milk of Magnesia:

Most people think of milk of magnesia as a chalky white liquid laxative. Perhaps the most famous brand is Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia. The active ingredient is magnesium hydroxide.

Many years ago a reader told us that milk of magnesia (MoM) was a great underarm deodorant. That in turn led us to develop a whole line of aluminum-free MoM Roll-on Deodorants. Learn more about them at this link.

We mention this because some women have taken to using antiperspirants under their breasts. We’re not sure that is a good idea, since all antiperspirants contain aluminum. Some scientists have raised concerns about aluminum and breast cancer (Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry (Aug. 15, 2015).

That brings us back to MoM. Visitors to this website say it works well for under-breast rash.

F.G. reports:

“MoM! Milk of magnesia works well. Dab it on and let it dry.”

Joanne says:

“I have been using the People’s Pharmacy MoM (milk of magnesia) roll-on deodorant under my breasts for itchy fungal rashes. I use my hair dryer to dry the MoM. The rash usually clears up in 2 days. I LOVE MOM!”

T.W. agrees with Joanne:

“I used to dab milk of magnesia under my breasts, but now I use the People’s Pharmacy roll on milk of magnesia and enjoy easy, non-messy, and quick applications in addition to a healing plus preventive treatment! Thanks for such a great product!”

No One Best Solution for Under-Breast Rash:

Ultimately, trial and error will yield the best approach for any individual woman. Some women sing the praises of vodka. No, you don’t drink it! You apply it. Others recommend Noxzema skin cream. Gold Bond also has its advocates. Nothing works for everyone.

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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. .
  • Leyden JJ, "Corn starch, Candida albicans, and diaper rash." Pediatric Dermatology, April 1984. DOI: 10.1111/j.1525-1470.1984.tb01138.x
  • Sibbald RG et al, "A Practical Approach to the Prevention and Management of Intertrigo, or Moisture-associated Skin Damage, due to Perspiration: Expert Consensus on Best Practice." Wound Care Canada, vol. 11, no. 2, 2013.
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