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What Can You Do for Summer Skin Problems?

Keeping skin dry with wicking underwear and zinc oxide may help heal summer skin problems like jock itch and undeer-breast rash.
What Can You Do for Summer Skin Problems?
A persons armpit afflicted with a yeast infection.

When temperature and humidity rise, our body’s natural air conditioning kicks in. That means we start sweating. As the moisture evaporates from our skin, it cools us, at least a little bit. Unfortunately, it can also contribute to summer skin problems.

Although sweating is important for our health, it has certain drawbacks. Moisture accumulating in skin folds creates a welcoming environment for fungal infections.

What Is the Cause of Jock Itch?

Athletes often complain about jock itch. But you do not have to run or play team sports to suffer from tinea cruris. It often appears as an itchy red rash in the groin area. Like many other summer skin problems, jock itch is basically a fungal infection of the skin. 

Years ago, dermatologists recommended products with talcum powder to soak up excess moisture. Ever since Johnson & Johnson was sued over the claims that its baby powder caused cancer, however, people have been reevaluating the use of talcum powder-containing products in the genital area. At last count, there were 19,000 pending lawsuits. In one case, an appeals court judge in Missouri ruled that the damages J&J must pay should be roughly halved to about $2 billion.

What Can You Do for Summer Skin Problems?

What can you do to fight jock itch and the related condition, under-breast rash? Irritated, itchy skin under the bra line has a technical term, intertrigo. It is usually caused by fungi like those responsible for tinea cruris and responds to similar treatments. Occasionally, however, bacteria that live on the skin may get out of balance, allowing Staph or Strep or other bad actors to take over. If summer skin problems don’t respond to preventive measures and home remedies, be sure to consult a healthcare provider.

A dermatologist wrote to warn us that an accurate diagnosis is important:

“Jock itch may actually be psoriasis, contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis (perhaps why dandruff shampoo works in some cases), yeast infection or any of a variety of more unusual skin disorders, as well as fungus infection. Non-prescription antifungals are probably overused. In a situation where an individual has a poor response to these products, the best advice would be to consider seeing a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.”

Cetaphil Cleanser:

Let’s start with the simplest remedy: Cetaphil cleanser. We have heard from men that using this gentle non-soap cleanser in the genital area can ease jock itch. Perhaps that is because it contains propylene glycol, which has antifungal properties. (Don’t confuse this compound with the poisonous ethylene glycol found in antifreeze. Propylene glycol is common in cosmetics and has very little, if any, toxicity.)

Stay Away from Fragrance:

Those who continue to use soap should make sure that it has no fragrance or other potentially irritating components. Using fragrance-free laundry detergent, especially for intimate clothing, makes a lot of sense.

Try Antifungal Creams or Ointments:

Since these summer skin problems are mostly caused by yeast, a type of fungus, antifungal creams sold for athlete’s foot can sometimes be effective. Clotrimazole, miconazole, terbinafine and tolnaftate are possible options.

Home Remedies for Summer Skin Problems:

If you are hoping for home remedies, we can suggest quite a few. Keep in mind, though, that scientists don’t generally study home remedies, so we have limited information on how well they work. However, readers have reported that using a dandruff shampoo such as Selsun Blue on the affected areas can help. Tea tree oil shampoo (not undiluted tea tree oil) or Listerine may also be soothing.

One man finds that milk of magnesia (MoM) eases jock itch and other rashes:

“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.”

Another reader has tried MoM on under-breast rash and found it very helpful. Treating damp skin with an astringent such as a dilute vinegar solution or wet tea bags may help, provided the sufferer dries it completely afterwards with fanned or gently blown cool air. 

People with diabetes may have particular problems with yeast infections (Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, April 17, 2018). Good blood sugar control should help. Others who have not been diagnosed with diabetes may find they have less trouble with these rashes if they avoid sweets, refined grains and other foods that can raise blood sugar quickly.

With hot, sticky weather in the forecast, it’s time to prepare to prevent fungal infections. Keeping skin dry and clean is a good start. Moisture-wicking underwear may help. After the skin is dry, protecting it from moisture with a zinc oxide ointment like the ones sold for diaper rash may also be helpful.

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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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  • Metin A et al, "Recurrent candidal intertrigo: Challenges and solutions." Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, April 17, 2018. DOI: 10.2147/CCID.S127841
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