‘So long, saddle sores!’ Adele Mitchell rounds up the best chamois cream for peachy posteriors.
In days of yore cycling short pads were made of real chamois (pronounced ‘shammy’!) leather. The pads tended to dry out and stiffen with repeated washes and nothing but the best chamois cream was used to make it supple again. Modern cycling shorts with synthetic pads don’t need the same care, but bottoms are still bottoms and chamois cream can be the difference between soothed, smooth skin and sore-induced agony on a longer ride or even in a spin class or turbo session.
HOW DOES CHAMOIS CREAM WORK?
Simples. Chamois cream acts as a soft layer of lubrication that reduces friction between your bare skin* and the pad built into your cycling shorts. They also have active natural ingredients such as lavender for their anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits.
It is a prevention measure against saddle sores not a cure, and on no account should be applied to raw or broken skin especially if – as is often the case – it contains skin cooling (and tingly) active ingredients (cue eye watering agony!). For this same reason it’s also worth avoiding application to the more intimate areas of your ‘lady parts’ – although some of the women’s formulas leave the cooling/ tingle factor out so check before you apply.
Cycling chamois cream is mostly used on longer rides – from several hours to several days. If you find yourself having to use it for short trips to the shops it’s definitely worth checking that your saddle and shorts are the right fit.
* if you’re reading this and thinking ‘but what about my pants?’ I should point out that padded shorts are designed to work like a second skin and should not be worn with underwear!
HOW TO APPLY:
Cycling chamois cream has the consistency of warm butter and you need to really slather it on for it to be effective: a quick dab just won’t work. It doesn’t matter if you put it on the pad or your skin (or both!) – the protective result will be the same. However applying it directly to your skin is probably a more accurate way of avoiding your lady regions.
It is also really important to wash chamois cream off properly post-ride, especially if you’re on a multiple day jaunt where the product could build up. Your skin needs to be able to ‘breathe’ when you’re off the bike.
WHICH ONE TO BUY?
Even the best chamois creams are a bit of a ‘marmite’ product – people love or hate them, depending upon fragrance, active ingredients (to tingle or not to tingle), consistency, and preference for natural ingredients over synthetics. But here are some of the most popular:
RAPHA CHAMOIS CREAM
Personally I love this one for its fresh, pine and patchouli fragrance that is supposed to be evocative of riding Mont Ventoux (think fragrant forest not sweaty top) and when I’ve worn it those down wind of me have commented that I smell nice. It’s a blend of olive, vegetable glycerine and shea butter plus aromatic plants and herbs with a subtle but fresh feeling cooling effect and good coverage.
ASSOS CHAMOIS CREAM
Total Women’s Cyling editor Kirsty used it throughout her round UK trip and found it really effective (once she got used to the tingle). You can use it on any brand of shorts, not just Assos’ own! Note: the instruction to avoid intimate areas should NOT be ignored as it contains menthol.
HOO HA RIDE GLIDE
Although it was specifically designed for women and our ‘nooks and crannies’ (their words not mine!) this chamois cream still contains peppermint and tea tree so don’t think about becoming too ‘intimate’ with it. I like that it comes in a tube (bit more hygienic and less mess than a pot, I think).
CHOMPER BODY BOOTY BALM WOMENS CHAMOIS CREAM
All natural shea butter and emu oil (yes, really!) based chamois cream with anti-inflammatory and antiseptic lavender and lemon essential oils and a no tingle formula (that’s reserved for the men’s version). Goes on like thick paste and is designed to work with the heat of the body to protect and lubricate the skin.
DZ NUTS BLISS CHAMOIS CREAM FOR WOMEN
Another no tingle formula specifically designed for women. Promotes both biological skin defences and healing and has moisture absorbing polymers to isolate moisture and help protect the skin against damage from friction. Plus, it comes in a handy tube.