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Skin rashes occur due to underlying inflammation, which usually makes rashes red, itchy, and swollen. They can occur anywhere on the body but are especially common between skin folds due to excessive sweating and friction.
Intertrigo, or irritant dermatitis, is a skin condition wherein rashes (inflammation) occur in the folds of the skin. One such tricky spot for women is the area under their breasts.
Causes of Rashes Under the Breasts
Rashes under the breasts can stem from a variety of underlying causes. Some of the major contributing factors include:
- Heat and sweat buildup due to poor ventilation in the closed area
- Wearing a bra that is too tight or too loose such that it rubs against the skin
- Negligent personal hygiene
- Poor diet
- Allergic reaction to a detergent, perfume, or bathing or skin product
- Being overweight or obese, leading to excessive skin folds in the area
- Fungal infections
Less commonly, rashes under the breasts could be a sign of a problem within the breasts such as cancer or a systemic illness. Autoimmune conditions such as Hailey-Hailey disease, eczema, and inverse psoriasis can also be characterized by rashes under the breasts.
Treatment for Rashes Under the Breasts
Irrespective of the cause, breast rashes can be a source of great discomfort that can hamper the quality of your everyday life.
The medical treatment for the rashes under the breasts will depend upon what is causing them. Since many different factors can trigger the condition, you need to undergo a proper medical checkup to pin the culprit.
Once a diagnosis is reached, the doctor will recommend the appropriate treatment to address the underlying problem. The interventions may include the following:
- If the rash is due to a fungal infection, an antifungal cream such as clotrimazole might be prescribed, whose strength will be decided according to the severity of the infection.
- If the rash is a side effect of an antibiotic that you are on such as sulfa drugs, (1) your doctor will recommend a more suitable alternative or discuss other options.
- Prescription-strength cortisone creams, calamine lotion, and antihistamines are usually the choice of treatment when the rash is brought on by an allergic reaction. You can even find calamine lotions that contain antihistamines and medicated powders such as Desitin, but always consult your doctor before trying any new product on your rash. It’s best not to use thick, heavy-duty creams that may cause clogging of skin pores, which can make your condition worse.
- If the rash is caused by an autoimmune disorder such as Hailey-Hailey disease, your doctor will put you on the proper treatment for the illness. A combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy is the standard treatment for a rash that is associated with breast cancer.
Home Remedies to Soothe Breast Rashes
Here are some simple home remedies that can soothe the rash under your breasts.
Note: It is important to note that these remedies can only relieve mild irritation and are best used as complementary therapies to the actual medical treatment. The reader is advised to first get the rash checked by a doctor for an expert opinion and then proceed accordingly. If the rash is simply due to sweating, heat, or a mild infection, your doctor may even allow you to use these remedies as the main treatment along with appropriate self-care measures, but let the expert take that call.
1. Apply a cold compress
When you apply a cold compress on irritated skin, the low temperature shrinks the underlying blood vessels to reduce blood flow in the area, which helps bring down inflammation. Plus, the cold numbs the nerve endings under the skin to make you feel less discomfort.
These effects are instantaneous but they do not last a long time. However, a cold compress is often recommended as an important first aid for treating heat rashes.
How to use:
- Wrap some ice cubes or a frozen pack of vegetables in a clean, soft washcloth or cotton towel, and place it over the rash for no more than 10 minutes at a stretch. Prolonged exposure to such freezing cold can damage your skin further, so it is important for you to take a break before repeating the application.
- Taking cold baths can also soothe the irritated skin and shrink the pores to minimize sweating.
Caution: Never apply ice or frozen objects directly to your skin as it can cause frostnip.
2. Use oatmeal
Oatmeal is widely known for its anti-inflammatory properties that can be used for alleviating the rash under your breast. (2)
Studies have shown that colloidal oatmeal diminishes the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body. These are molecules that promote inflammation, ultimately causing skin dryness, scaling, roughness, pruritus, and other discomforting symptoms associated with a rash. (3)
How to use:
- Grind 1 cup of oatmeal and mix it in warm bathwater. Soak in it for 15–20 minutes.
- You can also apply a paste of ground oatmeal and honey on your rash for 10–15 minutes, and then rinse it off thereafter.
- You can also buy oatmeal-based moisturizers and use them as indicated on the product label.
3. Try plant oils
Certain therapeutic plant oils can help alleviate the discomfort caused by rashes. Jojoba oil exhibits anti-inflammatory effects that can help relieve a variety of skin conditions including infections and rashes. Plus, it is loaded with vitamin E, which is a strong antioxidant that fights free radicals and promotes skin repair. (4)
Extra virgin coconut oil is credited with antimicrobial, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties, all of which can help in healing a rash. It is also deeply hydrating and can be used to moisturize dry, irritated skin, especially if you have a dermatitis-induced rash. (3)
How to use:
- Cleanse the affected skin with cool water and pat it dry. Gently massage a few drops of extra virgin coconut oil or jojoba oil all over it.
- If using essential oils, mix 4–5 drops of your preferred essential oil in 4 tablespoons of any carrier oil such as sunflower or olive oil, and then gently massage this oil blend all over the rash.
Caution: Essential oils can be caustic on your skin when applied directly because they are very strong when concentrated. Therefore, always dilute them with a carrier oil before topical use. Also, make sure you are not allergic to any of these oils, (5) and avoid using coconut oil if you have oily skin.
4. Apply aloe vera gel
Topical aloe vera is usually recommended to soothe heat rashes due to its inherent cooling effect. It may also be useful for rashes triggered by an allergic reaction as it contains a glycoprotein called alprogen, which possesses antiallergic properties.
How to use:
- Scoop out the gel from a freshly cut aloe vera leaf, and gently massage it all over the rash. Let it dry for about 15 minutes and then wash it off.
- You can add a bit of turmeric powder to the gel for its healing properties.
- You can also buy aloe-based creams and lotions to apply to your rash, but make sure they are good quality and devoid of possible irritants.
Caution: Aloe vera contains anthraquinones, which can trigger an allergic response in some people. Err on the side of caution, and do a patch test on the underside of your arm before applying aloe vera on the rash.
5. Use OTCs
The following over-the-counter (OTC) interventions may help ease the itching, erythema, and other distressing symptoms associated with a skin rash to speed up your recovery. Always follow the instructions that come with these OTC products.
- Calamine lotion is the go-to product for soothing skin irritation as it has a light consistency that allows quick absorption without clogging your pores or making your skin greasy. Applying this lotion to your rash can help alleviate the itching and redness while keeping the area dry to prevent future infections. Make sure to wash the affected area first with mild soap and lukewarm water, and then gently pat it with a soft, clean towel to remove all moisture. Finally, using a cotton ball, apply the calamine lotion all over the rash.
- Oral antihistamines such as Benadryl can soothe your rash as they curb the inflammatory response in the body, which is the source of all the unpleasant symptoms.
- You can buy zinc oxide ointment to relieve the skin irritation.
- Use antifungal dusting powders to relieve hyperhidrosis.
The following are some important self-care measures that you should follow to boost skin healing and prevent flare-ups.
- Try your best to keep the skin under your breast free of moisture, sweat, and dirt. Clean the area when taking a bath, and gently dry it thereafter before putting on your bra.
- Avoid wearing tight clothes and synthetic fabrics that cling to your body, rub against it, and induce excessive sweating by preventing ventilation. Instead, wear light, breezy, breathable fabrics such as cotton and other natural fibers that allow the passage of air to keep your body properly ventilated. These fabrics also soak in the moisture and sweat from your body to prevent rashes.
- You may use an antiperspirant under your breast to minimize sweat buildup in the area.
- Avoid wearing a bra until your rash clears up. When you do decide to wear it, make sure it is the right fit, without an underwire, and made with a nonsynthetic fabric. You can also use breast pads or bra liners to prevent sweat accumulation.
- Do not wear tight-fitting clothes as they block air circulation and make folded areas of the body damp and hot.
- Wash your undergarments regularly and thoroughly. Make sure you are not allergic to the detergent you are using.
- Your rash can also be an allergic response to a cosmetic or hygiene product that you applied in the area. So, choose your products wisely and do patch tests to rule out possible adverse reactions. It is recommended to use unperfumed products, as added fragrances can irritate the skin.
- Do not scratch the rash as it will only deepen the skin damage and increase the risk of infection.
When to See a Doctor
The rash under your breast requires urgent medical attention in the following cases:
- If you develop redness or rash-like symptoms in another area
- If your rash persists for more than a week
- If your symptoms become progressively worse
- If you develop open sores
- If your rash is severely painful or unbearably itchy
- If you run a fever
- If you are pregnant or elderly, in which case first-line treatment by way of OTC antifungals will not be safe for you and will require alternative treatment
- If you are overweight, in which case you will need professional guidance to lose the excess pounds
Can Cornstarch Be Used to Treat Rashes Under the Breasts?
Although there are no studies that suggest applying cornstarch can help relieve rashes under the breasts, general users have found it to be particularly useful in soothing the itching and burning associated with a heat or sweat rash.
If you want to try this anecdotal remedy on your breast rash, start by cleaning the affected skin with mild soap and water. Then, use a soft towel to dab away all traces of moisture. Once the skin is completely dry, dust some cornstarch all over the affected area.
Disclaimer: Do not use cornstarch if your rash is due to a fungal infection as fungi feed on it.
Rashes under the breasts can be quite a nuisance. It can hurt, itch, and make it impossible for you to wear a bra. The good thing is you can usually make a full recovery with OTC meds, home remedies, and self-care measures.
However, you are recommended to get the rash checked out by a doctor to understand its root cause. This will help the doctor suggest the most suitable treatment and rule out any serious conditions. You may need to revisit the doctor if the rash fails to improve or gets worse despite the recommended treatment.