Pictured are 4 varieties of chamois cream from Elite, Assos and Eule in front of 2 bib shorts on a bench in the bc men's locker room.
Pictured are 4 varieties of chamois cream from Elite, Assos and Eule in front of 2 bib shorts on a bench in the bc men's locker room.

Chamois Cream for Cycling

No more sore spots after long bike rides! Chamois cream can provide relief. Here’s how to find the right one and use it well.

Have you ever been on a bike ride where you couldn't sit properly because you were chafing? This is certainly not an experience that needs repeating. No wonder the former professional cyclist Rudi Altig once said: "A cyclist has to take better care of his butt than his face.” This is why chamois creams, which prevent chafing on the buttocks and thighs, are the perfect solution. They are designed to treat and prepare your bottom and your cycling shorts for long rides, so that you sit comfortably in the saddle and won’t feel any negative after-effects from the tour. We’ll go over the different types of chamois creams and what to remember when choosing one.

Pictured are Eule's chamois cream and the Assos Chamois cream. Both containers are open.
Pictured are Eule's chamois cream and the Assos Chamois cream. Both containers are open.

A basic distinction can be made between 2 types of chamois creams: warm creams with a paraffin base (fig. left) and cool creams with plant-based ingredients (fig. right).

Fabian from bc Marketing applies Eule's chamois cream to his bib shorts.
Fabian from bc Marketing applies Eule's chamois cream to his bib shorts.

Here’s what to look out for when using chamois cream.

The Basis for Comfortable Cycling: The Right Sitting Position

First things first: If you’re not sitting on your bike at an optimal position, you can apply as much cream as you like – it won’t really do anything. You must make sure your bike is adjusted to your size and that you have a saddle that meets your physical requirements and riding position. The same applies to cycling shorts with a chamois. If you haven't worn them so far, you should definitely get some, at least for longer tours. They do not slip and the pad reduces pressure on the sit bones. This ensures that you’re still comfortable in the saddle even after many kilometres. Very important: Always wear your bib shorts or liner shorts without additional underwear! Otherwise the fabric will chafe your skin and the fun will be over quickly.

Petroleum Jelly: The Old Version of Chamois Cream

In the past, saddles and seat pads were made of leather – often chamois leather. The French word for a seat pad, "chamois", is also the same name in English (informally known as a "shammy"), from which the name "chamois cream" is derived. These leather saddles and pants were regularly treated with skin protectant such as petroleum jelly to keep them soft and supple. Some cyclists still use petroleum jelly as chamois cream. The ointment-like mixture is obtained from mineral oil, has a waxy, almost greasy consistency and is highly water-repellent. This protects the skin from wind, cold and water from the outside. The disadvantage: many people find the film greasy and unpleasant. It could possibly exacerbate acne depending on one’s skin type. In addition, the paraffins contained in petroleum jelly are suspected of having an effect on one’s health. Petroleum jelly could also affect the protective function of your skin if you use it over a long period of time.

Chamois Cream: What's In It? A Look at Ingredients

Many professional cyclists use modern products to reduce chafing. A rough distinction can be made between "warm" and "cool" creams. The former work similarly to petroleum jelly and are based on paraffin wax. The latter creams are quickly absorbed and have a cooling effect. These include, for example, Chamois Crème from Swiss manufacturer Assos. Among other things, it contains witch hazel, a medicinal plant that has an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effect. Other manufacturers also rely on plant extracts, such as witch hazel, calendula, shea butter, sunflower oil or aloe vera. They not only reduce friction, but also achieve a slightly cooling and antibacterial effect. However, plant extracts can also trigger allergies or irritate your skin if you are sensitive. This makes "warm" creams probably a better fit. If you’re fine with animal-derived ingredients, products containing deer tallow might work for you. In addition to paraffins, they consist of rendered deer fat. They protect you like a second skin – whether you are cycling, running, gymnastics, rowing or playing the upright bass. They also prevent blistering and cracked skin. A real classic among chamois creams is Eules Gesäßcreme, co-developed by cycling physiotherapist Dieter "Eule" Ruthenberg, who was Jan Ullrich's masseur at Team T-Mobile. Like petroleum jelly, it is based on paraffin oil. In addition, herbal ingredients such as chamomile oil and birch leaf extract are used. This acts as care for the skin and at the same time protects it from inflammation.

When, How and How Much? How to Apply Chamois Cream Correctly

The ideal chamois cream for you always has something to do with whether you are allergic to certain ingredients or have certain sensitivities. If you are unsure, you can patch test a cream beforehand. Apply it to the crook of your arm, ideally for several days in a row. No itching, no acne, no rash? You’re good to go! The right time to apply a chamois cream is when you change clothes for your bike ride. You can apply the cream to the cycling shorts – i.e. to the chamois and seams around the buttocks – or you can apply the cream directly to your skin. The focus should be on the pressure and abrasion points on your buttocks or inner thigh. Apply the cream generously. Be careful, however: many creams should not come into contact with mucous membranes. For this reason, there are now also chamois creams made especially for women. Whether you choose to apply directly to skin or shorts depends on your personal preferences. One thing is certain: both methods get the job done. By the way: it is also good to use chamois cream while training. This is because you can sweat particularly heavily due to the lack of wind, which makes your bib shorts chafe all the more easily.

Fabian from bc marketing applies Assos Chamois cream to his bc original Race Bib.
Fabian from bc marketing applies Assos Chamois cream to his bc original Race Bib.

While cool creams, such as Assos' Chamois, absorb quickly...

Eule's chamois cream is applied to a pair of Endura bib shorts.
Eule's chamois cream is applied to a pair of Endura bib shorts.

... warm creams leave a greasy film that protects your skin from rain and cold temperatures.

A close-up of the seat pad on Endura cycling shorts. The seams have been given a layer of Eule's chamois cream. There is a greasy film on the padding of the bib shorts.
A close-up of the seat pad on Endura cycling shorts. The seams have been given a layer of Eule's chamois cream. There is a greasy film on the padding of the bib shorts.

When using chamois cream, make sure to apply it thoroughly to chafe-prone areas such as the seams.

After the Ride is Before the Ride: Post-Ride Care for Skin and Shorts

To avoid chafing, uncomfortable pressure or even boils, you should also make sure to wash your cycling shorts after every tour. This will ensure that there is no residual sweat or chamois cream that could irritate your skin. Hand-washing the chamois and the area that has come into contact with the cream is usually sufficient. For washing by hand or machine, you can use special liquid detergents for sportswear. These are designed to preserve the elastic fibres, prevent odour build-up and maintain the breathability of the fabric. Always follow the care instructions listed on the tag on your shorts or pants. Also, not just your cycling shorts need washing and care after a tour – remember to wash your own butt. This holds true especially if you want to get back on your bike the next day. In other words: take a shower or, if it’s not possible on tour, wash off sweat and chamois cream residue with water and mild soap and dry thoroughly. When you get back on your bike the next morning, you and your bib shorts are clean – this prevents germs from spreading. Speaking of germs: remember to apply chamois cream only with clean hands.

First Aid for Problems

If you have skin problems after a ride, it is best to use a wound healing ointment, such as one from the pharmacy. These contain active ingredients such as calendula or witch hazel extract, disinfectants, zinc oxide and vitamins, as well as essential oils. In this way, they promote wound healing, inhibit inflammation and protect your skin. The brand Assos offers a skin-soothing gel especially for cyclists that is supposed to reduce swelling, cool and speed up the healing process. It consists of natural active ingredients and has a low pH value, so that you can also use it without hesitation in the genital area. In this case, it is generally advisable to take a break until your symptoms have completely subsided. Then you can jump right back on the saddle.