Intertrigo is a skin condition that causes a rash in skin folds, such as under the breasts, in the groin, or in stomach folds. The rash may be sore or itchy.

It happens when areas of moist skin rub together. Bacteria and yeast can grow in this environment, leading to an infection.

In this article, we describe what intertrigo is, what it looks like, and what causes it. We also cover diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

Intertrigo is a skin condition that happens when folds of skin chafe against each other.

It usually develops in the inner thighs or armpits, or under the breasts.

Some people may experience yeast or bacterial infections in the folds of skin.

Intertrigo is an inflammatory skin condition that can be caused and worsened by:

  • moisture
  • heat
  • lack of air circulation
  • friction between skin folds

The warm, damp environment makes the skin conducive to irritation and the growth of yeast and bacteria, which can lead to an infection (known as a secondary infection). Common causes of a secondary infection include Candida, Staphylococcus, and dermatophytes (these are fungi that require keratin (a type of protein) for growth).

While it can happen at any age, intertrigo tends to affect infants, older people, and those with a reduced ability to move around. In babies, it is often called diaper rash. Most cases occur in hot or humid environments and during the summer.

Intertrigo is also more common in adults with incontinence, obesity, diabetes, or a weakened immune system.

Intertrigo looks like a red, raw rash on the skin. It may feel sore or itchy, and it can sometimes ooze.

It can develop in any fold of the skin. The most commonly affected areas of the body include:

  • the neck
  • under the breasts
  • the abdomen
  • the groin
  • the back
  • the upper leg
  • behind the knees
  • between the buttocks
  • in the webs of the fingers
  • in the webs of the toes

Intertrigo may develop in one or more of these places.

It will often be a specialist skin doctor or dermatologist who diagnoses intertrigo. They will do this by inspecting the skin and asking a series of questions about the person’s symptoms.

While intertrigo is common, it can be difficult to diagnose because it can look like other skin conditions that affect skin folds. These include inverse psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, pemphigus, and scabies.

If the dermatologist suspects that a yeast or bacterial infection has developed in the skin fold, they may take a swab and send it to a laboratory for analysis.

In simple cases of intertrigo, a doctor may suggest the following:

  • using drying agents such as antiperspirants
  • drying the skin effectively with a soft towel after bathing
  • applying triple paste with aluminum acetate, zinc oxide, and petrolatum to the affected area
  • wearing loose clothing and working in an air-conditioned environment
  • applying wet tea bags to the affected area
  • using petroleum jelly (for diaper rash)

If intertrigo is accompanied by an infection, a doctor may prescribe topical creams or oral medication such as:

The best way to prevent intertrigo is to keep the area dry. People who experience the condition due to obesity can speak to a doctor about ways to lose weight and reduce the risk of skin complications.

The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology suggests that people prevent intertrigo by:

  • placing a wad of absorbent material, such as cotton, in the affected fold to absorb sweat
  • using antiperspirants
  • washing daily with an antibacterial soap
  • dusting the affected area with an absorbent antifungal powder once it is clean and dry

Anyone who finds that the problem keeps coming back should speak to a doctor.

Below are some frequently asked questions about intertrigo:

What triggers intertrigo?

Intertrigo is an inflammatory skin condition that can be triggered and worsened by:

  • moisture
  • heat
  • lack of air circulation
  • friction between skin folds

How does a person get rid of intertrigo fast?

According to the Journal of the Dermatology Nurses’ Association, top tips for treating intertrigo fast include:

  • Washing the affected area with ketoconazole 1% shampoo, which is available from most drugstores. People should leave it on for 2–5 minutes and then rinse it off.
  • Using a hairdryer on a low setting to ensure that the area is completely dry.
  • Mixing equal amounts of clotrimazole 1% cream (or miconazole 1% cream) and hydrocortisone 1% cream and applying a thin layer to the affected area. People should do this twice a day until the rash is clear, which may take 3–8 weeks.

Is intertrigo a yeast infection?

Intertrigo is not a yeast infection. Rather, it is an inflammatory skin condition. However, it can lead to a yeast infection (known as a secondary infection). Candida is a common yeast infection associated with intertrigo.

How will a person know if intertrigo is fungal?

Intertrigo associated with a fungal infection may produce satellite papules and pustules. Intertrigo accompanied by a secondary infection of Candida is often associated with a foul-smelling odor.

Intertrigo is a skin condition that happens when areas of moist skin rub against each other. It causes a red, raw-looking rash and can lead to yeast and bacterial infections.

It can happen to anyone, but it is most common in babies, older people, those with mobility problems, and those with obesity.

People can easily treat the rash at home with over-the-counter creams and lotions. They can also prevent it from coming back by keeping the area clean and dry.

Anyone who experiences multiple incidences of intertrigo should speak to a doctor.