Intertrigo is a skin condition that causes a rash in folds of the skin, such as under the breasts, in the groin, or under the tummy fold.

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 or tummy fold.

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

Areas of moist skin rubbing together cause intertrigo. The warm, damp environment makes the skin conducive to irritation and the growth of yeast and bacteria, which can lead to an infection.

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.

Specific health conditions that can contribute to the development of intertrigo include:

Inverse psoriasis

Also known as intertriginous psoriasis, this form of psoriasis develops in the folds of the skin. It can look red and shiny.

Hailey-Hailey disease

Hailey-Hailey disease is a rare genetic disorder that causes skin cells to stick together and breaks down the layers of the skin.

People with Hailey-Hailey disease usually experience blisters and irritations on the neck, armpits, and genitals and in the folds of the skin.

Pemphigus

There are different types of pemphigus, but they all happen when the body’s immune system attacks the healthy cells in the top layer of the skin.

It typically causes blisters in the mouth, nose, throat, eyes, or genitals.

Bullous pemphigoid

A fault in the immune system causes bullous pemphigoid. People with the condition can develop mild, itchy welts or more severe blisters on the skin. These tend to appear on areas of the skin that flex or move.

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 inner thighs
  • under the breasts
  • in the fold of skin underneath a protruding belly
  • the groin
  • 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.

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.

An article in the Journal of the Dermatology Nurses’ Association offers the following advice on treating intertrigo:

  • Wash 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.
  • Use a hairdryer on a low setting to ensure that the area is completely dry.
  • Mix equal amounts of clotrimazole 1% cream (or miconazole 1% cream) and hydrocortisone 1% cream and apply 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.
  • Once the rash has cleared, continue to use the ketoconazole 1% shampoo as soap in the affected area at least once a week.
  • Dry the skin with a hairdryer after every bath or shower, or whenever it feels particularly damp.

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 suggest 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.

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, individuals 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.