The 2018 Tour de France started on July 7 and will end on July 29. This 21-stage Grand Tour is comprised of 176 riders in 22 teams, including 18 UCI World Teams and four UCI Professional Continental Teams. These experienced long-distance cyclists understand the importance of chamois cream for reducing chafing, primarily of the rider's inner thighs. Chamois cream is so-named because it was originally used to soften a bicycle's chamois seat, or "chammy," which tended to harden over time. However, advances in cycling technology have largely eliminated this problem.
Today, cyclists primarily use chamois creams to minimize the chafing that normally occurs as a result of friction between the rider's skin and short. Non-cyclists also use chamois cream for this purpose in addition to softening and moisturizing the skin. Chamois creams are commercially available, but many people prefer to make their own from natural ingredients.
The repeated friction that occurs during cycling requires some type of lubricant to prevent saddle sores, which can develop into abscesses in severe cases. The need for chamois cream becomes readily apparent to new riders as they begin riding every day, especially during hot weather. It's generally impractical for cyclists to simply stop riding when they get sore, especially during a competition. It's therefore essential to use chamois cream regularly.
The primary purpose of chamois cream is to minimize friction, so it needs to be a thick, slippery substance. It will typically be applied to raw skin, so it also needs to have anti-bacterial properties to prevent infection. Furthermore, many chamois cream contain a mild topical anesthetic for pain relief. Cyclists often use other types of cream to treat sores after their ride. These creams may work fine as an antiseptic or anesthetic, but they usually aren't intended as a lubricant. It would therefore be of little benefit to apply them before a ride.
Most cyclists apply chamois cream to the friction points on their saddle and themselves, usually the inner thighs, groin or buttocks. They typically apply a liberal amount, as too much cream is far better than too little, especially during a competition. The large amount of cream used makes it essential to wash your riding shorts after each ride to prevent the accumulation of old chamois cream. You should also change into clean, dry clothes as quickly as possible after a ride to avoid keeping your skin in contact with damp shorts.
It's also important to pay attention when applying creams. Cyclists often have a variety of creams that serve different purpose, so it can be easy to use the wrong one by mistake. In particular, you don't want to apply leg warm-up rub to sensitive skin.
The ingredients for chamois cream can generally classified into vegetable oils and essential oils. Vegetable oils serve as the base and primarily provide lubrication, although they may also soften and condition the skin. Essential oils provide chamois cream with its antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties and will usually have a cooling sensation when applied to the skin. You may also add essential oils to give chamois cream a pleasant smell or make it easier to spread.
Shea butter and cocoa butter are the most popular bases in chamois cream.
Shea butter comes from the nut of the shea tree, known scientifically as Vitellaria paradoxa, which is native to Africa. It's a fat that's primarily composed of stearic and oleic acids. Raw shea butter is usually yellow, although it becomes whiter with greater refinement. Commercial shea butter is classified according to refinement levels, which include unrefined, refined and ultra-refined.
Shea butter is widely used in cosmetics, primarily as a skin moisturizer. It has a thick, creamy texture that makes it a great lubricant, with a melting point near human body temperature. Pure shea butter can be used as a chamois cream, although it might not have all the other properties you want. The price of shea butter varies considerably based on the manufacturer and refinement, although its popularity ensures that it's readily available in most countries.
Cocoa butter, known scientifically as theobroma oil, is extracted from the cocoa bean. It's commonly used to make a variety of products, including cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and chocolate. Like shea butter, cocoa butter has a melting point just below the temperature of the human body. It also has the flavor and aroma of chocolate.
Aside from their smell, shea butter and cocoa butter have very similar properties as far as their use in chamois cream goes. They're also priced about the same, so they're generally interchangeable in recipes.
The oils most commonly used in homemade chamois creams witch hazel, lanolin, tea tree oil and coconut oil in addition to many essential oils.
Witch hazel, scientifically known as Hamamelis virginiana, is a flowering plant native to North America. Extracts of its bark and leaves are also known as witch hazel, and are commonly used in medicine and skincare products as a cooling agent. Witch hazel can relieve mild skin irritation and may have anti-bacterial properties, making it a popular ingredient in chamois cream. Many preparations of witch hazel are commercially available, and they usually include additional ingredients. For example, most witch hazel products contain alcohol, which you may not want in your chamois cream.
Lanolin is another natural substance that's often added to chamois cream. It's found in lamb's wool and protects the lamb's skin from the environment, especially rain. Lanolin is water resistant, which is a desirable property in chamois cream. The cost of lanolin varies greatly according to the product's purpose and degree of processing, so it's important to check prices before you buy. For example, the most expensive lanolin products are used to treat sore nipples in breastfeeding mothers. However, unprocessed lanolin is inexpensive and perfectly adequate for use in chamois cream.
Tea tree oil, or melaeuca oil, is derived from the leaves of the tea tree, known scientifically as Melaleuca alternifolia. In pure form, it's primarily used as a topical antibacterial and antifungal agent, so tea tree oil is a common ingredient in chamois cream. However, it's considerably more expensive than other oils, so you generally don't want to use more of it than you need.
Coconut oil is another oil that's often added to chamois cream. It mixes well with shea and cocoa butter, so it's useful for achieving a particular consistency. Coconut oil is also good for the skin and less expensive than other oils with a similar viscosity such as hemp seed oil, jojoba oil and sunflower oil.
A variety of essential oils may be added to chamois cream to provide a pleasant aroma or cooling sensation. Peppermint oil is a particularly popular choice because it contains menthol, which creates a minty tingle when you apply it. Eucalyptus oil is also used for the same reason, especially by riders who are prone to saddle sores.
The total preparation time for these recipes should be less than an hour. However, the cooking time will depend on your cookware.
This recipe is for a basic chamois cream with an eye towards minimizing the cost and number of ingredients. You'll need the following ingredients:
Add the shea butter and coconut oil to a double boiler and heat it until they melt. Mix together thoroughly. You can use a pot on a burner at very low heat if you don't have a double boiler, but you'll need to watch it carefully.
Remove the mixture from the heat source and allow it to cool. Stir in the lanolin.
Place the mixture in the freezer for about 20 minutes until it has partially solidified. Whip the mixture until you achieve a butter-like consistency. Place the chamois cream in a small jar for storage.
This recipe uses essential oils instead of witch hazel, which gives the chamois cream a minty feel. You'll need the following ingredient:
Heat the shea butter and coconut oil on very low heat until they melt. Mix together thoroughly.
Remove the mixture from the heat source and allow it to cool. Stir in the lanolin.
Place the mixture in the freezer for about 20 minutes until it has partially solidified. Add the tea tree oil and peppermint oil. Mix for ten minutes. Whip until you achieve a butter-like consistency and store the chamois cream in a jar.
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