This is a summary of the two video “Corsets and Common Skin Issues” and “More Severe Skin Problems and Corseting” which you can watch on YouTube here:
In this entry, I will go over the common skin issues that may arise with regular corseting, and I’ll also mention some more severe skin problems that rarely occur (but you should still look out for).
Please note that this article pertains mostly to genuine steel boned corsets made with a cotton strength layer. If you wear latex cinchers, you could have a different issue such as an allergic reaction to the rubber latex. I’ve given my thoughts on latex cinchers in this article.
Sweating is more of a problem if your corset or your liners are made from synthetic fibers instead of breathable natural fabrics. When possible, choose silk, cotton, bamboo and wool for your corsets and liners instead of polyester, nylon, vinyl etc. For those who like a bit of an edgier look to their corsets, real leather breathes better than pleather or PVC.
Sweating in a corset is hot, wet, uncomfortable, can worsen itching and chafing of your skin in the corset, and it can become a breeding ground for microbes which love dark, warm, moist, anaerobic conditions. Also, the sweat from your skin can damage your corset and causes the fabric to wear out faster. Worse, when your corset becomes soiled from sweat and oil, you will have to wash the corset more often, which also damages the fibers.
How can I control sweating when I already have a corset made from synthetic materials?
- Use corset liners or shirts made from no less than 85% natural fibers like cotton or bamboo.
- Bring multiple liners with you in your handbag so if you’re hot, you can change your liner when it gets sweaty.
- Powder your skin before you put on the corset. I find I don’t need to do this, but it works the same way as using baby powder to prevent diaper rash. If you’re worried about talcum powder causing cancer, try cornstarch instead.
- Last summer, I traveled to work a little early and put my corset on in the restroom – since my building was air conditioned, I was comfortable the entire time I was at work. I took the corset off again when I left for home, and if I felt like it I’d put the corset on again in the evening when my apartment was cooler. I was still able to waist train successfully this way.
- Some corsetieres make “summer corsets” that are lighter and often made of one very strong layer of sport mesh to allow the skin to breathe.
Both sweating and dry skin can cause itching. If you have very dry skin, use a moisturizer after showing and/or before putting on your corset. When my skin gets chapped in the winter I like to use cocoa butter (note: these days, I almost exclusively use extra-virgin olive oil on my skin). If you don’t like the greasy feeling of some moisturizers, udder cream (found at craft stores sometimes) will moisturize your skin and not leave a residue; however I still recommend you still wear a liner between your skin and your corset.
Itching can also be caused by wrinkles in your shirt or liner – your liner is supposed to shrink with your waist, so if you find your liner is wrinkling, it might be too big for you. Usually a liner containing 5-10% spandex or lycra will be stretchy enough and still be sufficiently breathable. In my experience it is easier to prevent wrinkles with nylon/lycra shirts or liners than it is with cotton or other natural liners, so there is a bit of a trade off between breathability and wrinkle-prevention.
How to scratch an itch under your corset
If I have an itch that I can’t ignore, then I can usually scratch the area with a little pencil or school-size wooden ruler. When it comes to scratching your skin under your tight corset, long, thin/flat objects usually do the trick. If the itch doesn’t go away, then take the corset off and do what you need to do to rectify the situation – scratch/change your shirt/moisturize etc.
When you ignore an itch, it can sometimes turn into a chafing or burning sensation. Your corset might not be fitting right (either from incorrect measurements or due to a slight twisting or riding up of the corset on your torso over several minutes/hours). Little micro-movements and shifting of the corset cause abrasion on your skin. Taking the corset off and putting it back on again, ensuring that it is straight and sitting properly at the waist, can often get rid of the problem. You can also try to change your shirt/liner as wrinkles can cause chafing. Sometimes if a corset is not of the best construction, then internal boning channels can cause chafing. This problem is more common in off-the-peg corsets than it is for custom corsets.
These sore spots are caused by the contours of a corset not following the contours of your body, and thus parts of the corset push down more on some parts of your body than other parts. People who corset too tightly before they’re ready (or if they bruise easily) may find bruises caused by pressure points especially where bone is close under the skin, such as the ribs or hipbones.
Take care of the pressure points by loosening your corset or taking it off completely. If you get pressure points from a custom made corset even after you’ve broken it in, take it back to the corsetiere and get it refitted. If these pressure points are ignored for a long period of time, you can start developing ulcers and your skin can become necrotic (compare it to a bedridden patient with bedsores). You do NOT want it to get that bad, so do be careful to take care of your pressure points.
Skin infections / irritations
Some microbes LOVE dark, moist, anaerobic environments, especially yeast. You may think that candida overgrowth can only occur in your private parts or in your mouth (thrush) but it can happen anywhere you have folds of skin. Not all, but many morbidly obese people can get candida infections under their arms or breasts etc. However, if you’re not careful, you can create this environment on your skin underneath your corset, no matter what your size or shape.
How to prevent skin infections
Having a corset that breathes will help, as well minimizing your sweating and practicing good hygiene. You don’t need to become germophobic and use antibacterial soaps – remember, you have a good, balanced coating of good bacteria on your skin in order to keep bad microbes like MRSA and candida under control. Antibacterial soap ruins the balance of the ecosystem on your skin, allowing the growth for harmful microbes. Just wash with normal soap, and wash regularly.
If you do find an unusual skin rash, irritation or infection beginning to form on your skin, see your doctor or dermatologist quickly so you can catch it before it begins to spread. I learned this the hard way: When I got my first corset, I coincidentally developed an atypical case of pityriasis rosea at the same time (not caused by the corset). My first thought was maybe my corset had picked up ringworm during manufacturing or delivery, but as it turns out pityriasis is a one-time nuisance and it went away on its own after a few weeks. However, if I had gotten my skin checked out when the initial herald patch occurred, I could have saved myself a great amount of unnecessary anxiety.
Skin calluses and “toughening” of your skin
The same way your feet toughen up when you start wearing sandals, I’ve heard of the skin of corseters toughening if they don’t moisturize or wear liners. Some of these corseters claim that toughening up the skin can prevent itching, abrasions etc., however this is an option I would never take; I certainly don’t want calluses on my torso and prefer to keep my skin soft.
Dry brushing for soft skin
I’ve been dry brushing my skin for several years now. There are supposedly many advantages to dry brushing, like clearing out your lymph system, helping improve circulation, and reducing the appearance of cellulite. I don’t know how true these claims are, but I love the way it feels and it keeps my skin soft and glowing. I have no calluses anywhere on my body (including my feet) and dry brushing has also helped reduce the small bumps and ingrown hairs on my elbows and knees. One brush will last several years if you keep it clean.
Next time we shall discuss how a person’s girth can affect the way they corset: full-figured corseters and what they can expect when waist training.
Lucy’s Little Life Lesson: Practicing good hygiene is not only good for your health, but also good for your social life.
*Please note that this article is strictly my opinion and provided for information purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of a medical doctor. Please talk to your doctor if you’d like to start wearing a corset.*