By Ed Pavelka
(Note: This product was uprated to 4 or “very good” three weeks after the following review was written. Crotch Guard continued to perform well on daily rides and worked impressively during a 7-hour century, with stops, in humid conditions. Barely any saddle soreness or skin abrasion developed.)
Crotch Guard isn’t your father’s chamois lube — unless Dad used mineral oil. That’s the closest thing to Crotch Guard in appearance and consistency.
Crotch Guard Skin Care Oil, made in Finland, comes in a 4-fluid-ounce spray bottle distributed by a New York company, Derma-tect. It’s billed as hypo-allergenic, anti-bacterial and free of preservatives. It has no odor or color.
There’s some science behind the product. A company spokesperson, Tracie Oehler, says two years of development have resulted in a substance that “matches the natural lipids in skin.” The benefit, she explains, is that the oil penetrates to fortify skin cells like mortar between bricks, producing “an invisible shield that bacteria can’t penetrate. Crotch Guard also heals and moisturizes.”
Unlike the thick creams and lubes many cyclists apply to their nether region and shorts liner (“chamois”), Crotch Guard lays down a thin oily film. You simply spray it on your skin, being careful not to apply too much or it’ll run. The oil is slippery and tenacious. It can still be felt on the skin after a three-hour ride.
For those of us used to slathering on creams such as Assos or Chamois BUTT’r or lubes such as Bag Balm or Aquaphor, Crotch Guard is a different experience. You can’t goop it on to build a frictionless layer. In fact, it seems like you’re pulling on shorts over unprotected skin.
It took a leap of faith for me to believe Crotch Guard could work. But the initial 21 hours of riding proved that it does have potential. It didn’t spare me from a moderate abrasion, but I get one from time to time no matter what kind of lube I use. I didn’t develop any sores. It worked about the same on any length ride. In warm, humid weather that soaked my chamois with sweat, I could feel the slippery oil in the material when I took off the shorts. But it washes out even in cold water.
My wife Joleen (a Chamois BUTT’r user) helped with this test, switching to Crotch Guard for seven rides. She declared it “okay” the first few times she used it, then started liking it better. She had a hot spot that was bugging her and it improved while using the oil. Initially she didn’t like the fact that her skin still felt a bit slick after washing in the shower, but she decided it wasn’t a problem. She likes Crotch Guard well enough to continue using it.
For maximum benefit, Derma-tect recommends applying Crotch Guard twice a day — once before riding and again after showering or before bedtime. We didn’t try that because we didn’t want the oily stuff on our clothes, sheets or skin when we weren’t riding. We weren’t sure why an off-bike application would be a good thing. The company’s Oehler explained that the oil would condition the skin, heal abraded areas and buttress the good ol’ invisible shield. She says only a light coating is necessary and the oil will penetrate in minutes and virtually disappear, not stain clothes. We tried it and she was right.
The product does have a significant shortcoming — the spray bottle. To apply Crotch Guard you need to spray where a chamois fits. This requires holding the bottle upside down, but when you pump it in that position nothing comes out. It’s odd that a spray-on product would be sold in a bottle that won’t work at the application angle. I resorted to assuming the bottom half of the good ol’ “missionary position” in order to keep the bottle upright (while hoping no one would walk into the room).
Oehler recommends using fingers to spread the oil or even spraying it on fingers first. She says Crotch Guard is also available in small towelette packets, a way to carry it on rides for freshening up at pit stops. That would probably be better than toting a bottle of the oil, which can be hard enough to use at home. The pump gets slippery and the nozzle turns off center. It puts out a fine mist to prevent overspraying, but you can count on fingers getting oily anyway.
I haven’t found a product that’ll absolutely prevent chafing, raw skin or sores. Crotch Guard is different than anything on the market and seems quite effective. Jo and I will continue using it to check its ability to heal sores and prevent them. It took several uses before we started liking Crotch Guard, and now we like it a little better on each ride.