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Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Updated: August 17, 3:12 PM ET
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap

By Jon Coen
ESPN Action Sports

The Dr. Bronner's family of scents -- best thing for surf rash. (That's Baby Mild on the right. He's so laid back.)

Nothing ruins a surf session like a nasty rash -- armpits, nipples, even some less mentionable areas downstairs -- once those get all chafed up, it doesn't matter how good the surf is, you're done.

The culprit is friction. It can be a wetsuit, skin on skin, or old wax. It can draw blood. The pain can be so bad, you think you're going to ralph all over the lineup. And the funny thing is that it sneaks up on you. You're just off the plane in the tropics and can't wait for a session in trunks. While you're tripping on the warmth and clear blue, you don't even realize that your skin is getting the 80-grit treatment. Or perhaps it's a four-hour winter session in an ill fitting 4-mil. It's not until after you surf, or the next day when you paddle out that it comes back with a stinging vengeance. But relief may come from the most unlikely of places.

WHAT IT IS: Dr. Bronner's is a bio soap made of natural oils -- extra virgin coconut, olive, jojoba, and hemp oils. It's certified USDA National Organic and Fair Trade and not tested on baby rabbits. Named after Emanuel Bronner, a third generation soap maker, they have been around for 60 years and are headquartered in Escondido, CA.

And not only does it get you clean, but it's the Swiss army knife of hygiene products. The liquid soap can be used as body cleanser, shampoo, shaving foam, deodorant, massage oil, and even toothpaste (use the Peppermint scent on your toothbrush.) I wash my dog with it.

An extreme case of surf rash. Hint: when your nipples start bleeding, stop surfing.

This soap, from Almond to Eucalyptus, Rose to Lavender, or even Citrus scent, is a traveler's dream. If you're into Dr. Bronner's for all those uses, think how much less product you have to lug in your gear, especially for the backpacking surfer. Let's say you're camping on the Nicoya Peninsula and you hitchhike to the waterfalls at Montezuma. You can wash away the rainy season mud right there, among the German tourists and Colorado granolas, because Dr. Bronner's is completely biodegradable.

WHY IT RULES: The best thing about Dr. Bronner's isn't even mentioned on their label (and there is plenty to read on that label.) It's the most effective thing I've ever found for surf rash.

Now, nothing good comes without sacrifice and be forewarned that it bites back. Apply Dr. Bronner's to your surf rash while in the shower. You won't need much, and yes, it will sting. The longer you can bear it, the better. When you rinse the sting will subside, and so too will your rash, just like... "magic."

"It makes sense. The Tea Tree Soap is a good one for the wetsuit rash as Tea Tree essential oil is a natural antiseptic," says Dr. Bronner's Sales and Marketing rep, Shauna Olmos.

It won't cure you, but it definitely soothes and speeds up the healing process. For the record, you can also apply gels before you surf to reduce chafing, but sometimes it's inevitable.

WHERE TO FIND IT: To my knowledge, no surf shops carry Dr. Bronner's. I've found it at Celestial Natural Foods on the North Shore and Health-A-Rama on the Outer Banks. Chains like Whole Foods carry it as well. Your local health food store probably has a whole display. For the full selection of organic soaps, hair creams, lip balms, shave gels, household cleaner, and lotion, check out to Dr. Bronner's.