The jock itch commercial oeuvre deserves its own criterion collection. Hear me out: First, there’s the 1970s Lanacane Cream commercial — a rumination on how male stubbornness can leave men truly at odds with their own health. In the commercial, a middle-aged white guy is forced awake by an itch so irritating, he finally does what he never thought he’d have to do: concede to his wife’s plea to treat said itch with Lanacane cream. After which said guy gets into bed next to his wife, so noticeably relieved that he reaches for her hand and cradles it as if to say, “You really are the one.”
It’s romantic stuff.
Then there’s the series of Indian jock itch commercials promoting Itch Guard (an antifungal cream) that feature guys in a variety of embarrassing scenarios itching their junk. My personal favorite includes a P.E. teacher itching his dick region through his pocket as he’s playing a game of “Simon Says” with his students. The result: A bunch of kids doing as “Simon” does and pretending to jerk themselves off in front of their gym teacher, who also appears to be rubbing one out but is really (hopefully) just itching his unbearably fungus-ravaged thighs.
And finally, there’s the Japanese jock itch commercials from dermatology company Ikeda Mohando, which, as someone who’s never experienced jock itch, sort of made me wish I had, because I too want to experience the post-jock itch euphoria displayed by the Japanese man at the end of the commercial, who lets out a noise that sounds like an emergency pressure valve being unlatched.
Sadly, these jock itch commercials — all of which range from truly experimental plotlines to downright perverted episodes — have all but vanished. Based on a YouTube search, it appears the last batch of foreign and domestic jock itch commercials were released in 2015. This is strange when you consider the fact that, according to two dermatologists whose shared expertise is in fungal diseases, the number of people who get jock itch hasn’t declined. “There certainly is still a lot of the disease around,” says one of them, Andrej Spec, an assistant professor of infectious disease at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. “I don’t believe there’s been any decrease.”
If you’re like me and you’ve never experienced the agony of an itchy jock region, you’ll be delighted to know that it’s nothing more than a common fungal infection. The symptoms include “a flat, red, itchy rash that first appears high on the inner side of one or both thighs.” “It spreads outward in a ringlike circular pattern while the center clears up partially,” reports Harvard Health. “The border is sharply marked, slightly raised and often beefy red in color. Jock itch can spread to the pubic and genital regions and sometimes to the buttocks.”
According to Michael Wiederkehr, our second dermatologist, who’s based in New Jersey, tinea cruris (science verbiage for jock itch), is most commonly found in men, beginning in their adolescence and reappearing up until middle age. “It has to do with the fact that the sweat glands that are usually associated with causing jock itch don’t really become active until around puberty,” says Wiederkehr. “Fungus loves to grow in moist, warm areas. If somebody is very physically active and sweaty, those are the people who tend to be at risk.” Which is why he suggests keeping your inner thigh area dry, as well as showering regularly in order to prevent getting jock itch in the first place.
But if you do end up with a case of jock itch, that’s mostly okay too, considering the worst-case scenario is never that bad, says Spec. “Left in place long enough it can cause mild invasion and cause a more chronic infection that would require systemic treatment — pills or IV medications as opposed to creams and powders that are enough to manage the disease 95 percent of the time,” he says. “It’s almost never life- or limb-threatening.”
Again, though, there’s no evidence to suggest that the number of people who are affected by jock itch has in any way diminished. So what’s keeping pharmaceutical companies like Bayer — owner of Lotrimin, a popular topical jock itch ointment brand — from preserving the rich tradition of deeply weird and uncomfortable jock itch commercials?
Wiederkehr thinks that jock itch has become so ubiquitous that people are all too familiar with over-the-counter treatments like Lotrimin and Cruex, rendering ads pointless. “I’m venturing to guess that the profit margins might be so low that it might not be worth the advertisement, because they’ll go to the pharmacy, and the next thing that’s going to happen is you’re going to see a Walgreens brand Lotrimin for $2 less,” he says. “They’d just be advertising to further their competitors. I don’t think, years ago when they had all those ads, they had all the generic brands that were competing against them.”
There’s no need to despair, however, you lovers of creative jock itch virtuosity: The folks at Bayer assure me that the best is yet to come. “Although we aren’t advertising right now, we have plans to in the future,” says Denise Vitola, a media relations representative at the drug company. “We’d rather not comment on our strategies of why, when or how, but know the brand is thriving and we definitely will show up.”
And we’ll be waiting.