Do you or don't you? Should I?
Folks seem to shy away from the topic, though in my mind, it pales in comparison to inquiring about condoms, hemorrhoid medication, or any number of highly popular personal care products. Chamois cream has evolved from the days of the real chamois leather pads used back in the day, when its purpose was to keep the leather soft and supple. It's now more about protecting the delicate hide of the rider.
Butter up the buns!
I use chamois cream on every ride and have done so since I started riding nine short years ago. When I started putting in miles on the bike, I was fortunate to have a neighbor who became my bike guru and to whom I could address virtually any question from chain lube to pack etiquette. He was a proponent of cream and at some point in time had started using Ponds face cream for the purpose. I used Ponds for a while and it was effective, but my bibs soon smelled a little too much like my grandmother.
Make your butt happy, indeed! Many makers of chamois creams love playful names like Chamois Butt'r, TBS "That Butt Stuff", Dave Zabriski's DZ Nuts, and Enzo's Button Hole.
I don't consider my ass to be particularly delicate, but I do ride most days and find that if I forgo chamois cream that the skin on my sit bones gets rosy after even fairly short rides. This is especially true for summer riding here in Arkansas. Once you get a bit of abrasion, things can go downhill faster that a fat guy on River Mountain Road as the affected area sits in the sweaty bacterial stew of a soaked chamois. If you've ever had a saddle sore, you will know that what would be an annoying pimple on your nose on prom night becomes a source of true pain when located between sit bones and saddle on a 5 hour ride. Think of sitting on a hot marble for a few hours.
Girls get special treatment...
There are several offerings which specifically target the female rider. I can see that, as, well, uh, ummm, well....let's just leave it at that. I can give no specific feedback on the efficacy of these products in comparison to that of standard offerings, though one interviewee allowed that "it's just fun."
Bliss by DZNuts is specially formulated for females.
I've found all of the chamois creams that I've tried to work. I'm presently fond of TBS, as it contains tea tree oil, a fairly common ingredient, that gives it a little tingle.
Beyond buttering up, the most important practice to avoid unpleasant butt reactions in simple good hygiene. I have been seen standing around in my bibs sipping a refreshment after an event ride, but it is best to skinny out of the nasty things as soon as possible and get into some dry cotton. I'm always taken aback when asked by newbies, "How often should you wash your bike shorts? I'm thinking about getting a second pair." When I come in off of a summer ride, I can barely stand to touch my stinky, sweat soaked bibs long enough to peal them off, much less consider putting them on again before washing both them and me.
Go forth, butter up, and enjoy the ride. Perhaps next time, we'll discuss nose hair. Or not.