Question: I often get irritated skin after wearing absorbent products on a regular basis. What can I do to prevent rashes from wearing absorbent products?
This is a question we get a lot, and it’s particularly important – good skin care is essential, not only because it has a direct impact on your physical well-being, but because irritated skin can be emotionally painful, too, as an uncomfortable reminder of your condition. Read below for some tips on how to prevent skin rashes from absorbent products.
Keep Your Skin Dry
The most important thing you can do to minimize rashes and irritation is to keep your skin as dry as possible. Absorbents can be a double-edged sword in this regard – they’re a tremendous aid in the management of incontinence, but they can also contribute to problems if you don’t practice good hygiene with them.
As you know, wetness is the primary cause of skin rashes. Wetness changes the humidity between your skin and your absorbent product, and prolonged exposure to this excess moisture – along with the accompanying friction, increased temperature, and changing pH – can wind up as a painful rash.
Your pH levels are particularly important here. As pH increases, bacteria can thrive, amplifying your susceptibility to skin injury. A higher pH also promotes fungal growth and increases the concentration of enzymes that break down the skin barrier. Keeping a healthy skin microbiome protects against dangerous pathogens and helps regulate a more beneficial pH. 1
Keep Your Skin Clean
Rashes aren’t the only things to worry about. Wetness can also cause bacterial overgrowth and contact with the urethra, which can lead to UTIs and bladder infections.1 Additionally, when rashes are left untreated, they can lead to serious skin infections such as Incontinence-associated Dermatitis.2
Ultimately, cleaner drier skin means fewer rashes, which is the goal. Rashes can be a precursor to other complications and keeping the skin clean and dry reduces that risk.3
Choose The Right Product To Prevent Skin Rashes From Absorbent Products
The good news is that modern innovation has greatly improved the technology, design, composition, and performance of absorbent products, transforming the lives – and skin health – of millions of people who live with incontinence.
But that only holds true when you choose products that are right for your condition, lifestyle and body type – and wear them properly. Choosing the right product can help you prevent skin rashes from absorbent products. When worn improperly, absorbents can cause an imbalance of pH, excess heat due to lack of breathability, wetness due to lack of absorbency, and an increase in friction. And when there’s more friction, there’s more chafing – and that means rashes.
So what can you do to prevent this? Make sure that the leg opening is elastic enough that it provides a gentle, non-binding, snug fit that doesn’t dig too heavily into your skin. If it doesn’t feel comfortable, that’s a sure sign that it’s not going to do its job properly.
Make sure that you choose products that are sufficiently absorbent for the amount of wetness you produce, too – the wicking properties of highly absorbent products will reduce leakage and odors, keep wetness in check and maintain dryness to minimize skin irritation and infections.
- Falloon, S. S., Abbas, S., Stridfeldt, C., & Cottenden, A. (2018). The impact of microclimate on skin health with absorbent incontinence product use: an integrative review. Journal of Wound Ostomy & Continence Nursing, 45(4), 341-348.
- Byrd, A. L., Belkaid, Y., & Segre, J. A. (2018). The human skin microbiome. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 16(3), 143-155.
- Bianchi, J. MSc, BSc, RGN, RMN, PGCE; Page, B. MBE, RGN BN, DipN; Robertson, S. RGN). (2015). Skin Integrity in the Older Person. Assessment and Management to Optimize Skin Health. Skin Integrity Focus.
The NAFC Ask The Doc series provides answers to some of our reader’s most common questions from a group of experts in the fields of urology, pelvic floor health, bowel health, and absorbent products. Do you have a question you’d like answered? Click here to Ask The Doc!