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Caring For Your Skin When You Have Incontinence

Anyone who has incontinence knows that caring for your skin is just as important as preventing leaks. Adult absorbent products such as pads, pullups, or briefs with tabs are great at preventing leaks, but they also trap moisture close to the skin, which can become a problem if it’s not taken care of right away. Built-up moisture can cause many problems and skin irritation around the buttocks, hips, and genital areas. Redness, peeling, itchy skin, and even yeast infections can happen when you sit in a wet absorbent product for too long.

Preventing Skin Irritation

The first step in caring for your skin is to prevent any irritation from happening to begin with. This means:

Changing your product as often as possible to prevent any urine or stool from being trapped close to the skin for too long of a period.

Clean and dry the area immediately after urinating or having a bowel movement

Use a mild soap that won’t irritate your skin.

Skin Care Products

Most people assume that regular cleansing with soap and water is all that is needed to protect the skin and prevent odor. Special cleansers which remove urine and stool without the need for scrubbing and which are not drying to the skin, no matter how often they are used each day, are important to people with incontinence.

Wet Wipe/Wash Cloth. A non-irritating cleanser in handy, disposable wipes. Gently dissolves irritants.

Perineal Cleanser. Soapless, non-irritating cleansers. Gently dissolves and removes feces and urine. Many contain deodorizers in their formulas. Specifically, seek out perineal cleansers formulated especially for delicate skin.

Moisturizing Cream/Lotion. Protective moisturizer formulated, especially for the perineal area.

Barrier Cream/Ointment. Barrier creams are designed to protect the skin from irritation caused by stool, urine, or excessive moisture. While many of the products have a lanolin or petrolatum base, caregivers of individuals at risk of skin breakdown from pressure ulcers due to immobility should seek the advice of a nurse specialist in the selection of appropriate products.

Film Forming Skin Protectants. Film-forming skin protectants are packaged in the form of wipes, aerosol spray, pump spray, and applicator sponges. When the film dries, a clear invisible barrier is left to protect the skin from irritation.

Antibacterial/Antifungal Cream. Cream application with non-prescription strength ingredients to topically treat bacterial or fungal skin infections.

Skin Powder. If the skin is moist much of the time, and if yeast infections are a problem for you, you may want to use a special powder that contains antifungal properties to help keep the skin dry. (NOT baby powder.) Barrier creams or ointments may be applied over powders.

When using any of the products above, keep in mind that you must still clean the area each time you urinate or have a bowel movement. You can reapply the products after the area has been fully cleaned and thoroughly dried.

When To Seek Help

If you start to have problems with your skin that don’t seem to be going away, see your doctor right away. Skin issues might include:

Your skin is severely irritated and doesn’t seem to be getting better.

You develop an itchy, red rash.

Your skin is peeling.

Your skin is raw and tender.

Tips For Caregivers

If you’re caring for a loved one who has incontinence, and especially if they are bed-ridden or in a wheelchair, be sure to take special measures to protect their skin.

Change their position often – in a bed, or in a wheelchair – to avoid getting bedsores. You also may want to try using pillows or pads to reduce pressure on certain parts of the body where bedsores may develop.

Clean any soiled underwear and clothes, absorbent products, bed sheets, chairs, or blankets right away.

Wash and dry the pelvic area after each void.

Be diligent about changing absorbent products regularly (use a timer if helpful).


CAH Headshot April 2023

Carolyn was going to the bathroom 24 times a day… Hear how she found relief.

Today we’re joined by Carolyn Hampton, a patient who had such severe overactive bladder that she was going to the bathroom urgently every hour of the day and night. Medication only did so much for her, but she found real, lasting relief through the InterStim system, a tiny implanted device that helped improve the communication between her brain and her bladder. Listen to learn more about what she was going through and the journey she took to drier days.