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The importance of skincare when living with incontinence


Incontinence may be part of daily life but sore, inflamed skin doesn’t have to come along for the ride. Choosing quality products that are right for you or your loved one can protect delicate skin.

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If you’re dealing with incontinence, you’re not alone – approximately 4.8 million adult Australians live with incontinence. Almost all live at home. While continence pads and pants can help you keep up your usual lifestyle, they also trap moisture next to the skin. The skin then breaks down and can become sore, inflamed and infected.


Four out of 10 people with incontinence suffer with these skin problems. Following simple guidelines and investing in quality products, however, may prevent these problems.


What are the dangers?

In the developed world, we’re fortunate to have pads and pants that let you maintain your quality of life when managing incontinence. At the same time, using these products puts you at risk of incontinence associated dermatitis – inflamed skin around your buttocks, hips and genitals.

Incontinence associated dermatitis occurs when stool or urine sits on the skin. The moisture, irritants, enzymes and bacteria they contain cause the skin to break down. It can be painful, and increases the risks of infection, pressure sores, and chronic wounds that don’t heal.


What should I look for in continence aids? 

Healthy skin is possible and it starts with choosing a skin-friendly pad with the right fit. We all have different bodies and different levels of incontinence, so look for a product that comes in a range of sizes and absorbencies, such as HARTMANN products. For example, if continence pants are too large, they can rub on the leg line and cause leakage and odour. If they’re too small, they can create friction against the legs and abdomen.


Choosing the product that offers the right level of absorbency is important for looking after the skin and for ensuring value for money. For example, if the product isn’t absorbent enough for someone with complete bladder emptying, it won’t be able to do its job. Whereas someone who only needs a little absorbency will be more comfortable (and save money) with a product that offers just enough absorbency.


Also, look for products that are easy to get on and off. They reduce the chance of skin irritation by creating less friction when manoeuvring the product.

Most importantly, the pads or pants you use should absorb urine quickly and store it in the core of the pad, away from the skin. HARTMANN products include a three-layer core to quickly remove urine from contacting the skin. Continence pads should also allow air movement, such as breathable side panels.


Make sure the product is both sensitive skin tested, and supports a skin-friendly pH level of 5.5, which is different from the higher, alkaline pH of urine. For example, HARTMANN products have a natural citric acid buffer. It immediately changes urine to match the pH of the skin, avoiding the irritation urine normally causes. Because of their pH buffer and absorbent core, someone using a HARTMANN product correctly shouldn’t develop any redness to their skin.


What should I look for in cleansers?

As well as quality continence aids, a daily routine that includes the right cleansers and moisturisers helps avoid skin problems.


Avoiding the spread of germs is a key step in protecting the skin from irritation and infection. Soon after urination and immediately after a bowel movement, the area must be cleaned and dried. Washing with water can spread germs to other areas of the skin, whereas wipes, such as Menalind professional Skin Care Tissues, are often more hygienic.


Wipes can also be cost effective compared to the costs of water and energy needed to wash cleaning cloths and towels to a hygienic standard. A travel pack, such as Menalind professional Hygienic Wipes, lets you freshen up as soon as possible when out and about, to reduce the risk of skin irritation. When buying wipes, choose one with a mild cleanser that supports the right pH for the skin.


If using a cleanser with water, make sure it's also a mild one that won’t dry out the skin and supports a skin pH of 5.5. Menalind professional Wash Lotion is a gentle cleanser for fragile skin.


Only use as much cleanser as you need and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Gently and thoroughly pat the skin dry to avoid further damage. Avoid using baby powder which can form an irritating sludge and stop the pad absorbing urine.


What should I look for in moisturisers?

Moisturising creams are useful for nourishing delicate skin, such as Menalind professional Body Lotion.


After cleansing and moisturising, use a barrier cream to create a shield for the skin. But be aware that some creams, such as those based on zinc or petroleum jelly, compromise the effectiveness of the continence pad if you apply too much. It rubs off onto the pad and reduces absorbency and breathability.


Menalind professional Skin Protection Foam allows you to cover the skin evenly, but not too heavily. It lets the pad do the job it’s been designed for – maintaining your quality of life while protecting the health of your skin.


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