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Skin care

Video: Wound nurse consultant Jan Rice discusses why skin problems occur with incontinence and in ageing skin; and why good skin care is important.

Skin structure (0.52)

Why do skin problems occur with incontinence? (1.23)

Why do skin problems occur with our ageing skin? (2.37)

The basics of good skin care (3.29)

Preventing dry, itchy skin (5.11)

Preventing red, angry skin (5.48)

Preventing pressure injuries (6.39)

Getting the skin to work as a protective barrier (7.28)

Where to get help (7.54)

Good skin care is essential for people with incontinence and their carers. Urine and faeces can damage the skin, causing redness, irritation and soreness. This can be distressing, uncomfortable and socially isolating.

Skin areas most at risk are around the anus (back passage), the genitals, between the buttocks, and the inner thighs. Damp, warm skin is unfortunately a good place for bacteria, including fungal infections and urinary tract infections.

Episodes of bladder leakage or faecal incontinence (soiling) can cause inflammation of the skin surface, resulting in redness, pain and itching and sometimes swelling and/or blisters, dryness, flaking or itching. This damaged skin is now vulnerable to infection. Skin can easily break down in people who:

  • Have continence problems;
  • Are older;
  • Have dry skin;
  • Have limited mobility;
  • Have cognitive impairment;
  • Take medicines for other illnesses;
  • Are unable to care for themselves.

The best ‘treatment’ for skin problems is prevention. This includes prventing urinary tract infections, drinking enough fluids every day, preventing pressure injuries, good nutrition and talking to a doctor or continence health professional.

Practical tips

When caring for someone with incontinence, some every care tips for healthy skin include:

  • keep the skin clean and dry. Wash the person’s buttocks and between their legs with warm water and soap when changing used pads.
  • do not use solutions with alcohol or disinfectant directly onto the person’s skin as this can be very drying, cause soreness and cause skin breakdown or allergic rashes.
  • avoid perfumed moisturisers, especially if the person has allergies or sensitive skin or if there is redness or broken skin.
  • change the pad frequently enough to keep the skin dry
  • wash skin at least twice daily, preferably with a soap-free cleanser or a soap alternative
  • pat dry carefully – do not rub
  • avoid talcum powder and barrier cream as they can interfere with the absorbency of continence pads. If barrier cream is needed, try to only use a thin layer
  • make sure the continence product is put on and removed correctly (read the instructions carefully).

If irritation persists, seek help from the continence nurse advisor or the doctor.

>   Further information

Download or order the Skin care and incontinence booklet