If you have experienced incontinence, it is likely you will have heard of the importance of using skin care products.
Cleansing foams, creams and incontinence wipes are well recognised popular skin care essentials. However, barrier creams for incontinence are another vital skin care option that are often forgotten about.
Incontinence and the Skin
The importance of a barrier cream can be understood by looking at the impact of incontinence on the skin. Healthy skin successfully protects the body from a range of threats, including trauma and dehydration. The skin has a protective acid mantle with a mean PH of 5.5. However, studies have shown that frequent exposure to urine or faeces may individually cause damage to the skin. The urea in urine can change the skin environment, which encourages bacteria to grow. Faeces on the other hand, contains harmful enzymes that breakdown the skin’s barrier, again allowing bacteria and fungal growth. The most significant damage occurs when both faeces and urine are mixed on the skin. When faeces and urine mix, there is an increase in the PH in the perineal area. This causes the skin to become reddened and more susceptible to breakdown. Ammonia is also produced when microorganisms release urea from the urine, increasing the PH. This can cause the skin to lose its protective barrier. This can make a person more susceptible to friction damage, increasing the risk of pressure ulceration. Incontinence products themselves can also make the skin even more prone to damage, sometimes creating an ideal environment for certain bacteria to grow.
What are Barrier Creams?
Barrier creams are designed to calm skin irritation, such as diaper or nappy rash. The products are able to prevent skin break down by providing an impermeable or semipermeable barrier on the skin. This reduces the penetration of biological irritants that are found in stool and urine. Barrier creams are vital for preventing infections such as incontinence associated dermatitis. Many barrier creams have a lanolin or petrolatum base.
“Barrier creams help with the soreness that comes with the problem of incontinence, as well as giving you a barrier against it! I really recommend them” – Deborah, 46
Enriched in glycerine and panthenol
Prevents and calms irritations
Contains zinc oxide, to form a protective barrier
Using the product:
Apply in a fine layer, massaging gently, just before you replace the protection (nappy, pad etc)
Note: If you are a care giver of an individual at risk of skin breakdown from pressure ulcers due to immobility, you should seek the advice of a nurse specialist.
How to Use Barrier Creams
Ensure you only use a thin layer of a barrier cream when needed, as too much can interfere with the protection of the product. Massage the product in gently. A pea sized application should cover approximately the area of the palm of the hand. If the skin appears oily then too much cream has been applied. allow five to ten seconds for the area to dry. Hold open any skin folds to ensure complete drying.
Additional tips for taking care of the skin:
- Change products before they are drenched
- Keep the skin clean and dry
- Use sensitive skin products if needed
- Change your position often, at least every 2 hours if you are bedbound
- Use soap and water when cleansing following incontinence episodes
- Use multiple incontinence pads at once