Skin Care

National Continence Helpline

8am - 8pm Monday to Friday AEST Talk to a continence nurse

Learn More

What does skin do?

  • The skin protects organs, blood vessels and nerves.
  • The skin stops the body losing heat, water and electrolytes.
  • The skin prevents infection entering the body so if skin is damaged, the body will be at risk of infection. This is because bacteria (germs) can enter the body through broken areas of skin.

Why is it important to clean skin after using the toilet?

  • Cleaning the skin between the legs and buttocks after using the toilet is important to keep these areas clean, dry and healthy.
  • Wet or dirty skin can lead to fungal infection, scalding and damage.
  • It is important to use good hygiene in cleaning tasks to stop spreading bacteria to other people, or to yourself.
  • You should wear disposable non-latex gloves when helping someone clean after going to the toilet. It is important to wash your hands with soap and water before putting on gloves and wash your hands again after removing the gloves.

Cultural needs

  • People from different cultures can have different needs for cleaning the skin after using the toilet.
    • People in Western society usually wipe with toilet paper or wet wipes.
    • People in some cultures usually wash with water using a bidet or container of water.
  • You might need to change how you help a person based on their cultural needs.
  • You can find this out by asking the person or their family.

Tips for helping someone after they use the toilet

  • Do not rub the skin because this can cause irritation and small breaks in the skin. Instead, gently pat or dab the skin.
  • Take care when wiping the skin. Too much wiping can damage the skin. If more cleaning is needed, you can use wet wipes (alcohol and fragrance-free) or wet toilet paper.
  • After bowel motions, wipe from the front to the back to stop spreading faeces into the folds of the skin (especially for women) where it is harder to clean thoroughly.
  • If the person has a lot of faeces on them, you may need to shower them to completely clean their skin.
  • Some people with disability might need to use wet wipes instead of toilet paper to stop skin breakdown.

Tips for healthy skin

  • Make sure the skin is completely clean and dry after the person uses the toilet.
  • Protect the skin by washing thoroughly between the person's legs and buttocks after each bowel motion. This might be with a wet wipe or in the shower.
  • Soft toilet paper is gentler on the skin than thin or harsh paper. Some people are allergic to chemicals in toilet paper. If so, stop using the paper and ask a continence nurse advisor or health care professional to find a better option.
  • Avoid using scented soaps, deoderants, or talcum powder. These products can irritate the skin.
  • Check the ingredients of the person's skin care products. Stop using them if they contain alcohol, perfume or disinfectant. These products can dry out the skin too much and lead to broken areas of skin or allergic reactions.
  • If a barrier cream is needed to protect the skin for someone who uses continence aids, choose a product that can be used with continence pads. A continence nurse advisor, the National Continence Helpline 18OO 33 OO 66, or manufacturer's website can give you this information.
  • Check if the person has any allergies (or sensitivity) to a product or ingredient.
  • Always read the ingredient list on the packet or bottle before using any product.

For more information on skin care watch the video below.

Need more help? Call the National Continence Helpline on 18OO 33 OO 66 and talk to a continence nurse advisor.

Extra Resources

Take the Quiz

Question 1

Why should you avoid cleaners with alcohol and/or fragrance?

They can cause an allergic reaction.

They can lead to broken areas of skin.

They can dry the skin too much.

All of the above.

Question 2

If you find blood on the toilet paper when you wipe someone, you should:

ask for help from a health care professional as soon as possible.

make sure they wear a continence pad to stop their clothes getting stained.

not worry unless it happens again.

check what they have eaten because some foods can cause blood in the faeces.

Question 3

When using toilet paper to clean someone after they have passed urine, you should:

use a whole roll of toilet paper.

only use wet wipes.

use a few squares of toilet paper, folded or bunched.

just help them to wash their hands.

Question 4

The best way to clean someone after they have opened their bowels is by:

squirting them with a hose.

putting their clothes back on because there is no need to clean them.

rubbing the bottom with toilet paper.

gently wiping with toilet paper, followed by a wet wipe if needed.

This information is not a substitute for independent professional advice.