Tons of people have tossed the toilet paper in favor of baby wipes. And we totally get why: Soft and moist, baby wipes can leave your bum feeling fresher and cleaner than boring old butt paper (which can be dry and scratchy).
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But this got us thinking: While some grown folks are devoted to diaper wipes, are they actually any better (or worse) as far as keeping your private parts clean? In other words, should anyone over the age of 2 be using baby wipes after a bowel movement?
Turns out, using baby wipes down there comes with some serious downsides. Spoiler alert: They can irritate your tushy and maybe even your genitals (more on this later). Yep, when it comes to cleaning your crack, baby wipes aren't all they're, well, cracked up to be.
We spoke with Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, to find out whether it's safe for adults to use baby wipes on their nether bits (including which wipes are best down south).
3 Ways Baby Wipes Can Harm Your Health
1. They Can Irritate Your Skin
While you might think baby wipes can leave your skin as squeaky clean and smooth as a newborn's bottom, they can cause severe skin irritation in some people.
Indeed, the fragrances and preservatives used in wipes may be a source of skin allergies, Dr. Zeichner says. These irritating ingredients can disrupt the delicate skin down there, leading to unpleasant (or painful) symptoms such as dryness, itching, redness, burning, stinging and peeling, he says.
2. They Can Worsen Dry Skin or Eczema
If you have a history of skin conditions like eczema, baby wipes can worsen the problem. In people with sensitive skin, the preservatives found in many brands of baby wipes may aggravate skin reactions, Dr. Zeichner says.
"I don't recommend using them at all in people who have baseline dry skin or conditions like eczema," Dr. Zeichner says. "Even the fragrance-free wipes may lead to irritation in these people," he adds.
3. They Can Cause Vaginitis
Baby wipes can also bring about a bout of vaginitis (i.e., irritation of the vagina or vulva).
Vaginitis occurs whenever there's a disturbance to your vagina's healthy chemical balance, according to Planned Parenthood. This imbalance can happen if you have an allergic reaction or sensitivity to a product like baby wipes.
And because the vagina is self-cleaning, attempting to wash inside of it may only create more irritation, per Planned Parenthood. That means if you choose to use baby wipes, only use them on your outside parts, not inside the genitals or anus, Dr. Zeichner says.
And always remember to wipe from front to back to prevent the possible spread of harmful bacteria (found in your feces) to the urethra, which can cause an infection.
How to Find the Best Baby Wipes for Adults
Whether baby wipes will irritate your bum often depends on their ingredients. Here's what to look for, especially if you have a sensitive tush:
- Fragrance-free/unscented: "No matter who they are being used for, I recommend sticking to fragrance-free wipes to avoid potential skin reactions," Dr. Zeichner says.
- Free of other harsh chemicals and additives: Look for wipes made without parabens, sulfates, phthalates or synthetic dyes, which can strip away your skin's natural moisture and further irritate dry skin.
- Alcohol-free: Alcohol can be very drying, especially for people prone to dry skin.
- Eco-friendly: Using baby wipes shouldn't come at a cost to the planet. Try opting for wipes that are biodegradable and compostable. A big bonus if they come in recyclable packaging.
Try One of These Options
Not a Fan of Baby Wipes? Try One of These Strategies Instead
You don't need to use baby wipes to keep your privates pristinely clean. Try these simple, nonchemical, wipe-free ways to wash yourself post poop session:
1. Toilet paper and water: Unscented, undyed toilet paper is best, Dr. Zeichner says. Wet it with water and wipe the area gently.
2. A bidet: A little splash of water will do the trick. Yep, after going to the bathroom, a bidet (a toilet fixture that sprays H2O) or a hand shower can sufficiently cleanse the area, Dr. Zeichner says.
So, How Bad Is It Really to Use Baby Wipes as an Adult?
Everyone's body is unique and will have a different reaction to certain products. So, whether your tush can tolerate baby wipes is an individual issue.
"Generally speaking, baby wipes are as safe for adults to use in private areas as they are to use in babies," Dr. Zeichner says. Still, people with sensitive skin are more likely to experience irritation.
All this is to say: If your nether bits aren't bothered by baby wipes, wipe away. But if you notice any discomfort down there, it's probably best to chuck the wipes in the wastebasket and stick to toilet paper instead.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.