RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Saturday Night Live may have propelled the bidet into new popularity with the show's recent bizarre sketch, but many enjoy that clean, fresh feeling they get after using one. In case you're not familiar with the device, it's a fixture, similar to a toilet, that allows you to wash yourself off with water after using the facilities rather than use toilet paper or moist toilet wipes. And a new report in the Archives of Dermatology suggests that a bidet in fact may be the better choice than those wipes. Moist toilet wipes, the authors have found, are treated with a preservative that can cause serious, uncomfortable skin allergies in your nether regions. While you're reading your wipes labels, you may want to check other personal-care products you use, as the same preservatives appear in shampoos, body washes, and hand soaps and may cause dermatitis on other areas of your body.
THE DETAILS: Using case reports from the department of dermatology at the Mayo Clinic, the authors found four instances of dermatitis caused by moist toilet wipes in patients visiting the clinic within a six-month period. The dermatitis occurred near either the anus or the perineum (the area between the genitals and the anus), lasted a few months or more, and in all cases was unresponsive to cortisone creams and other skin ointments. In one case, it caused such discomfort in a postal worker that he had to take two months off work. Each patient was given a patch skin test to check for allergies, and those tests resulted in positive reactions to one of the preservatives commonly used in moist toilet wipes, methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone. When the patients discontinued use of the wipes, they saw nearly complete improvement in their conditions.
WHAT IT MEANS: Unpleasant as it is to think your toilet wipes could be giving you a serious case of the itches, you may want to consider switching to a bidet or a soft washcloth if you have sensitive skin. "For most people, use of moist toilet paper is safe," says Mark Davis, MD, professor and chair of the Division of Clinical Dermatology at the Mayo Clinic. "But it's important to realize that rarely, the preservatives in the toilet paper may cause allergic contact dermatitis, which can be debilitating." Fortunately, he says, the dermatitis, while uncomfortable, doesn't cause other serious infections or problems, aside from a few embarrassing moments of scratching in public.