Soap? No Soap!!
Soap may be an important part of your bathing routine, but how do you wash your anus? The answer may surprise you. There should never be soap on (or in) the anus.
Anal health care, like other topics related to defecation and the anus, tends to be a taboo subject for many Americans. Parents do not teach their children how to clean themselves, and it’s not a topic you ask your friends about. Many people simply do not know how to best clean themselves.
As on other parts of the body, soap and fragrance can be damaging to delicate skin. However, the solution to better hygienic habits is simpler than one might think. The only thing you really need is clean, warm water.
Avoid Suds, Scents & Scrubbing
The anus is remarkably self-cleaning and should be treated with as much care as other sensitive areas of the body. Traditional soaps and cleansers are too harsh to apply directly, especially combined with the rough act of scrubbing.
Many self-care products have fragrances and other additives that can irritate the area. Polishing yourself clean may be tempting but may cause small cuts and fissures. If you are already suffering from hemorrhoids, all these things can aggravate your symptoms even more.
Go ahead and skip the extra expense of scented toilet paper, too.
A Fresh Start
In most cases, the best remedy to clean (if you must) is as close as the water that comes from our pipes. Water will easily wash away any particulates without causing abrasions or irritation. If you must use something other than plain water, witch hazel or Balneol can be used in conjunction with your bath or shower. In between shower routines, you may resort to witch-hazel wipes or flushable baby-wipes but be sure they are unscented and free of any additives like alcohol. Even the best wipe can dry out your skin, so limit your use. And be aware of how hard you may be scrubbing, too. It’s easy to get carried away.
You may feel like wipes and water are not enough, but it is vital to remember that micro-abrasions can quickly turn into a bigger issue.
Stay Away from Harsh Products and Procedures
We see it regularly in our Los Angeles colon and rectal practice. Patients pay hundreds of dollars for complicated anal hygiene procedures like bleaching or other deep cleaning methods that only put them at risk for fissures, open cuts, itching, irritation, and other symptoms. Even if you can’t see or feel the effects right away, harsh products weaken and dry out the sensitive areas you’re paying so much to care, coddle and beautify.
The bottles of douching solution seen in feminine hygiene aisles may also be tempting, but these products have too much fragrance to be considered safe. You should never need anything stronger than water to ensure you stay clean and comfortable.
Anal Itching and Irritation: A Common Colorectal Complaint
Pruritis ani — anal itching — is usually not caused by poor hygiene. Instead, too much scrubbing with a rough washcloth or loofah damages the skin and causes irritation. Other causes may include:
- Wiping with harsh toilet paper following frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
- Pieces of stool or toilet paper left in the skin folds around the anus after a bowel movement
- Cleaning of the anus with very hot water or strong soaps
- The use of scented toilet paper, harsh soap, douche products, or unnecessary ointments
- An infection of the anus or rectum, or some colorectal diseases
- Medicines, especially antibiotics, that lead to diarrhea
- In children, pinworms and other parasites are a common cause of anal itching
When you see a proctologist, the doctor will discuss your symptoms before conducting a visual examination. They may also need to conduct a manual exam, depending on your symptoms. Before they get to that point, however, they will try to learn as much as possible about your medical history, bowel habits, if you eat a high-fiber diet for colorectal health, and anal hygiene.
If you report regular scrubbing with strong soap, they may have a good idea of what is causing itching and irritation before they ever take a look.
Why Soap Shouldn’t be Your Go-to
Using the wrong soaps too often can cause irritation to any skin, and we recommend never using it on the sensitive skin around the anus.
- Soap products will dry out the area.
- Dry skin can lead to fissures, micro-abrasions, and hemorrhoids.
- Fragrances and additives will only increase any discomfort you may already feel.
Bar soaps that many people use in the shower often have a very high pH, much higher than your skin. Liquid soap, such as body wash or shower gel, may be somewhat better. However, most still have harsh ingredients that wash away your skin’s natural oils. With these oils gone, your skin gets dry and irritated.
Some of these ingredients include:
- Sodium lauryl sulfate
- Sodium laureth sulfate
- Synthetic colors
- Artificial fragrances
Water cleans your skin without exposing you to these harsh ingredients and is the best option for keeping your anal area clean. Just say no to soap, but rinse regularly and pat dry.
Anal Hygiene When You Have External Hemorrhoids
External hemorrhoids are bulging lumps in the opening of the anus. In some cases, itching and feeling a lump coming from your rectum are the only symptoms you will see. A proctologist can diagnose an external hemorrhoid by taking your history, discussing your symptoms, and doing a visual examination.
This clump of tissue can be painless, but it can make it difficult to perform good anal hygiene. Before and after you see your doctor, you will need to ensure the area remains clean to ensure quick healing and reduce the risk of infection. Some tips for maintaining good anal hygiene with external hemorrhoids include:
- Using regular sitz baths for hemorrhoids to relieve pain and swelling
- Showering instead of wiping after a bowel movement
- Avoiding rubbing or scrubbing by using a hair dryer or patting the area dry
- Applying medications or creams only when prescribed by your doctor
Get Fast Relief for Symptoms by Changing Your Anal Hygiene Routine
If you are experiencing symptoms that include anal itching and irritation, the cure may be as easy as changing your routine to eliminate harsh soaps and vigorous polishing. If symptoms don’t go away, it is a good idea to see a proctologist to rule out anything more serious. In Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, or other areas nearby, you can find out more about making an appointment with one of our colon and rectal surgeons at (310) 273-2310.
Our doctors can also offer additional tips and tricks to keep your anal area clean without too much scrubbing “down there.” Let us help you eliminate your symptoms and prevent them from coming back.
If the diagnosis is something more serious than too vigorous cleaning, we can also put a treatment plan in place that allows you to get relief quickly while we work toward stopping your infection, getting rid of parasites, or taking care of another colorectal health concern.