A new study by the Mayo Clinic may change your mind about using wet wipes and baby wipes on your bottom.
The study was published here.Warning… the pictures are graphic.
Anyone with a baby can tell you that various brands of baby wipes can be skin irritating and result in rashes for some children. As a nurse, I watched some of my elderly patients develop severe genital and anal irritations, that appeared to worsen with each cleaning. Logical deduction told me that the wipes were the likely culprit. Sure enough, 99% of the time the patient would improve when the wet wipe was discontinued and good old soap and water was reintroduced.
Up until now, it was unknown exactly what caused wet wipes and baby wipes to be skin irritating. Some people will use the wet and baby wipes without complication; after all, everyone has different allergens and skin types. However, some develop severe allergic reactions after using such products.
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic singled out one common chemical, methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI), in four patients with horrible genital and anal reactions to wet wipes. MCI is a preservative that has been used in many common brands of wet wipes since the 1980‘s. It mainly gained popularity because it has antimicrobial effects in very low concentrations.
Some people have never thought of contributing their skin irritations to their use of wet wipes. In fact, many thought that the wet wipe would better clean, aid in healing, etc.. For example, one of the observed patients from the study had been suffering with anal irritation for 20 years. He thought that the wet wipe would aid in healing his skin lesions. Little did he know that it was the very culprit. When he stopped using his normal Cottonelle moist wipes, which contain MCI, the problem cleared up. Another patient, a 63-year-old woman, had severe pruritus and irritation of her genital area for over a year. She had seen multiple dermatologists and received multiple different treatments, including corticosteroids, before entering the study. Six weeks after entering the study and discontinuing her regular use of Cottonelle wipes, she had a 95% improvement. The other two patient stories similarly shared the theme- skin irritations that were not healing with traditional treatment, use of wet wipes, and healing after discontinuing wet wipe usage.
MCI, is well documented as an allergen in Europe. In fact, Europe restricted the use of MCI because of the increased sensitivity they were seeing. The sensitivity in America is scarcely documented. A 2006 study by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group reported a prevalence of MCI contact allergy as only 2.8%. This low representation might be due to under reporting, as patients and doctors have not previously looked at it, or their wet wipes, as a specific allergen until this study. Remember… one of the patients in the study suffered for 20 years. He and his doctor(s) had no idea that the wet wipe could have possibly been the culprit!
While existing data for the United States shows that the likeliness of having an allergic reaction or severe skin irritation due to MCI appears to be relatively small, it is important that the public be aware of the MCI and it’s skin irritating side effects.
My Two Cents:
My advice would be to peruse the labels of adult wet wipes and baby wipes. Look for a product that does not contain MCI. The fewer preservatives, the less likely an allergic reaction or skin irritation will be. I personally use an organic and chemical detergent free wipe on my girls. Websites like- Green Options, Amazon.com and Organically Hatched are great sources for those that have limited product availability locally.