Pad Rash: Causes & How to Prevent It
Pad rash is skin irritation caused by prolonged contact with a pad such as period pads or incontinence pads. Pad rash can be caused by:
- Contact Dermatitis (allergic reactions) to fragrance or adhesives
- Heat / sweat / urine
- Not changing frequently enough
Chafing from friction is a major cause of pad rash. Pads which move can literally rub a hole in your delicate vulva skin and it blooming hurts! Try sizing up or down a pad to avoid this movement and rubbing.
According to Dr Gomes, a consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, disposable pads often "are made from compounds called polyolefins and may also contain absorbent gels, wood cellulose, and absorbent foam....All these materials have the potential to irritate the skin. When pads come in contact with menstrual blood, they release dioxin and methane gas, making women vulnerable to rashes and infections."
It's possible to be allergic to any of the materials used in disposable pads which can lead to a rash. Fragranced pads and even the adhesive strips used can also cause an allergic reaction and period rashes.
Many women dread the coming of summer and with it the rashes that come too. This heat and sweat can cause fungal infections such as 'jock itch' which is super itchy and unpleasant and tricky to get rid of.
Sanitary napkins or pads should be changed every 3 to 4 hours, no matter how heavy your flow is. Some people make the mistake of wearing a pad suitable for heavier flow, thinking they can wear it for longer. However this can lead to bacterial growth and irritation too.
We've already mentioned fungal infections such as jock itch. Thrush is another yeast infection which can cause irritation. Read our article on 'Thrush & Your Period: What You Need to Know.' Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) can also be caused by disposable period pads. Our article 'BV & Your Period' has more info.
"I am in love with my pants, there is no irritation or rubbing, the material is soft and comfortable, the protection goes from the front band round to the back (ultimate hold) there's no smell and they just generally make me feel happier.
I highly recommend giving them a go if you're debating it, join us!" ThriftyT, via Trustpilot
How to Get Rid of Pad Rash
To get rid of pad rash, you can:
- Switch to cotton underwear and loose fitting clothes
- Try internal protection such as menstrual cup if appropriate
- Switch to different type of panty liner, period pants, or reusable incontinence pants
- Take a soothing bath
- Use soothing lotion, hydrocortisone cream (or prescription medicine for fungal infections)
- Keep your vulva dry and clean
Switching to cotton undies and wearing loose fitting clothes allows your skin to breathe and heal. It prevents sweating which causes further irritation too.
This may not be possible, as you may be wearing a sanitary pad for incontinence. Or (like me) you may find that internal period protection just isn't suitable for you. However switching to a menstrual cup or organic cotton tampon will stop further pad irritation.
It's possible to be allergic to one brand of disposable pads. You may find that switching to a different brand (or one without wings / adhesive) may hep get rid of your rash.
"The period pants work like magic, stays dry all day with zero leaks and no irritation that you get from pads. Gives complete confidence to get on with your day as normal." Demi Via Trustpilot
A soothing bath is a great home remedy. Take a handful of porridge oats and blend it to dust. Insert into a muslin or mesh cloth and dunk in a warm (not hot) bath. Sitting in this bath for 15 mins or so can help give some relief.
If the above haven't helped, you can try using antibacterial coconut oil as a pad rash treatment to reduce friction and chafing.
However if your rash isn't shifting, it might be that you require to see your GP who may suggest hydrocortisone cream or an antifungal cream to treat your rash.
Whatever you do, don't use baby wipes on your vulva as they can also cause irritation on that sensitive skin. Keep the area clean using reusable intimate wipes and plain water, then drying the affected area too.
How to Prevent Pad Rash
To prevent pad rash altogether, you can:
- Avoid scented pads
- Swap to cotton pads
- Swap to reusable pads
- Change pads frequently
- Use period / incontinence pants
Scented pads just aren't necessary and are a big cause of irritation. Choose non-scented pads instead.
Consider swapping to cotton pads or organic cotton pads which are less likely to cause irritation.
Reusable pads are made from cloth such as cotton or bamboo and are simply washed and reused. Having fabric in contact with your skin instead of chemical laden pads can help prevent pad rash.
"The pads themselves are great! So soft and comfy, no movement, irritation or odour like I had with disposable pads. It does take a few wears to get used to them as the popper is maybe a bit bulkier than you're used to, but it's totally worth it. Care instructions on the website are in depth and helpful. I also got a really good deal, I would definitely recommend!" Abby Via Trustpilot
Pads should be changed at least every 3 to 4 hours to prevent moisture build up and rashes.
Switching to reusable period or incontinence pants can really help to prevent pad rash. Pants won't move or rub like pads can and are made from breathable materials too.
Here at Team Cheeky, we like to use our pants in conjunction with a pad. The pads can simply be removed during the day, leaving the pants underneath as a fresh layer. Perfect!
We hope you found this article useful. If you need any further information on reusable pads or pants, you may enjoy these:
About the Author: Helen Rankin founded Cheeky Wipes, the original reusable wipes kit back in 2008 after disposable wipes caused her eczema to flare up. 4 kids later, internal period protection such as tampons or menstrual cups were no longer an option for her and she went on to develop their range of 'Simple Reusables' to include period pants, reusable panty liners and reusable sanitary pads.
The Cheeky customer services team pride themselves on providing honest, friendly advice and just LOVE to chat pee, poo and periods all day long, helping people make the switch to reusables! The Company was recognised for their hard work in developing environmentally friendly products with the Queens Award in Enterprise for Sustainable Development in 2021.