Soothe Sore Skin After Diarrhea

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on May 28, 2023
3 min read

It’s a huge relief to get over a bout of diarrhea. But afterward, sore skin around your bottom might keep you feeling uncomfortable. People with conditions that cause regular diarrhea, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), know that all that wiping can hurt the delicate skin in that area.

Soothe the irritation quickly with a few easy tips.

It’s important to wipe thoroughly after you have diarrhea. But too much cleaning can backfire. Even the softest toilet paper can be rough on your skin, and crumbled bits of it can get trapped inside skin folds. In the bath or shower, even “natural” or “gentle” soaps that don’t have perfumes can strip your skin of its natural oils, which makes the problem worse.

Instead, use lukewarm water to gently clean your bottom, instead of scrubbing or wiping. A spray bottle can help you reach the area. Then let it air-dry, or gently pat yourself with a clean, dry cloth.

You may think that wet wipes are better than toilet paper for getting yourself as clean as possible. But if they have alcohols, fragrances, or any other chemicals, they can dry out your skin and make irritation worse. Many doctors say gentle cleaning with water is still the best way to treat sore skin.

A gentle ointment like petroleum jelly can provide a barrier that helps protect your skin. It’s a better choice than medicated creams, which can cause dryness and irritation. But use just a little -- an overload of ointment can keep skin from getting air, which will help it heal.

Soaking in plain old warm water can work wonders, too. Fill your bathtub with a few inches of lukewarm water and sit for about 10 minutes, a few times a day. (Don’t stay for too long -- over soaking will eventually dry out your skin.) No bathtub? You can buy a small tub made for soaking just your hips and buttocks at the drugstore.

If your bottom itches, talk to your doctor. They may recommend that you use an anti-inflammatory cream, such as cortisone, for a few days to keep you from scratching.

One of the best ways to keep skin healthy is to let it get as much air as possible. Avoid tight clothing, and wear light, breathable cotton underwear. If you sweat when you exercise or because it’s hot outside, rinse off with water as soon as possible.

It can make soreness worse, too. If you have to stay seated at work or school, you may find it more comfortable to sit on a small ring-shaped cushion, or doughnut.

And of course, do your best to keep diarrhea from coming back. If you have a digestive disorder, take any medications that your doctor has prescribed for your condition, and let them know if you think they’re not working. If you have any new symptoms, such as blood in your stool, call your doctor.