Sensitive skin appears to be far more prevalent than many people suspect. A study published in 2011 in the International Journal of Dermatology, based on a telephone survey of a representative sample of the U.S. population involving 994 Americans (495 men and 499 women), found that 44.6% self-reported having "sensitive" or "very sensitive" skin. Subjects with “slightly” sensitive or “not sensitive” skin were differentiated from those with self-described sensitive skin. Women were more concerned than men (50.9% vs. 38.2%) with skin problems. There was no significant difference related to geographic localization, age, or ethnic distribution. Those interviewed with sensitive skin had mainly dry (34.5%) or mixed skin (35.7%), fair phototypes, dermatological disorders, higher skin reactivity to cosmetics and various environmental factors in comparison with subjects who stated having only a "slightly" sensitive or not sensitive skin. While the dermatologist has a strong influence on subjects with "sensitive" or "very sensitive" skin through the prescription of skin care products, there are other products that such consumers must choose entirely on their own. Absorbent products for those having both a problem with bladder control and sensitive skin have been vulnerable if their skin was easily irritated by the synthetic films and bleached, wood-based fibers from which non-woven absorbents are routinely constructed.
The good news is that innovation in product design doesn’t always introduce new unknowns from newly developed components. Nor does innovation necessarily require exotic, new technology that can be expensive. Sometimes, simply identifying unmet needs of consumers can provide just the spark for creativity in product innovation. Such is the case with Corman, an Italian manufacturer, and its recent introduction to the U.S. market of its Elyte brand line of incontinence products. They can be found, along with its feminine hygiene line of pads, liners, and tampons marketed under the brand Organyc, made from 100% organic cotton. Private label versions of these products are available in some natural food store outlets and at least one national mail-order service in the U.S. specializing in supplies for incontinence. The products are biodegradable and compostable, making them far friendlier to the environment than traditional non-wovens. Part of the Italian company’s mission since being founded in 1947 is to be socially accountable by producing only products that come from sustainable sources.
Cotton, Incorporated, the global trade and research council for cotton, recently completed consumer research in the U.S. with guidance from the National Association For Continence on survey structure and target audience.
Ninety-five percent of users of disposable absorbent products are not aware that there is no cotton in the products they are currently using for bladder control. Sixty one percent said they preferred their products be made of cotton, and 78% said they would be willing to pay more to get it. Between two thirds and three-fourths of these consumers associate cotton with attributes of softness (74%), comfort (71%), absorbency (68%) and the prevention of skin irritation (68%), underscoring the very positive perception that cotton enjoys.
With urine leakage, sensitive skin becomes even more vulnerable to redness, swelling, itching, irritation, generally referred to as dermatitis2. Even fungal infections can occur in the perineal area, between the opening of the vagina and the anus in a woman or in the vicinity of the scrotum in a man.
If you suffer from especially sensitive skin and have bladder control concerns that require protectivewear such as absorbent products, consider trying a product constructed from organic cotton, free of pesticides. Look on the packaging for the Cotton logo for reassurance the product is primarily or entirely constructed of cotton. And see if it makes a difference in your skin health.
Nancy Muller, PhD
1 Available from 2011 Aug;50(8):961-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4632.2011.04884.x., Journal of International Dermatology, accessed November 7, 2012.
2 Available from http://www.aad.org/education-and-quality-care/medical-student-core-curriculum/dermatitis, American Academy of Dermatology, accessed November 7, 2012.