Wearing a pad is supposed to make your life a little bit more comfortable — unfortunately, sometimes it can do the exact opposite.
Extended use of pads can leave behind an itchy, swollen, frustrating rash on the exact part of your body where you really don’t want one.
Before you freak out, rashes from pads are actually pretty normal. But why exactly is your body intent on making you feel as miserable as possible about your situation down there? And how can you make it go away ASAP?
The good news: There are lots of treatments! The bad news? You need to figure out the cause of your rash, first. Luckily, we’re here to help.
Most of the time, a rash from a pad is the result of contact dermatitis, which is a fancy way of saying your skin has come into contact with something that is causing a bad reaction.
Here are a few things that could be causing that reaction:
Chemicals or materials in the pad
Pads are made up of different materials and chemicals, and some may end up bothering the sensitive skin you have down there. For example, your skin may not play nice with the top sheet of your pad, which comes into contact with your skin the most often.
Adhesives in the pad
Adhesives on a pad can be a lifesaver: they keep it in place even when you’re doing a lot of moving around. But adhesives can be irritating on any part of your skin, especially this sensitive area.
If the adhesive ends up against your skin instead of against your underwear, it could cause a rash.
Fragrances in the pad
Fragrances might be added to a pad to keep things smelling… fresh. Unfortunately, they can also be irritating to sensitive skin and, in some cases, can cause an allergic reaction that can lead to a rash.
Friction against the skin
On most days, you’ll probably use a pad on your underwear, then wear something over it, like jeans or leggings.
If the pants and/or underwear are pretty tight, this can mean the pad is rubbing against your skin for hours on end, causing uncomfortable friction that can turn into a rash.
Too much moisture
Just as an unchanged baby is prone to develop diaper rash, so too can your pad mess with your downstairs. If your pad isn’t being changed often enough, moisture can build up and become a breeding ground for bacteria, which in turn can lead to a nasty rash or infection.
It’s normal to be a little alarmed if you notice that your skin is red, itchy, and full of little bumps. But how to tell if it’s contact dermatitis from your pad or something else?
If the rash is caused by an allergy, look for these symptoms:
- dry, flaky skin
- oozing blisters
- redness or darkened skin
- extreme itching
If it’s caused by an irritant, look for:
- cracking skin because of dryness
- stiffness or tightness
- open sores
Keep in mind, rashes are notoriously difficult to diagnose and these symptoms could be signs of other types of rashes as well. If your symptoms align with any from the above and you’ve been wearing pads for several days, your pad could be the culprit.
Always reach out to your healthcare provider if your symptoms worsen or last longer than a week — we know it’s awk, but better safe than itchy, right?
A rash from a pad is going to show up wherever that pad has been hanging out. You’ll likely notice it on your vulva, buttocks, and/or thighs.
So is a pad rash the same thing as an adult diaper rash?
Even though they share many similarities, pad rashes and diaper rash are not the same.
The two have very similar symptoms, like redness, burning, and itching. But while a pad rash is caused by, well, a pad, a diaper rash isn’t always caused by the diaper.
Adult diaper rash can indeed be caused by adult diapers. They happen because of irritation from the diaper, improper washing, infrequent changing, an allergic reaction, a yeast infection, or a fungal infection.
But adult diaper rashes can also happen even if you don’t wear a diaper (*gasp!*).
They can occur whenever there is a warm, moist environment or skin friction in the genital area, and that can happen due to things like chafing skin, nonbreathable undergarments, or ill-fitting clothing.
Meanwhile, a pad rash is called a pad rash because it occurs from wearing a pad or from experiencing complications due to wearing a pad. Make sense?
Now for the good stuff — It’s not difficult to treat a pad rash, but it might require some trial and error on your part. When you want to feel more comfortable immediately, here’s what to try:
Switch up the pads you’re wearing
Maybe the kind of pad you’re using is bothering your skin. Try using a totally different brand and maybe go for something with no adhesive if you think that’s the issue.
Scented pads could easily be causing a bad reaction in your genital area. Opt for something unscented to see if it makes a difference.
Try natural pads
All-natural pads made of cotton with no dyes or irritating adhesives (also usually fragrance-free) may be the best option for some types of skin. They may help prevent future rashes.
Change your pads more often
Maybe you just weren’t changing your pad enough — that could easily lead to a rash.
Try changing your pad more throughout the day. Wear a thinner pad if possible so that you know you’ll need to change it sooner than something larger that absorbs more.
Wear loose clothing
Tight clothing and tight underwear can make your genital area an uncomfortable place to be, especially when you have a pad on. Try wearing loose underwear and loose pants, or even a skirt or dress.
Take a sitz bath
A sitz bath is meant to relieve irritation in your genital area and may feel super soothing against a rash.
You can get them at most drugstores (or even order them on Amazon). You fill the shallow bath with warm (not hot) water, place it over the toilet, then sit in it for about 5 to 10 minutes before patting yourself dry.
What about medication?
If the rash isn’t improving, you should of course call your doctor to talk about medication. The best option is typically hydrocortisone cream on the outer vulva area (never inside the vagina) to relieve any irritation.
How long will it take before it heals?
Once you notice a rash and begin treating it, it should go away within 2 to 3 days. Again, if you notice that it’s not going away even if you’re treating it, or getting worse, call your doctor.
Anything that gets more serious may take longer to treat.
The (front) bottom line
- Wearing a pad can lead to contact dermatitis, which can lead to an annoying rash.
- It can be caused by the pad you’re wearing, a scented pad, too much friction, or too much moisture.
- It will typically leave the skin looking red, swollen, and bumpy, and may burn, or feel itchy.
- You’ll notice a pad rash on your vulva, thighs, or buttocks.
- Treating a pad rash might require you to try a few different things, like switching your pads, changing them more often, or wearing loose clothing.
- Rashes from pads don’t take long to heal and should clear up within a few days once you start treating it.