Is your toilet paper hurting you? These doctors say 'yes'
A spray a day keeps the pain away.
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We all have our own preferences when it comes to toilet paper: which brand is best, how many squares to use, and of course, whether or not it should go over or under (the correct answer is under, by the way).
Skeptical (and clinging to our rolls of Charmin), we asked another colorectal surgeon to weigh in on the bidet vs. toilet paper debate.
Why using a bidet can be better than toilet paper
Dr. Goldstein claims that not only does toilet paper simply smear feces around—rather than actually cleaning it off—he also says it can damage the thin skin on your behind. The doctor we spoke to, Dr. Joseph DiRocco of Greater Baltimore Medical Center, mostly agrees.
"As a colorectal surgeon, there are a number of situations where soaking in warm water or using a bidet can improve the quality of patients’ lives though gentle cleansing and soothing of the skin in the area," Dr. DiRocco explains. "A bidet can help clean up without traumatizing the skin or causing small tears known as fissures." That being said, though, he adds that a bidet isn't a foolproof solution, noting that in places like Italy where they primarily use bidets, there are still a lot of people with anal fissures and other rear problems.
How to use a bidet the right way
While bidets can be gentler on your skin, they only work if you use them correctly. One thing a lot of people don't realize is that you need to dry your butt completely after rinsing—and that less is more, says Dr. Jeffery Nelson, a colorectal surgeon at Mercy Medical Center. "Leaving your skin wet will cause skin breakdown," he explains. "The more you wash, the more irritated it can get. This, along with wiping too much, is one of the causes of puritis ani (itchy butt). In other words, the less time you need to wash or wipe the less irritated your skin will be." To dry your skin, you can let it air dry or lightly pat it dry with a sheet of toilet paper.
And you don't need a whole separate bidet. Our senior video producer, Mike Roorda, tried—and loved—the installable Tushy Classic bidet that attaches directly to your toilet.
How to wipe your butt properly
Despite the argument that bidets may be gentler on your bum than toilet paper, Americans still use the latter—and a lot of it. In fact, we use more than any other country, with the average person going through almost three rolls every week.
If you are going to wipe instead of spray, make sure you're doing it right. First things first: Stay away from the soap. "The one mistake that's commonly made, especially in people who feel itchy or unclean, is to use soap in the area," Dr. DiRocco warns. "This can be more harmful than helpful and can perpetuate that feeling."
And if toilet paper feels too harsh on your skin, both Dr. DiRocco and Dr. Nelson recommend carrying around a pack of baby wipes or wet wipes. They're softer than the average toilet paper and the dampness is more soothing than a dry sheet.