I never knew you could be allergic to toilet paper until I had to solve what was causing my own allergic reactions. This is my journey.
What Are the Symptoms?
A toilet paper allergy can feel like an extremely itchy, painful yeast infection without the yeast infection-like discharge. Other reactions can include appearance of irritation on the skin. Slight swelling and redness of the labia can also occur. These symptoms can also affect your bum. In short, it causes a condition known as vulvitis. An untreated toilet paper allergy became debilitating and sob-inducing. The fact that no one, even my doctors, had any answers just made it all the more frustrating. However, there is hope and I'm here to share with you how you can ease the symptoms of a toilet paper allergy.
Discovering my toilet paper allergy
It all started about three years ago with what my gynecologist and I initially thought was a yeast infection. After the visit, I was simply told to purchase an over-the-counter medication known as "Monistat" to treat it. Whether it helped or was just a coincidence, it would get better around the same time as using Monistat, but it would always return shortly after. It quickly became a once-a-month thing. I returned to the gynecologist who seemed stumped. I was tested and retested for a slew of STIs for which all results were negative. I was asked if I used harsh or scented soaps / bath products which can sometimes cause irritations, but I didn't use any products like that nor did I begin using any new ones. This went on for approximately three years (yikes) until I recently began trial and error with which toilet paper I was using. After years and countless tears of deep frustration, I'm finally symptom free. For those who also suffer like I did, I really want to help by sharing what I discovered on my journey of being free from the nasty effects of a toilet paper allergy.
What Causes an Allergic Reaction to Toilet Paper?
The most common culprit that causes reactions from toilet paper is the chlorine bleach that manufacturers use to make the toilet paper look "white" and "fresh" (when they're anything but!). Formaldehyde is also another very common chemical that people are allergic to that is used to toilet paper to make it softer. There are tons of other chemicals involved in the complicated process of making bath tissue, but many companies refuse to reveal exactly what all of these are due to "proprietary trade secrets". That is really upsetting since people's lives can be affected by their products in profound ways. What you can be sure of though is the nicer and more luxurious a toilet paper product seems to be or is, the harsher the chemicals and processes they used to make it are. The level of luxury of a toilet paper product seemed to be directly correlated with the severity of my symptoms. Chances are if you have this sensitivity, you will have to give up on super fluffy and absorbent toilet paper in exchange for something less processed. But trust me, it is completely worth it to toss away those fancy Quilton ultra plush toilet paper rolls in exchange for your health and comfort back.
Chlorine Free Toilet Paper
This is the good part, because this condition is completely manageable! The first thing you want to do is get rid of your chlorine-bleached toilet paper (duh) and grab yourself something that is chlorine-bleach free. This will usually be listed on the outside packaging as companies are finally realizing that there is a market for products that aren't so harsh. The first one I tried was Seventh Generation's unbleached toilet paper. As with most toilet paper that is less processed, it won't be as soft but your posterior will thank you. My condition instantly improved by simply switching to a non-chlorine bleached brand. However, I suggest that you try a few different brands before settling on something for a couple of different reasons: 1) Everyone reacts differently and you may experience better results with a slightly different brand 2) Explore your options in case one of them becomes unavailable to you for some reason
Alternatives to Traditional Toilet Paper
Most people's symptoms will completely disappear when they've tossed their chlorine-bleached varieties, but in my case, although greatly improved, I was still exhibiting slight symptoms. It turns out, you can also be sensitive to the wood pulp in toilet paper. There are some new treeless products on the market made from bamboo that are not whitened with chlorine bleach. I found and bought NooTrees which is made from bamboo, hypoallergenic, additive and fragrance free. After switching to this toilet paper, I am completely free of the painful symptoms of vulvitis caused by other bath tissues. There are a few other bamboo toilet papers out there such as one made by Caboo that are probably worth trying. Additionally, paper made from bamboo is more eco friendly and also softer than recycled paper made from trees.
Beyond Toilet Paper: Bidets
Although switching to bamboo toilet paper calmed my symptoms to the point where I mostly forgot about them, I still have to be conscious about how I wipe. Recently though, I have switched to using a bidet in my own bathroom. I'm not sure why bidets aren't more popular here in the United States, but they have been a godsend for me. Going paperless is one of the best things you can do for your sensitive skin. If you're not familiar, it's basically just a toilet with a water spout fixed inside of it that will wash your private area with a gentle stream of water. Besides having to remember to bring some bamboo toilet paper with me when I travel, having a bidet has already saved me money on not having to constantly stock my bathroom with it.
The advantages of using a bidet don't quite end there, either. They are much more hygienic than toilet paper. Do you clean your dirty hands with just a dry paper towel? Didn't think so. A bidet is also more environmentally friendly than using toilet paper because, in its lifetime, a bidet will use less water for its purpose than is used to grow trees or bamboo used for making toilet paper. Lastly, you can get a bidet with a heated seat... need I say more?
My Affordable Bidet
Additional Steps You Can Take While Healing
- See your doctor or gynecologist and ask for a weak desonide or steroid cream. I got some from my doctor and applied to affected areas while I was healing from using the wrong toilet paper for, well, my whole life. It also comes in handy if you're forced to use toilet paper in public that can make your symptoms flair up again.
- Along with a gentle steroid cream, I found that using Aquaphor sped up my healing process by keeping the area hydrated and avoided opening the cracks in the skin that can form from irritation. It is fragrance, preservative, and colorant-free which is great for sensitive skin.
- Don't wipe aggressively, even if it itches. This will only result in micro-cuts and further irritate your skin.
- Take a sitz bath: fill a clean bathtub with about 3-4 inches of warm water and soak your bottom in it. You can also add some Epsom salt. (This was recommended to me by my gyno)
- Be patient. Now that you're on your way to healing, just give it some time!
With whatever method you use or path you take to healing your body and finding freedom from your toilet paper allergy, I hope that sharing my journey was in some way beneficial to you. Happy healing!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Read More From Patientslounge
Questions or Comments welcome!
Mere on June 01, 2020:
This is exactly what I've been experiencing ever since I've ran out of the Sam's Club member's choice brand toilet paper. It says on their packaging that it leaves less lint behind. I went to go purchase more but they've been sold out especially with the covid scare. I have one more a hypoallergenic brand that I'm going to try but I'm currently using wipes and I don't have any issues. Thanks for sharing!
Claire Helpful (author) from Riverside, California on November 28, 2019:
I'm so glad someone could benefit from this article! I really hope the different paper helps and that you're symptom or nearly symptom free ASAP.
Update me if you can!
JacquiH on September 08, 2019:
Thank you for the post. It was very helpful. I've experienced much of what you described over the past couple months. I was racking my brain on what I could be using to cause an allergic reaction down there and remembered I tried a new brand of toilet paper and was getting down to the end of the package. After two month of trying to treat myself of yeast (and testing neg for bv) to little to no alleviation of this itching it suddenly dawned on me. Thanks again. I'm sorry you had to suffer with this for three years. I'm going to try the Caboo paper and hopefully have some relief soon.
Claire Helpful (author) from Riverside, California on August 12, 2019:
Kenneth, Thanks so much for the encouraging words. Allergies are the worst! I also of outdoor allergies...ugh.
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on August 08, 2019:
Claire: a perfect hub for people who suffer from allergies, such as myself.
I suffer from dry grassy areas when we do not have that much rain and our lawn gets dry and well, when I am outside, those dry segments, pollen, make themselves at home in my head and YUKKKKK, do they hurt.
Thanks for this valuable hub.
Write me soon and you keep up the fine work.