Take a Breath: Plastic- vs Cloth-Backed Briefs
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Take a Breath: Plastic- vs Cloth-Backed Briefs

"Do you have any plastic-backed adult diapers?"

Starting today, the Healthwick call centre team is going to start a jar and drop in a quarter every time we hear this question. It comes up so often that we're sure by the end of December, we'll be able to afford a great office lunch.

The reason that consumers keep asking this question is that the plastic-backed (or more specifically the "polyethylene backed") adult incontinence briefs are rapidly disappearing in the Canadian market. In the past year, both the Molicare Super Brief and the TENA Slip Maxi (previously both bestsellers at Healthwick) have changed to a cloth-like, breathable backing. 

Why is that?

Well, the consensus among healthcare professionals appears to be that breathable, cloth-like briefs are better for skin health and reduce the risk of skin rashes and skin breakdown. 

A study by EDANA found that users reduced their risk of infection by the common Candida Albicans fungus by more than 50% by switching to a breathable incontinence product. 

So why are people still using plastic-backed briefs?

The most common reason that customers say they prefer plastic-backed briefs is because that they are believed to minimize odour and leaks better than cloth-like briefs. There's an element of security in having a product that is formed of a single polyethylene sheet.

That said, polyethylene products can come with risks:

  • Customers may feel they need to change their brief less often, which itself can cause skin problems as urine is in contact with the skin for longer. 
  • Non-breathable briefs can be too hot or sweaty, especially in hot weather, which can cause skin irritation.
  • Plastic-backed briefs are generally noisier and many people feel that the distinctive "rustle" is detectable, even under clothing.

Are breathable briefs still waterproof?

Yes! Breathable briefs are formed with a paper-based cloth-like outer shell for both the core area and the side panels. 

However, between the shell and the super absorbent material in the core, there's a thin layer of water-proof plastic that is undetectable to make the product water-tight. Additionally, the side panels, like the leg guards and cuffs, are typically manufactured of hydro-phobic (i.e. water-proof or water-resistant) material to capture leaks.

The trend is currently pointing to an end for plastic-backed briefs, however for those who still prefer them, Healthwick does offer a collection of the last plastic-backed products here

And whatever your preference, practice good skin hygiene, change your brief when soiled, and allow for short periods of air exposure daily to keep your skin healthy.

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