Ostomy Skin Care Tips

February 21,2020 |

If you’ve had an ostomy, you know how delicate the skin that surrounds your stoma—your peristomal skin—is. Peristomal skin is more susceptible to damage because of the stress and exposure that it gets when caring for your ostomy. But, just as it’s important to keep an eye out for irregularities in your stoma, you need to make sure to keep your peristomal skin healthy. When your skin is irritated or inflamed, it’s a sign that something’s wrong. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best ostomy skin care tips and make sure you know when you need to call a doctor if you’re experiencing peristomal skin problems.

Peristomal Skin Damage

Your peristomal skin is extremely sensitive. It faces constant irritation from the seal of your ostomy pouch and supporting accessories and rarely gets a chance to breath.1 This constant contact makes it easy for peristomal skin damage to occur, especially when it comes in contact with your stomal output.1 Because of this, many people have come to accept peristomal skin damage and irritation as normal. This isn’t normal and needs to be addressed to keep your body healthy and comfortable. Below are some of the different types of peristomal skin damage to watch out for. If you notice any of these, you should contact your doctor so you can work on reducing irritation and damage.


  • Leaksif you have a leak, your stomal output can cause healthy skin to breadown.2 This can lead to a number of different problems. If you notice any leaks, make sure to talk to your doctor and try different sizing options.


  • Pressure – certain articles of clothing can put added pressure on your peristomal skin and stoma. This can cause leaks, irritation, and general damage.


  • Stoma Size – when your skin barrier isn’t the right size for your stoma, you’ll experience leaks, irritation, and peristomal skin damage. Your skin barrier should fit closely around your stoma and be about 1-2mm larger.2


  • Skin Folds – these can cause problems, such as adherence issues or improper fit. Your skin barrier should fit flush with your skin, so if you have skin folds you might need to try using a different shaped barrier.


  • Skin Strippingskin stripping is essentially friction that occurs when you take off your skin barrier too quickly.2 Doing this will strip the skin, or pull off the top layers, and cause persistent irritation.


  • Pouching Problems – other problems can occur if your pouch is irritating your skin. You might have a sensitivity or allergy to the material, so talk to your doctor about alternative options.


  • General Problems – other problems include irritation, redness, dry or cracked skin, bleeding, or signs of infection. If you notice any changes in the peristomal skin or your stoma, contact your doctor to make sure that you can address the underlying problem and repair your skin.


Why is Skin Care so Important?

Healthy skin is important as it reduces the likelihood of irritation, infection, and overall discomfort. Your peristomal skin shouldn’t feel any different from the rest of the skin, so make sure to regularly check your skin for signs of damage or irritation. Talk to your doctor about what healthy skin looks and feels like, so you can make a comparison. This is especially important if you’ve been dealing with irritation regularly and might have forgotten what healthy skin feels like. Ostomy skin care is important, as it keeps your skin healthy, reduces flakiness, and decreases discomfort.

Healthy skin means fewer chances for infection or more serious problems. Keeping your skin healthy, especially the peristomal skin, should be one of your top priorities in managing your ostomy. Skin care also helps to reduce flakiness, which is often a huge cause of irritation. To help combat flaky skin from within, hydration is important. If you take the proper steps in skin care, you’ll reduce overall discomfort and live a happy, healthier life with your ostomy.

How to Care for the Skin Around Your Stoma

Since peristomal skin is so sensitive, the ideology that less is more applies. If you don’t have any problems, try simply rinsing the skin around your stoma. This is usually a sufficient way to clean your peristomal and avoids introducing harsh chemicals or irritating soaps. If that doesn’t work, always opt for a mild, unscented soap without any added components. Try to get something natural and avoid using any other skin care products.

Visual Checks

Make regular visual checks to see if your skin is healthy. If you feel any itchiness, heat, moisture, or see changes in skin tone color, you might be suffering from a peristomal skin problem.2 Similarly, the coloring should be the same as the rest of your skin. Every time you change your ostomy pouch system, conduct a more thorough visual check. If you notice any leaks, skin folds, redness, or stomal output, you likely have a problem with your ostomy pouch system and will need to inspect it for damages.

Shower Regularly

This should be obvious, but taking regular showers will help you care for the skin around your stoma. When you regularly shower, you’ll eliminate any grime buildup from your body and specifically, the peristomal skin. Some people prefer to remove their ostomy pouch system when they shower, which allows them to shower regularly and clean every area of their body. Doing this also gives your skin a chance to breath without worrying about messy cleanup. If you’d rather keep your ostomy pouch system on, that’s okay too. Just make sure that you’re still cleaning the skin under the barrier regularly. Remember, soap and water will not go into your stoma, so you don’t need to worry about causing damage when showering without your pouch system.

Choose a Well-Fitted Ostomy Barrier

Another one of the best ostomy skin care tips is to choose a well-fitted ostomy barrier. This is arguably one of the only ways to ensure that you avoid skin damage, as an improper fit leads to a myriad of problems. When you chose a well-fitted ostomy barrier, you’ll prevent irritation and reduce the likelihood of leaks or adhesive problems. Talk to your doctor or ostomy nurse about how you can use a measuring guide to determine the size of your stoma, then select a cut-to-fit or pre-cut barrier.4 As your stoma size changes, which happens up to 10 weeks after surgery, you’ll need to change your ostomy barrier.4 Keep an eye out for any changes and regularly measure your stoma to ensure you’re updating your barrier to the correct size. After you’ve recovered, if you gain or lose weight you’ll need to find a new barrier. Similarly, pregnancy and certain medical conditions can cause your stoma to change size and thus, require a new ostomy barrier.4

Change Your Pouch Correctly

The way you change your pouch matters. You’ll need to change your ostomy pouch system regularly for the rest of your life, so it’s imperative that you learn how to do so in a healthy way. Keep your skin clean and dry when you change your pouch and look out for any residue or remnants of old adhesive.3 If you notice any, remove it before putting on your new ostomy pouch system. If you need to use any skin cleansing wipes to remove the residue, make sure they’re made specifically made for ostomies to avoid unnecessary irritation. Before putting your new ostomy pouch system on, make sure the skin is cleaned and dried again. This will help reduce irritation and will prep the skin for a tight barrier.  

Avoid Excess Products

When you wash your peristomal skin, water should suffice. If you need to use soap, only use mild, unscented products. Do not add any other products to your peristomal skin like you do for other skin care regimens. Avoid lotions, alcohol cleansers, and anything that will cause a problem with the skin barrier. If you need to add something to your regimen to reduce irritation or redness, opt for a medical grade stoma powder. Stoma powder can help your skin heal and is manufactured to compliment ostomy pouch systems and their natural fit.3

Essential Ostomy Supplies

Using the proper ostomy supplies is crucial for ostomy skin care, a healthy stoma, and healthy peristomal skin. To make sure that you’re taking proper care of your ostomy, opt for high-quality, medical grade ostomy supplies. You’ll need ostomy pouches, ostomy flanges, stoma powder, and skin prep essentials to get the most out of your ostomy skin care. At Byram Healthcare, we’re committed to helping improve the life of people living with an ostomy and offer a wide range of ostomy supplies, ostomy bags, and support systems. Check out our selection today!