You’re Wiping Your Butt All Wrong and Probably Injuring Yourself

Butt hurt? You’re not alone. Americans are terrible at bathroom hygiene—and now we’re paying the price.


People are so bad at wiping their butts, doctors have coined a condition to mock them for it.

It’s called PAS, or “polished anus syndrome,” and it comes from, in part, Americans’ abysmal bathroom hygiene. After doing our business, we take dry, rough toilet paper and smear poop around our skin rather than wicking it off with clean water. And then when we can’t get clean, we wipe and wipe until we make our butts bleed. (And if you’re a hairy guy, don’t even think about feeling fresh, ever — you’re walking around with tissue clumps stuck to you 75 percent of the time.)

The condition’s more clinical, less evocative names are perianal dermatitis and pruritis ani (Latin for “itchy anus”), and the malady is caused by “overzealous or aggressive hygiene,” which can include use of irritating soaps and lotions and excessive, vigorous wiping.

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Laugh all you want, but PAS is a growing problem, according to Delaware-based dermatologist Curtis Asbury, who recently told Mental Floss he’s seen an increasing number of patients who are wiping incorrectly.

People afflicted with PAS were likely never taught proper wiping technique as children, Asbury says, and have been doing it wrong their entire lives (a sobering thought, to be sure).

As a corrective or preventive measure, Asbury suggests using a damp paper towel, oddly enough. Then, the doctor says, instead of flushing your wipe and causing plumbing problems down the road, throw it in the trash with your other butt rags like the barbarian you are.

It’s astounding how much pain Americans will suffer in order not to do the sanitary and comfortable thing and buy a bidet attachment. Installation is easy! But we’d rather scratch ourselves up than tickle our butts with water. (As a personal aside, I’ve found bidets ineffective, leaving me with nothing but artificial swamp-ass.)

If you insist on punishing your heinie with toilet paper, wipe the correct way, Asbury suggests: front to back, which will help keep your excretory bits away from your dank taint. My advice: Get your butt on an efficient pre-shower poop schedule. Kill two birds with one stone and start your day feeling 100 percent fresh.

Whatever you do, though, just don’t hold it in.