Diaper Secrets: Are you comfortable?

In favor over the weekly diaper review I opted to give you something different this week. Back last year a few days before my birthday I got it into my head to start a survey how comfortable people actually think their diapers are. Mostly I wanted a broader understanding of how others see some factors that I’m often referring to in my product tests/ reviews in reference to my own body and use. After it has sat there for slightly over three months we can now have a look at some results. As always with such things it’s necessary to understand a bit of the context, so let me provide some pointers that will put what you will read into perspective.

Let me start by saying that in a scientific sense this survey is far from perfect. I did not put much effort into promoting it on forums or online communities. You always have to be cautious to not be kicked out of them. That’s why this relied mostly on word of mouth and direct followers here on the site. In addition, some users bemoaned the lack of this and that question, not understanding the purpose of the survey, and decided not to fill it out. As a result, we do only have some hundred and change data sets. Therefore there may be a bit of inherent bias and skewed results, though personally I think the general trends are sound and line up with what you can read on forums and what I heard in personal conversations. In any case, I suppose next time I need to find someone who is on Facebook to promote my surveys or offer some prizes, so the masses swarm in by the thousands. ;-)

The other thing to understand is that this is a snapshot of the current state of affairs. A lot of the results are dependent on the availability of specific products and user’s experiences based thereon. Things could change quickly if some company came out with the ultimate diaper tomorrow and the same survey half a year down the line could yield different answers in several areas. This is even more the case when things like your health insurance’s subsidies and cost restrictions (which in turn affect selection of products, quality and quantity) figure in like here in our German public health system. Trust me, if I ever find a well-paid job again, I’ll totally indulge and wear different products than the ones I have to make do with now at times. I’m sure other people feel similarly and would swing their vote…

With that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.

The Demographic

As one could expect, people on this survey come from all walks of life all over the planet. Aside from my homebase Germany users from the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, France and a few other places took part and I’m sure if I had an easy way of offering more languages, I might even have reeled in some Chinese users or something like that. In terms of age there are also no surprises – from young people wearing nappies for fun and sex to elders well into their seventies and wearing because of incontinence all are present. Likewise, the users’ physique includes everything from rather thin to the “slight barrel”. Unfortunately, and I feel bad for the ladies, the survey is dominated by the male species with over ninety percent.

I am wearing diapers because…

This question warrants a bit of an explanation. While the  individual use cases naturally overlap and it’s natural that people using diapers due to incontinence issues might also enjoy them for other reasons, I made a conscious decision to not make this a multiple choice question. Getting aroused on the thickness of your absorbent pad or other aspects of wearing diapers puts you in a different mindset and changes your perception of some things and you may choose different answers. Of course I can admit that this is also a methodical weakness, so I guess if I’m going to re-run the survey at some point in the future I will have to refine it and offer multiple options and branching on that.

In any case, despite this limitation, and that’s probably what you are wondering about, there is no clear winner scenario. From the data it seems that everything is pretty much on par and I dare say that wearing diapers “to feel safe” implies regular use for a reason like bedwetting or certain incontinence issues as well just like “for fun” could include sexually toned uses. When all is said and done, you literally have a fifty-fifty relation between both fractions, serious and not-so-serious.

My current go-to diaper is…

The reason why we all do surveys are some nice diagrams to look at, are they not? So here’s the first one illustrating the most used brands.

Most used Brands

Brands used most by survey participants

Quite unsurprisingly, to me at least, many of the most popular products are foil based and in the heavy-duty department plus they are more on the premium end in terms of price and quality. Now one could argue that this survey was overrun by diaper fetishists, but this isn’t exactly the case. Even a lot of genuinely incontinent people prefer it that way and I count myself among them, even if I can admit that on some days I enjoy being padded way too much to count as neutral. ;-) I have tried to explain many of the reasons in this article a while ago and it would seem despite “the industry” trying to push people toward textile surfaces, foil diapers are here to stay. In fact I think that the company that cracks this nut and makes the perfect foil diaper will make a lot of money when others only sell – sometimes rather mediocre – breathable products. Some other reasons why the chart looks the way it looks should become clear further down.

My diaper size is…

With the survey having been mostly taken by Europeans and their descendants in those countries far away, it’s of course not much of a surprise that most people use size M and L diapers. I’m sure if we’d do it in Asia, we’d see a lot size S instead. While it’s a fun fact, it can serve to explain why sometimes good diapers are hard to come by if you don’t fit the pattern.

In relation to standard sizes, my current diaper feels… &
Perceived size in relation to the designated size

These two points are very much in line with what I said in some of my product reviews. Most users agree that e.g. the Comficare is considerably smaller compared to most other products and conversely their is consensus on larger sized products like the Rearz ones. Naturally, this is part of the design and often intentional just as much as there are normal variations in the shapes across different manufacturers, so one shouldn’t read to much into it. I just feel assured and affirmed that my own observations are not that different from others’ experiences.

The absorption pad in my current diaper feels…

This is a bit of an odd one and the dynamic behind it only became clear once I studied the individual reports from the survey where I could correlate this result with the actual info which product a user actually uses. The interesting thing here is that people would e.g. use an Abri-Form M4, but consider its pad to be too large. Similarly, on the other end a pad in a Tena Maxi is seen as too small (which is sort of logical, since the diaper has small measurements in some areas like the back height and couldn’t accommodate a larger pad). This seems slightly contradictory to me, but admittedly only more detailed personal questions could explain people’s motivations. For me at least nothing changes: I just love relatively large pads around my butt for reasons I do not need to repeat yet again.

My diaper’s real absorption feels like…

Another of those details hidden in the per-user data is how users experience the absorption of their current daily use product. More than anything else, this is an psychologically interesting aspect in terms of how people can be conditioned to accept certain things. The thing that stands out here is that users that have presumably worn incontinence products for a long part of their life already are much more forgiving and do not expect more than they are getting. Some other users, mostly of the young and fun-wearing kind, tend to give lower ratings.

Perceived absorption in relation to the designated absorption level

Finally, as we are approaching the end of this summary article, we are getting to what is perhaps the most important takeaway from the survey. First have a gander at the chart:

Absolute Absorption

Absolute absorption rating on an imaginary standardized scale according to survey participants

The whole idea behind the chart is that users were asked to sort different products into an imaginary, ideal standardized chart. Think of something like an ISO or DIN norm for diapers, if all vendors could agree and settle on the same rating system. While its a bit muddied in that I did not separate products that come into multiple strengths into separate categories, it should still become understandable if you put in a bit of effort to interpret the column heights (= the number of users who have given a specific rating) and their position in the grid.

One very clear example is for instance the ID Expert Slip (yellow row). The island on the left refers to the medium level Extra product, the rest are the Super and Maxi versions. Even if you put in a lot of goodwill you can only come to one conclusion: The products do not deliver what they promise. This is actually quite a bummer and should set any product manager in the diaper industry on alert. It’s even worse for some other products, even ones that ever only come in one absorbency strength. If something like the Comficare, which I would definitely rate as a 10+ still averages in at 8 (which seems sort of a sweetspot where most products end up, despite being declared as the most absorbent offering of any given vendor), then something is afoot. Also note the extreme scattering and value spread of the ratings for some products.

Now of course we can go into endless debates about how often diapers should be changed according to medical textbooks and how thus extreme absorption levels should not be necessary just as we can talk our head off about other things, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is based on people’s real experiences. Just like I need a good diaper with a long duration when I’m on the road with no chance to change, other people need that bit “more” for other reasons no matter what textbooks say. The signs are clear: At least when it comes to taking in lots of liquid, many products underperform and that’s true regardless of which base level is taken as reference.

Since I was surprised by this as well, I asked around in a forum and especially for night time use it seems people go out of their way to really bulk up their diaper so they don’t have to get up at one in the morning to have another nappy change. Luckily I can control my peeing habits, so it’s a non-issue, but to some people it’s a source of trepidation and frustration. One could even go so far as to say that you don’t get the promised bang for your buck and vendors may not always tell the whole truth about what their products can actually do.

Final Words

Regardless of its flaws, I think the survey results offer some interesting insights. To me one of the conclusion is that I must be much more rigorous and less forgiving in my tests/ reviews. As I’m still relatively new to this and haven’t lived through the “good old times” I have no frame of reference, but yes, what’s often said on some forums may be true: There has been an overall decrease in quality in recent years which is not acceptable. Whether that’s the pressure of cost reduction or companies simply making bad decisions is an open question of course, yet apparently many companies in their craze are doing their customers a disservice and leaving them only with limited choices and not the best ones at that.

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