washing powder and sensitive skin

Are you allergic to your washing powder?

Unexplained itchiness driving you to distraction? The answer could be lurking in your laundry basket.

Few things feel nicer than putting on a freshly washed pair of pyjamas, but once I did exactly this and almost instantly broke out in an unbearably itchy bout of hives.

In my search for the cause, I inspected the laundry detergent box – and it left me none the wiser. Among ‘other ingredients’, the vague list named:

  • 15-30% oxygen-based bleaching agents

  • 5-15% non-ionic surfactants

  • >5% zeolite, cationic surfactants, poly carboxylates, phosphonates, soap

  • Optical brightener and perfume

For me, “oxygen-based bleaching agents” and “optical brighteners” are far too vague, and clearly made-up ingredient names.

clothes on washing line

Now I know we’re not ingesting the stuff, but environmental triggers such as household products can cause serious flare-ups, as my sore and itchy back proved.

For that reason, we sensitive skin sufferers need to know exactly what’s in the box.

Here’s what I’ve learnt about selecting more sensitive skin-friendly washing powders…

  • Pick a liquid detergent over a powder, as it’s less likely to leave residues in your fabric.

  • Choose a non-biological detergent as these are enzyme-free. It’s thought that enzymes can aggravate damaged skin and many report an immediate improvement after switching from biological.

  • Use half of the recommended amount of detergent or opt for eco wash balls instead.

  • Use less detergent on garments and bed linen that is going to be in direct contact with the skin for sustained periods of time.

  • Pick an unfragranced detergent, as artificial fragrances are one of the most common skin irritants.

  • Opt for a long rinse cycle to ensure all detergent residues have been washed away.

  • Don’t overload your machine as this can prevent thorough rinsing.


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