Are you allergic to your washing powder?

Sarah Brown is the founder of Pai Skincare. Entrepreneur, mum and sensitive-skinned soul – trying to find time to practice more of what she preaches…

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 a few days ago I did just 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. Amongst ‘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
  • Also contains Optical brightener, Perfume

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

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 is proving.

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

Here’s what I’ve learnt about selecting more sensitive skin-friendly suds:

  1. Pick a liquid detergent over a powder, as it’s less likely to leave residues in your fabric.
  2. 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.
  3. Use half of the recommend amount of detergent or opt for Eco wash balls instead.
  4. Use less detergent on garments and bed linen that is going to be in direct contact with the skin for sustained periods of time.
  5. Pick an un-fragranced detergent as artificial fragrances are one of the most common skin irritants.
  6. Opt for a long rinse cycle to ensure all detergent residues have been washed away.
  7. Don’t overload your machine as this can prevent thorough rinsing.


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