How Your Laundry Detergent Could Be Hurting Your Skin

You might have a favorite laundry detergent or fabric softener that you stay loyal to, or perhaps, instead, you enjoy switching up brands and scents. Mountain spring, clean linen, and fresh ocean are some smells you might be drawn to, or you might prefer no scent and use the free and clear detergents.

While it's nice to have a choice in how you smell, or how you don't, if you find yourself randomly itching, red, and inflamed, your laundry detergent might be the culprit (via Healthline). The ingredients in many detergents, including the scents, preservatives, and dyes, have been shown to cause skin irritations and adverse reactions — and this can happen after only the first use of a new detergent, or can develop with repeated use. The free and clear laundry detergents are said to contain no potentially harmful additives like scents or dyes (via Vapor Fresh), which make them a better option for those with sensitive skin.

More than just an allergic reaction

According to Healthline, laundry detergents can be the cause of a skin condition called contact dermatitis. While not life-threatening, the Mayo Clinic reports that contact dermatitis can get very uncomfortable, and cause red, inflamed, and irritated skin. Contact dermatitis can be a symptom of an allergic reaction, or can be caused by an irritant like fragrances, chemicals, or dyes. Those who live with eczema may be at particular risk of experiencing an adverse reaction to the chemicals in their laundry detergent — as dermatologist and assistant professor at Yale Jeffrey M. Cohen tells Everyday Health, "The wrong laundry product can be a real nightmare for someone with eczema." 

Additionally, if you are experiencing an acne breakout, it's possible your detergent or fabric softener may be the cause. New York City dermatologist Dendy Engelman tells Well + Good that "It's often scents and dyes that cause the problem. The majority of laundry detergents and fabric softeners include them." Indeed, the experts at AES Acne Clinic report that some fragrances in detergents can further clog the follicles of those already prone to acne. So if you're trying to clear up your acne and the usual tricks aren't working, you may want to consider switching to a free and clear detergent.

The health hazards of laundry pods

If you use laundry pods, you may experience a different, more serious kind of skin problem. A study published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology reports that in some instances, the use of laundry detergent pods may cause "dermal" or chemical burns that can affect the skin. The Daily Mail reports that the ingredients inside the pods are concentrated — if not diluted in a sufficient amount of water, they can "erode fatty cell membranes," causing chemical burns to the skin and the eyes and, if ingested, the mouth, throat, and gastrointestinal system.

The American College of Medical Toxicology reports that laundry pods are especially dangerous to young children, as the bright and colorful pods may look like toys or even candy. The thin layer that holds the detergent in the pods can easily be broken and can disintegrate quickly, releasing the chemical from the packet. These can cause chemicals burns on the skin and can be fatal if ingested. You may benefit from a free and clear detergent if you have sensitive skin or live with eczema, but if you accidentally ingest laundry detergent or suffer a burn from a pod, seek medical attention immediately.