The Truth About Laundry Detergent And Acne

My first thought when my skin suddenly got extremely sensitive a few years ago was to change the lotions I was applying. Shampoo, moisturizer, and face wash all seemed like possible culprits.

Even after switching to natural remedies, outbreaks continued. But while I was folding my floral-scented clothes that had just come out of the dryer, 

I had an insight. It was my laundry. I didn’t initially think much about the detergent I used to wash my towels, clothes, and pillows. But I needed to adapt if I wanted to stop my face from breaking out.

It turns out that using scented laundry detergent that includes irritants is problematic for many people, including me. Hundreds of Reddit users have discussed experiencing the same problem in a thread. 

The cystic acne and pimples on their cheeks disappeared after they switched to fragrance- and dye-free products. Also true of fabric softeners. Many folks had uncomfortable rashes and spots before eliminating them from their daily regimen.

Can Laundry Detergent Cause Acne

When used directly on the skin, harsh chemicals in laundry detergents can irritate the skin. Acne, in turn, can result from irritation. However, wearing garments that have been washed, rinsed, and dried results in minimal detergent coming into touch with the skin. 

It is exceedingly improbable that this modest amount of laundry detergent can irritate the the skin, according to two studies that have been done so far:

Can Laundry Detergent Cause Acne

Study 1: For six months, 516 participants wore garments that had been laundered using various detergents. No one had any skin irritation.

Study 2: For 48 hours, 738 volunteers wore a patch on their skin that contained a modest quantity of laundry detergent. In just 0.7% of the volunteers did a skin rash appear.

In other words, it is unlikely that wearing garments washed with laundry detergent—powder or liquid—will irritate your skin and result in body acne.

However, avoid scented laundry detergents if you have sensitive skin since they could irritate it.

The Science

You might worry that simple home items like laundry detergent will worsen your acne if you have oily skin. 

While it is true that certain harsh chemicals are included in laundry detergent, very little of this material is left on garments after washing, rinsing, and drying. 

According to research, such minute concentrations of detergent ingredients are safe for skin prone to acne. In other words, you may wash your clothing with standard detergent and feel secure knowing that your acne won’t become worse.

Remember that unscented detergents are preferable if you have sensitive skin because they won’t irritate it.

Laundry detergent Scents And Fragrances

Using scented goods might cause skin irritation in those sensitive to odors, aromas, and perfumes. For instance, you could be allergic to smells if you frequently break out in a rash after washing your hands with fragrant soap. 

According to one research, practically all scents used in cosmetics cause adverse reactions in persons who are fragrance sensitive.

In other words, if you’ve experienced an allergic response to one kind of fragrance found in cosmetics or skincare items, you could also be sensitive to other odors and perfumes.

Can Laundry Detergent Cause Acne

As we’ve already mentioned, anything that irritates the skin, including a scent to which you’re allergic, might cause acne. This implies that staying with unscented laundry detergents is recommended if you are sensitive to odors. 

The remaining detergent is probably not an issue as long as there is no aroma to bother your skin.

Regular laundry detergent does include abrasive elements that can hurt your skin if you want to, for instance, hand-wash your garments. However, at this time, we are not discussing acne; instead, we are discussing the skin on the hands.

Let’s take a deeper look at the irritating components in detergents if you’re intrigued, but while you read, keep in mind that the great majority of individuals prone to body acne should be fine using any laundry detergent.

Ingredients That Irritate In Laundry Detergents

Surfactants are the component in laundry detergent that cause the most irritation. A material that cleans the surface of textiles is referred to as a “surfactant,” which is short for “surface-active agent.”

Although surfactants are the most crucial component of laundry detergents, they are also the most damaging to the skin. Surfactants are potent skin irritants due to their characteristics that make them effective at eliminating dirt.

How Severely Harsh Surfactants Aggravate Skin

Surfactants’ primary drawback is that they erode the skin’s purported barrier. This is the skin’s outermost layer, and it functions as a wall to keep moisture inside, keeping our skin moisturized. 

Additionally, the skin barrier keeps contaminants like chemicals and pathogens from penetrating the skin’s deeper layers. To put it another way, the skin barrier plays a critical role in the general health of our skin.

Surfactants harm the skin barrier when they come into touch with the skin, which makes the skin more porous. This permits moisture to escape, resulting in dry, harsh, constrictive skin, and scaling. 

A compromised skin barrier also makes the skin vulnerable to additional toxic elements from the outside, which can aggravate the skin even more. In addition, the surfactant itself may bring a response known as contact dermatitis, in which the skin is red, rough, and irritating.

It is essential to keep in mind that those who are prone to acne frequently already have a weak skin barrier. In other words, compared to those who do not have acne, their skin is much more susceptible to harm from surfactants.


No research has mainly examined the link between laundry detergent and body acne. However, there is strong proof that any detergent left over after washing garments won’t irritate your skin. 

This shows that wearing clothing cleaned with any standard laundry detergent, whether powder or liquid, is safe for those prone to acne breakouts and won’t do so. 

However, it is advisable to use unscented laundry detergents for those who are aroma sensitive.

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