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Sensitive skin needs a gentle laundry detergent — here's what to look for

Taking care of your skin starts in the wash.
Smiling Mother And Daughter Folding Clothes At Home
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Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story featured a detergent from The Laundress, which announced a recall impacting their product line citing “safety concerns” on Nov. 17.

If you have sensitive skin, you’re probably well-versed in the skin care products that work best for you. You might have even gone as far as choosing fabrics that will cause the least irritation to reduce the probability of having a reaction. But have you ever thought about your laundry detergent? Choosing the right version of this household essential can be just as important as the body wash you use.

There are plenty of options to choose from in the laundry aisle, but Shop TODAY spoke to Kristin DiNicolantonio, director of stakeholder communications at the American Cleaning Institute, about what to look for in a laundry detergent for sensitive skin.

What to look for in laundry detergents for sensitive skin

Check for certifications. DiNicolantonio recommends keeping an eye out for specific certifications when shopping for a laundry detergent for sensitive skin. These include being Certified Asthma and Allergy Friendly, National Eczema Association Accepted, National Psoriasis Foundation Recognized, Green Seal certified or Environmental Protection Agency Safer Choice certified.

Look for descriptors. Beyond certifications, DiNicolantonio recommends simply looking at descriptive words like "gentle," "clear," "sensitive skin" and "hypoallergenic" as indicators that the detergent will be suitable for your needs. While it’s not a guarantee that you won’t have an allergic reaction and sensitivities vary from person to person, she says they are designed to be more protective than others.

Read the label. If you really want to make sure that the detergent will be suitable for you, DiNicolantonio says, “Always read the label/go online to determine the detergent’s ingredients.” You’re likely to be facing a long list of ingredients you’ve never heard of before but if one gives you pause, your best bet is to look it up to determine if it’s a good fit for your needs.

Use the proper amount of detergent. Using too much or too little detergent can leave clothes less clean than using the right amount, DiNicolantonio warns. While you might think that using more detergent would leave your garments more clean, she says that too much detergent can actually stain your clothes, cause odor and leave behind residue that hasn’t been fully rinsed out. “Instead of soft and fresh clothing, you may end up with stiff, starchy, scratchy clothes,” she said. She also advises following the fabric care instructions on your clothes.

Before you tackle the (physical or virtual) aisle, here are a few laundry detergents suitable for sensitive skin to start your search.

Laundry detergents for sensitive skin to try

Hex Performance Fragrance-Free Laundry Detergent

Designed to prolong the life of your activewear, this fragrance-free detergent boasts the ability to preserve performance, breathability, stretch and color. According to the description, it's also dye- and paraben-free, hypoallergenic and made for sensitive skin.

MyKirei by Kao Easy-Spray Laundry Detergent

Ditch messy powdered and liquid detergents with this spray bottle version. All you have to do is spray it into your washing machine and the brand says it "won't leave behind residue and rinses cleanly and completely." The description calls out its phosphate-free, "plant-powered" formula as safe for sensitive skin.

EnviroKlenz Laundry Powder Detergent

Made without fragrances, chemicals, dyes or artificial brighteners, this powdered detergent boasts the ability to "remove your most stubborn stains and smells." If you're using a standard washing machine, the brand recommends adding one scoop of powder and filling with water before adding clothes. For high-efficiency machines, it's recommended to add a 1/2 scoop along with your clothes.

Purex Free & Clear Liquid Laundry Detergent

Get the most bang for your buck with Purex. It's unscented and made with hypoallergenic ingredients so that it's gentle on sensitive skin.

Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin Laundry Detergent

This Arm & Hammer detergent with 25,000+ verified five-star ratings on Amazon sports a SkinSAFE seal and is described by the brand as "tough on dirt but gentle on skin."

All Free Clear Liquid Laundry Detergent

Touting impressively high ratings on both Target and Walmart's sites, several shoppers have said this detergent has become their go-to for sensitive skin. According to the brand, it's unscented, hypoallergenic and fragrance-free.

Dirty Labs Bio Laundry Detergent

This sustainable option bears the NEA seal of acceptance and is a certified EPA Safer Choice Fragrance-Free Partner. One bottle can tackle 32 standard loads of laundry and it's also septic-safe.

The Honest Company Baby Laundry Fragrance-Free Detergent

This detergent from The Honest Company has several certifications, including National Eczema Association Accepted and EPA Safer Choice Approved. According to the brand, it's specially designed for sensitive skin. "As an adult with sensitive skin issues and eczema I find this detergent to be effective and without ingredients that would otherwise irritate my skin," wrote one reviewer on the brand's site.

Dreft Family-Friendly Liquid Detergent

Another NEA-accepted pick, you might recognize Dreft for their popular baby detergent. This family-friendly version is hypoallergenic and made with zero percent dyes or phosphates, according to the brand.

Tide PODS Free & Gentle Laundry Detergent Pacs

With an almost-perfect rating from over 22,000 verified Amazon shoppers, these hypoallergenic liquid detergent pacs are designed to play the role of detergent, stain remover and color protector. The brand recommends using one pac for regular loads, two pacs for large loads and three pacs for extra-large loads.

Persil ProClean Power-Liquid Detergent

Consumer Reports called this detergent the "best for sensitive skin" in a ranking of best and worst laundry detergents from 2021 and reviewers seem to agree. The description says it's dye-free and perfume-free.

Dropps Sensitive Skin Detergent Pods

For a sustainable, earth-friendly option, try Dropps. It's made with plant-based ingredients, has sustainable packaging and is most recommended to be used on delicate fabrics like silk, cashmere and wool. The brand says it's free of dyes, parabens, phosphates and phthalates. "The light scent is still enough to make the clothes smell fresh and doesn’t bother my family with sensitive skin," one reviewer shared.