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Have sensitive skin? An expert shares tips for choosing a gentle laundry detergent

Taking care of your skin starts in the wash.
Smiling Mother And Daughter Folding Clothes At Home
Volodymyr Nadtochii / EyeEm / Getty Images

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.

How to shop for 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 certifications 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 laundry aisle (whether it's physical or virtual), here are a few laundry detergents suitable for sensitive skin to start your search.

Laundry detergents for sensitive skin to try

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 23,000+ 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 it's become their go-to for sensitive skin.

Dirty Labs Bio Laundry Detergent

This sustainable option bears the NEA seal of acceptance. 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 know Dreft for their baby detergent (which also has a NEA-accepted version). It's hypoallergenic and made with zero percent dyes or phosphates.

Tide PODS Free & Gentle Laundry Detergent Pacs

With an almost-perfect rating from over 21,000 verified Amazon shoppers, these hypoallergenic liquid detergent pacs are designed to play the role of detergent, stain remover and color protector.

The Laundress Classic Signature Detergent

A bestseller from The Laundress, this detergent comes in sizes ranging from $1 packets to full gallons for the true fans. Several reviewers have said their sensitive skin isn't irritated after using it, despite the presence of fragrance.

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 last year and reviewers seem to agree.

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.