People are claiming dryer sheets cause acne - but dermatologists disagree

Those with sensitive skin should try using fragrance-free detergents in their laundry

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Wednesday 03 May 2023 17:29 BST
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Acne can be caused by a multitude of factors, but it’s often difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing a breakout.

While changes in skin care products, stress, and even that time of the month are all known to impact your skin, a theory from Reddit has people throwing out their dryer sheets.

In the r/SkincareAddiction subreddit, one user shared their ongoing investigation into what was making them breakout. According to the Reddit user, who explained that they’ve been “eliminating products from my life pretty regularly this year” to narrow down the irritant, the problem ultimately had to do with their laundry routine.

It wasn’t until they’d cut out everything except “All Free and Clear detergent and white vinegar” that their skin cleared.

“My skin’s recovery has been dramatic since then, and my dermatologist confirmed that dryer sheets can be a huge trigger for some people,” they wrote. “Apparently they coat fabric (including your pillowcases) in a thin layer of wax and grease, which can leach into your pores at night while you sweat.”

While many commenters also said they’d noticed a link between laundry products and their acne, dermatologists aren’t as easily convinced.

Speaking to The Independent, Dr Meghan Feely – a New York City and New Jersey board-certified dermatologist and Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology – said that dryer sheets may effect breakouts, but they aren’t the only cause of acne.

“Synthetic ingredients in dryer sheets may cause skin irritation and potentially increase the risk of a breakout in some individuals, but everything considered, the strongest factors that underlie acne are hormones, bacteria, genetics, and lifestyle,” she told us.

“Acne can also result as a side effect from certain medications,” Dr Feely said, before advising those suffering with acne to see a board-certified dermatologist to identify what treatment course is best to address the condition. She also recommended washing bed sheets and towels regularly, “as oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells can build up over time on fabric that is not clean” and contribute to acne.

“In general, for patients with sensitive skin, I recommend fragrance-free detergents, and putting clothing and bedding through an additional rinse cycle,” she suggested.

Board-certified dermatologist Dr Rebecca Baxt agreed, saying: “Dryer sheets are not known to cause acne, however, they can bother people with sensitive skin.”

As for what to do if you do believe dryer sheets are causing a skin issue, Dr Baxt pointed out: “Who really needs dryer sheets anyway?”

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