Allergies and Sensitivity Caused by Skin/Face Soaps and Shower Products – Changed Formulation of Pears (Previously Hypo-allergenic) Transparent Soap

Allergies and Sensitivity Caused by Skin/Face Soaps and Shower Products – Changed Formulation of Pears (Previously Hypo-allergenic) Transparent Soap: Sometimes we start to become allergic or sensitive to items that we have been using for many years. Although age can be a factor in developing new allergies sometimes the cause is much simpler – a manufacturer may have changed the formulation of a trusted, familiar, brand. This could be driven by cost or their opinion of changing consumer preferences (like adding stronger or different odours). I describe below how, after decades of use, I found myself itching uncontrollably after using Pears transparent soap

Prime Suspect -Reformulated Pears Soap
Prime Suspect -Reformulated Pears Soap

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For some time now I have been meaning to share with you a skin sensitivity issue that I recently discovered. Unlike my earlier horrific allergy experience with washing machine additives (see link here) this latest unpleasantness appeared to come from a most unlikely source – Pears Transparent Soap.

Before I explain the details of what happened with my body and face soap let me provide you with an update on the washing machine additive saga. I have been amazed about the amount of interest this earlier article generated and would like to thank all of you who have shared your own skin allergy experiences with me. Clearly this is a very important area affecting vast numbers of people, some of whom having symptoms far worse than mine.

Washing Additive Suspected of Causing Earlier Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Washing Additive Suspected of Causing My Earlier Allergic Contact Dermatitis Symptoms

Rather than being negative I would like use my experience to provide some hope to fellow sufferers. If you can identify the cause of your allergy and eradicate it from your environment it may be possible to return to normality. The way I did this is described in my earlier article and in the illustration below.

To share my turnaround with you I took some photos this week of my skin 6 months after the ‘eradication’ of the source of the problem. Below are pictures of my chest and arm taken at the height of my allergic skin reaction (‘before’) and shots of the same areas from last week (‘after’ source eradication). Source eradication involved throwing out the laundry additive (allergen) and multiple dustbin bags of potentially ‘contaminated’ clothes (article link here provides more details). Just click on my photos to see high definition copies.

1 Allergic Contact Dermatitis From Washing Additives - Chest
1 Allergic Contact Dermatitis From Washing Additives – Chest (‘Before’)
2 Chest After Eradicating Allergenic Washing Additives and Pears Soap
2 Chest ‘After’ Eradicating Allergenic Washing Additives

As you will see from the photos it is difficult to imagine these are taken of the same person separated only by a few months. If you have any doubts that they are from the same body please note the small ‘beauty spot’ (OK a slight exaggeration!) just below my nipple on the before and after chest pics above.

3 Allergic Contact Dermatitis From Washing Additives - Left Arm
3 Allergic Contact Dermatitis From Washing Additives – Left Arm (‘before’)
4 Left Arm After Eradicating Allergenic Washing Additives and Pears Soap
4 Left Arm ‘After’ Eradicating Allergenic Washing Additives

Having eradicated this major irritant from my life (or to be more precise from my washing machine) I became aware of another issue. For most of my life I have preferred to use Pears Hypo-allergenic Transparent Soap. This was not always possible because I spent much of my career oversees – in fact while I was building my factory in Taiwan In used to return with suitcases full of the soap whenever I visited the UK.

Original Hypo-allergenic Pears Soap and Box
Original Hypo-allergenic Pears Soap and Box

Following my incident with the washing machine additive I cleared my home of any washing or hygiene products incorporating man made chemicals or suspect items like enzymes. I presumed that my old friend ‘Pears’ could be left off this black list. However I recently became aware that I was itching under my armpits, around my genitals and bottom. Thinking that it might be due to some remaining contamination from the washing machine saga I decided to thoroughly wash myself each day with my hypo-allergenic soap until the problem disappeared.

The problem actually did disappear at the start of one of my trips to Cape Town – but this was because at the start of my trip I used up the remains of some shower gel from a previous trip (‘waste not want not’ – yes I am from Yorkshire!). Once this old stock ran out I was pleased to discover that the local supermarket stocked Pears soap. I purchased a bar and used it when scrubbing any smelly bits after my daily exercise sessions. Within a day the itching reappeared. I quickly stopped using the soap and a couple of days later the itching disappeared again. My old ‘friend’ Pears Transparent Soap appeared to be the source of my skin irritation.

Pears - Dermatologist Tested But No Longer Hypoallergenic
Pears – Dermatologist Tested But No Longer Hypoallergenic

To be really sure I tried out Pears soap again once I returned to the UK (thinking that perhaps the formulation or even the water in Cape Town may have been different). Sadly the irritation appeared again but quickly stopped after I banished the soap from the shower. Unlike the problems with my washing machine additives there was no obvious skin rash or blistering with Pears. The most overt sign of my problem was an irresistible urge to scratch the affected parts – and being a gentleman it is not in my nature to go around scratching my scrotum in public. The lack of any obvious visual symptoms means that you will be spared the usual gruesome pics of my affected body parts.

Having identified the source of my irritation I decided to do some more research into allergy issues associated with Pears Transparent Soap. It would appear that the formulation of the soap has changed a couple of times in recent years and what I had believed was a very natural hypo-allergenic product now had a list of additives that included a rather long list of detergents, stabilisers, preservatives, emulsifiers, colouring agents and several new fragrance agents. Perhaps not surprisingly the packaging for this 200 year old brand no longer contained the words hypo-allergenic (for more details try the Wiki article on Pears here).

Ingredients of Reformulated Pears Soap
Ingredients of Reformulated Pears Soap

Further research uncovered that other consumers were also very unhappy with the reformulation, complaining about the change in the product’s smell and the new ingredients. Some fans of the original Pears formulation even went to the trouble of searching out any sources of ‘old’ stock to avoid having to use the new product (see a 2011 Guardian newspaper article here). Another article summarising the changes made to the product can be found here. One of the noticable changes with the new product is that is dissolves much more readily – if you do not use it quickly it disappears in the shower on its own in about a fortnight.

So my strategy of banishing man-made chemicals and enzymes from washing and hygiene products has now also been extended to include Pears transparent soap. I guess the message here is not to be fooled into thinking that the same brand means the same formula. The Pears brand dates back to 1798. In future I will always be more vigilant about checking the ingredient lists of products I commonly use. Fortunately since I stopped using Pears the last of my itches has disappeared. Now I just wash myself and my clothes with water – and believe it or not I don’t smell to high heaven (OK I do wash frequently and always after sport). If it was good enough for cave men then it is good enough for me!

Good luck to all those fellow scratchers out there!

Chris Duggleby.

If you found this article interesting please consider taking a look at some of his other recent reports on similar subjects.

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You can also find some of my more humorous reports in the Alpine Press section of my personal website using the link here.