P&G executives reminded Happi that while Procter has been attending the big AAD show for just four years, company researchers have been working on “free” and gentle formulas for more than a decade.
“In fabric care, the interaction between skin and fabric is constant; you sleep on it and in it, your skin is in contact with fabric 24/7,” explained Mary BegovicJohnson, principal scientist, P&G Fabric & Air Care.
Johnson noted that consumers make a huge investment in their wardrobe.
“Taking the best care of your clothes that you can is important,” she said. “People with sensitive skin need the same options.”
But according to P&G research, 80% of people who use “free” detergents feel that they have to compromise when it comes to their laundry.
“We come to the AAD annual meeting to recommend our products to dermatologists so that their patients don’t need to compromise,” she explained.
Doctors, in fact, get a laundry list of complaints from their patients. According to P&G, when a doctor sees a patient with a rash, the first question posed is usually, “have you changed your laundry detergent?”
“For those with sensitive skin, laundry product ingredients can be the cause of skin complaints like dermatitis,” explained C. Elaine Cella, principal researcher, P&G Fabric Care. Nearly 45% of Americans said they had According to the results of a study published in the International Journal of Dermatology (August, 2011).
Americans like to self-diagnose, too. Incidence of self-reported sensitive skin is quite high and several factors indicate that it is rising higher, according to the P&G executives. What’s causing the increase? Self-awareness and changing formulas are two reasons; and as a result, marketers of personal care and household care products are designing formulas for people with sensitive skin. The first ingredients to get scrutinized, of course, are dyes and perfumes. Why so many reactions to these classes of ingredients? Researchers really don’t know, admitted Johnson, although sometimes surfactants, too, get put under the microscope—especially by every home’s chief executive officer, aka, mom.
“Some moms want to create their own products; but a do-it-yourself detergent in a high-efficiency machine could lead to disappointing results,” warned Cella.
According to P&G, Tide Free & Gentle liquid and pods have a better cleaning profile to remove soils and residues than the leading free detergent in the US. That’s due, in part, to the fact that Tide Free & Gentle contains surfactants and enzymes and polymers to tackle lots of dirt. HE machines have huge capacities that handle more fabrics and more dirt, 50 grams of soil on average, which is distributed throughout the load in very small amounts. Polymers surround the soil and keep it from re-depositing on clothes. Re-deposition of soil is one of the biggest reasons why whites get dingy, according to Cella.
More consumers may consider themselves sensitive, but they’re smarter, too—at least when it comes to their clothes. Smart fabrics may still be in their infancy, but P&G and others have been studying this new material class for years.
“We are working with major textile companies,” explained Cella. “Performance fabrics are dirt and odor magnets.”
And these fancy fabrics come with their own set of issues. Chlorine, for example, wreaks havoc with modern fabrics, so P&G incorporated chelants into its formulas to capture chlorine before it can damage clothes. As the fibers change, so do clothes’ makeup. Years ago, cotton was king; today, synthetics are grabbing a bigger share of the laundry pile.
To keep these synthetics feeling good on skin, P&G is studying how Downy fabric softener reduces friction between clothes and skin; something that can be extremely important for a patient with severe sunburn or other irritations.
“We have to educate the derms, who sometimes tell patients to avoid fabric softener,” said Johnson, who told Happi that she’s been able to convince dermatologists to recommend Downy Free and Gentle to their patients. “They don’t learn these things in med school.”
It works too. After getting a lesson from P&G, one derm went home, tried Tide Free & Gentle, and she still raves about it, according to Johnson.
“All physicians want to be helpful to their patients and more effective” explained Cella. “Most patients do laundry and we can give dermatologists some real-world advice.”
A fast-moving consumer goods company teaching dermatologists how to do laundry? That’s quite an accomplishment. Now, if P&G researchers can just convince cardiologists to do windows!