Torture In The Shower – Face and Body Soap Allergies – Main Suspect: Pears Transparent Soap

Torture In The Shower – Face and Body Soap Allergies – Main Suspect: Pears Transparent Soap: Sometimes we start to become allergic or sensitive to items that we have been using for many years. Although age is a factor in allergies sometimes the cause is much more basic – the manufacturers have decided to change the formula of a trusted old brand. They may be driven by cost or a misplaced view of consumer wishes (like adding more perfume). 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

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 my other reports on similar subjects.

Just click on the titles below:

Poison in your Washing Machine: Allergic Contact Dermatitis from Laundry Detergents, Softeners, Conditioners and Whiteners

Is Alzheimer’s caused by the Gum Disease Bacterium P. Gingivalis – A Dementia Prevention/Treatment Breakthrough?

Toxic Chemicals in Sex Toys – 18 Vibrators, Cock Rings, Love Balls Tested – Only 3 Get All Clear

My T-shirt Made Me Sick – Textile Allergies – Sinusitis From Your Underwear

Spreading diarrhea and vomit through the washing machine– The Norovirus propagator in our kitchen

11 thoughts on “Torture In The Shower – Face and Body Soap Allergies – Main Suspect: Pears Transparent Soap”

  1. Hello,

    Just wanted to post a comment as I also had a terrible skin reaction to using Pears soap earlier this year. It gave me eczema all up my arms, chest, legs and back – basically everywhere. I threw out the Pears soap as I noticed straight away that is what caused it. After 2 days of use my skin was so bad and itchy. I use bar soaps and this basic one from my local shop woolworths sells Sea Salt Soap It is not even marked hypoallergenic but it has so many less ingredients than the Pears one.

    This is a local Aussie store but has so many good products I buy for laundry, dishwashing and showering. One really good choice I made for ezcema was to switch to shampoo bars and it has helped my so much! I particularly love using Hemp Shampoo bars. They are very soothing on your hands when washing your hair and leaves it feeling really soft!

    Thanks for the article. It sucks that you have allergies also, but it is good to know that there’s others out there to go through having eczema with!

  2. In the last year or so, I’ve had a problem when after shaving about a day or two later, on part of my neck I have flaky, white skin that is peeling and there is redness on my skin.

    I thought this was most likely to be caused by razor burn, but the last time I shaved I decided not to shave the problem area of my neck to give my skin chance to heal. But then a day or two later after shaving, I noticed that my skin is still flaky and peeling again on that part of my neck.

    Before shaving, I clean my face and neck with Pears soap. Could the Pears soap also cause flaky, white skin peeling, and not just redness on the skin?

    1. Hi Steve,
      anything that comes into contact with the affected area could contain something which is sensitizing it. So Pears could be a suspect, also any aftershave or even a scarf/face covering (or the detergent used to clean them). As the immune cells lie underneath the skin the reaction can be encouraged if the skin is damaged in some way (for example by shaving or wearing something with a tight elastic band). This introduces the causative agent (the ‘allergen’) to the mast cells and associated antibodies under the skin and if they are sensitive to the substance (or to a change it causes to your body’s normal proteins) the mast cells will produce cytokines which lead to an inflammatory reaction. This can cause redness, swelling and also leads to collateral damage in which nearby cells are reprogrammed to die – this can cause flaky, pealing skin (the white skin may be new cells created to fill the position of the dead cells). I had a similar experience when the tight elastic in my socks rubbed an allergen (presumably washing detergent) into my ankles. I had to eliminated both the elastic (just used non-elasticated socks) and the washing detergent (just washed everything in hot water). It took some time but the problem has now completely disappeared – I can now tolerate elasticated socks as long as they are just washed in water. So you may need to wait a while to see an improvement from not using soap and not shaving. This type of response takes longer to clear up because (I presume) some of the allergen is trapped under the skin and continues to cause cytokine release (whereas if you just have a surface rash this may clear up as soon as you stop using the soap). Of course if it continues it is always best to seek professional advice (understandably a challenge in a global pandemic). By the way – have you considered simply not using skin soap on your face – the skin cells produce oils that contain antibacterial/antiviral compounds and these are destroyed by the detergents in soaps. I stopped using skin soap years ago and I am convinced my skin is actually healthier as a result (and I am pretty certain I don’t smell that bad!). Good luck and best regards,

Please share your comments on the site. Thanks - Chris

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