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Hey, quick question: What’s happening at The Laundress?

Welcome to our “Hey, Quick Question” column, where we examine seemingly random happenings in the fashion and beauty industry.

Ever since I started doing my own laundry, I’ve been a Tide girl. It’s what my parents used and what I was told makes my clothes the cleanest. But when I became a beauty editor after college, I definitely started getting fancy laundry detergent for free in the mail, the kind they didn’t sell at my corner bodega. (The “free” part was especially important for my salary as a junior editor). I was hooked.

The “clean” ingredients promised to be “dermatologically tested,” which I decided I needed even though I didn’t have any skin conditions like eczema. I ignored my dad who said it was probably barely cleaning my clothes and became a bit of a detergent snob. Years later and The Laundress remains my go-to detergent for washing my “nicer” items, those from Aritzia and Reformation that I should hand wash but never do. I tell everyone about the brand’s Crease Release, which I apply to all my creased clothes instead of using a steamer, as well as the Home Spray that refreshes my linens between washes. But this week my world came crashing down.

On Thursday, The Laundress issued an alarming statement on Instagram and its website stating, “This Field Safety Notice is intended to inform you that you must immediately discontinue use of any The Laundress products in your possession. We have possible presence of elevated levels of bacteria identified in some of our products posing a safety concern.”

uh what?!

The statement went on to say that the company is “not aware of any adverse health consequences associated with this issue” and will “provide an update on affected products and how a refund or replacement can be made as soon as possible.” obtained”. Responses quickly poured in, with people on Instagram begging for more information about both the health concerns and compensation.

“This really requires more info and clarity, batch numbers, details,” wrote influencer Nicolette Mason, who said she is immunocompromised and uses the brand because of the ingredients.

It is important to note that The Laundress is no longer a small start-up like it was in 2004 when it launched. Founders Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd sold their company to Unilever in 2019 for a reported $100 million. Fans of the brand, of which there are 136,000 on Instagram alone, want more than a “beyond vague” (according to another comment) explanation. Others on Instagram have taken issue with this criticism, pointing out that the brand is doing its utmost to warn customers as soon as possible. “Just stop using the product as instructed until they issue an update. Don’t offend a company with an overall good reputation over one incident,” one customer wrote.

While all of the products on The Laundress’s website are marked “out of stock,” they’re still for sale on Amazon.

On Friday, The Laundress updated its website with some more information in the form of frequently asked questions. Under the question about “elevated levels of bacteria,” the website says, “Bacteria identified in product testing are so-called ‘opportunistic’ pathogens, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which occur naturally in water and soil. Bacteria can pose an infection risk.”

Unfortunately, this means those who have “weakened immune systems or external medical devices exposed to Pseudomonas aeruginosa are at risk for a serious infection that may require medical treatment.”

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The brand further recommends that anyone with a “weakened immune system” re-wash bedding, clothing, surfaces, dishes — anything that The Laundress’ dozens of products have touched — with a different detergent. I don’t have these concerns, but I imagine it would be seriously overwhelming for those who do, especially parents with small children using the Just for Baby line.

Tennessee-based beauty blogger Shelbey Wilson is particularly concerned. After seeing The Laundress’s safety alert, she shared footage of rashes on her face, neck, hands and legs that began to emerge last July. She can’t say for sure that these rashes were directly caused by The Laundress’s products, but she did tell me via email that her skin “started to take off” after receiving an order over $200 in July .

“The itching is nonstop,” she says. “Not only do I wash mine and my 20-month-old son’s clothes in the detergent, I also use it for my bedding. I’ve never put two and two together because I’ve used their products for so long with no reaction.” Wilson has been a loyal fan of The Laundress for seven years and has “purchased everything from their laundry detergent, house sprays and cleaning supplies” with no problems – until now.

Wilson does have eczema, which is why she bought The Laundress products in the first place. She is currently on two topical medications prescribed by her dermatologist and hopes to get more testing now that she knows about The Laundress’s current safety issues. “I’ve been reaching out to The Laundress via Instagram DMs to share photos of my skin since placing my order in June,” she says. “I have yet to hear anything. I know they plan to release details of batches affected by this contamination, but I am eliminating my produce anyway.”

I contacted a representative for The Laundress and the brand’s customer service for more information. The representative referred me to the same Field Safety Notice and I received an automated email from Customer Service stating, “If you contact us regarding our recent Field Safety Notice, we will send you an update on the affected products as soon as possible. If If you have any questions about your health, please contact your doctor.”

Although she is not my personal doctor, I contacted Dr. Sarina Elmariah, dermatologist and co-founder of Aramore Skincare. She has over 16 years of experience in dermatology and internal medicine. I first asked her to explain what “elevated levels of bacteria” means even in layman’s terms. “Companies routinely screen their products for contaminants, bacteria and other potential pathogens,” she says. “Elevated levels of bacteria means that one or more types of bacteria were identified above a predetermined threshold that is considered safe.”

She recommends throwing away all products. The laundress finally says they can have the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa even if you are otherwise healthy. (According to the FAQ, The Laundress currently recommends holding the bottles as proof of purchase.) “While Pseudomonas is a bacteria that can cause infection of skin, lungs, or other body tissue, such infections are extremely rare in healthy individuals,” she says. . . “People who are immunocompromised, have poorly controlled diabetes, or have a skin wound or breakage should be aware that they are at increased risk for possible infection.”

Dr. Elmariah recommends contacting your doctor if you have any sign of infection, such as “skin redness, swelling, pain, fever, etc.”

So, how could this happen? By dr. Elmariah, “contamination can come from a number of potential sources,” so we’ll just have to wait and see. “The washerwoman seems to be taking appropriate precautions to screen for this and advise their customers accordingly,” she adds.

Fashionista will continue to update this article with new developments. In the meantime, I’m listening to recommendations from The Laundress and Dr. Elmariah and I wait to use the brand’s products. Looks like I’m going to have to be a Tide girl again after all.

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