Allergy-Friendly Toilet Paper: Is Bamboo Best?

a heart carved into an outhouse door

We’re back again with another fact-filled blog about the ins and outs of toilet rolls and today, we’re delving into a really important topic: What is the best toilet paper for individuals with allergies or sensitive skin?

It’s a question many might not think to ask, but it’s really important for those who do. Skin irritation in delicate areas is unpleasant, to put it mildly, and people often come to us because they’ve heard bamboo toilet rolls, and environmentally-friendly toilet rolls in general, might be a good alternative. 

So, could bamboo toilet paper be the soothing solution for those of us on the sensitive side? Here’s what we know. 

washing hands with soap

Understanding Skin Sensitivities and Allergies

Skin sensitivities and allergies can turn many everyday products, including toilet paper, into sources of discomfort. Conditions like eczema, contact dermatitis, and psoriasis make the skin especially vulnerable to irritants. These conditions are often exacerbated by contact with irritating chemicals, or particular materials and textures. Common irritants can be found in soap, jewellery, and even toilet rolls. 


What's in Your Toilet Paper?

A roll of toilet paper isn’t just dried pulp. Chlorine bleach, (or chlorine-free bleach alternatives) are often used to whiten it, dyes can be added to colour it, glue binds the plys together, and some are even treated with fragrance (which we think is crazy). 

And that’s not the end of the list. One common additive people are often very surprised to hear about is formaldehyde. Yes, the same chemical that is no longer used to preserve flowers because of health risks can turn up in toilet paper. 

What on earth is formaldehyde doing in toilet rolls, we hear you ask? Formaldehyde is sometimes added to toilet paper as a way to improve its wet strength, so it holds together better when damp or wet. This is particularly useful for extra soft, quilted types of toilet paper; the formaldehyde adds strength, so tissue can be very soft without breaking down too quickly. Formaldehyde is also well known for its preservative properties, which can help prevent the growth of bacteria, mould, and yeast which can be especially useful in humid environments like bathrooms. 

So there’s benefits to tissue makers of adding formaldehyde to their mix, but these can come with some serious downsides for users. One paper published in a 2010 issue of Canadian Family Physician detailed the case of a 51 year old woman who suffered increasingly painful outbreaks of what she thought were yeast infections, until she went abroad and the problem cleared up almost immediately. Unlike the plush, white toilet roll favoured in Canada, the toilet rolls in the country the woman had been visiting were unbleached and didn’t contain formaldehyde. Further testing found the woman was indeed allergic to formaldehyde. The authors of the paper suggest that patients with chronic vulvar and perianal irritation that doesn’t seem to respond to standard treatments should be “advised to use unbleached toilet paper or minimally processed toilet paper to see if [their] symptoms abate.” 


Bamboo Toilet Paper: A Softer Solution?

So those are some of the chemicals that can be found in standard toilet rolls; does bamboo fare any better? 

Bamboo toilet paper comes from the pulp of bamboo plants. It is often highlighted for its renewability: bamboo grows quickly, using less water and land than traditional timber sources. But what about its benefits for sensitive skin?


How does Bamboo Help? 

One of the standout features of bamboo toilet paper is its hypoallergenic nature. Bamboo itself is naturally antibacterial and resists fungal growth. Bamboo fibres are also strong, which means that bamboo toilet paper can be both soft and durable, minimising the need for extra chemicals to strengthen it. This strength and softness come from the long fibres of the bamboo, which create a smoother, less abrasive surface compared to many traditional and recycled papers.

Overall, the properties of bamboo mean that there’s less reasons to add formaldehyde. But does that mean no bamboo rolls will contain formaldehyde? Sadly, we can’t be sure. Toilet roll manufacturers don’t typically list their ingredients, so if you’re in any doubt of a particular allergen it’s worth checking. When it comes to our own products, of course, we can be sure; we do not use Formaldehyde to make Naked Sprout.

Many bamboo toilet paper brands take pride in using fewer chemicals in their production process. For instance, instead of chlorine bleach, some use TCF or Totally Chlorine Free methods of bleaching their paper, using Oxygen-based bleaches that serve the same purpose of whitening the paper but are less damaging to the environment. We actually don’t use any kind of whitening process for our rolls, so that’s one more source of chemicals you don’t need to worry about.  

And finally, we recently posted a blog about how PFAS, “forever chemicals”, have been found in many toilet rolls, and might have serious implications for the health of our bodies and our environment. You can read the full piece here but Naked Sprout toilet rolls are PFAS free as well. 

Naked Sprout factory in Spain


What about Recycled? 

We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that many of the same benefits of Naked Sprout bamboo toilet rolls apply to our recycled rolls. There’s no harsh chemicals, no bleach, and no PFAS to worry about. This isn’t true of all recycled rolls of course, many recycled rolls sold in the UK are made from waste paper that has been printed on (think office paper and marketing materials) and they’re bleached so that the final rolls are white instead of grey. We make our recycled rolls differently at Naked Sprout, using brown recycled cardboard and kraft paper (that’s been thoroughly cleaned) so they come out a gentle sandy colour without the need for any bleaching process at all. Our team-mate Dave, who looks after our operations and analysis, is prone to eczema and uses our recycled toilet rolls at home without any trouble. 

someone wiping their hands with a tissue outside

How to Choose the Right Toilet Paper for Sensitive Skin

If you have sensitive skin and think a switch to your toilet rolls might be worth a try, here’s a few tips: 

Check the Ingredients: As we’ve mentioned, toilet rolls don’t typically come with ingredients lists but you can always email a company to check. For toilet rolls made in Europe and the UK, you can check if their toilet rolls are REACH compliant, meaning that they don’t contain harsh chemicals. And yes, in case you’re wondering, all the ingredients we use to make Naked Sprout are REACH compliant

Look for Unbleached Options: Based on the research it seems likely that toilet paper that hasn’t been bleached will be less likely to pose issues for sensitive skin. Naked Sprout toilet rolls, facial tissues, and kitchen rolls are completely unbleached

Ask about the Refund Policy: We believe any company that’s selling products used in delicate areas should be mindful of allergies and sensitivities, and be willing to refund customers if their products aren’t a good fit. We think our toilet rolls are a great option for sensitive skin, but if you get on with them you can contact us for a no-quibble refund. 


So Is Bamboo the Best Option?

For those with sensitive skin, bamboo might be a good shout, providing a source of fibre that’s soft, strong, and naturally antibacterial. But different toilet rolls are made in different ways, and, in our case, the same common irritants that aren’t in bamboo also aren’t in our recycled rolls. 

At the end of the day though it’s important to remember that everyone’s sensitivities are different. What works for one person might not work for another, so a bit of trial and error might be necessary to find your perfect match. 

Want to take our unbleached bamboo toilet rolls for a spin? 

 

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