Eczema sucks. And it especially sucks for little ones that don’t know why their skin is so irritated and itchy. Over 31 million people have eczema in the US, with most cases peaking in early childhood. (1) Clothing made from the right material can make a big difference in comfort level. We are slightly biased towards natural bamboo fabric, but there are other options when it comes to shopping for sensitive skin. We look at what makes certain materials better for sensitive skin and give you our three best options, as well as the ones to avoid.
Which Qualities Help?
- Natural, non-synthetic fibers are more soothing to sensitive skin
- Lightweight clothes that help ventilate air and let the skin breathe
- Moisture absorbing materials that remove sweat
- Antibacterial and hypoallergenic fabrics
The 3 Best Fabrics for Eczema
(In no particular order)
Fabrics to Avoid for Sensitive Skin
Polyester is a synthetic fabric that does not breathe well, leaving air trapped between the skin and clothing. The trapped air creates friction, which can irritate sensitive and dry skin. There are eco-friendly versions of polyester that use recycled plastic in their production (5) which is really cool, but unfortunately the end product is still considered to trap heat and irritate the skin.
The main negative with fleece clothing and its effect on sensitive skin is the heat that is often created underneath the fabric. Sweaty, hot, dry skin is not a fun mix, especially with a not-so-soft material rubbing up against it. In colder months, a thin fleece layer over-top of an organic fabric like bamboo or cotton can still be an excellent way to keep warm without the fleece rubbing directly on the skin.
Because of the chemicals used to manufacture Rayon and other synthetic fabrics, it is best to avoid them for sensitive skin. Always check for Oeko-tex standard 100 certifications on these fabrics, verifying that no harmful chemical residue is left behind.
Standard wool fabrics are coarse and itchy. Some people have actual allergic reactions to wool, but many people experience irritated skin and redness from the fabric. Wool clothing also tends to collect dust mites and other allergens in the weave of the fabric, making an allergic situation worse. Merino Wool is marketed as a softer, more breathable alternative to standard wool; however the yarn for Merino wool is cultivated from sheep, and according to a Peta report, a large number of these animals are miss-treated. In Australia, where more than 50 percent of the world’s merino wool originates, lambs are forced to endure a gruesome procedure called “mulesing,” in which huge chunks of skin are cut from the animals’ backsides, often without any painkillers. (6)
These are all general and just a rule of thumb when searching for the right fabrics. It's clear that a few fabrics stand above the rest when it comes to sensitive skin, but there are always ranges in quality that can affect the overall comfort level in clothing. It’s also important to consider the proper detergents. Organic, chemical-free detergents are best used when possible. In our next blog, we will look at the most popular natural detergent brands and rank our favorites.
- (1) https://nationaleczema.org/research/eczema-facts/
- (2) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18512638/
- (3) https://sciencetrends.com/what-is-modal-fabric/
- (4) https://www.exfatter.com/why-bamboo
- (5) https://www.organictextiles.com/blogs/news/truth-about-polyester-textiles
- (6) https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-clothing/wool-industry/