It is estimated that 15 million people deal with eczema in the UK alone; that’s around 22% of the country’s population. While the severity varies, eczema is a skin condition that causes dry, inflamed, swelled, irritated, cracked skin and can cause major irritation.
Eczema damages the surface of the skin, making it more vulnerable to irritation. This means that those suffering from skin conditions are more likely to experience irritation from skin care products, cleaning products and fabrics.
But can the clothes you’re wearing trigger flare-ups of eczema? The team at WeThrift have shared the fabrics that you need to avoid in order to prevent unnecessary or extra irritation.
When you have eczema, your skin can be extremely sensitive to anything irritating, including the fabric of your bedding or clothing. So finding the right material can make a huge difference in the quality of your life. Certain materials can be a trigger for eczema, while others can soothe the skin. The best materials for clothing or bedding are those that are soft, breathable and natural, like cotton, silk, hemp and linen.
What Fabrics Are Comfortable For Eczema Sufferers?
Clothing made from natural fibres such as cotton or silk are typically the best option as they do not cause irritation to the skin, but it’s important to keep in mind that although these are recommended, these fabrics might not work for everyone. Everyone’s skin is different, use trial and error to find the most suitable fabrics for your skin and those to avoid.
Make note of the materials that irritate your skin and avoid them as much as possible, especially when your eczema is at its worse.
Lightweight and breathable cotton, silk or sateen bed sheets (high thread count) are best for those with sensitive skin as comfortable and non-irritating sheets can make a huge difference in the quality of your sleep – which can affect other parts of your life.
Cotton – Cotton is a particularly comfortable material for people with eczema to wear. The loose fabric doesn’t aggravate the skin and lets it breathe easy. However, you should avoid wearing cotton when you are exercising or sweating as cotton is prone to absorbing moisture, and moving around can irritate the skin. If the fabric becomes damp from sweat, change it with another dry cotton piece of clothing to keep your skin from drying and irritating.
Silk – Silk is smooth, lightweight and comfortable, making it a good material for people with eczema-prone skin. The material is naturally anti-microbial which helps to reduce the risk of infections with eczema. Unlike other fabrics, silk doesn’t absorb moisture from the skin. It is also naturally hypoallergenic, which means it is resistant to dust mites, fungus and mould.
What Fabrics Can Trigger an Eczema Flare-Up?
Many people with eczema find that wood and synthetic fibres, such, polyester, acrylic, spandex, modacrylic and nylon irritate the skin. While synthetic fabrics may feel soft and light, they can cause irritation. Some fabrics like wool, are known for being itchy on the skin – any materials that cause irritation should be avoided, as they can aggravate or trigger a flare-up of eczema.
Wool – Wool is known for being extremely itchy, so for eczema sufferers, the material can be extremely uncomfortable. The itching starts when the wool fibres brush up against the skin, this causes the nerve ending in the skin to become stimulated. This can cause further irritation and scratching, which leads to a flare-up in eczema. Some wool items are also known for containing natural lanolin which is a severe trigger of eczema.
Synthetic fabrics – Man-made fabrics like polyester, acrylic, spandex, modacrylic and nylon are treated with harmful chemicals during the production process. These fabrics can penetrate the skin with toxic substances and cause irritation.
Synthetic fabrics don’t allow the skin to breathe. The fabrics trap odour and don’t absorb sweat, therefore they create an environment for bacteria to grow which can actually aggravate eczema symptoms. Synthetic materials tend to be warner, which can trigger itchiness and prolong the symptoms of the skin condition.
Make sure that when purchasing new items of clothing and bedding, you wash the items before they are used to remove formaldehyde and other preservatives. Washing your clothes and bedding will also soften them making them less harsh on the skin.
One of the most common irritants for eczema within the fabric is what is added to them to create the final finish. The processing agents like bleach, dyes, glues and chemical additives can be one of the greatest causes of flare-ups. When buying materials, always check what has been added as these additional agents can be harmful to your skin.
It’s important to check your fabric labels for the dyes used, especially with dark materials. Look for products that are Phenylenediamine (PPD) free, as this chemical can cause irritation.
From buttons to zippers and elastic waistbands, the finishings of clothing and bedding can be uncomfortable on the skin. If you experience a reaction to the finishes on the material, make sure you either replace it with a different item or wear a layer of clothing between your skin and the item causing irritation.