Choosing the Right Clothing for Eczema
The clothing and fabrics that you choose can have a strong impact on you or your child’s skin condition. If you or a loved one suffers from eczema, wearing calming fabrics can really help to prevent skin irritation and eczema flares.
Fabrics like wool and polyester are too rough and are particularly irritating for eczema patients. Some people actually consider the irritation caused by wool to be an actual, specific allergy rather than just a textural irritant. Polyester might seem smooth to the touch but it’s made of tiny fibers that irritate after a short time. Other fabrics to be avoided are hemp, mohair, rough linen (fine linen is OK) and synthetic fabrics are all aggravating for sensitive skin and eczema.
Though denim is fine for many eczema suffers, there are some people who find it to be too hot; when the fabric causes the skin to get too hot, it feels rougher. The same reaction is true of leather.
Tencel®, cotton, silk, and fine linen (but not rough linen) are the best fabrics for sensitive skin and eczema, and loose fitting clothing is ideal. Tencel® is the most beneficial fabric with studies reporting it's superior and 100% cotton coming in 2nd for comfort. Tencel® has many benefits for eczema sufferers. Here is a link on why tencel® is the most soothing fabric for eczema (http://www.lenzing.com/sites/symposium/SensitiveSkinTexworld_Asia.pdf). Tencel® is hard to get in the United States with only one company making it for eczema sufferers (www.adrescuewear.com). 100% cotton provides comfort. It’s very breathable, relatively soft, and readily available. Be cautious though; cotton is prone to bacteria. Please visit the Eczema Company for eczema clothing and tencel® eczema garments at http://www.eczemacompany.com/eczema-clothing/.
Silk is made by silkworms and then is woven into the shiny, soft fabrics that we’re familiar with once the worms have done their spinning. Sericin, the sticky substance that holds the protein of the material together, is a potential irritant to sensitive skin so normal silk clothing is not optimal for eczema patients. However, there is specially treated silk that has had the sericin removed, eliminating any allergic potential. Silk also has a greater ability to absorb moisture than cotton does. This also makes silk a great alternative to cotton sheets if you or your child gets hot at night. Also consider tencel/lyocell® sheets at (https://www.missionallergy.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&product_ID=204&ParentCat=45). Tencel/lyocell® is a great fabric for regulating body temperature because it reduces moisture while cotton, when it gets wet, stays wet. Wash your cotton clothing and/or sheets frequently and if any smell persists, discard.
Fabrics have also been developed called “functional textiles” specifically designed with the intention of managing atopic dermatitis. These fabrics are made up of antimicrobial materials like zinc, silver, special antimicrobial silk, and “anions” all of which have shown some benefit to the skin. Oil-treated fabrics also exist, and are meant to aid skin moisture levels. These functional textiles can be beneficial but they are also controversial as zinc, silver and oil can be absorbed through the skin and some do not recommend for children.
Remember, infants and young children are not able to articulate if an article of clothing is bothering them so you need to be particularly cautious when choosing their clothes. If they act fussy and pull on the fabric they are wearing it is a clue that they are uncomfortable and could be getting irritated. Make sure that you’re opting for soft, breathable, high quality tencel® or 100% cotton. There is special clothing and pajamas available for children with eczema without tags or seams inside of the garments (www.adrescuewear.com).
We live in a material world, but when it comes to eczema it’s better to dress for comfort first, and fashion second. There is, of course, an abundance of attractive cotton, silk, and fine linen clothing available, so putting your skin’s health first shouldn’t be a problem. When you clothe yourself or your child for comfort, they’ll feel better, be more comfortable, and will have more confidence so they’ll look and feel better overall and suffer from fewer eczema flares.