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Is fabric the source of your skin irritation?

Is fabric the source of your skin irritation?

Is your eczema flaring up from your cozy winter jumpers? It is well known winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth. Unfortunately, there is one extra thing to ruin that all - your eczema.

Although many medical and lifestyle blogs refer to detergents, cleaners and cosmetics as being one of the main causes of eczema, it is less well-known that your eczema could be the result from direct contact with fabrics. Let's see why. 

Clothing materials


The fibers used in clothing are either natural in origin or man-made from various manufacturing processes. The source for natural fibers tends to be easier to understand, originating from plants (e.g. cotton, linen) or animals (e.g. wool, silk). But this is less obvious when it comes to man-made fibers. Some are truly synthetic (nylon, polyester, etc.) produced from the direct polymerization of chemicals, but others (e.g. viscose) are known as regenerated man-made fibers as they begin life as naturally occurring polymers (e.g. cellulose found in wood pulp).

Most importantly, just because a fabric is natural, it does not mean it is friendly to your skin. The lanolin in wool, for example, is associated with skin irritation and sensitivity. Similarly, not all manufactured fabrics are harmful (e.g. viscose).

Tip: Avoid fabrics originating directly from animals (e.g. wool, alpaca, cashmere) and those that are fully synthetic (e.g. nylon, polyester). Your most skin friendly choice is cotton, linen and silk.


Both knitted and woven structures reveal irregular surfaces that are likely to trap detergent particles, or irritate your skin directly. This depends on design, and will especially be noticeable when wearing clothes with irregular, rough edges.

Tip: Avoid letting your skin come in direct contact with clothes that are heavily knitted or woven. Ideally wear a cotton based layer underneath.

To make matters worse, these designs are often treated with various dyes or finishing touches that may make them visually attractive, but quickly become a painful woe for your skin.

Tip: Remember to always wash brand new clothing as well. 

Domestic detergent residues on clothes

Supermarket shelves are stacked high with an incredible assortment of laundry products so it is not surprising that we often hesitate to find the perfect one. We are often fooled by the illusion of choice - a number of different brands mostly all containing the same ingredients. So next time you consult your doctor on your latest skin reaction, and they ask whether you have changed your washing powder, remember to try a new detergent that really is different. Read the label, and use a sensitive conditioner.

Tip: Question whether it really is your detergent that may be the source of the problem. Choose products (from detergents to fabric softeners) that are hypoallergenic, free of dyes and fragrances, and formulated for sensitive skin. 


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