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Materials and clothing

How a change of clothes may help with your atopic dermatitis or eczema

If you have atopic dermatitis, you’ll probably have noticed how certain types of material can irritate your skin in different ways.

And this doesn’t just apply to the clothes you wear but even to your choice of bedding.

However, while it won’t address the underlying causes of your AD, one thing you can do straight away is identify those fabrics that can trigger your AD flare-ups and instead choose materials that will be much kinder to your skin.

Which materials should I avoid?

The fact is, rough fibres of certain fabrics can aggravate your symptoms.1

This can lead to allergic reactions that cause the all-too-familiar itch-scratch cycle that can impact your quality of life, disturbing your sleep and making you feel self-conscious when you’re out and about.2-4

And, of course, some fabrics can also make you sweat more, making things even worse.1 When you sweat, moisture evaporates to cool you down.5

The downside of this is that your skin can dry out, leaving a salty residue that creates the itch.5 What’s more, changes in the nature of the sweat can disrupt the skin barrier and allergens can then enter the body, resulting in inflammation and making your AD worse.6

Distressed man with eczema wearing a red jumper and feeling itchy, scratching eczema to relieve the itch
Woman with eczema in orange jumpsuit trying to decide which summer dress will provide the least irritation to her skin

How different materials can affect your atopic dermatitis

Identifying the certain kinds of fabric and dye that irritate your skin may help to reduce the number of flares and help you better manage your AD symptoms.1 But don’t forget that this may just be a ‘sticking plaster’ solution rather than dealing with the underlying causes. Fabrics you may want to keep an eye out for include:

  • Rough textures like wool can inflame your AD, making the skin feel prickly and itchy1
  • Synthetic, chemically produced fabrics like nylon can irritate your skin1
  • Some of the dyes used in clothing and bedding can affect your AD1

It’s a good idea to experiment to see which materials you’re most comfortable with.

Which materials are best for atopic dermatitis?

The good news is, there are some materials that you may find gentler on your skin than others. And it might be stating the obvious, but it could be a good idea to wear your clothing in a looser, more comfortable style.

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Cotton

You’ve probably already noticed that light, breathable cotton can be kinder to your skin than synthetic fibres.1 Cotton is great at absorbing moisture too, while its natural fibres can minimise irritation.1

You might want to try a few pairs of cotton gloves to slip on when you’re doing the housework.7

How can cotton gloves help with eczema or AD?
If you’re doing a dry job like folding laundry, they can protect your hands from irritation.7 And, if you’re using a hand cream, cotton gloves can keep your skin moisturised as well as adding a bit of style to washday!8

Silk

Silk

If you have AD, there’s no reason why you can’t have a little luxury in your life with a touch of silk.

Silk is another natural material that can make your skin feel more comfortable.1 Being so smooth, it creates very little friction and keeps your body temperature stable, reducing sweating and the consequent moisture loss that can cause or aggravate dry skin.1

MerinoWool

Merino wool

But what do you wear in the depths of winter when you need to wrap up warm, but cotton or silk alone won't keep the cold at bay?

Try merino wool. As well as having a lovely luxurious feel, it can also be kinder to your skin if you’ve got AD, even when compared with cotton.9

Unlike the coarser fibres of normal wool, merino fibres are very fine, soft, retain heat, and can help to reduce irritation, as well as taking your fashion standards to the next level!9

Viscose

Viscose

Remember us saying synthetic fabrics might be something to avoid?

Well, there is one exception to that particular rule.

Semi-synthetic viscose, made from a blend of natural tree fibres and chemicals, is a great substitute for silk, with a smooth feel that’s equally kind to the skin.10

Bamboo

Bamboo

That’s right. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Bamboo.

Bamboo is actually the plant from which viscose can come from, so is sometimes known as bamboo viscose.10

Bamboo clothing can be beneficial for your AD with its antibacterial properties and ability to regulate body temperature.11

Looking after your fabrics

Whether you have AD yourself, or you’re caring for a child with AD, there are a few things you can do in washing and maintaining the fabrics you use to ease the discomfort:

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Try washing any new clothing or bedding before it’s first used with a pH-balanced laundry detergent2,12

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If you’re washing clothes and bedding for a child with AD, make sure you wash things like plush toys and towels as well2

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If your child has AD, it's advisable to keep their clothes apart from yours and wash all clothes, bedding, and towels separately2

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There’s no hard and fast rule for detergents. Everyone reacts differently, with some people experiencing AD symptoms as the immune system’s overreaction to a particular scent.2,12 So finding a detergent that works for you or your child can very much be a case of trial and error.2

Clothing Material

Ultimately, a quick change of clothes can do a great deal to help alleviate the symptoms of your AD in the short term.

But don’t forget that you’ll need to talk to your dermatologist about a proactive approach to managing your AD, to help you achieve long-term control.

What Causes AD

What causes atopic dermatitis?

Have you ever wondered what causes your AD? It might be time to think about it from a new perspective.

Discover more
Symptoms

Symptoms

Lets take an in-depth look at the signs and symptoms of AD. Learn how they appear on adults and children, and on different skin tones.

Find out more
Seasons

Seasons

Your AD can change with the seasons. So come rain or shine, it's good to understand the impact the seasons have.

Find out more

References

  1. Ricci G et al. Curr Probl Dermatol 2006; 33:127–143.

  2. National Eczema Association. Laundry Care for People with Eczema. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/laundry-care-for-people-eczema/. Accessed: July 2021.

  3. Zuberbier T et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2006; 118(1):226–232.

  4. National Eczema Association. Atopic Dermatitis. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/atopic-dermatitis/. Accessed: July 2021.

  5. National Eczema Association. How to exercise safely with eczema. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/exercising-eczema/. Accessed; July 2021.

  6. Murota H et al. Exp Dermatol 2019; 28(12):1416–1421.

  7. National Eczema Association. Protect Your Hands at Home. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/protecting-your-hands-at-home/. Accessed: July 2021.

  8. NHS UK. Protection for hand eczema. Available at: https://www.ouh.nhs.uk/patient-guide/leaflets/files/12496Peczema.pdf. Accessed: July 2021.

  9. Fowler JF et al. Dermatitis 2019; 30(3):198–206.

  10. MasterClass. Fabric Guide: What Is Viscose? Understanding Viscose Fabric and How Viscose Is Made. Available at: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/fabric-guide-what-is-viscose-understanding-viscose-fabric-and-how-viscose-is-made/. Accessed: July 2021.

  11. National Eczema Society. Clothing and eczema. Available at: https://eczema.org/information-and-advice/triggers-for-eczema/clothing-and-eczema/. Accessed: July 2021.

  12. National Eczema Association. Changing Our Laundry Routine Helped My Son’s Eczema. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/laundry-change/. Accessed: July 2021.