It’s been a while since I wanted to write about it as there are some conviction that when you suffer from skin condition or you have sensitive skin it is enough to wear clothes made of soft fabrics. Whether you talk to dermatologists or ask Google for suggestions what to wear when you suffer from eczema/psoriasis/prurigo nodularis/or other skin condition, cotton is the first thing they recommend.
The truth is that not all cotton is good and soft is not enough to make your compromised skin feel comfortable. As always, the devil is in the details.
It is pretty vast subject, so to make it easier to consume and digest, I decided to divide it into 2 parts:
- In part 1 I will address the Q: WHY SOFT FABRIC IS NOT ENOUGH WHEN YOU SUFFER FROM SKIN CONDITIONS, and
- in part 2: WHY NOT EVERY NATURAL FABRIC IS GOOD FOR YOUR SKIN.
Now that all is clear, let’s move on.
I would lie if I said that I always paid attention to what my clothes are made of. When I was a teenager, I wanted to belong, so I often wore clothes that were considered cool and trendy in my group of friends. Often at great cost to my health and comfort because most of them were cheap, and badly made from unhealthy fabrics.
My approach changed with age when I found my own style and when my health deteriorated so much that I had to be hospitalized almost every year due to uncontrollable eczema.
Since then, I became a wiser shopper. I started checking the labels, ask the questions, asses the items in details and think twice before taking out my wallet.
I also found out my rule of thumb: “When in doubt, it’s out”, that helps me make good choices. Basically, when I have doubts regarding the origin of the item, dyes, fabric or anything else, or doesn’t feel right against the skin, I skip it.
UNDERSTANDING SENSITIVE & REACTIVE SKIN
Sensitive skin is generally defined as skin that is reactive to external aggressors both in the environment and skincare. The skin’s responses can include redness, dry patches, itching and blemishes, though it is important to remember that there are different levels of sensitivity.
Most often the skin sensitivity is associated with the beauty products and the conversations about the impact of clothes on skin and health are almost non-existent.
And yet we wear clothes 24/7/365.
Did you know that the process that turns a bail of cotton into your favorite pair of jeans can include over 8000 chemicals? Many of these are not proven to be safe for your body to absorb - in fact, some of them have potentially harmful side effects.
While healthy skin is more resistant to these chemicals, exposure to UV radiation, extreme temperature changes, pollution, and other environmental factors that damage the skin, sensitive skin lacks this protection. This is why, when you have reactive skin or suffer from skin condition, you need to be extra careful when you purchase not only beauty products but also clothes.
HERE IS MY WATCH-LIST OF ELEMENTS TO CHECK BEFORE YOU HEAD TO THE CASH REGISTER:
FABRIC AND COMPOSITION
Always carefully read the composition of the fabric of the clothes and the lining (!!!).
This is no-brainer yet only 35% of Americans admitted that they do that before purchasing.
Checking what the garment is made of shouldn’t cause any problems nowadays, because all finished products must carry a label clearly identifying the full fiber composition, written in decreasing percentage order, and indicating any non-textile parts of animal origin.
Pay attention to knitwear as I noticed that many brands like to say they sell cashmere and when you look at the label you can see they the item is made mainly from wool and only 30% of cashmere.
STITCHES AND SEAMS
Thick, bulky, and stiff stitches and seams can be a real problem for anyone with skin concerns therefore always check how they feel on your skin, especially the underarm and neck seams.
The general rule is that the thread fiber should match the fabric fiber, so i.e. the cotton clothes are often sewn with cotton thread, and the synthetic clothes with synthetic thread which can cause irritation and discomfort even for people who don’t have sensitive skin.
This is why loose clothes are often recommended if you have delicate skin.
Where it comes to labels it is important to check what they are made of, where they are placed and how they are attached.
Personally, I prefer clothes with printed labels. In case of traditional woven labels, I opt for clothes with small labels placed in places where they don’t irritate my skin.
A lot of clothing labels are made out of synthetic fabrics and far too often the cut ends are heat-sealed to stop them from fraying. Unfortunately this creates two rows of little plastic spikes that irritate the back of our neck! Ouchh! So always make sure to check how the labels feels against your skin and how they are fixed.
Removing them is the first thing I do when I come home with a new purchase, especially when they are made of polyester or nylon which cause rash and irritate my skin.
EMBELISHMENTS & TRIMMINGS
For people with sensitive skin, these additions can cause discomfort even if they're on the outside of the clothing and not directly in contact with the skin. For embellishments like embroidery, sequins, rhinestones, or studs, this is because of the threads or metal prongs that do appear on the inside of the garment. This is especially true of any metallic decorations that contain nickel, which is a common allergen for many people. To save yourself from rashes, reserve these kinds of embellishments for outerwear.
Make sure to check the buttons, press buttons, zippers, hook & eye fasteners as they can also cause allergies.
Many ethical and sustainable brands opt for plant-derived zippers and buttons. Unfortunately, this is still not common practice and let’s face it, it’s pretty difficult to figure out if these elements are skin-friendly without testing the garment for longer period.
Again, the best solution is choosing the brands that are transparent about their production process.
Lining fabrics usually have a silky surface and are generally made from polyester, viscose, acetate or rayon, which are bad for our skin and health.
They don’t allow the sweat and body heat to pass through, they cause chaffing, itching, and create a perfect environment for bad bacteria growth.
The skin-friendly clothes will have the lining made of silk or cotton. However, a chance of finding a garment with a silk lining in womenswear nowadays is very slim. Silk is simply very expensive, and since a lining is the most popular area for producers to cut costs, hardly anyone these days produce ready-to-wear women's clothes with a silk lining.
Cotton is another natural fabric that can be sometimes found in linings, however, not too often either. Cotton is way cheaper than silk, but it's not as smooth. Because cotton is typically slightly rough, it's not always the best fabric for a lining of a formal blazer, for example. Cotton linings can be found in summer dresses, skirts, casual blazers.
Have you ever wondered why clothes made in China stinks?
That sickening smell, which sometimes is strong enough to make your eyes water, usually is caused by a formaldehyde resin and other chemicals put in the fabric to to prevent mildew, wrinkling and parasites during shipping
Chinese products smell worse because they've usually had to travel farther and been stored longer in the containers.
For that very reason and the sake of your health, stick to locally made garments, especially if yous skin is sensitive.
It’s very difficult to get the information from the brand what the clothes were dyed with, so the best is to buy from brands that are transparent about their dyes and the clothing treatment process.
Look for clothing that was plant-dyed or clothing that wasn't dyed at all, often called “undyed”, “unbleached”, or “natural”.
The other option is to look for GOTS or Oeko-Tex certification on the label, as these organizations prohibit the use of toxic chemicals and dyes in the clothing they certify.
Also choose natural organic fabrics. Synthetics fibers can be difficult to dye because they are substances that have been man-made in a laboratory, then mass-produced in factories. These materials vary greatly in their chemical makeup, so they often require stronger dye.
Btw, polyester is the most difficult fabric to dye.
And now I would love to hear from you. Did you find my watch-list helpful? What insight was the most useful for you? Whether it was one thing or more, live the comment below and let us know.