Best Fabrics for People with Eczema

by Ashley Wall Patient Advocate

Fall is here and that means sweater weather is upon us! As the cooler season approaches (depending on where you’re located), we say goodbye to our light and airy summer clothing, and hello to fall fashion.

Now, what’s better than enjoying the fall foliage with a cup of fresh apple cider (or a pumpkin-spiced latte, I won’t judge) in a cozy sweater? For me, it’s finding a cozy sweater that doesn’t itch. If you suffer from eczema like I do, then you know how tricky it is to find fabrics that don’t irritate your skin.

Speaking of fabrics, let’s talk about them! Fabric is part of our everyday life, yet so many people underestimate the importance of good quality. Think about it: from the moment you wake up and all throughout the day, you’re exposed to fabric. More importantly, fabric acts as a barrier, protecting our skin from the elements. Well, at least for some people. Those of us with sensitive skin know that certain fabrics will do more harm than good. That’s why it’s important to learn what works best for you.

There are three basic categories of fabric: natural plant sources, animal, and man-made. Each piece of fabric is comprised of many threads of yarn. If you pull the yarn apart, you will get strands of fiber. Depending on how the fiber is made, it will be harvested or created when it goes into production. The higher the thread count, the softer the fabric.

Having eczema since my childhood, I went through a lot of trial and error to see which fabrics irritated my skin. I remember one year I was a blue M&M for Halloween. Let just say, by the time I took the 100-percent-polyester costume off, my skin had turned into the red M&M. That’s when I understood the importance of taking extra precautions when it comes to fabrics resting against my skin.

With that being said, let’s get into which fabrics you should avoid and which ones are soothing for your skin. Please keep in mind that results are different for everyone, as no two eczema cases are alike.

Synthetic Fabrics - AVOID

These man-made fabrics include nylon, spandex, latex, and polyester to name a few. During the production process, these fabrics are treated with harmful chemicals. This can cause heavy skin irritation, especially because these chemicals can easily penetrate the skin. Another major issue with synthetic fabrics is the lack of breathability. The fabric traps odor, which then traps sweat, creating a breeding ground for bacteria and causing inflammation. While it may be impossible to avoid these man-made fabrics, it’s best to limit your contact with them.

Wool - AVOID

Baa baa, black sheep, have you any wool? A cute little nursery rhyme is anything but for those with sensitive skin. I you have eczema steer clear of wool. This thick fabric is a huge irritant to sensitive skin and sometimes even feels prickly. Wool is known for keeping you warm by increasing heat at the touch of your skin. This causes immense discomfort, as it’s hard for skin to regulate the rising temperature.

Fleece - AVOID

This is a tricky one. It you must wear fleece, it’s best to put something on underneath it. Fleece is great at keeping you warm, but for people with sensitive skin, it can keep you too warm. Your skin may get too hot, causing it to dry out and become irritated and itchy, especially in the folds of your elbows or knees. Wearing a lightweight fleece or a cotton shirt underneath would be the best solution.

Cotton - SAFE

One of the best options for breathability is 100-percent cotton clothing. Many companies are jumping on the “irritation-free” or “100-percent organic” labels to let consumers know about the material. It is a great go-to as it’s flexible and not stiff. It provides comfort, controls moisture, and is well insulated.

Silk - SAFE

Silk is a hypoallergenic fabric that is comforting to those with sensitive skin. It helps keep your body temperature regulated and preserves heat in the cold. It is hypoallergenic and has moisture-wicking properties, which will keep you comfortable all day long.

Micro-fiber - SAFE

One of the best materials for skin is microfiber. Although it’s a synthetic fabric, it is made for comfort. It is extremely soft and wind- and water-repellent, making it great for outerwear. It’s also a very low-maintenance fabric: it’s easy to wash, with minimal wrinkling.

When you’re shopping for clothing, remember to keep these details in mind. Also, after purchasing new clothing or bedding, ALWAYS prewash. This will help remove formaldehyde preservatives and other chemicals that are applied to the clothing in the factory.

Ashley Wall
Meet Our Writer
Ashley Wall

Ashley Wall is a freelance writer who started her blog Itchin' Since ’87 as a creative outlet. As a longtime eczema sufferer, she considers herself the ‘eczema aficionado’. She’s a huge advocate for maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. Her life’s mission is to help find a cure for eczema. With her experience, she also hopes to give insightful advice on living with eczema through her writing and work.