Sneaky Ways Some Fabrics Can Trigger an Allergy Attack

by Sloane Miller Patient Advocate

In this current economic climate, serious belt tightening is in order. However, after all of my fall cleaning, yes I did that too, I was left with gaps in my wardrobe. I had given away so much that I no longer wore, no longer fit, or was too-seven-years-ago that I needed to fill in some basics.

So I hit Uniqlo, a Japanese-based clothing store that has a big outlet here in downtown New York City. One of the defining features on Uniqlo is their very inexpensive cashmere sweaters and fashionable (if not overly tall and overly skinny) jeans. What I also discovered was they have a very [inexpensive line of basic tee shirts, camis and turtlenecks]. I bought a bunch of turtlenecks and camis for less than a NYC dinner at a nice restaurant and combined with my staples in my closet, I'm outfitted for the winter.

Cool right?

Well, the "Heat Tech" that Uniqlo's thin under-layer underthings sport has an added bonus: milk protein. Yes, milk protein is IN the fabric of the cloth.

What? Huh? Milk fabric? I know, it's new to me too.

After some searching on the web I found this company, Cyarn, a Chinese textile company that creates milk protein yarn. And the reason it's used, according to them, is for it's bacteriostatic properties(hmm I've heard that word a lot lately):

"The milk protein fiber moistens skin and it is healthy and bacteriostatic—it is the perfect material to produce underwear. The important ingredients of milk protein fiber are milk casein proteins, which can nourish and lubricate the skin. The milk protein contains the natural humectant factor, which can capture the moisture and maintain skin's moisture to make the skin tender and smooth and reduce wrinkles—eoples' dream of taking milk baths can be realized."

A little further digging and I've found corn fibers and soy fabrics are part of this movement to create "natural" products out of everyday commodities.

Some soy fabrics:

"[SOYSILK] is made from the proteins in Soy—a renewable resource. The fiber is soft like silk yet warm, like cashmere. It wicks away moisture and has a soft, gentle drape."

"Vegan silk: Soy bean protein fibre (SPF) is a new textile fibre with unique properties... Soy is the only plant-based protein fibre. It contains 16 active amino acids, making it ideal for sensitive skin types.

There's also a [corn-based fabric] by DuPont.

While I love the green aspect of these products, and that they do not harm animals, (yay) I do have a question about those that are sensitive to the proteins from which these products are created. Soy and dairy allergies abound and there are many people out there who have severe corn intolerances. What about fabric contact allergies? Would the proteins in these fabrics trigger an allergic reaction in a highly dairy or soy allergic person? What about those with corn sensitivities? Would they react?

My non-medical gut says no because these products are so highly processed, but it makes me wonder. People with food allergies must already be exceptionally careful about everything they put in their bodies, but it seems now they may need to be careful about what they put on their bodies. It certainly pays for a contact dermatitis-prone person, or those with highly sensitive milk, soy or corn allergies to make sure they know what kinds of fabrics are in their clothing, especially if they are buying any of the newer, greener and vegan products on the market.

Sloane Miller
Meet Our Writer
Sloane Miller

Sloane Miller, MFA, MSW, LMSW, specialist in food allergy management and author, is founder and President of Allergic Girl Resources, Inc., a consultancy devoted to food allergy awareness. She consults with private clients, the healthcare, food, and hospitality industries, government and not-for-profit advocacy organizations. In 2006, Ms. Miller started Please Don't Pass the Nuts, an award-winning blog for and about people affected by food allergies. In 2011, John Wiley & Sons published Ms. Miller's book, Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well With Food Allergies, the definitive how-to guide. Ms. Miller combines a lifetime of personal experience and passion with professional expertise to connect with people about how to live safely, effectively, and joyously with food allergies.