Can the Clothes I Wear Impact My Skin?

Are you noticing skin irritation after wearing a specific article of clothing? You may have contact or occupational dermatitis. Your clothes may be to blame for your skin irritation.

What they are made of. Textile fibers, which are the building blocks of clothing, can be natural, synthetic or mixed. Polyester, nylon, spandex, and rayon are all types that you may be familiar with…and they are all synthetic. Examples of natural fibers include silk, wool, cotton, linen, or other plant-based materials. Your skin may take issue with synthetic or even mixed swathes of cloth; conversely, your skin may object to rough or coarse natural fibers.

How and where they are made. Most manufactured clothing is constructed in other countries, usually Southeast Asian ones. Depending on the environment of the factory and the finishing (or dyeing) solutions that are used at specific factories, you may be experiencing a reaction to those chemicals and dyes. If you are concerned about the state of those factories, it may take some digging. However, you should always double-check for a product recall if you are noticing inconsistencies or deficiencies.

It may be the additives. If you wear uniforms or if you are in an occupation that requires a specifically-treated type of clothing, particularly flame-retardant additives, these may be the cause of your irritation or rash. These additives may also prevent clothing from emitting heat or from drying after exposure to perspiration and moisture; both of these may cause a skin irritation or allergic reaction. You should check with your HR coordinator or the individual in your company if they order your uniforms for you.

It is rubbing you the wrong way. It literally may be chafing you. Tightness or looseness of clothing may be causing irritation from the friction. Seams may be specifically irritating if they are in awkward areas where you bend and move.

Chemical reaction with perspiration? Most clothing articles are treated with a chemical at the time of manufacture. If you do not wash them before wearing, those chemicals will have a greater chance of interacting with your sweat, your deodorant, your lotion, or your perfume or cologne.

It may be contaminated. Certain exposures, which may or may not stain, cannot easily be cleansed with traditional, over-the-counter products. Motor oil, urushiol (poison ivy and oak), tar, building chemicals and coal dust are all notoriously difficult to cleanse from textile fibers. It may just be time to chuck out that particular item

Check your detergent and washing machine. If you have changed your detergent or fabric softener lately, you may be allergic to the new brand. Similarly, make sure you are checking with your dry cleaner (if that is applicable to you) if you have recently switched and noticed new irritation. There are many hypoallergenic detergent brands which may work for you. In the same vein, your washing machine may be contaminated. You will need to do a few empty loads to clean out your washer. White vinegar and unscented bleach can both be used effectively and safely to clean the inside of your washer.

Disclaim: This blog pro­vides gen­eral infor­ma­tion and dis­cus­sion about medical, cosmetic, mohs, and surgical dermatology. The words and other con­tent pro­vided in this blog, and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended and should not be con­strued as med­ical advice. If the reader or any other per­son has a med­ical con­cern, he or she should con­sult with an appropriately-licensed dermatologist or other health care worker.

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