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Choosing the best fabrics for sensitive skin can be tricky since everyone has different skin and sensitivities. But some materials are universally known for being comfortable for sensitive skin. They don’t contain harsh chemicals that can cause aggravation if you have eczema, dermatitis, or autism.
Of course, since the skin is our largest organ, we must take care of it. And for some of us, that means picking the right fabrics that won’t aggravate our skin. We all deserve to feel comfortable wearing our clothes, sleeping on comfortable bed sheets, and using towels that feel good on our skin.
Today’s blog is all about finding the best fabrics for sensitive skin to feel comfortable in our daily lives. Keep reading to learn more!
Fabrics Treated with Formaldehyde
Most people with sensitive skin will want to avoid any fabrics treated with chemicals that can further aggravate already sensitive skin. For example, formaldehyde is a chemical that prevents materials from wrinkling, but it’s harsh on the skin and can cause rashes and other skin irritations.
Fabrics Treated with Hydrophobic / Anti-Soil Treatments
Hydrophobic fabrics are usually treated with a water repellent that helps fight stains. Dupont has been phasing out the C8 products that contained PFOA and replacing them with newer technology. There are new plant-based finishes like Teflon EcoElite and DetraPel which are free of PFOS and PFOA. However, the Teflon EcoElite and DetraPel only provide soil repellency but not Oil repellency.
Besides Polypropylene fabrics, any hydrophobic fabric will have a chemical finish. If you want a genuinely waterproof fabric, then a waterproof PUL fabric is possibly the way to go.
Fabrics Treated with Deodorizing and Antimicrobial
Deodorant and antimicrobial finishes enhance apparel performance while meeting consumer-led feature demands. These finishes can be achieved in various ways. Some of these finishes use nanotechnology that may be detrimental as the chemical/metal salts can leach off the skin and cause cancer and eye/skin irritations.
Fabrics softened by Softeners
A Softener is a finishing agent, which, when applied to the fabric, creates a softness that is unmatched. As a general rule, the softening agents applied are lubricating agents, which facilitate the fiber sliding within the fabric structure, thus granting easier deformation and creasing of the fabric. There are various ways of accomplishing this:
Cationic Softeners – ethers and polyglycerol esters. They can cause narcosis, pulmonary edema, and severe liver and kidney damage.
Anionic Softeners – these use fatty acid compounds, known to cause skin irritation.
Silicone Softeners – these use siloxane macromolecules and have been emulsified/diluted in an organic solvent that is not recommended for sensitive skin.
Wool is an excellent fabric for keeping warm in the winters and cool in the summers, but are not so great against the skin. If you want to wear it, try layering it with a softer, more breathable fabric like cotton next to the skin, or opt for high micron merino wool.
The higher micron wool (more than 20.5 Microns) is very soft, as it comes from the underbelly of the sheep and is exceptionally comfortable. On top of that, the Wool from the sheep/goats from high altitudes is softer than the wool from the sheep of the lower altitudes. Compare Alpaca wool and Pashmina wool with regular wool, and you will see the difference.
Keep in mind that a lot of Acrylic fiber is blended with Alpaca and Pashmina to reduce the costs, so one has to be careful when buying these expensive fabrics.
Polyester & Nylon
While synthetics like polyester and nylon have their plus points, some people are sensitive to synthetic fibers, which can irritate their skin. Nylon fabrics are durable and long-lasting, making them ideal for the outdoors as they are also moderately resistant to fading. Polyester fabrics are great at distributing moisture, so they are usually used in performance wear.
So, if you have to use a performance fabric, look for polyester made with Coolmax Technology. It has a cooling technology that transports moisture away from your skin to the fabric's surface, where it evaporates quickly to help keep you cool, dry, and comfortable.
So, you know which fabrics you should avoid to cut down on skin irritation, but what materials should you choose? What are the best fabrics for sensitive skin? That’s what this next section is all about. Keep in mind that, even with the fabrics listed below, you must make sure they are not chemically treated and do not contain chemicals like PFAS, BPA, phthalates, or formaldehyde.
Our first fabric recommendation is cotton. The National Eczema Society recommends cotton for individuals with eczema because it’s a soft, cool fabric that can absorb sweat. It’s also easy to wash so that you won’t deal with unwanted sweat stains.
Keep in mind that there’s a difference between 100% pure cotton and “cotton-rich” blends. Cotton-rich blends usually have a lot of polyester in them. Polyester isn’t a bad fiber; in fact, when mixed with cotton fiber, it reduces the shrinkage of fabric. However, a cotton-rich blend may not be as soft or absorbent as a pure cotton material.
Innovative use of cotton with polyester can be seen in ProCool Transwick Supima Cotton fabrics, in which one face is pure cotton, and the other face is a super-wicking polyester. Used in high-end sportswear for excellent wicking and cooling, the cotton side could be used against the skin for those with skin sensitivities.
Another excellent option for your skin is bamboo. Bamboo is a soft, breathable fabric like cotton, only it’s even more absorbent and regulates temperature. For example, if you’re wearing a long-sleeved shirt made of bamboo in the summer heat, the shirt will help keep you from getting overheated.
It can be confusing to read a label for a shirt made of bamboo. You’ll see words like “bamboo viscose” or “viscose derived from bamboo.” Bamboo viscose is also mixed with cotton (more durability), polyester (reduced shrinkage), elastane, spandex, and lycra (more stretchability) in many cases. If you see those words on labels, you can rest assured that you’re buying a fabric that will likely work for your skin!
Silk is known for being very smooth and soft. Like bamboo, it can regulate body temperature. You can wear silk on its own or as an undergarment that acts as a barrier between your skin and other fabric.
But silk isn’t the best option to wear every day since many silk fabrics are delicate, require handwashing, and are more likely to get permanently stained.
Still, silk is an excellent option for sheets, pajamas, and nicer garments like ballroom gowns or blouses.
Cashmere is known for being delicate and soft. It comes from a goat’s downy undercoat and is hypoallergenic and antibacterial. It’s just as warm as wool while weighing less. It has a unique crimp that can regulate body temperature and wick moisture away, making it an excellent fabric to wear if you’re sweating in the cold.
Merino is a specific type of wool that comes from the merino sheep. Because the fibers are much thinner than wool, it’s more refined and soft. Merino wool regulates body temperature, is resistant to odor, isn’t itchy, and dries quickly. It’s also wrinkle-resistant, easily washable, and durable.
Hemp comes from the cannabis sativa fiber and is turned into fabric with organic chemicals recycled for repeated use. It’s been around for thousands of years, and it’s no wonder why. It’s soft to the touch, eco-friendly, and hypo-allergenic. It’s also great for hot weather since it’s a breathable fabric and is UV resistant.
Lyocell & Modal
Another safe fiber is lyocell or modal. Both fabrics are made of a wood pulp variation of rayon that absorbs moisture better than rayon, nylon, polyester, or acrylics.
So, there you have it. There are several great choices for fabrics for sensitive skin. Having said that, don’t feel like you can’t wear a particular fabric. Ultimately, you should wear fabrics that feel good for your skin.
Are you having trouble finding fabrics that work for your sensitive skin? No matter the reason for your skin sensitivity, Wazoodle Fabrics has your solution. We offer a range of materials that will work for any skin type.
Fabrics under the Wazoodle brand include Zorb, ProSoft PUL, ProCare, ProECO, ProCool, AKASTiq, ProTec, and WazWool, with each fabric serving a specific purpose. You can make anything out of Wazoodle fabrics, from clothing to bathroom towels and everything in between. They come with the Wazoodle stamp of quality and do not contain PFOS, PFOA, lead, dioxins, heavy metals & BPA; Free from phthalates: contains no DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP, and DnOP.
Try some free swatches to find the best fabric for what you’re making, and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have.