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Eczema and Clothing

Eczema and Clothes

Chronic eczema can be a nuisance and a source of significant stress. Skin sensitivities, itching and irritation can cause sleepless nights if severe enough. Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure to eczema at this time.

Unlike infections which are caused by an external factor like a virus, bacteria or fungus, it can't be eliminated simply by killing the source. Eczema is better thought of as a genetic tendency for dry sensitive skin, with weaker skin barrier functions.

Thus, lifestyle adjustments are necessary to keep the disease controlled.

Clothing and eczema

Eczema leaves the skin dry and extremely sensitive to environmental irritants. Clothing related irritants are extremely common, and thus deserve attention. Potential sources of irritation can include residual detergent from washing, fabric softeners, bleach, synthetic materials used in clothing, wool, or linen.

If you are unsure about what triggers your eczema flares, clothing related irritants may be one of prime suspects that you should watch for. The advice here may help to reduce your flares or minimize their severity.


Laundering your clothes helps to keep irritating substances like dirt, sweat, and pollen away from the clothes which is important if you

have sensitive eczematous skin. Often though, the laundry process itself can be the cause of irritation to sensitive patients. Some potential irritants include:

  • Detergents that are left over as residue
  • Fabric softeners often contain fragrance, which is a common irritant and allergen
  • Strong bleaches can also irritate the skin
  • Most of these irritants can be reduced or eliminated by using less detergent relative to the load
  • Do a double rinse to ensure that there aren't any residual detergents left stuck on the clothes

Choosing clothes

Although allergies and irritants are extremely complicated and individual, there are certain types of clothes that are more likely than others to trigger irritation and itch. Eczema patients should be aware of clothing that is more likely to cause irritation and worsen eczema:

  • Wool is a common source of itch, even in individuals without eczema
  • Linen can be a source of itch in eczema patients
  • Natural fabrics tend to be less irritating compared to synthetic materials
  • Dressing lighter can reduce sweat, which can itself be an irritant during the summer when the weather is hot and humid
  • During the winter, wear long clothes that protect your skin from the cold drying air, which is one of the most important factors that worsen eczema
  • Try out some of these changes and see if you notice any improvement in your eczema
  • If you suspect allergic reactions, which is easier to notice as the symptoms are acute, visit an allergist who can help identify the trigger through patch testing

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