Detergents and Clothing Material That May Cause Eczema
Clothes have been shown to contribute to skin diseases such as eczema. Your choice of clothing material can either help or worsen your eczema. In addition, the harsh chemicals found in the laundry detergents and fabric softeners you use on your clothes can slowly irritate your skin and cause eczema flare-ups. This article discusses the best clothing material for your sensitive skin and why detergents are bad for your eczema. Learn everything you need to know about how natural and hypoallergenic soaps can help and why bleach may be the paradoxical solution for your eczema.
Because clothes are always resting on and rubbing against the skin, they can irritate it and trigger eczema symptoms especially itching and inflammation.
Clothes can also control the amount of heat reaching the skin as well as humidity. Therefore, wearing clothes that do not breathe well can raise the temperature of the skin and cause sweating.
High temperature, especially moist heat, and sweat are known triggers of eczema.
Therefore, the first rule for eczema sufferers with regards to clothes is to wear clothes made from light, breathable fabrics.
Light, breathable fabrics promote the aeration of the skin, lower its temperature and help remove sweat.
Light clothing should be worn not only during the day but also at nighttime. Besides keeping the skin cool during the night, light clothes rub more gently on the skin as the sleeper unconsciously scratches his itch.
For those with sensitive skins, it is best to wash new clothes before wearing them. This will help remove the chemical irritants on the fabric. Furthermore, labels can irritate and scratch the skin. These should be removed completely from new clothes.
Wearing thick, wooly clothes during cold weather can trigger eczema flare-ups. To avoid this, it is better to wear multiple light clothes made from soft, natural fiber.
Wearing multiple light clothes instead of one thick cloth has one other advantage. You can control your skin temperature as appropriate by removing some of the light clothes you put on.
Besides being light and breathable, the ideal cloth for eczema sufferers should fit loosely to reduce contact with the skin and also promote good airflow.
With regards to clothing material, both experts and eczema sufferers agree that cotton is the best choice.
In contrast, synthetic fabrics like nylon, silk and rayon as well as hemp, denim, leather, cashmere and even wool can worsen itching by repeatedly irritating the skin or trapping heat.
Wool is bad for eczema because its texture is coarse and because it can trap eczema aeroallergens such as dust, dust mite, dander and pollen. Nylon is light but it is not breathable. Therefore, it retains heat and increases sweating. Silk may be smooth and soft but it contains sericin, a protein that is also an allergen.
On the other hand, cotton is soft and gentle on the skin, breathable and absorbent and does not trap heat close to the skin. Therefore, it is the best cloth for eczema sufferers.
Where clothes made from other fabrics will be worn, it is best to wear them over undergarments made from cotton.
Finding the right clothing for people living with eczema can be difficult. This is especially so for children with eczema. While cotton is universally regarded as the ideal clothing material best tolerated by eczema sufferers, it can be difficult to get clothes made from 100% cotton or cotton clothes made in certain styles.
To help eczema patients get better cloth selection, there are specialty labels that produce clothes that are gentle on the skin and that will not irritate the skin.
A good example of specialty cloth label for eczema patients is DermaSilk. This brand sells specially treated silk clothes with irritants and allergens such as sericin already removed.
There are other brands that also sell medical-grade fabrics that have been treated with antibacterial and antifungal agents.
Specialty clothes made for people with eczema do not have the chemical, new cloth smell. Rather, the fabrics are pre-washed at high temperatures to help remove irritants. Such clothes are usually colored and printed with vegetable dyes.
Most of these clothes are also made without seams and have elastic waistbands. These features ensures that the clothes do not collect irritants and also do not rub harshly against the skin.
Of course, specialty clothes for people with eczema are usually more expensive than regular clothes and they usually come with special washing directions.
Laundry detergents and fabric softeners are chemical products for washing and softening clothes. However, they do accumulate in clothes with repeated washes.
The chemicals in these washing products are then slowly released. When they come in contact with the skin, these chemicals behave as irritants and can worsen eczema symptoms.
These chemical agents can trigger eczema symptoms such as itch, dry skin, inflamed lesions and skin rashes.
By design, laundry detergents use chemical agents that are not easily broken down. They also contain chemicals that are known oxidizers. Oxidizers are included to help remove tough stains that stick to clothes fabrics.
However, by nature these chemicals are toxic. For example, oxidizers can increase oxidative stress in the skin. They directly damage skin cells, change the pH of the skin and trigger inflammatory reactions.
The enzymes included in these detergents are also just as dangerous. These are the same digestive enzymes required for degrading proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Therefore, these enzymes can destroy the lipids and proteins that make up the skin.
While laundry detergents are meant for washing and expected to be removed after rinsing, fabric softeners are designed to coat the surface of cloth fabrics with a layer of chemicals.
The chemical layer provided by fabric softeners leaves clothes smoother and softer while also preventing static cling.
However, that same layer can directly irritate the skin. Common chemicals used in fabric softeners have been linked to multiple health problems. For example, chloroform, formaldehyde and benzyl acetate are known carcinogens.
Why Detergents and Fabric Softeners Are Bad for Eczema
Hypoallergenic soaps are often recommended for eczema patients both for bathing and for laundry.
However, it is important to note two points with regards to hypoallergenic products. First, hypoallergenic does not mean “no allergens”. Rather, it means that the product contains very few allergens and should cause fewer allergic reactions than normal products.
Secondly, hypoallergenic is more of a marketing term than a strict, official label awarded to products by regulatory bodies.
Even though there are allergy interest groups that test new hypoallergenic products and provide certification, there is still no consensus about the conditions a product has to meet to be considered “hypoallergenic”.
Therefore, you should be careful about hypoallergenic soaps and washing products found on supermarket shelves. In most cases, those are simply milder formulas of the regular products.
This means that there is no guarantee that a hypoallergenic product will ease your eczema symptoms.
It is, therefore, important that you decide for yourself which hypoallergenic products best suit you. Eczema patients are not all sensitive to detergents and soaps to the same degree. Therefore, a little experimentation is required to determine how sensitive you are to regular or hypoallergenic washing products.
Besides hypoallergenic soaps, natural soaps are also recommended. These are made from organic products such as vegetable oils (coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and shea butter) as well as botanicals such aloe vera and colloidal oatmeal.
While natural soaps may not make clothes as white as laundry detergents, they also do not leave toxic residues in cloth fabrics. They are also free from synthetic dyes and fragrances that can irritate the skin.
Finally, the ingredients used in the manufacture of these soaps are soothing to the skin. Some of these ingredients are even used in the treatment of eczema in alternative medicine.
While harsh soaps are not recommended for eczema patients, a 2009 study published in the journal, Pediatrics, found that bleach bath is actually good for people with moderate to severe eczema.
The researchers tested bleach bath because previous studies showed that 90% of eczema patients carry the bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus, on their skins in contrast to only 25% of the general population.
For the study, the researchers recruited 31 children aged between 6 months and 17 years. All of them were first treated with antibiotics for 14 days. Half of the children were also given bleach bath twice a week while the other half received their baths without the addition of bleach.
The results showed that the bleach group got a lot better than the control group (5 times better with regards to the severity of eczema) that the researchers stopped the study well before its 3-month duration.
Why did the bleach bath work? Bleach is such a strong oxidizer that it was very effective at getting rid of the bacteria that perpetuate eczema. Even drug-resistant bacteria were killed off by this topical agent.
It is important to note the difference between bleach bath and laundry detergent. This bleach bath was given to patients with active moderate to severe eczema and for short periods of time (twice weekly and rinsed off after the bath).
If it were given more frequently and to people who do not have active and infected eczema, it would have caused itching, dry skin and rashes too.
In fact, bleach bath is only safe and effective when used as directed. Experts recommend diluting ½ cup of bleach in 40 gallons of bathtub water and soaking only the affected parts in the diluted bleach bath.
In addition, they also recommend not taking this bath more than twice a week.
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