Whether you prefer your fluffy sweats or your amazing power suit… what you put on your birthday suit really does matter!
Skin. The largest organ in our body. Working for us all day and all night. Warming us. Cooling us. Even breathing for us. And what do we do?
- We expose it to the sun’s radiation at levels to the point that skin cancer is growing faster than the next four cancers combined
- We spend $1.2BN a year putting on anti-aging creams and $1.3BN per year on cleansers to take them off
- We wear SPF products when we run to the store and spend $2BN per year on tanning salons.
Whoa! People! We’ve got to do better than this! Our skin is literally our “closest” friend! And the #1 thing we can do to make sure that our skin looks beautiful and stays beautiful is to simply make sure our skin stays healthy.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU WEAR
For the better part of our life our skin is covered by multiple fabrics – usually simultaneously. Fabrics that keep us warm, fabrics that keep us cool and, above all, fabrics that make us look and feel great! But did you know that your skin absorbs a significant portion of what is put on it – and our underarms (and genitals) absorb 100%?! That bit of information alone should make you want to know more about what you’re wearing. Because what you’re wearing literally can become part of who you are.
COMMON CAUSES FOR SKIN SENSITIVITY
Some people live each and every day with sensitivities that require they pay very close attention to what they wear.
Those with allergies to latex, wool or spandex, skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and contact dermatitis, usually have to select their clothing with particular care. Cancer patients with raw skin from radiation treatments or skin reactions like rashes and sores from chemotherapy treatments generally find relief in selecting natural fibers, especially silk. Many of our customers tell us they have specifically been advised to wear to silk garments to sleep in and relax in.
Aging and menopause can also wreak havoc on our skin from the loss of collagen and dryness to temperature regulation. Things that once caused zero problems, can evolve to cause irritation and rashes.
Natural fibers like silk and cotton often provide relief to those suffering from these conditions. Still, you have to be careful that the threads aren’t blended with latex or chemically treated fibers to take away what is good about the fiber. Also look to see how much latex there is in the threading or waistband, as this, too, can cause irritation in an otherwise natural fiber garment.
So keep your eye on the label!! If it’s true for your food, it’s true for your clothing!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The first thing – and the simplest thing – to look for is a mostly natural fiber product. What are they?
Silk – This highly absorbent, easy-to-care-for fabric is also hypoallergenic because of its natural protein structure,making it a great choice for people with allergies. Sleeping in silk sheets, pillowcases and a silk nighty will reduce night time sneezing and not irritate skin issues. Silk just might make you look younger and keep your hair shiny and healthy too! Silk lets your skin breath, cools you when it’s hot, and warms you when it’s cold. This natural fiber is also strong (strong as a strand of steel!) yet soft on your, with minimal friction.
Cotton – A powerhouse fabric for a new baby’s pristine skin, aging sensitive skin and all ages of skin in between! This low maintenance fabric is hypoallergenic and won’t irritate your skin, or make your allergies worse. Cotton breathes easily, unlike oil-based synthetic fabrics. For women who are afflicted with hot flashes cotton is a great choice for temperature regulation and moisture wicking. Cotton drapes nicely without clinging to your body allowing for a quick cool down after a hot flash and that loose fit makes the garment less likely to show sweat.
Flax/Linen – Linen fabric is made from the fibers found in the flax plant and is known as one of the world’s strongest fibers. It actually gets stronger when wet. Linen regulates temperature well, is non-allergenic, anti-static and antibacterial. And, linen can absorb up to 20% moisture before it starts to feel damp.
Hemp – A real toxin free plant because it doesn’t need herbicides to grow. Hemp is a very fast growing, sustainable fiber that requires less water than cotton to grow. The fabric from hemp is durable and softens with every wash. It is hard wearing and lasts longer than other natural fibers. Hemp also has natural coloring, reducing the need for fabric dyes in manufacturing.
If you’re wearing 100% of any of these four, you’re off to a good start. There are other natural fibers like wool, alpaca, angora, camel, cashmere, and mohair but be wary if you are allergic to animal fibers or sensitive to coarse texture fibers as animal fibers can have what is called a prickle factor (and many of them can be quite smooth as well. It is dependant on what is called their micron count – a whole other topic in itself!)
WHAT TO AVOID
Here’s a brief rundown of things you might find in a garment that could cause irritation or rash:
- Chemicals or Allergens: e.g., formaldehyde and Para-phenylenediamine (PPD)
- Dyes: e.g., Disperse Blue 1, Azo and anthraquinone
- Latex, spandex
- Wool (particularly on dry and sensitive skin)
So, if you are looking for skin friendly fabrics, avoid those that have Polyester, Acrylic, Acetate, Triacetate, and Nylon. These synthetic fabrics are not natural. They contain chemical compounds like synthetic polymers in polyester and petroleum in nylon.
While it’s one thing to steer clear of fabrics like polyester or acrylic while shopping it’s another to discern whether the garment you’re considering is skin unfriendly… again, the label can tip you off. If you want to minimize your exposure to toxins then avoid garments with labels that state the following:
Wrinkle-Resistant, Permanent Press – these garments can release formaldehyde. After textile dyes, formaldehyde and textile finish resins are the most frequently reported allergens. Formaldehyde can irritate mucous membranes and the respiratory tract.
Colourfast – Dye fixatives used to bond the color to the fabric have a heavy metal makeup which when absorbed by our skin can accumulate in the liver, kidney, bones, heart and brain as well as leach into the environment after processing.
Stain-Resistant – Could contain Perflourinated chemicals (PCFs) or Formaldahyde
Flame Retardant – This type of fabric uses the chemical additive PBDE or polybrominated diphenyl ethers which are highly toxic and have been found in the breast milk of nursing mothers as well as in house dust and clothes dryer lint.
Permanent Press, Moth Proof, Shrink Proof – Formaldehydes here as well
Wash separately from other garments – Whenever you see this label be wary, this labeling means a high concentration of dye in the fabric. Dyes used in dark blue, brown, and black synthetic clothing can be absorbed by your skin as well as cause allergic contact dermatitis. Remember if it bleeds in the washer it will bleed into your skin!
When adding items to your wardrobe, if you find something you like that’s not 100% natural fiber, shoot for a 90%/10% combination. When you do bring items home that contain synthetic fibers, wash them before wearing, preferably with a green laundry detergent. And, if you want to avoid perc or other chemicals in the dry cleaning process, try hand washing. Not sure how to care for natural fiber fabrics? We’ve got you covered with our silk care blog here, learn more about caring for cotton here, linen care here, and washing hemp items here.
That’s it for now. Did we miss anything? Get anything wrong? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you!