Dermatologist Ophelia Veraitch explains that certain clothes and fabrics can make your skin itchy and inflamed. Clothing allergies can be more common in the winter months because of synthetic fabrics and materials like wool often used in winter wear. Here are the tell-tale signs you don’t want to overlook this winter.
There are two different causes of clothing allergy – irritant reaction and delayed immune reaction.
Dr Veraitch said: “ An irritant reaction to fibres of the fabric is more common with synthetic fibres such as nylon, polyester and spandex than natural fibres such as linen, silk, and cotton.
“[While] delayed immune reaction, or contact allergy, is caused by the chemicals that are added to the fabric during its production.”
The latter one is usually caused by finishing agents used in the clothing industry to process fabrics including formaldehyde finishing resins, flame retardants and dyes like para-phenylenediamine.
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The doctor explains that these finishing agents are added to make your clothes waterproof and resistant to wrinkles and shrinkage.
She also warns that another culprit possibly causing you to develop a reaction after wearing clothes might be the washing detergent you use.
“There are a number of different factors that can be responsible for causing the allergy,” Dr Veraitch said.
How to spot a clothing allergy
The doctor pinpoints “very uncomfortable” red, itchy and scaly rash on the skin as the main symptom.
Here are some other symptoms to look out for:
- Rash on the skin
- Redness of skin
- Itchy skin
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose.
The dermatologist said: “Sometimes the symptoms appear within hours after the clothes come into contact with the skin, other times it can take days or weeks.
“Areas that are most likely to be affected are places where the skin is in closest contact with the clothing, where the fabric is rubbing on the skin.”
The most common areas affected by clothing allergy according to the doctor are the backs of the knees, axilla (area under the joint where the arm connects to the shoulder), groin and buttocks.
When you experience symptoms like this, Dr Veraitch advised: “It’s always best to use your common sense, and try to avoid fabrics that you know cause a reaction to your skin.
“If you have tried this and the skin reaction still persists I would visit a dermatologist.”
The constant itching linked to this condition can in some cases lead to skin infections or even be a sign of a different more severe condition.
How to ease the symptoms of clothing allergy?
The doctor said: “It is important to maintain the skin barrier with a soap free wash, a regular moisturiser and a topical steroid.
“The weak ones such as 1% hydrocortisone are available over the counter, and anything stronger needs prescribing by a doctor.”
Other tips she offered include sticking to natural fabrics like cotton, linen and silk when shopping, avoiding tight fitting clothes and wearing non-dyed fabrics when clothes are in close contact to the skin.
Looking at the tags and ditching anything with ‘wrinkle resistant’, ‘dirt repellent’ and ‘wash separately’ label could also help, as these are often treated with problematic formaldehydes and dyes.
Veraitch’s final advice was: “If you have a clothing allergy it should clear once the culprit fabric is removed.”