Fabrics for Healthier Skin
Updated: Aug 23, 2019
When adding items to your wardrobe, what are the most important criteria that influence your
choices? Are your choices primarily based on style, color and fit, or do you also examine the
label, and pay attention to fabric composition and the method of production? Did you know, that your skin absorbs a significant portion of what is placed on the material, with our underarms (and genitals) absorbing 100%?! Therefore, it is good to know what is good for your skin, and what can be harmful. Here is a guide to help you choose well:
Good For YOU
Buying clothing made of natural fabrics is the best way to avoid harmful chemicals, skin
irritation, and allergies. These include cotton (especially organic), merino wool, cashmere,
hemp, silk, alpaca, and linen. The most recommended ones are:
Cotton is long lasting, breathable, keeps you warm in the cold, and cool in the heat. This fabric is hypoallergenic, and won’t irritate your skin.
Silk is soft on your skin, highly absorbent, and hypoallergenic due to its protein structure. Silk lets your skin breath, cools you when it’s hot, and warms you when it’s cold. (Ref. 4)
Linen is a popular summer fabric, because it regulates your body temperature well, keeping you cool in the heat. Linen can absorb up to 20% of moisture before it gets damp. Other than being a good temperature regulator, it is also hypoallergenic and antibacterial.
Hemp is a very durable fiber which softens with every wash. It is a very fast growing,
sustainable fiber, that requires less water than cotton to grow.
There are other natural fibers like wool, alpaca, angora, camel, cashmere that also have
wonderful benefits, but be wary if you are allergic to animal fibers, or sensitive to coarse
Better to Avoid
If you are looking for skin friendly fabrics, avoid man-made fabrics like Polyester, Acrylic,
Acetate, Triacetate, and Nylon, Rayon. They contain chemical compounds, like synthetic
polymers in polyester, and petroleum in nylon. (Ref. 4) They are treated with thousands of harmful toxic chemicals during production. These fibers do not offer breathability, causing a negative effect to the skin. This increases the risk of absorbing toxic chemicals. Lack of breathability can also lead to various kinds of irritation due to trapped moisture. The most common synthetic fabrics are:
Polyester is made by mixing ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. That all sounds extremely scientific, but basically, polyester is a kind of plastic. Polyester is not breathable while wearing it, making you feel sweaty, and can cause a build-up of bacteria.
Acrylic fabric is made with plastic threads. Acrylic can appear very similar to wool, and is
therefore often used in its place, or in a blended fabric composition with sheep wool. Like
polyester, acrylic repels water. It can lead to bacteria growth in the fabric, which may cause an odor. When acrylic enters the landfill, it can last up to 200 years, while releasing toxic
chemicals into the environment.
Nylon is manufactured from plastic through a chemical process. In short, high amounts of heat and pressure are applied to fossil fuels, yielding sheets of polyamide and nylon. As most of the synthetic fibers, nylon may cause allergies to sensitive skin. It is not a breathable material, restricting air to pass onto the body.
Rayon / Viscose is a manufactured fiber made from regenerated cellulose fiber. The main
ingredient in viscose is wood pulp, making it hard to classify as either synthetic, or natural. The manufacturing process is extremely polluting and harmful to the environment, classifying it as an unsustainable fabric, despite being made of natural materials (wood).
Acetate and Triacetate are made from wood fibers called cellulose, and undergo extensive
chemical processing to produce the finished product.
Processing of synthetic fabrics often involves:
● Petrochemical dyes
● Formaldehyde to prevent shrinkage
● Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
● Dioxin-producing bleach
● Chemical fabric softeners
According to “Ably Apparel”, if you must buy synthetic fabrics, make sure your favorite brand is bluesign® verified. This means that harmful substances are left out of the manufacturing
process, ensuring a safe and eco-friendly final product for consumers.
When choosing clothing, no matter the occasion, it is clear that style, design, and quality, are at the forefront of people’s minds. We dress to look good, to feel good, and to be within the latest fashion trends. However, there is something that should be even more important to purchasing decision, or at least at the same level, and that is the materials and production processes used.
Although it is a huge positive for the environment, and the planet with live in, please do not
underestimate the impact that this also has on your own personal health, hygiene, and clothing experience.
Also, I am able to tell you first hand, the fabric is not only essential to individual health, but
natural fabrics also enhance the visual experience of what you wear, and can bring a look that man-made fabrics cannot match. Alongside this, with the level of durability, your clothes will last longer, and keep that new look for a longer period of time, so you can use your clothing in a more creative way.
There is nothing but a win-win situation here. Better for health, hygiene, and all this comes with a nicer look, pay more attention to the labels and fabrics, make it a part of your purchasing process, and see and feel the positive changes almost immediately.
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