woman scratching at her arm wearing white cotton tshirt

Textile Dermatitis: Understanding Allergic Reactions to Clothing

Have you ever put on wool sweater, which made you feel very itchy? Have you ever noticed that some fabrics, such as polyester, have made you get a rash? While skin rashes are common, they can be a problem if a specific textile caused the rash. These scenarios are real, and it’s known as textile dermatitis. But what does all of this mean, and how can it be stopped? Keep reading on to learn about textile contact dermatitis and what you can do to stop it from affecting you!

What is Textile Contact Dermatitis?

Textile contact dermatitis will occur whenever your skin reacts negatively to a specific fabric that your skin comes in contact with. While it can usually be your clothes, it could be towels, bedding, or even the fabric on your furniture. It’s a type of contact dermatitis, and the problem's source could be chemical additives, fibers, dyes, resins, or even the laundry detergent used when washing. Thus, it can be difficult at first to pinpoint the issue and how it came to be.

Related: Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis): Types, Causes, & Treatments

What Causes Textile Contact Dermatitis?

Technically, any kind of fiber can cause a rash, but it’s more apparent if you have an allergy to latex or polyester, as synthetic fibers such as rubber or nylon tend to be the culprits for causing allergic reactions. Natural fibers, on the other hand, tend to be more breathable and less irritating to the skin. 

Plus, with natural fibers such as linen, cotton, or silk, you’re less likely to sweat compared to synthetic fibers. Another thing to remember is that synthetic fibers are usually tight-fitting, which could increase your chances of irritating your skin.  

While the fabric and fibers alone could increase your chance of getting irritated skin, you should also remember that dyes and chemicals made for creating clothing could also impact your skin. This can include resins in the garments, which makes them wrinkle-free. But another factor could be your environment; if you’re in a hot or humid area such as a kitchen or a greenhouse, you’ll be more at risk of textile dermatitis. Lastly, if you have sensitive skin or a skin condition such as eczema, your chances of dealing with textile dermatitis will significantly increase. 

What are Some of the Symptoms of Textile Contact Dermatitis?

You can expect the symptom of textile dermatitis to be similar to those of eczema. This includes skin that is itchy, scaly, red, and dry. Sometimes, a rash can appear within minutes of your skin having contact with the textile, while other times, it may take weeks for it to appear. You can expect that most of these rashes will appear where the clothing is tight, such as in the folds of your skin

This can include around the crotch, armpits, and the crooks of the arm. Fortunately, the symptoms are usually just temporary. But it is also possible that some severe reactions can occur; this can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Hands turning red
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tender skin
  • Runny or stuffy nose

The symptoms have the potential to vary from person to person.


women applying lotion to her hands


When Should I See My Doctor?

If you’ve noticed that your skin hasn’t cleared up, and it’s been a few weeks, it’s best to visit your dermatologist. You should especially do this if you have sensitive skin. You should also check with your doctor if your rash is itchy, painful, or if it’s spreading throughout your body. Your doctor can check if you have an infection or not, in addition to dermatitis. 

Related: 10 Best Eczema Treatments: Products for Fast & Lasting Relief

Who Gets Textile Contact Dermatitis?

While everyone can get textile contact dermatitis, it’s more common for women than men. But why is that? Well, it’s most likely due to women wearing tighter-fitted clothes. However, those who are obese, those working in humid areas, and those with skin conditions are very likely to have textile contact dermatitis. Textile contact dermatitis is also a significant problem for textile industry workers due to the humid conditions, handling of synthetic materials, and harsh chemicals

All the chemicals that are present in fabric nowadays make potential allergens more prevalent. However, a patch test will be able to help with determining what is causing the allergic reaction.

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What are the Treatment Options for Textile Contact Dermatitis?

If you immediately notice that an article of fabric is causing a rash, then it’s best to stop wearing it all together. Doing so should help you, as the rash will disappear without medication. But of course, clothes are not always the cause of these reactions. Culprits can also include bedsheets, carpets, furniture, and even toys. At first, it may be difficult to pinpoint what exactly is causing your symptoms, so before purchasing anything, it’s important to always read labels, whether you are looking at clothing, products, or household items. 

While simply stopping skin contact can be one way to stop symptoms, it’s understandable that it’s not always easy. If you’re having a stronger allergic reaction, such experiencing a burning sensation, then you could take a look into either trying some home remedies like an oatmeal bath or paying a visit to your doctor. For more severe cases, your doctor may be able to prescribe some oral steroids, such as prednisone. 

Related: Heat Rash: Prickly Heat Symptoms & Home Care

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How to Prevent Contact Dermatitis

These are some general tips to help you avoid getting textile contact dermatitis: 

  • Opt for light-colored clothes as they contain less dye
  • Avoid synthetic materials and opt for cotton and linens
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing. Instead, opt for loose and breathable clothes.
  • Avoid  ‘dirt-repellent’ and ‘no-iron’ clothes. These contain chemicals that are known to irritate.


woman in linen dress laying a blanket down at the beach


Wrapping Up

In general, it may be a bit challenging to pinpoint whether it’s your clothes or something else that is causing your skin to be irritated. But regardless, the last thing you want to do to your skin is just to ignore the issue and believe it will go away on its own.

So, ensure you follow these prevention tips and take action as soon as you notice that your skin is getting irritated. 

However, another great way to take action and make your skin more resilient to textile dermatitis is through our moisturizing products here at Soteri.  All of our products are scientifically formulated with proven ingredients to protect against and heal symptoms of eczema! So, give your skin what it needs and fight back against eczema today!

Are you battling with eczema? What about textile contact dermatitis? Our Shop contains numerous moisturizers that are packed with gentle ingredients! Also, shop pH-balanced skincare products today!