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Be Kind to Your Skin, a Guide to Choosing Skin-Friendly Fabrics

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Yay! Life is coming back to normal! Are you feeling ready to go out again?   If so, you certainly can’t go out in that!  Yes, we’re looking at you in those sweats and comfy t-shirt!  And, if you’re like a lot of women who ditched the bra in 2020, you might be wondering what to put on now…  

Well, whatever you choose, choose something made of skin-friendly fabrics!   With so many who suffer from allergies to latex, wool, or spandex and still others with skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and contact dermatitis, skin-friendly fabrics are the way to go.  Aging and menopause can also wreak havoc on our skin with collagen loss, skin dryness, and temperature regulation.  If you are suffering from skin issues or are looking to add natural fiber clothing to your wardrobe arming yourself with a little knowledge about toxins found in clothing and taking a new look at labeling are great first starts.

Did you know that our skin absorbs a high percentage of what is put on it?  In fact, our underarms and genitalia have a 100% absorption rate!

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Did you know that your skin is the largest organ on your body and penetrable by many kinds of toxins from direct exposure?   A study published in the American Journal of Public Health concluded that our skin absorbs a high percentage of what is put on it.  In fact, our underarms and genitalia have a 100% absorption rate!  It makes sense that we should consider the labels on our clothing.  Allergens and chemicals lurking in fabrics can be absorbed quite easily, especially with heat and moisture from when we sweat.  But it’s not just chemicals like formaldehyde you should be aware of.  Dyes like Disperse Blue 1 can aggravate skin, and latex, spandex, and wool can really irritate too.  

When searching for more friendly fabrics stay far away from Polyester, Acrylic, Acetate, Triacetate, and Nylon.  These synthetics are far from natural and have chemical makeups like polymers in polyester and petroleum in nylon.  So, how do you discern whether the garment you’re considering is skin unfriendly?  Let the label tip you off.  

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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.
  • Colorfast – 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 Perfluorinated chemicals (PCFs) or Formaldehyde
  • 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 – 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!

Now let’s take a look at what fabrics are considered skin-friendly. Top on our list would be cotton and silk (of course!) but also look for natural fibers like flax, linen, and hemp.  There are other natural fibers like wool, alpaca, angora, camel, cashmere, mohair, ramie, and saluyot (jute) but be wary if you are allergic to animal fibers.  

Natural fabrics are a “must-have” in your wardrobe! But, you can add them to your bed too for a restful sleep at night!
  • 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 silk nighty will reduce nighttime sneezing and not irritate sensitive skin issues.  Silk just might make you look younger and keep your hair shiny and healthy too!  Silk will let your skin breathe and feel cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold as it has excellent temperature regulation.  This natural fiber is also strong yet soft feeling sensuous on your skin reducing friction.
  • Cotton – A powerhouse fabric for a new baby’s pristine skin, aging sensitive skin, and all ages of skin in between!  There are many benefits of cotton.  This low-maintenance fabric is hypoallergenic and won’t irritate the skin or make your allergies worse. Cotton breathes easy, 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 and gets stronger when wet.  This fabric regulates temperature well, is non-allergenic, anti-static, and antibacterial.  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.  It is a very fast-growing sustainable fiber using less water than cotton for growing.  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 use of fabric dyes when manufactured.

When adding items, if you find something you like that’s not 100% natural fiber try shooting for a 90/10 combination.  When you do bring items home that may have some synthetic fibers included wash them before wearing them, preferably in a “green” laundry detergent.  And, if you want to avoid perc or other chemicals in the dry-cleaning process, try hand washing.  

We know you can’t throw away every garment you own to replace them with natural fiber selections but now that you know what to look for shopping may be an easier task especially when you now know how fabrics can affect your skin, and that’s a win-win!  And, this weekend SAVE 21% on skin-friendly natural fabrics at, shop now, sale ends May 31… See you in the next blog!

Deb Fries is a freelance writer and designer and worked for Julianna Rae in Graphics and Customer Service, she now writes for the blog at