Why are my clothes causing a rash?

Colored TextilesMost allergic reaction to clothes can be traced back to chemical additives and coatings. It’s mind boggling how many irritating  chemicals are used in processing textiles: Rubber materials, formaldehyde resins, quarternium-15, disperse dyes, glues, elastic, tanning agents used to process fabrics & leather and metallic fasteners and other chemicals on clothes. The usual areas of concern for irritation from textiles are areas of the body subjected to friction and perspiration. The areas under arms, behind knees, in upper thigh, inside elbows and a rash around waist are usually the worst.

Disperse Blue 106 and 124 are used in the 100% acetate and 100% polyester blue, black, green and violet liners of women’s clothing . It is rare for men to react to the liner in their trousers, as the liner is usually white, grey or beige. The reaction to these disperse dyes can cause a severe acute eczematous reaction in the affected areas and may become chronic. Sometimes, there is sensitivity to flame-retardant materials added to clothing. Allergic contact dermatitis from the flame-retardants Tris (2,3-dibromopropyl) phosphate  and 2,3- dibromocresylglycidyl ether has been reported. Chronic generalized dermatitis that was a reaction to the Basic Red 46 dye in flame-retardant clothing  has been reported. Many flame-retardant clothes are colored using basic dyes. Read more about this: http://www.lni.wa.gov/Safety/Research/Dermatitis/files/clothing.pdf

New technologies have been developed to protect against UV radiation or to enhance breathability. These new technologies applied to fabrics can also cause allergic reactions and rashes. Most people who have textile allergies react to synthetic materials most often, some people are allergic to wool. When people believe they are allergic to cotton or silk, their reaction is usually to dyes or finishes applied to these natural materials or with the synthetic materials with which the natural fibers are blended.

The term hypoallergenic is used widely, although no Food and Drug Administration–approved definition of hypoallergenic exists. A warning exists for hypo irritating cleansers, cosmetics, moisturizers, and protectants; however, no standard method exists to identify textile products that are used by individuals with susceptible skin (atopic dermatitis, facial skin of individuals with rosacea).

My advice is to:

1. read labels carefully, watch out for wrinkle-free, fire resistant, UV protection, soil repellant fabrics.

2.Wash all new clothes three times in a perfume-free, dye-free detergent or soap like Nellies Washing Soda and rinse two times. See the skin products I recommend including Nellies Washing Soda in my Allergy product Store.

3. Use dryer balls instead of dryer sheets or fabric softener, Nellies makes a good one that is PVC-free.

4. Do not wear heavily dyed clothing and stay away from synthetic clothing that comes in direct contact with your skin.

5. Find an outfit or two that does not irritate your skin and designate those clothes for relaxing and exercising. During the work day, wear “safe” comfortable clothes under more irritating highly processed or colored clothes.

6. I wear silk long underwear in white or cream under all my irritating sweaters and trousers. I get my silk underclothes from http://wintersilk.com They have a lot of styles to choose from, stay with the lighter colors to be safe.

Visit my Skin Allergy Comfort Store  to see products I recommend like Nellies Washing Soda.


6 Responses

  1. Hi , I want to ask you a few question, when I wear my school uniform , and the collar cause my neck itchy , is it an allergy ? If it is can I cure it?


    • Hi Marcus, my questions would be; do you get a rash or feel itchy from your school uniform other than the collar? Sometimes the tags that are sewn into the collar can make your neck itchy. Is there any other clothing you own that makes you itchy? It can be that certain fabrics are better than others. Sometimes taking the tag off might help, however if it is the material, then you may be sensitive to the material. Which, could very likely be cotton. Is your uniform new?


  2. Another thing that I am finding is that the thread they use to overcast is made of something that is *very* irritating. I have spend a lot of time trying to find t shirts to wear for walking or gym so that I don’t get a rash on my collarbones / neck / upper chest (v necks). Good grief. It’s a jungle out there, and price does not matter. I have decided to cut the sewn neck out of all my tee shirts.


    • This is a problem I am constantly fighting. Why make a cotton t-shirt, then sew it with a synthetic thread? I also find they use an elastic in the shoulder seams to give them some stretch. This is very irritating to people who are allergic to rubber and latex. Also sewn in labels are scratchy and the ones printed right on the garment ones can be worse for some people who are allergic to the ink. It’s an itchy world out there, stick with 100% cotton especially organic cotton and pure silk. The dyes used on synthetic clothes cause more allergies than the dyes used on cotton clothes.

      Organic cotton workout clothes: http://www.gaiam.com/yoga-fitness/shirts-tops/2010604,default,sc.html


  3. hi Dayne,
    Thought you might find this interesting…

    I recently saw for the first time ever a tag on a clothing item that said, “Confidence in Textiles. Tested for harmful substances according to Oeko-Tex Standard 100”.

    So I googled it, and found this page

    The Oeko-Tex label indicates that an item has been scientifically tested for skin-friendliness.

    From what I read on the site, it’s a standard mainly used only in Europe. (The item I purchased was in fact packaged for the European market.)

    Wow, I hope eventually there will come the day when we can walk into an American store and see this label and textiles.



    • Thank you for your comment. I went to Oeko-Tex’s website. What a great idea to label products as skin friendly. With all my allergies, I would be willing to pay more to know ahead of time that something would not cause problems. I hope this catches on in the US.

      I guess more customer will have to complain, we should all be squeaky wheels and notify manufacturers when things cause problems. In the US, it seems like low cost is the most important stimulus for changing unless there is an up roar from consumers.


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