If your child complains that their clothes are itchy, scratchy, or uncomfortable, they’re not being fussy and it’s not just their imagination. Research shows that many children have skin sensitivities, which means that popular fabrics that might feel completely normal to an adult’s touch are likely to feel rough, unpleasant, or downright painful against your child’s skin! This is especially true for underwear, which can bunch and slide and, if it’s made with low-quality fabric, is guaranteed to make your little one ultra-uncomfortable. 


Thankfully, selecting underwear for sensitive skin isn’t hard to do. There are plenty of super soft, gentle, and comfy fabrics that kids are big fans of, and which are also good for the planet! In this article, we cover how skin sensitivity shows up in your children and where to find undies they’ll love to pull on every morning.

What is Sensitive Skin in Children?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: your child’s skin is thinner than yours. This means that, on average, their skin is more susceptible to rashes, allergies, and irritants than that of adults. The delicate nature of their skin means that many children also have or develop skin sensitivity, and a special interest group found that more than 50% of mothers reported sensitive or reactive skin in their kids! 


The group defines sensitive skin as: “a syndrome defined by the occurrence of unpleasant sensations (stinging, burning, pain, pruritus, and tingling sensations) in response to stimuli that normally should not provoke such sensations … Sensitive skin can affect all body locations.” Whew! In plain English, this means that children’s skin is more likely to be irritated by ordinary household products, from laundry detergents to lotions to certain fabrics. That’s why parents should listen carefully if a child insists that their undies are uncomfortable to wear, even if the material feels fine to you. 


Signs that your little one has reactive or sensitive skin include:

  • Hives or red patches
  • Blistering or rashes 
  • Itching, burning, or stinging
  • Eczema 
  • Contact dermatitis

What Exacerbates Skin Sensitivity?

If your child has sensitive skin, then the clothes they wear can make rashes, itchiness, and discomfort worse. These are the top offenders found in popular kids clothing labels:

Synthetic Materials

Cheaply made and readily available in big chain stores, undies made from polyester, nylon, or rayon can trigger skin irritation. Why? Because synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon are types of plastic, derived from petroleum (yep—the same petroleum that’s part of the global fossil fuel crisis that contributes to climate change). They’re hydrophobic, meaning they trap moisture and heat close to the skin, which not only feels unpleasant, but also aggravates skin sensitivity. Selecting underwear for sensitive skin starts with carefully scrutinizing the label to ensure it doesn’t contain synthetics. 

Toxic Chemicals and Dyes

The dyes and chemicals used in textile production aren’t always good news for your kids’ wardrobes. For example, that familiar “new clothes smell” that freshly purchased items from major labels often have typically indicates the presence of formaldehyde, which keeps garments wrinkle-free. While the chemical has been linked to asthma and cancer, wearing any type of clothing with formaldehyde is likely to worsen your child’s skin sensitivity, causing rashes, itchiness, and dryness. If you’re wondering whether a good scrubbing will remove the chemical, unfortunately, formaldehyde can’t simply be washed away and, even after several launderings, traces will remain in your child’s clothing.


Phthalates are commonly used in textile manufacturing, too, even though they have been linked to cancer and hormone disruption, and dangerous levels of lead have been found even in baby bibs. Azo dyes, which give jeans their trademark indigo hue, is not only carcinogenic but also induces contact dermatitis and skin irritation. Harsh chlorines, used to whiten or disinfect clothing, have also been shown to cause contact dermatitis. 


How to Select the Softest, Safest Undies

Now that you know what to avoid, let’s cover what to look for in underwear for sensitive skin. When it comes to their undies, most kids are picky, picky, picky. It’s not just the materials, chemicals, and dyes that matter, but also the construction of each garment. Trims, tags, and scratchy fabrics can cause everything from wedgies to a full-on rash. Assuming your child picking miserably at his butt isn’t the look you’re going for when you’re out in public, here’s what to look for:


Gentle Fabrics

The best materials for sensitive skin are made from all-natural materials. For example, TENCEL Lyocell is made from wood pulp and is known for being extra soft, durable, and has remarkable moisture-absorbing abilities. Another safe, natural fiber that won’t irritate even the most sensitive skin is organic cotton, which is breathable and moisture-wicking. As an added bonus, both TENCEL and organic cotton are sustainable fabrics, meaning they’re good for the Earth!

Skin-friendly Dyes

While even underwear for sensitive skin can be dyed a fun color, those dyes should be gentle on the skin—and on the environment, too! The most surefire way to guarantee that your child’s new undies are free from dangerous chemicals and dyes is to stick to garments with the STANDARD 100 label. The label, certified by OEKO-TEX, a Zurich-based association of experts, testifies that every component of a garment is free from 100+ scary substances, like formaldehyde and azo dyes. 

Comfort

For undies that even the fussiest child will pronounce comfy, three criteria should be met: they should be breathable, soft, and thoughtfully constructed. Natural fibers like lyocell and cotton are lightweight and breathable, allowing moisture and heat to move away from the body. However, even some 100% cotton undies are made from short, thick fibers that can feel scratchy, while others come with bulky seams or trims that cause friction and irritation. Underwear for sensitive skin should be made from super-soft organic cotton and feature simple, practical construction that doesn’t itch or bunch.

Environmentally Friendly Clothes for Your Kids 

It’s satisfying to know that parents aren’t victims to careless big brands and are empowered to seek out healthier, gentler alternatives when shopping for underwear for sensitive skin. Here at Crann Apparel, we understand that the well-being of our children and our environment go hand-in-hand, which is why we created soft, sustainable clothing that’s kind to your child’s skin and the earth. 

July 14, 2022 — Karly Hiser

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