Do you ever feel itchy after wearing certain fabrics or clothes? Does polyester give you a rash? You may be suffering from textile dermatitis, a type of clothing allergy. Textile dermatitis is an allergic reaction to certain materials used in clothing or fabric, such as wool, silk, and synthetic fibers. This condition can cause uncomfortable itching, rashes, and even hives. If you think you or your child may be suffering from a clothing allergy, read on to learn more.

What is textile dermatitis?

Textile dermatitis, also known as textile contact dermatitis or allergic contact dermatitis, is a form of irritation that results when the skin comes in contact with certain clothing. Textile fibers are rarely the cause. Most textile contact dermatitis is caused by the chemicals that are used to process clothing including dyes, formaldehyde, and chromate. When a fabric or chemical touches the skin, a rash or skin irritation develops. The prevalence of textile contact dermatitis is increasing, most likely because of changes in textile manufacturing practices and the use of processing agents that are known irritants. 

What are the symptoms of textile dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis related to textiles often appears as chronic dermatitis. The rash may be most apparent in locations where clothing has close contact with the skin (e.g., rash on the upper thigh due to underwear). However, allergic contact dermatitis can also be present with no visible clinical features, but with persistent pruritus, or itching. Textile contact dermatitis is more common in individuals diagnosed with atopic dermatitis

Clinical Features: 

    • Can look like eczema: Red, scaly plaques and patches
    • Lesions are dry and localized 
    • Areas commonly affected include: the trunk (chest, back, abdomen), lower extremities (legs and behind the knees), and axillae (armpits)

What Does Textile Dermatitis Look Like?

     Textile Dermatitis

    Textile Dermatitis

    What causes textile contact dermatitis?

    The most common cause of textile contact dermatitis is dye. AZO dyes are the most common allergens. AZO dyes are commonly used to dye synthetic fibers including polyester, acrylic, and polyamide. Textile resins and formaldehyde are less likely to cause a reaction, but can still be irritating.

    Allergic contact dermatitis can also be the result of the chemicals that are used to wash clothing including laundry detergent, fabric softeners, dryer sheets, and stain removers. 

    What are the challenges related to diagnosing and treating textile contact dermatitis?

    The diagnosis of textile contact dermatitis is made by a health care professional using a combination of history, clinical features, and in some cases patch testing (see image below). The results of the patch test are not always helpful because textile manufacturers do not label clothing with the types of chemicals that are used. Additionally, the patch tests are not able to test for all of the chemicals that are used in clothing manufacturing. 

    Textile Dermatitis Patch Testing


    How can I prevent textile dermatitis?

    Look for clothing that is certified to be free of potentially harmful chemicals or dyes

    Avoid clothing labeled "wrinkle-resistant"

      • Clothing that is wrinkle resistant likely contains formaldehyde and resins

    Look for an allergy-friendly laundry detergent

      • Buy a "free and clear" detergent
      • Avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets

    Discuss your concerns with your health care provider

    This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat textile contact dermatitis. If you are concerned that you or your child may have textile contact dermatitis, schedule an appointment with your health care provider.  


    February 25, 2023 — Karly Hiser

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