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 a rash from clothing, uncomfortable itching, 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, clothing allergy, clothing 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 clothing 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 Causes Textile Contact Dermatitis?

Irritants in Textiles

Some textiles contain chemicals or substances that can irritate the skin. These irritants may include:

Dyes

The dyes used in fabrics can contain chemicals irritating the skin, particularly if they are not properly fixed or rinsed during manufacturing. AZO dyes are the most common cause of textile dermatitis.

Formaldehyde

This chemical is sometimes used in textiles to reduce wrinkling and increase durability. It can be an irritant for sensitive individuals.

Flame Retardants

Fabrics treated with flame retardants may contain chemicals that can cause skin irritation in some people.

Rough or Abrasive Textures

Coarse or rough fabrics, such as certain types of wool, can physically irritate the skin through friction.

Allergens in Textiles

Allergic contact dermatitis can occur when the skin comes into contact with allergens present in textiles. Common textile allergens include:

Latex

Latex is used in some elastic materials found in clothing, like waistbands or elasticized cuffs. Latex allergies can lead to skin reactions.

Nickel

Some clothing fasteners, buttons, or zippers contain nickel, which can trigger allergic reactions in individuals sensitive to this metal.

Specific Textile Dyes

Certain dyes used in fabrics can cause an allergic reaction in some people. 

Fabrics

The type of fabric itself can influence the development of textile dermatitis. 

Polyester 

Synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon may not breathe well, leading to increased sweating and moisture, exacerbating skin irritation.

Fabric Finishes

Wrinkle-resistant or stain-resistant fabrics can contain chemicals that irritate the skin.

It's important to note that textile dermatitis can involve both irritant and allergic mechanisms. In some cases, individuals may experience a combination of these factors. Accurate diagnosis and identification of specific triggers often require patch testing conducted by a dermatologist to determine the exact cause of the skin reaction and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

What Does Textile Dermatitis Look Like?

Clothing 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

Textile Dermatitis Symptoms

The symptoms of textile dermatitis can vary from person to person and may include:

    • Redness and inflammation
    • Itching and burning sensations
    • Swelling of the affected area
    • Dry, scaly, or flaky skin
    • Blisters or oozing in severe cases

     Textile Dermatitis

    Textile Dermatitis 

    How to Treat Textile Dermatitis

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

     

    Textile Dermatitis Patch Testing

     

      How to Prevent Textile Dermatitis

      To prevent textile dermatitis, consider taking the following steps to avoid a rash from clothing:

      Choose Textiles Wisely

      Opt for clothing and bedding made from hypoallergenic materials like organic cotton or silk. Avoid synthetic fabrics known to contain irritants or allergens.

      Wash Clothing Before Use

      Washing new clothing before wearing it can help remove residual chemicals or dyes that might trigger a reaction.

      Use Gentle Detergents

      Select mild, fragrance-free detergents that are less likely to irritate the skin.

      How to Manage Textile Dermatitis

      If you already experience textile dermatitis, here are some steps to help manage the condition:

      Avoid Known Triggers

      Identify the textiles or fabrics that trigger your symptoms and try to avoid them.

      Moisturize

      Keeping your skin well-hydrated with a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer can help alleviate dryness and itching.

      Consult a Dermatologist

      Please be aware that this blog is not meant to diagnose or provide treatment for textile contact dermatitis. If you have concerns that you or your child might be experiencing textile dermatitis, scheduling an appointment with your healthcare provider is essential. In cases where symptoms persist or worsen, seeking the expertise of a dermatologist is advisable. Dermatologists can conduct patch testing to identify the triggers and offer tailored treatment recommendations.

      Final Thoughts

      Textile dermatitis is a skin condition that can affect anyone, but with awareness and proactive measures, you can minimize its impact on your daily life. Understanding the materials you come into contact with, choosing textiles carefully and caring for your skin can go a long way in preventing and managing this condition. Remember, your skin's health is worth the effort, and small changes in your textile choices can significantly affect your comfort and well-being.