Eczema is a common condition that causes dry, itchy patches of skin. The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis, which affects more than 1 in 10 children in the United States.
Following your child’s treatment plan for eczema can help limit their symptoms, lower their risk of complications, and improve their quality of life.
It’s also important to limit your child’s eczema triggers. For example, rough clothing, friction, and sweat may worsen your child’s eczema symptoms. Some laundry detergents and other products may also irritate their skin.
To promote good skin health and comfort, you should seek out eczema-friendly fabrics and laundry products.
Although more research is needed, the best eczema-friendly fabrics are likely:
- made from fine, smooth fibers
- breathable and good at absorbing moisture or moving it away from the skin
- good at regulating body temperature
- comfortable to wear
Fabrics with antimicrobial properties may also be beneficial for children with eczema.
Here are several fabrics that may work well for your child:
Fine merino wool
Wool is a very durable natural fiber, made from sheep hair. It tends to be very absorbent and regulates body temperature well.
Although some wool fabrics are made from coarse fibers that may be rough and itchy, others are made from fine merino wool, which tends to be smooth and comfortable.
Untreated silk is a natural fiber made from silkworm cocoons.
It tends to be very smooth and limits friction with the skin. It also tends to be breathable and moves moisture away from the skin. Thanks to these traits, untreated silk may be a good option for children with eczema.
Some silk fabrics such as MICROAIR DermaSilk and DreamSkin are treated with an antibacterial coating, which has shown mixed results for reducing eczema symptoms.
According to a
Some children with eczema may have a sensitivity to sericin, a protein in silk. However, sericin is typically removed during the manufacturing process.
Cotton is a natural fiber made from the plant Gossypium hirsutum. Little research is available on the effects of cotton on eczema symptoms.
It tends to be soft and comfortable, although it’s not as smooth as some other fabrics. It’s also fairly breathable and absorbent, which makes it a promising choice for people with eczema.
However, some children may find that cotton irritates their skin when it’s damp.
Lyocell (TENCEL) is a semi-synthetic fabric made from processed bamboo or wood pulp.
It tends to be smooth and soft. It’s moisture-wicking, which means it moves sweat away from the skin. It also promotes good temperature regulation and has antimicrobial properties.
Thanks to these traits, lyocell may be a good choice for children with eczema.
Fabrics treated with antimicrobial coatings
Historically, many doctors may have advised people with eczema to avoid synthetic fabrics.
However, many of today’s synthetic fabrics are designed to be breathable, and some are treated with antimicrobial minerals or compounds that may have benefits for reducing eczema symptoms.
- silver-loaded or silver-coated, seaweed-based cellulosic fabrics
- other silver-coated fabrics
- chitin-coated fabrics
Children with eczema are typically advised to avoid rough fabrics and those that trap moisture against their skin. Certain textures and chemicals built into modern clothing can cause eczema flare-ups.
Unlike fine merino wool, coarse wool tends to be rough and itchy. This may irritate your child’s skin and promote scratching.
Before you dress your child in wool, consider feeling it for roughness.
Many conventional synthetic fabrics trap or hold moisture against the skin, which may irritate your child’s skin.
For example, the authors of 2021 review recommend limiting or avoiding the following synthetic fabrics:
If you can’t avoid these fabrics, it may be helpful to layer them over other fabrics that are more absorbent or moisture-wicking such as merino wool, silk, cotton, or lyocell.
Some specialized synthetic fabrics are designed to be more breathable or antimicrobial than conventional options. For example, anion textiles are made from polyester fibers that contain crushed tourmaline. This is a mineral that emits far-infrared rays and negative ions, which may help reduce eczema symptoms.
Wearing clean clothes is important for children with eczema, but some laundry products may contain ingredients that irritate their skin.
The National Eczema Association (NEA) recommends avoiding laundry detergents and fabric softeners that contain fragrance or dye. Instead, look for unscented and dye-free products that are formulated for sensitive skin.
The NEA maintains a directory of products that have received the organization’s Seal of Acceptance. These products don’t contain any ingredients that are known to irritate sensitive skin or trigger eczema symptoms. You can search the NEA’s Eczema Product Directory to find laundry products that meet this standard.
It may also help to:
- Wash new clothes before your child wears them, which may help remove chemical residues from the manufacturing process that may irritate your child’s skin.
- Use liquid laundry products, which may leave fewer residues than powders.
- Run your child’s clothes through an extra rinse cycle after washing them.
You might need to try multiple laundry products to find those that work well for your family.
Wearing loose-fitting clothing made from smooth, breathable fabrics may help your child stay comfortable and reduce eczema symptoms.
Smooth natural fibers such as fine merino wool, silk, and cotton tend to be safe and comfortable for kids with eczema. Lyocell may be another good option for many children with this condition.
Some synthetic fabrics may also be suitable for your child, including those that are specially designed to be breathable and antimicrobial.
But many synthetic fabrics such as conventional polyester and nylon can trap or hold moisture against your child’s skin, which may irritate it. Coarse wool can also be irritating.
When you find clothes that are comfortable for your kid, it’s best to launder them with fragrance and dye-free products. Washing new clothes before your child wears them, using liquid rather than powdered laundry products, and rinsing them well may also help limit chemical residues that could irritate their skin.