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By Laura Dolgy (see bio below)
Imagine this scenario…you just get back home from shopping and purchasing that adorable blouse you’ve been eyeing for a while. You’ve purchased the blouse for tonight’s dinner party and cannot wait to show it off to your friends and family.
You rip off the tag in haste, throw it on and start getting ready; but, something is…wrong. Not long after throwing on the top do you realize your neck is covered in hives and itching uncontrollably. You immediately take the blouse off and notice that your skin is inflamed and hot to touch. What the ****!
If this scenario is at all familiar to you, then you may have textile dermatitis, and you’ll want to read on. This week we discuss latex hypersensitivity reactions and s the sometimes lesser known polyester allergy. Learn how to identify symptoms, AND get some tips and discover alternative clothing to try!
Please keep in mind that although these tips and information have worked for several eczema sufferers, I am in no way a medical professional. If you’re experiencing severe eczema or have a topical infection, it is always best to seek medical advice immediately.
What is Textile Contact Dermatitis?
Many people who have sensitive skin can develop allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) due to certain chemicals in clothing and from specific fabrics used in clothing. While it is possible to have an allergic reaction to the fabric fiber itself, the majority of textile contact dermatitis cases are due to an allergic reaction to the fabric chemical processing agents. Common culprits include: formaldehyde (used to make fabrics wrinkle-resistant), para-phenylenediamine, dyes (e.g. azo and anthraquinone), chrome, cobalt, nickel, nylon, and latex. Metallic fasteners and zippers may also be the source of an allergic contact dermatitis.
This formal term for this type of allergic reaction is textile contact dermatitis. Polyester and latex allergiesare some of the most common causes of textile dermatitis.
Although most allergic symptoms are usually temporary and topical, some individuals can develop more severe systemic reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Swollen and red skin, lips, tongue, or throat
- Shortness of breath (with or without wheezing)
- Low blood pressure
If you develop any of these serious allergic symptoms, please seek emergent medical attention at a local emergency room.
Less serious allergic symptoms can include:
- Runny nose
- Belly pain or diarrhea
Which Products Contain Latex/Polyester?
Although latex can be found in several household supplies, polyester is usually more difficult to avoid. Check out our list below to get a good understanding of which products or clothing tend to contain these two allergens.
If you think you have an allergy to latex or a latex sensitivity, you should try to avoid the following products:
- Clothing containing elastic bands such as pants, underwear, running shoes and coats with fitted cuffs.
- Certain household products such as zipper storage bags, bathmats, rugs and rubber gloves.
- Craft supplies, certain make-up, adhesives, erasers and much more.
- Anything containing elastic (unless made of lycra, spandex or elastane).
There are many online forums with anecdotal accounts of individuals with a latex allergy also reacting to shea butter products. While there is no known scientific connection between shea and latex, if you have an allergy to latex, it may be wise to practice caution when trialing products containing shea butter.
Alternatively, for a polyester allergy, you’ll want to try to avoid the following products:
- Certain exercise clothing, pajamas, shirts, blouses, etc.
- Certain toys that include doll hair or plush faux furs.
- Certain carpets and bed sheets.
Make sure to always read labels before purchasing new household products or clothing. You’ll be surprised at how much stuff out there contains these two allergens!
Latex & Polyester Free Alternatives
Some excellent alternatives to polyester are fabrics such as Cotton, silk or lyocell.
For those suffering with dust mite allergies, these latex and polyester-free allergy covers from Allersoft are great! They do contain nylon on the zipper area, so if you have a nylon allergy, best steer clear.
If you are searching for pajamas that are polyester and latex-free, 100% Organic Cotton fabrics are an excellent alternative. Check out this One-Piece Footed Pajama for Kids, as well as a Pajama Top for Adults that not only provide comfort, but can help heal your skin by preventing scratching with attached protective mittens. Both are made with latex-free elastic.
For the feet, these Hypoallergenic Socks are fantastic! And yes, they are latex and polyester free! The tube sock style comes in white or black and multiple sizing options.
For latex-free underwear, opting for 100% Organic Cotton is also a great choice. It can be difficult to find a safe elastic, but we’ve got you covered…these undies contain latex-free elastic. These Women’s Bikini Briefs are slim fit and perfect for sensitive skin. For men, you can avoid any sort of elastic all together with these Drawstring Boxers. Make sure to also check out Boy’s Latex Free Underwear as well as Girl’s Underwear for Sensitive Skin and Latex Allergy.. For those affected bybreast eczema or irritation, make sure to check out the Cottonique Front Closure Bra and Bra Liner. Both are made with 100% Organic Cotton and completely hypoallergenic. Make sure to also check out this Remedywear™ Bra that uses TENCEL and zinc-embedded fibers to soothe skin.
Check out this curated collection of Natural cotton wear for eczema sufferers.
If you’re experiencing groin eczema due to a latex hypersensitivity, definitely check out our blog post: 4 Ways to Relieve Groin Eczema.
Aside from latex and polyester allergies, there are several other allergens that can contribute to textile dermatitis.
It is not a secret that some clothing contains harsh chemicals and dyes to achieve a desired effect. For example, formaldehyde is used to make clothing that is wrinkle resistant. Yes, that’s the same chemical used in embalming fluid. Yuck! Chemicals are also used in fabrics that are color-fast, stain resistant, as well as in corduroy and shrink-proof wool. None of the clothing above contains any of these harsh chemicals.
A Latex/Polyester “Elimination Diet”
If you’ve read any of our past blog posts, you’ll notice we discuss food elimination diets very often because we believe in healing from within.
An elimination diet is carried out by eliminating food allergens for a certain period of time and reintroducing each individually to determine which food is causing the reaction.
Like a food elimination diet, you can choose to run a latex/polyester “elimination diet” as well!
- Start by separating your clothing or household products by allergy prone materials such as latex, polyester, and Spandex. Nylon allergy is pretty common too – so eliminate nylon as well just to be sure.
- For the first few days (and to treat possible flare-ups) wear only hypersensitivity-approved materials such as 100% organic cotton or silk.
- Slowly, reintroduce one allergy prone material such as latex or polyester over a several day period to determine which material is causing a reaction.
- Make sure to track your results in a health diary or journal like this one to really understand what is causing the flare-up.
If you’re not able to determine the allergen or you’re experiencing severe flare-ups or symptoms, make sure to seek a medical practitioner to get a proper diagnosis. Patch testing is one diagnostic option for patients with suspected allergic contact dermatitis. .
- Choose natural fabrics such as cotton, silk or lyocell
- Choose light coloured clothing as these will contain less dye
- Wear loose fitting clothing in hot/humid environments
- Avoid clothing that is labeled “non-iron” and “dirt-repellent” as it is likely these have been chemically treated
- Avoid clothing marked “wash separately” as this implies dyes easily bleed from the fabric 
Although latex and polyester allergies might be annoying to deal with, thankfully there are several safe clothing and bedding alternatives.. Find out what’s safe for you, and you too can steer clear of textile dermatitis.
Do you have a known latex or polyester allergy? Let us know what safe materials you opt for below!