Your Guide to Textile Dermatitis: Latex Hypersensitivity & Polyester Allergy

Your Guide to Textile Dermatitis- Latex Hypersensitivity & Polyester Allergy Explained

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.[1]

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 
  • Dizziness 

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.

Read More: The Allergy Scoop: Coconut Oil, Shea Butter & Cocoa Butter

Read More: Should You Worry About a Shea Butter Allergy?

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 or these Remedywear™ Men’s Boxer Briefs.

For those affected by breast 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.

For full body coverage, check out these gentle clothing alternatives by Remedywear. Made with super soft TENCEL embedded with anti-inflammatory zinc, they’re great for wearing alone as pajamas, or underneath regular clothing during the day to protect the skin.

Remedwear Long Shirt for Kids – Provides gentle protection to the arms, chest, stomach, and back.

Remedywear Long Shirt for Adults – Features moisture-wicking sweat control, as well as antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.

Remedywear Pants for Kids – Stretchy and form-fitting, these eczema pants protect the legs, knees, and buttocks.

Remedywear Pants for Adults –These legging-like pants protect the skin from scratching and also boost the healing process.

Remedywear™ Long Sleeve Baby Onesie with Mittens –  This protective baby eczema garment features fold-over mittens to help prevent your little one from scratching themself raw.

Other Causes

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. 

Read More: Why Natural Fibers Are Essential For Eczema Clothing

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!

  1. 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.
  2. For the first few days (and to treat possible flare-ups) wear only hypersensitivity-approved materials such as 100% organic cotton or silk.
  3. Slowly, reintroduce one allergy prone material such as latex or polyester over a several day period to determine which material is causing a reaction.
  4. 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. .

Practical Tips

  • 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 [1]

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!

References:
1. https://dermnetnz.org/topics/textile-contact-dermatitis/

Laura is a contributor and content developer for It’s An Itchy Little World. She is in no way a medical professional. Her comments, suggestions, and reflections are not intended to replace any medical advice. Always seek the help of a medical professional before undertaking any diet or lifestyle changes. Please see It’s An Itchy Little World’s disclaimer for information about affiliate links and more.

Dr. Joanna "Asia" Jaros, MD

Dr. Joanna "Asia" Jaros is a current Dermatology resident at Cook County Hospitals and Health System (CCHHS). Dr. Jaros is committed to providing compassionate, equitable, and evidence-based care for all of her patients. Her special research interests include eczema, chronic urticaria, and diet and lifestyle modifications in dermatology.

FROM: Allergies, Eczema

32 Comments

  1. Lisa Pearson on July 12, 2017 at 11:18 pm

    Do you have any recommendations for good pillows and bedding and dust mite covers that are polyester and latex-free?

    • Jennifer Roberge on July 13, 2017 at 7:22 pm

      Hi Lisa – I don’t know of any companies off hand, but I did some quick research and Allersoft looks good. I’d reach out to them to double check, but they seems to be polyester and latex free, but not nylon free.

      • Jane on July 14, 2017 at 11:52 am

        Healthy Child has 100% organic cotton dust mite covers and other bedding that’s latex and polyester-free. And nylon free. You can find the dust mite covers, cotton pillows, organic cotton sheets, cotton mattress protectors, etc. at https://www.healthychild.com/product-category/natural-organic-bedding/

        Jane

        • janet on October 16, 2018 at 9:05 pm

          Bamboo is in the latex/rubber family. If you are as sensitive as I am, this will make you worse.

    • Leslie on January 17, 2018 at 12:31 pm

      Hi Lisa. I found some bamboo pillow covers with a zip. I stuffed them with large, folded pure cotton bath towels. I zipped the cases and covered with a cotton pillow case. Prior to this I had resorted to sleeping without a pillow, due to itchy cheeks. I found my bamboo pillow case at Olle’s, a discount store in Michigan. It was only $8 for a two pack!

  2. tracey bedford on July 13, 2017 at 3:52 am

    Found out grandson was allergic to Polyester, so now make sure all his bedding and clothes are 100% cotton, been a lot easier since then. donated all his clothes that were made of polyester to Charity Shops.

    • Jennifer Roberge on July 13, 2017 at 7:02 pm

      Hi Tracey – Wow! So great that you found that out – it can be hard to determine.

  3. Leslie on January 16, 2018 at 2:53 am

    I am allergic to latex and polyester. I also seem to have a problem with anything that exerts pressure on my skin–it can be something as benign as a seam. I also have become allergic to most processed foods. I basically do well on chicken, meat, fish, most vegetables and some fruits. I avoid bananas, latex and kiwi because they are said to have the same proteins as latex. I also get swollen lips from almost any stone fruit. I get itchy from eating chocolate. I sometimes get itchy from coconut oil and shea butter so tend to avoid them. I use a moisturizer called Egyptian Magic that I bought on eBay. I also purchased some old fashioned, unscented lye soap on eBay.
    I found some nice 100% cotton, 100% silk and silk/cotton blends from both wintersilk.com and normthompson.com. (Though you have to weed through some somewhat frumpy styles to find the cute styles)Their silk undershirts and camisoles make great liners. And my most recent discovery is that cotton medical scrubs with drawstring waists make great at home loungewear:) In closing, I would recommend that anyone with multiple allergies ask their doctor for both a C Reactive Protein test and an ANA (anti nuclear antibody) test.

  4. Jenna Ahern on January 21, 2018 at 5:23 pm

    Have you ever heard of Wicked Sheets? This helped my night sweats and was Certified Allergy and Asthma Friendly. Great product and feels great to sleep in!

    • Jim cosgrove on September 5, 2019 at 4:32 am

      I had a bad allergic reaction to compression socks. I broke out in a rash with blisters and very itchy. I am allergic to latex. Anyone have any information or where I can get compression socks that don’t have any latex in them or made with any latex

  5. Rebecca on May 17, 2018 at 11:44 am

    Has anyone had skin reactions to “tagless” tags? Such as Hanes T-shirts? I’m in a runaround complaint process with Hanes customer service right now trying to find out what’s in these tags, but I think it’s latex. You go through all the trouble of getting 100% cotton shirts only to get bit by the plastered-on tag at the neck that you can’t remove. Don’t these companies have a duty to report allergens?

    • Jennifer Roberge on May 17, 2018 at 8:50 pm

      Hi Rebecca – I wish companies did have to report them, but sadly there are no standards for materials used in clothing and disclosures of allergens. With eczema, it’s best to steer clear of tagless items because if the material itself isn’t an allergen itself, as the material wears down it gets scratchy and irritating, so that’s no good either.

    • Renee on August 6, 2018 at 8:54 pm

      I am allergic to latex and these tagless-tags make my skin flare up. I saw this on YouTube and now use oil of wintergreen to remove the writing: https://youtu.be/6SxuZDPg24c

      • Rebecca on October 24, 2018 at 5:46 pm

        Oh I just saw this comment… going to check this out, thanks!

  6. Fotogirl on June 25, 2018 at 12:07 am

    A few tips. Please be aware of what is in your mattress. Many memory foam mattresses have latex products in them. My tempurpedic does and I cannot return it. So I bought a all cotton mattress cover. My sis is…and I need advice….where can I find socks without elastic….underwear and bras without elastic or latex? I’m itchy all the time. I try to look for underwear with banded legs and waist but difficult. I’m big breasted. I have to wear a bra…but suffer greatly.

    • Jennifer Roberge on June 25, 2018 at 10:40 am

      Hi there – Great tips about mattresses! There are a few latex free and even a few elastic free options for underwear at The Eczema Company here. And 100% organic cotton socks with no elastic here. I hope this helps!

    • Sarah on October 12, 2018 at 3:51 pm

      I just found a company called Cottonique…they have all the things you mentioned. Blessings, Sarah

    • janet on October 16, 2018 at 9:14 pm

      Just recently I found an article on Cottonique and went in on their website. They have 100% cotton underclothing. I also found Buster Brown 100% cotton socks through Amazon just recently. They are light weight which I need for Florida.

    • Kelly on February 4, 2019 at 2:43 pm

      I have the same problem! This summer I invested in bra-liners, which are basically cotton flannel bands to slip under your bra cups. Since for me, the worst is under my breasts, these work perfectly. And I didn’t have to replace my bras, which are expensive and hard enough to find one that fits properly! If you have problems with the shoulder and back straps, too, bra liners won’t be as helpful. At one point I did cut up some cotton sleeveless undershirts to wear under my bras so the straps didn’t make skin contact. Not the cutest, but at least I didn’t itch…

    • Bernadette Bailey on July 9, 2019 at 7:07 pm

      You can buy wide ribbon and gather it around the waistband. Hope that helps! Also I bought I dyed cotton muslin fabric and made my own panties. Not beautiful but even wearing these part time can help

    • Christine Happs on February 2, 2020 at 11:14 pm

      Marks and Spencer’s said all their underwear is latex free

    • Kat on July 10, 2021 at 3:19 pm

      Decent exposures has latex free everything. A bit pricey but I’ve worn their underwear since 2013 and never an issue.

  7. Leslie on June 26, 2018 at 6:13 am

    I bought a bra at Cottonique-an online store. However, when I was at my worst, even the non latex stretchy material in their bra bothered me. I was also suffering from contact dermatitis. I ended up liking the ahh bra–because it was less binding. My rheumatologist put me on Plaquenil and I no longer get hives!!!!

  8. Sarah Couture on July 18, 2018 at 6:20 am

    I have a problem, not mentioned here. I am a CPAP user. I couldn’t figure out why my scalp was itching and breaking out. In the night last night, I realized that it was itching badly enough to wake me up!!! I looked up my headgear on line this morning. My headgear for my mask is made of elastane and polyamide!!!! The only help on line was to buy or make covers for the elastic. I’m calling the company as soon as they open today. I woke at 5:30 a.m. and can’t get back to sleep. Sarah

    • Jenni on September 12, 2019 at 6:54 pm

      I wanted to warn anyone who might have the need for crutches-Make sure they are latex free!! I had surgery in my knee- and the whole thing- latex free and very swayed- I got home- got out of the car and used crutches to get inside- the pads on the handles made my hands break out- blustery hives – well… I’m still having delayed reaction a month later- I just didn’t think to say no latex on the crutches.

    • Suzanne ucci on October 10, 2020 at 7:20 pm

      Sarah .. omg I am a cpap user as well and my scalp has been itching for 9 months. I just realized that the insane scalp itching is from the straps! I’ve been putting cotton bandanas on my head before I put the cpap head gear on.. no itching at all!
      I’ve been to an allergist immunologist and 2 dermatologistS and not one of the mentioned anything about the cpap straps. I’ve also become highly sensitive to latex

  9. Janet Gyford on January 21, 2020 at 10:57 am

    I always thought Nylon and Polyester were the same – can explain the difference ? Thanks.

  10. Kat on December 13, 2020 at 7:59 pm

    Does anyone have recommendations for swimwear that are actually nice, but also are great if you suffer from dermatitis?

  11. Lauren on January 10, 2021 at 4:10 am

    Similar to a comment above, I am looking for swimwear and bra options (outside of Cottonique) to try that are compatible with rubber accelerator contact dermatitis allergies. I am highly allergic to carbamix and thiuram, and have been told by too specialists that my best option is trial and error. It is so discouraging since these components are obviously not identifiable in the material/fabric description of garments!

    ANY recommended sources to explore for swimwear or bras would be much appreciated.

  12. Kat on July 10, 2021 at 3:22 pm

    Decent exposures has underwear and swimwear among other products. Great company!

  13. Fiona on September 13, 2021 at 2:24 pm

    Latex is not the same as Lycra / Spandex – this is technically incorrect !!!
    Lycra and Spndex are trade names for Elastane .
    Latex is rubber based Elastane is not .

    Sporstwear / intimates / swimwear anything stretchy and contouring are knitted which is mechanically stretchy construction plus some percentage of elastane …. Not LATEX !

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