Is This Eczema Friendly? 6 Things to Consider When Buying Eczema Clothing for Babies and Toddlers

by Tara Saltzburg

Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, damages the skin’s natural barrier, which can make it more sensitive to substances in the environment. These environmental “irritants” may cause additional redness, itchiness and burning. Aside from common irritants like certain soaps, detergents, fragrances, and cleaning solutions, a common (and often overlooked) irritant is clothing.

Clothing can actually be a skin protector, but it’s important to choose the right protective clothing. Clothing can help children with eczema avoid environmental triggers like allergens or dust, but choosing the wrong clothing may actually increase the likelihood of eczema flare ups.

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So how do you know if you're buying eczema friendly clothing? When buying eczema clothing for babies or toddlers, there are a few things to consider, including the most important factor: fabric. Other considerations include seams, labels, embellishments, openings and chemicals. Although they may seem like minor considerations, certain clothing features can be very problematic for sensitive and eczema-prone skin. If you’re looking for the best eczema clothing for kids, look out for these things to reduce the risk of flare ups and keep your little one comfy.

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Eczema Friendly Children’s Clothing: 6 Things to Consider

1. Fabric

When dressing a child with eczema, fabric is probably the most important consideration. Wool and synthetic fabrics like regular rayon, nylon and polyester can cause irritation even for people who aren’t sensitive, so it’s not surprising that they aren’t ideal for eczema-prone skin. In short, when buying eczema clothing for kids, the best fabrics are those that are ultra-soft, breathable and absorbent. Here’s why...

Softness

When it comes to eczema clothing for toddlers and babies, ultra-soft, silky-smooth fabric is a must. Some fabrics, like wool and certain types of cotton, tend to rub against the skin causing friction and more irritation. Silky-feeling fabrics, however, glide over the skin without rubbing or being abrasive.

Modal fabric is a great option for eczema sufferers because of its exceptional softness and smooth, silk-like qualities. Other alternatives include Tencel®, silk, bamboo, and pima cotton. Remember: softness is key - it’s always best to look for extremely soft clothing for sensitive skin and eczema-prone skin.  

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Breathability

Did you know: sweat is one of the most common triggers of itch in people with eczema. Preventing the skin from getting too warm should definitely be a consideration when choosing eczema clothing for toddlers and babies. To avoid this common trigger, it’s recommended that eczema-prone skin be dressed in lightweight, breathable clothing. When choosing eczema clothing for babies and young children, look for fabric that is cool to the touch as well as air permeable; this will regulate the skin’s temperature and allow it to breathe, minimizing eczema flare ups due to sweat.

Because modal is made from the pulp of the Beech Tree, it’s naturally breathable and cool to the touch - another reason we love it!

Absorbency

Even if the fabric is breathable, sweat can still occur and when it does, you want something that will quickly remove moisture from the skin and absorb it. Moisture absorbing materials, which can be made from natural fibers (think: cotton or bamboo viscose) or synthetic fibers (think: modal or Tencel®), are designed to quickly absorb and capture sweat. Moisture absorbing fabrics are a good choice for eczema-prone skin because they are designed to collect moisture quickly in a concentrated area; these fabrics capture moisture (sweat) which is then absorbed into tiny gaps in the fiber called micropores.

Cotton is one of the most common absorbent fabrics used today so it’s commonly recommended for eczema sufferers. However, there are other fabrics like modal, Tencel®, and other viscose-based fibers that are more absorbent than cotton (fun fact: modal is actually 50% more absorbent than cotton). These types of fabrics, which are all made from the same base material - plant cellulose, which loves water - are constructed using fibers specially designed to absorb more sweat.

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2. Seams

One of the most irritating things for eczema sufferers is an uncomfortable clothing seam. Stiff or bulky seams can wreak havoc on eczema-prone skin, causing irritation and itchiness. For children with eczema, always look for seamless clothing or clothing with flat/minimal seams.

3. Labels

 

 

Even as eczema-free adults, many of us can attest to the irritation caused by an annoying care & content label. As a child who suffers from eczema, this discomfort is even more pronounced. Ideally, look for garments with the labelling information printed directly onto the fabric, like our sleepwear label below. Another option is to look for soft woven labels that are sewn into the seam. They’re less irritating than regular tags and they can usually be easily removed, if necessary.

 

 

4. Embellishments and Closures

While stitched or appliqué embellishments are cute, they can be irritating for kids with eczema. The backs of these embellishments are often stiff and scratchy, especially after the clothes have been washed a few times. The underside of stitched designs is usually covered with a synthetic mesh stuck to the inside of the garment. Both the mesh fabric and the adhesive can irritate sensitive skin. If you like designs, it’s best to opt for a screen print rather than an appliqué or stitched embellishment.

You should also beware of snaps and buttons; these closures often contain nickel along with other components that may be irritating to eczema sufferers.

5. Necklines and Openings

Throughout the first 6 month of life, eczema often appears on the face, cheeks, chin, forehead and scalp. Saliva from drooling may also cause extra irritation throughout these early months. Look for products with generous neck, sleeve, and ankle openings so you’re not irritating the skin more with each change. Ideally, look for something with a touch of stretch so you can easily pull clothing on and off.

6. Harmful Chemicals

It’s always a good idea to look for products that are free of (or contain minimal amounts of) harmful chemicals like flame retardants, phthalates and lead. These chemicals are commonly found in children’s products, but exposure should be limited when possible.

Flame retardants have been used for years, especially in children’s sleepwear, as a way to make fabrics flame resistant and protect children against burns. However, research of these chemicals has shown that they may be detrimental to kids (think: increased hyperactivity and lowered IQ). Plus, they’ve been linked to skin irritations, so clothing covered in flame retardants is not ideal for an eczema-prone child, or any child for that matter.

At this point, I think we’re all aware that high levels of lead are dangerous for both children and adults. The jury is still out on just how bad phthalate exposure is, but let’s just say phthalates weren’t good to lab rats (think: skin irritations, damage to the reproductive system and a potential correlation between certain phthalates and cancer).

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Although there are US regulations to prevent overexposure to these chemicals, I always recommend looking for companies who make it a point to say that their products are flame retardant, lead, and phthalate free. It should be noted that many products labeled “phthalate free” and “lead free” would likely test positive for phthalates and lead, but at insignificant concentrations. A concentration less than .1 percent of any phthalate is considered safe along with less than 100ppm of lead. Most manufacturers, including WB, will consider these safe, low concentrations to be “phthalate free” and “lead free”.

Summary

When we think of eczema irritants, it’s easy to immediately list soaps, detergents, and fragrances. Believe it or not, of the most prevalent and overlooked eczema irritants is clothing. Although clothing can act as a skin protector, certain fabrics and compositions of clothing can cause major eczema flare ups in children.  

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When buying eczema clothing for toddlers or eczema clothing for babies, it’s important to first consider the garment’s fabric. Ideally, stick with fabrics that are extremely soft while being breathable and absorbent. Lightweight, cool clothing is best for eczema sufferers. It allows the skin to breathe and reduces overheating and sweat, both of which are major eczema triggers. Our #1 fabric choice for eczema sufferers is modal, due to its extreme softness and breathable nature.

Toddler and baby eczema clothing should have flat or minimal seams and ideally, the labelling information should be printed directly onto the fabric to avoid irritation caused by labels and tags. It’s best to avoid appliqués and embellishments, along with chemicals like flame retardants, phthalates, and lead, when possible. Be on the lookout for garments with generous neck, sleeve, and ankle openings so you’re not irritating the skin more with each change. 

So is WB eczema friendly? You bet ya! 😊

For more on the best clothing material for eczema, check out What Is The Best Fabric for Eczema?

 XO, Tara

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Sources:

http://www.eczema.org/itching-scratching

https://atopicdermatitis.net/living/wear-best-clothing-fabric/

https://www.scratchsleeves.co.uk/clothing-eczema-baby-fabric/

https://www.scratchsleeves.co.uk/clothing-eczema-baby/

https://atopicdermatitis.net/reducing-itch/

https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-wash-modal-clothes-2145794

https://www.healthcentral.com/article/best-fabrics-for-people-with-eczema

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18512638

https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/children/

https://journals.lww.com/dermatitis/Abstract/2012/01000/Fire_Retardant_Clothing_Related_Dermatitis.6.aspx

https://www.babycenter.com/0_phthalates-what-you-need-to-know_3647067.bc

https://www.cpsc.gov/Business--Manufacturing/Business-Education/Business-Guidance/Phthalates-Information

https://luckyandme.com/why-i-love-modal-fabric/

https://www.undershirts.co.uk/blogs/research/moisture-absorbing-vs-moisture-wicking-fabrics

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Tara Saltzburg

About The Author

Tara Saltzburg founded Westyn Baby when her son was an infant battling severe eczema. She was always on the lookout for products that would minimize the irritation and ease his discomfort, but safe, non-irritating pajamas proved difficult to find. Tara started Westyn Baby in 2016 with a mission to create better, safer sleepwear for kids - sleepwear that's exceptionally soft, flame-retardant free, sensitivity-friendly, and durable. Read more about WB sleepwear.

Tara was born and raised at the NJ shore and attended Penn State University, where she played soccer and discovered her love of mountain life. She is a mom of one boy and hopes to eventually have enough kids to form some sort of athletic team. She and her family currently reside in Central Pennsylvania and spend the summers in Stone Harbor, NJ.