Eczema FAQs

We love to be of help and hope these questions answer your queries. If not, please get in touch.

What is eczema?

How can clothing make a difference to me if I have eczema?

What fit or size clothing should I buy that is best for eczema?

Will I get hot in your eczema nightwear?

Can I use my normal creams / emollients with my eczema clothes?

What fabric is best for eczema?

What clothing related allergens, which exacerbate eczema, are there?

House Dust Mites – what are they and how do I get rid of them?

Formaldehyde – what is it and why is it used in clothing?

Latex – what is it and what is it used for?

Fabric dyes, perfluorochemicals and phthalates

What should I use to wash my clothes in?

My child is a ‘Houdini’ at night, what do I do?

Is it ok to have a bath before I put my eczema nightwear on?

Why don’t you sell nightdresses for children?

Can I use socks over my child’s hands to stop them scratching?

Where else can I go for help?


What is eczema?

The word eczema comes from the Greek word “ekzein” which means “to boil.”

Eczema (also known as dermatitis) is a highly individual condition which varies from person to person and comes in many different forms. It is not contagious so you cannot catch it from someone else.

In mild cases of eczema, the skin is dry, scaly, red and itchy. In more severe cases there may be weeping, crusting and bleeding. Constant scratching causes the skin to split and bleed and also leaves it open to infection.

Eczema affects people of all ages. Children who “grow out” of their eczema during early childhood may see it recur again in later life.

In the UK, roughly one in five children and one in ten adults have eczema while eczema and contact dermatitis account for 84-90% of occupational skin disease.

Atopic eczema is a genetic condition based on the interaction between a number of genes and environmental factors. In most cases there will be a family history of either eczema or one of the other ‘atopic’ conditions i.e asthma or hay fever.

The National Eczema Society is an invaluable resource to inform and support those with eczema. Visit website.



How can clothing make a difference to me if I have eczema?

Clothing touches your skin – it’s as simple as that. So the fabric it is made of and the design of the garment can make a very big difference to how your skin feels. It also acts as a barrier to the outside elements so can protect your skin against them.

The wrong fabric will make you more itchy and irritated and may even cause you to develop further allergies (see below re Latex allergy).

The wrong design may have scratchy seams, irritating labels, excess folds of fabric that make you hot and expose parts of your body to allergens rather than protect them.

The right fabric and the right design can make the world of difference to your comfort. We try and test every garment we stock to ensure that it is suitable for people with eczema or any other itchy sensitive skin condition.



What fit or size clothing should I buy that is best for eczema?

Sensitive skin and areas of eczema benefit from being covered and kept at a constant temperature. If a garment is loose then the fabric will move over the skin during movement and any rough areas of eczema will catch on the fabric and cause discomfort. Wearing clothing that is too big creates folds in the fabric that then make some areas hotter (and itchier) than others as well as being uncomfortable to sit or lie on.

The fit should allow unhindered movement and be fairly close fitting without being tight. Beware of skin on skin contact within the garment, especially under the arms or between the legs if the gusset is too low.

See our further guidance on sizing here



Will I get hot in your eczema nightwear?

Adults or children with severe eczema need to be kept as cool as possible - extra heat produces extra itching. For anyone with severe eczema, we do not recommend the use of duvets with our nightwear. It is usually sufficient to have a cotton sheet and maybe a light cotton blanket.

We recommend keeping a set of nightwear and spare pillowcase (and for kids a bedtime toy) in a bag in the fridge to be cooling/soothing at bedtime. Older children enjoy being 'in charge' of their eczema and often respond well to having a spare top with integral mittens in the fridge that they can help themselves to when they are having an itchy period.



Can I use my normal creams / emollients with my eczema clothes?

Yes you can. If you are using a lot of cream, we suggest buying garments that can be washed regularly at a high temperature, for example ones made of organic cotton, as it can be washed at 60 degrees or higher, ensuring that all house dust mite allergen and residues of oil/cream and dead skin that have built up on the inside of clothing can be removed.



What fabric is best for eczema?

The best known eczema friendly fabrics are organic cotton, silk, tencel and bamboo. These natural fabrics are soft, breathable, and hypoallergenic, not to mention better for the environment. These are all smooth fabrics that do not have harsh textile fibres, which can prickle sensitive skin and cause physical irritation.

Read more about why these fabrics are good here



What clothing related allergens, which exacerbate eczema, are there?

a. House Dust Mites – what are they and how do I get rid of them?
House dust mites are tiny, eight legged arthropods that invade your home and nourish themselves on the dust flakes of human skin and the dander from our pets. Mostly found in mattresses, bedding, carpets, soft furnishings and clothing, it is the allergen, found in droppings, from the house dust mites that can cause and exacerbate allergies. The droppings produce powerful enzymes that initially break down cells on the skin and then enter the body. This causes an allergic reaction for some people which can lead to hives, itching and eczema as well as asthma and allergic rhinitis.

Washing everything at 60c or higher will destroy house dust mites. Anything that cannot be hot washed – coats, soft toys etc. can be placed in the freezer for 24 hours (in a plastic bag) to destroy house dust mites.

Dust can also gather on mobiles so try not to hang mobiles above your child's cot or bed – as the dust may fall on your sleeping child when the mobile moves around.



b. Formaldehyde – what is it and why is it used in clothing?

Formaldehyde (yes – the same substance used to preserve corpses!) is a highly toxic colourless, corrosive, flammable gas with a pungent suffocating odour linked to skin problems, dermatitis, eczema and allergic reactions.

It is mainly used in the production of industrial materials such as plywood and fibreboard, glues and adhesives, paper product coatings and certain insulation materials as well as being used for embalming bodies and it occurs in some household products, beauty products and non-organic clothing.

In clothing, formaldehyde is used as a coating on fabrics, a chemical dip to give them a finish that can then be sold as 'non-iron' 'anti crease' 'easy care' 'stain resistant' 'anti cling' anti static' 'anti wrinkle' 'anti-shrink'. It is also used to make clothing waterproof, mildew resistant and colour fast.

Many suppliers and clothing chains in the UK use formaldehyde to prevent mildew and creasing (more can be packed into the containers) during shipping from China, Bangladesh etc. This can be hugely cost saving for wholesalers and retailers but with devastating effects on our health.

Frequent or prolonged exposure to formaldehyde in products and clothing can cause hypersensitivity, leading to the development of allergic contact dermatitis. Sweat or sebum appears to leach free formaldehyde from formaldehyde resins.

Tests have shown that even after washing the fabric there was no significant reduction in the degree of formaldehyde found in the clothing – it cannot be washed out.

Formaldehyde gas is released with heat so nightwear and bedding may respond to body heat and give off gas overnight having an adverse effect on anyone prone to asthma or chest problems as well as affecting areas of eczema.

No formaldehyde is used in any of our clothing.
Our top tips for avoiding this highly damaging chemical are

  • Buy clothing made from certified organic fabrics
  • Avoid ‘easy care’ clothing
  • Buy organic household and care products



c. Latex – what is it and what is it used for?

Natural rubber latex (Latex) is a milky fluid obtained from the Hevea brasiliensis tree, which is widely grown in South East Asia, and other countries. Latex is an integral part of thousands of everyday consumer and healthcare items.

Latex sensitivity can develop through long term or early exposure to latex proteins, through direct contact or by inhalation of the powder, which can trigger an allergic reaction in people prone to allergies and eczema.

Most of the associated problems of a Latex allergy are skin related – hives, blisters, itching and eczema as well as nasal congestion and itchy eyes, nose and throat. Some sufferers also experience symptoms ranging from mild breathing difficulties to more severe reactions such as vomiting, asthma and potentially anaphylaxis shock, although this is less common.

Latex is used in over 40,000 products as it is relatively economical and easy to use vs synthetic elastic. Latex yarns are commonly used in surgical gloves and fabrics, elastic bandages, underwear, socks and hosiery, raincoats, shoe fabrics, wellington boots and running shoes as well as washing up gloves, rubber bands, condoms and party balloons. Cuffs and waistbands on clothing are a common problem.

Research in the US over a decade ago identified that 1% to 6% of the general population and 5% to 12% of US healthcare workers had developed latex sensitivities – the latter largely because of their frequent use of latex gloves.

Organic mattresses made from coir (a natural fibre extracted from the husk of coconuts) often use latex to glue the coir fibres together, causing issues for those who can or are sensitive to it.

No latex is used in our clothing to our knowledge and we regularly check with our suppliers that this continues to be the case.

Our top tips for reducing the prospect of developing a latex allergy are

  • Buy clothing with no elastic in or if it requires it ensure it is cotton covered (e.g. waistbands)
  • If buying stretchy clothes (e.g. active wear) check it has ‘elastane’ or ‘lycra’ in and NOT latex
  • Wear cotton gloves underneath washing up or medical gloves



d. Fabric dyes, perfluorochemicals and phthalates

Most clothing is coloured with synthetic dyes. Benzidine-based “azo dyes” are synthetic colourants, some of which may release carcinogenic amines (ammonia derivatives) and are detrimental to the environment. In particular, o-dianisidine is a classified as potentially cancer causing in humans.

Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) are a group of chemicals that work to repel water and stains, in particular grease. According to EWG (Environmental Working Group), PCFs break down into a toxic blood contaminant called PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), and they are ubiquitous (over 90% of Americans are shown to have PFOA in their bloodstream). PCFs are found in cosmetics, household cleaners, packaged food containers, microwave popcorn, furniture, paper plates, and non-stick pans, amongst other places. In clothing, PFCs are usually lurking in wrinkle-, water-, and stain-resistant clothing, including those with Scotchgard and Gore-Tex tags.

Children are at a significantly higher risk than adults when it comes to phthalate exposure, and phthalates are often found in clothing dyes and in plastisol prints.

Since 2011 all textiles (including mattresses) labelled as 'organic' must have a third party certification, ideally GOTS, which ensures that the entire production process is gentle on the environment and the person wearing the garment so any fabrics certified organic should not contain these chemicals.



What should I use to wash my clothes in?

Choosing the right washing powder for your clothes is crucial. Make sure it is non-biological, SLS free and ideally has the Allergy UK seal of approval.

Contact irritation occurs when the skin gets irritated by a product or fragrance. This can lead to itching which further aggravates the skin barrier. SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) is a detergent which makes many products ‘froth’. It is found in many washing powders, shampoos, soaps, shower gels and cleaning products. It breaks down oils, disrupting and drying the skin barrier in sensitive skin so is best avoided for eczema sufferers.

Stronger fragranced products and those which contain dyes can also irritate. Choose a washing powder or liquid that has the Allergy UK seal of approval, awarded to products with reduced allergen content that have been dermatologically tested.

We also recommend drying clothes and bedding inside if you (or your child) has a pollen allergy or tendency to hay fever.

See here for further information on washing & caring for your eczema clothing.



My child is a ‘Houdini’ at night, what do I do?

If they try to pull their hands inside their nightwear to tear at itchy eczema consider cutting down a sleeveless vest and popping it over the top. Otherwise, try cutting a buttoned cuff from an old shirt, adjust the button so it fits around the wrist without being tight and button that over the top to prevent the hands being drawn inside to scratch.

We have several garments that are suitable for kids who are 'escape artists'! Our Eczema Dungarees with an Eczema Scratch Mitten T are a great combination. 

Try to avoid ‘envelope’ necklines. Babies and children with itchy eczema will do anything to find a way in to scratch – even to the point of pulling clothing down to 'escape' via the loose neckline and envelope necks can become slack and baggy with use.



Is it ok to have a bath before I put my eczema nightwear on?

Consider bathing in the morning in warm (not hot) water. Moving from a warm bath to a cold bed (i.e. changes in temperature) makes the skin more itchy and disrupts sleep so is best avoided just before bed. Whenever you do have baths, try to keep the bathroom warm so that you (or your child) isn’t stepping out of warm water into a cold environment when getting in or out of the bath.



Why don’t you sell nightdresses for children?

By law in the UK all cotton nightdresses for children must be dipped in flame proofing chemicals, which often contain formaldehyde. Children with eczema or broken skin should not be exposed to these chemicals which can cause an allergic reaction. In addition, the fumes given off can precipitate a bad reaction in children with asthma.



Can I use socks over my child’s hands to stop them scratching?

Eczema often develops between the ages of 6 months and 2 years, at a time when vital hand/eye co-ordination skills are developing. Any constriction of the wrists and fingers severely restricts natural movement, delaying normal development of the child's fine motor skills.

Socks (or narrow mittens) will squash the fingers, making them hotter and itchier causing additional distress and discomfort to the child. Sore little fingers need room to move to facilitate the healing process.

Our Cotton Comfort integral mittens are roomy, double thickness and hand shaped which allows the development of normal hand/eye co-ordination and does not squash the fingers. It allows unrestricted movement of the wrist and fingers whilst protecting damaged skin and turning a scratch into a protected rub.

Eczema scratch Mitten T for Kids



Where else can I go for help?

Eczema Outreach Support – EOS was founded in 2011 to help children and young people (up to 17yrs) with eczema thrive. They offer a helpline and email support – email them at info@eos.org.uk or call them on 01506 840 395 (or free phone 0800 622 6018). See here for more info on how we support them and a link to their site.

National Eczema Society run a Confidential Free Eczema Advice Helpline for questions about your own or your child’s eczema on 0800 448 0818. They are open Monday to Friday between 10am and 4pm, not including Bank Holidays. They are a small team so there may be times when all their staff are busy and unable to answer calls immediately. You can also email your questions to them at helpline@eczema.org.

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