Dermatologists recommend that people with eczema wear eczema-friendly fabrics to avoid triggering their condition. Examples include cotton, silk, bamboo, and lycocell.

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that causes inflammation, dryness, and itching. Certain fabrics can irritate people with eczema, triggering an eczema flare. These fabrics typically consist of natural fibers and are soft, breathable, and moisture-wicking.

This article outlines the best fabrics for people with eczema, including the best options for the summer and winter months. It lists some fabrics to avoid and offers tips for cleaning clothing and bedding.

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The best fabrics for people with eczema tend to be natural fabrics that are soft and breathable, with finely woven fibers.

The United Kingdom’s National Eczema Society (NES) lists the most suitable fabrics for those with eczema. These are outlined below.


Cotton is a natural material derived from fibers surrounding the seeds of cotton plants.

Cotton fabric has the following properties, which make it suitable for eczematic skin:

  • softness
  • breathability
  • high absorbency

When choosing cotton fabrics, people could opt for 100% cotton. Fabrics marketed as “cotton blends” can contain a significant amount of polyester, a synthetic fiber that can irritate eczematic skin.

People can also consider purchasing cotton fabrics labeled as “100% organic cotton” or “OEKO-TEX.” These are less likely to contain potential allergens, such as allergenic dyes and formaldehyde resins.


Silk is a natural fiber composed of a protein called fibroin. Certain insect larvae secrete this protein to form cocoons. Mulberry silk is one of the best known types of silk and derives from the cocoons of Mulberry silk moth larvae.

Silk fabric has the following properties:

  • softness
  • breathability
  • thermoregulating

Some manufacturers produce close-fitting silk garments that people with eczema can wear underneath their regular clothes.

It is important to note that certain skin care products can stain silk. This fabric can also be more difficult to clean.


Bamboo fabric derives from the pulp of the bamboo plant. It has the following properties:

  • softness
  • breathability
  • high absorbency
  • thermoregulating
  • antibacterial

The most popular type of bamboo fabric is bamboo viscose or bamboo rayon. However, the chemical processes required to produce this fabric release hazardous waste into the environment, making this a less environmentally friendly option.

Fabrics labeled “bamboo viscose” are also mixed with cotton or spandex.

Lyocell or TENCEL

Lyocell, or TENCEL, is a cellulose fiber derived from bamboo or wood pulp.

It has similar properties to bamboo, but its manufacture involves fewer chemicals and does not produce so much harmful waste.

As such, it may be a more eco-friendly option for people who want the eczema-friendly benefits of bamboo without the environmental impact.

Are fabric blends safe to wear if a person has eczema?

Fabric blends consisting of cotton, silk, or bamboo may be suitable for people with eczema.

However, the NES recommends against fabric blends combining natural and synthetic fibers, which can irritate eczema.

People may experience eczema flares in the summer months. This may be due to several factors, including increased exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and increased humidity and sweating.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) notes that dried sweat can leave a salty residue on the skin, which may cause itching.

To prevent this, people can opt for loose-fitting garments made from breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics, such as cotton. Linen or silk may also be a suitable option.

People could also consider wearing white or light-colored garments to help reflect the sun’s rays.

The National Eczema Association (NEA) recommends layering clothing during winter to stay warm without overheating. Ideally, people could wear three layers: a base, middle, and outer layer.

Base layer

The base layer comes into direct contact with the skin, so it should be soft, moisture-wicking, and retain heat when wet.

Good options include:

  • Silk: In addition to being soft and breathable, silk retains warmth when wet and dries quickly.
  • Merino wool: Compared to other types of wool, merino wool has ultra-fine fibers that are less irritating to the skin. This fabric is also insulating, moisture-wicking, and retains warmth even when wet.

However, while some people with eczema may be able to wear merino wool, others may not be able to tolerate this fiber against their skin. A 2020 review states that ultra-fine or super-fine merino wool is the least likely to cause itching.

Fabrics to avoid include:

  • Cotton: While cotton is generally a good choice for people with eczema, it is not a great choice for a base layer in the winter months. It can become easily saturated with sweat and dries slowly, causing skin irritation.
  • Polypropylene: This synthetic fiber is breathable, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying but does not retain heat when wet. It can also contain dyes that may trigger allergic contact dermatitis.

Middle layer

The middle layer should consist of lightweight clothing that will keep a person warm without causing them to overheat indoors. This layer sits on top of a base layer, giving people more fabric options.

Parts of the middle layer that may come into contact with the skin include the cuffs and neck. Wearing silk gloves or a silk neck gaiter can help protect the skin in these areas.

Outer layer

The outer layer should be warm and breathable while protecting a person from harsh wind, rain, and snow. According to the NEA, a good option is a jacket or coat made from GORE-TEX.

Fabrics filled with down are not the best choice as they do not retain warmth when damp. Some people with eczema find that down irritates their skin.

According to the NES, people with eczema may avoid the following fabrics as they can irritate sensitive or eczema-prone skin:

  • Wool: Wool is a natural product, but the fibers may be scratchy.
  • Synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and nylon: These fabrics can cause overheating and sweating.
  • Fabrics labeled “wrinkle-free” or “stain resistant”: These fabrics typically contain formaldehyde resins.

People may also avoid garments with features that can irritate sensitive skin, such as:

  • rough seams
  • loose threads
  • rough or loosely woven fibers
  • uncomfortable fastenings

The AAD recommends that children with eczema wear loose-fitting clothes made from 100% cotton. The association also recommends removing clothing tags to help prevent skin irritation.

Learn more about eczema-friendly clothing for infants.

The NES offers the following tips for cleaning clothing and bedding:

  • Wash new clothing and bedding before use to help remove potential irritants from manufacture or packaging.
  • Use 100% fragrance-free detergents when washing.
  • Avoid using fabric softeners and dryer sheets.
  • Avoid overloading the washing machine, as this can impair proper washing and rinsing.
  • Use a double rinse cycle or “baby cycle” to remove traces of detergent from clothing and bedding.
  • Wear protective gloves when handwashing garments or invest in a washing machine with a handwashing program.
  • Wash bedding at 140ºF or more and tumble dry on high heat to destroy dust mites.
  • Leave the washing machine door open between uses to promote air circulation and prevent mold.

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about fabrics and eczema.

Is polyester good or bad for eczema?

The AAD notes that polyester and other synthetic fibers can trigger eczema flares. Dermatologists consider this fabric bad for people with eczema.

Is viscose good or bad for eczema?

The NES notes that bamboo viscose tends to include a mix of other materials, such as cotton or spandex.

A combination of bamboo and cotton may be a good option since each of these fabrics has eczema-friendly properties.

However, a combination of bamboo and spandex may be bad for those with eczema as spandex is a synthetic fabric that can cause skin itching and irritation.

Product labels may state the relative amounts of different fabrics in viscose products.

Is merino wool good or bad for eczema?

The NEA notes that some people with eczema can wear merino wool, while others may find the fabric irritating.

A 2019 study compared the effects of wearing merino wool clothing versus standard clothing in children and adults with eczema. The study authors concluded that wearing merino wool may lead to improvements in the severity of eczema and quality of life.

A 2020 review states that ultra-fine or super-fine merino wool may be best for people with eczema, as these types are the least likely to cause itching.

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that causes inflammation, dryness, and itching.

Wearing certain fabrics may trigger eczema flares. These fabrics typically have poor breathability or a rough, scratchy texture that irritates the skin. Examples include synthetic fibers, such as polyester, nylon, and spandex.

Eczema-friendly fabrics are soft, breathable, and absorbent. Examples include cotton, silk, and bamboo. Merino wool is a very soft wool that may also be suitable for people with eczema, though certain individuals may find it irritates their skin.

When washing clothing and bedding, it is best to use fragrance-free detergents and avoid using fabric softeners or drying sheets. People can also use a double rinse cycle to remove traces of detergent from their laundry.