What is Textile Contact Dermatitis, and How to Prevent It


• Textile contact dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition caused by direct contact with certain fabrics, usually manifesting as an itchy red rash.

• Common causes include wool, nylon, polyester, rayon, spandex, and other fabrics, which may contain irritants like dyes or finishes.

• Prevention involves avoiding fabrics known to irritate and wearing loose-fitting clothing that allows air circulation. 

• Keeping the skin clean and dry can also help to reduce discomfort and prevent further outbreaks of textile contact dermatitis.

Textile contact dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition caused by direct contact with certain fabrics. It usually manifests as an itchy red rash, which can also cause hives, blisters, and swelling. Though textile contact dermatitis isn’t considered a serious medical condition, it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Additionally, prolonged exposure to the fabrics that cause this condition can lead to chronic inflammation and skin damage.

To better understand this condition, here’s a look at what causes it, some common symptoms, and how to prevent it from occurring.

Causes of Textile Contact Dermatitis

Textile contact dermatitis is caused by the direct contact of certain fabrics with the skin. Common culprits include wool, nylon, polyester, rayon, and spandex. The fabric itself may contain irritants such as dyes or finishes that cause a reaction on the skin; however, the most common cause of textile contact dermatitis is a reaction to the sweat and bacteria on your skin combining with the fabric’s fibers. Here’s how different fabrics and irritants can contribute to textile contact dermatitis:


Wool is a naturally occurring fiber created from the fur of sheep, goats, and other animals. Because of its natural origin, wool often contains lanolin. This greasy substance can cause an allergic reaction to the skin. Furthermore, many people are sensitive to wool fibers, which can lead to itching and irritation.

Synthetic Fabrics

Polyester, nylon, and rayon are some of the most commonly used synthetic materials that can irritate the skin if coming in direct contact. These fabrics are typically treated with various dyes, finishes, and other chemicals that can cause an allergic reaction or skin irritation.

Metallic Threads

Embroidery and other fabrics containing metallic threads should be avoided as this material is known to cause dermatitis when it comes in contact with the skin for extended periods. This kind of thread often contains nickel, which many people are allergic to.


Although cotton is regarded as one of the most natural and non-irritating fabrics, it can still cause dermatitis when worn for long periods. This is due to the buildup of sweat and bacteria on the skin, which can seep into the fabric’s fibers and cause irritation.

Dyes and Finishes

Fabrics may also be treated with chemical dyes and finishes. These treatments often contain volatile compounds such as benzene, formaldehyde, and hexavalent chromium, which irritate the skin and can also be dangerous if inhaled or ingested.

Common Symptoms of Textile Contact Dermatitis

The most common symptom of textile contact dermatitis is an itchy red rash on the skin where the fabric comes into direct contact with your body. It can also cause hives or blisters in more severe cases. In some cases, swelling may occur as well.

You should consult your physician immediately if you experience itching or discomfort after wearing certain fabrics for extended periods. If you think you may be experiencing symptoms, here’s what you should do:

  • Stop wearing the fabric in question immediately to avoid further irritation.
  • If needed, take an over-the-counter antihistamine or topical corticosteroid cream to help relieve itching and discomfort.
  • See your doctor if symptoms do not improve after a few days of avoiding the fabric in question, as this could mean that you are experiencing an allergic reaction.

Preventing Textile Contact Dermatitis

The best way to prevent textile contact dermatitis is to prevent it. It is best to do the following preventive measures:


If you know that certain fabrics irritate your skin, avoid wearing them. Especially if needed to be worn for work, custom polo shirts for work that consist of a combination of fabrics can reduce the risk of an allergic reaction. Choose fabrics that can be worn all day and are not dyed or treated with harsh chemicals.

Avoid Tight-Fitting Clothing

Tight-fitting garments such as jeans and tights can cause skin friction, leading to irritation. Wear loose clothing to allow air circulation, and avoid wearing too tight items. Additionally, when the clothes are already worn, you should change them as soon as possible to avoid further contact with the fabric.

Be Mindful of Sweat and Humidity

A man adjusting his collar, ready to go to work

When wearing synthetic fabrics, such as nylon or polyester, be aware that sweat and humidity can accumulate on the garment and cause irritation when it comes in contact with the skin for long periods. Take a break from wearing these items occasionally to let your skin breathe.

Avoid What’s Causing Your Allergies

If you know any allergens that trigger dermatitis, it is best to avoid them. This could include not wearing wool if you know you’re allergic to lanolin, avoiding metallic threads if you have a nickel allergy, or steering clear of synthetic fabrics as much as possible if they irritate your skin.

What you wear plays an important role in your overall health and well-being, so it is important to be mindful of the fabrics you choose and take steps to prevent textile contact dermatitis. Following these tips can help ensure your skin remains healthy and uncomfortable-free.

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