The Contact Dermatitis and Clothing Connection



Persons who suffer with dermatitis or sensitive skin have a difficult time living day to day avoiding allergens and the dreaded rash, itching and discomfort that comes with it. I have sensitive skin and prone to develop contact dermatitis at any time often reacting to something next to my skin that I have used for long periods of time. I recently had to discard my favorite pair of pants after months of developing a rash on my stomach and side whenever I wore them. How could this be I said to myself, of all the things in the world to have, why did I inherit this strange skin?

While researching the matter I came across some interesting information regarding contact dermatitis and clothing. It seems there are quite a few people who develop contact dermatitis from formaldehyde resins which are used for textile finishes. Apparently it's pretty common in women but men can also develop the condition if they have sensitive skin. I was amazed and had no idea that formaldehyde was used on fabrics. Can you imagine being allergic to your clothes? If you are experiencing a chronic recurring rash on various part of your body, particularly where clothes fit tightly you may want to contact your Dermatologist and request testing for this sensitivity. The rash can get particularly irritated from perspiration and in areas where the friction of the fabric rubs against the skin.

According to the American Contact Dermatitis Society common eruption sites include the posterior neck, upper back, lateral thorax (part of the body between the head or neck and abdomen), waistband and flexor (fingers) surfaces. It can however appear in other areas like the forehead if you wear a cap that's been treated with formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is used to make clothing that is wrinkle resistant (permanent press) and these can release significant amounts of the substance. The American Contact Dermatitis Society states that rayon, blended cotton, corduroy, wrinkle-resistant 100% cotton, and any synthetic blended polymer are likely to have been treated with formaldehyde resins. Women's clothing also includes lingerie and undergarments.

Many individuals are allergic to formaldehyde and know to avoid personal care products that contain formaldehyde releasing preservatives. Keep in mind that many pharmaceuticals including OTC drugs also use these same preservatives so it's not limited to skin care products. For those sensitive to formaldehyde clothing can also be a stong source of irritation.

Each country has its own manufacturing standards for acceptable levels for formaldehyde resins. A low indicator of formaldehyde releasing resin would be 75 ppm which is the Japanese standard, the US standard is somewhere near 300ppm, quite a difference.

Fabrics safe to wear: 100% silk, 100% linen (if it wrinkles easy), 100% polyester, 100% acrylic, 100% nylon, spandex, flannel (soft), wool (may cause irritation) and denim.

Do not wear these fabrics: Permanent press, wrinkle resistant, color-fast, stain-resistant, blends (including rayon, polyester-cotton), corduroy or shrink-proof wool.

It is suggested that you read the labels in your existing clothing and separate them in your closet so you will know what's safe to wear. Always opt for loose fitting clothing since friction and perspiration can cause the condition to flare. Read the labels in any new clothing before you purchase. Clothes made in Japan are the safest and companies that sell clothes in Japan also have to meet the Japanese standard.

Companies that meet the Japanese standard: GAP, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Liz Claiborne, Eddie Bauer, Cuddle Duds and Levi Strauss. There may be others but these were on the list from the American Contact Dermatitis Society.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have this sensitivity please contact your dermatologist to be tested. Also visit the website of The American Contact Dermatitis Society for more detailed information.



Source: Y Walker,

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  • Christian Morqueda
Comments 37
  • Lisa McGrann
    Lisa McGrann

    Has anyone had a reaction to ciprofloxacin? I have a friend that had liver and kidney disease and now has itchy skin, burning skin, and she is having a hard time wearing clothing. Anyone know anything about this? The dermatologist said he thinks she has pluralists? Can this cause itching and burning on all parts of the body? Can anxiety make it worse?

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  • Maria

    Allergy testing complete , I am allergic to Formaldehyde and Gentomycin Suplphate ( antibiotic)
    For formaldehyde allergy avoid the following ingredients :
    o Quaternium-15
    o 2-bromo-2nitropropane-1,3-diol
    o imidazolidinyl urea
    diazolidinyl urea
    Also avoid
    • Fabrics treated with formaldehyde resins and in which some free formaldehyde remains. Formaldehyde resins provide the unique qualities of the following fabrics:
    o Permanent press
    o Anti-cling, anti-static, anti-wrinkle and anti-shrink finishes
    o Chlorine-resistant finishes
    o Stiffening on lightweight nylon knits
    o Waterproof finishes
    o Perspiration proof finishes
    o Moth proof and mildew resistant finishes
    o Suede and chamois

  • Tera Terhune
    Tera Terhune

    I dealt with the same kind of skin sensitivities for 10 years that went un or misdiagnosed. I’d gone to numerous allergist, dermatolgists and clinics… all to no avail. I was finally diagnosed correctly by my new dermatologist who did a biopsy of the skin irritation. Turned out I have a rare, genetic skin disorder called Hailey Hailey disease. It’s typically a later life onset condition. It is genetic and as such has no cure, it’s all about control. There are a few sites on the net with useful info about identifying and dealing with the skin disorder. Keep this in mind when speaking with your dermatologist. After 10 years of frustration, just having a correct diagnosis was an incredible relief…

  • Therese Green
    Therese Green

    I think I have solved my mystery allergy and hopefully it can give you insight into yours!

    After seeing many doctors who diagnosed eczema, I finally got patch tested for chemicals. Since formaldehyde was the only allergen, I googled which foods contain formaldehyde. I learned that many fresh fruits and preserved foods have it. But here is the kicker… your body has enzymes that break down molecules like sugar, proteins and alcohols but one of the by products is formaldehyde!!!! (You can google this yourself at What foods contain formaldehyde?!) Sadly, that means no foods with sugar, or ingredients that turn into sugar. Formaldehyde is also a by-product in digestion of proteins and alcohols.

    Now I eat a clean diet with many low sugar vegetables, low or no carbohydrates, little or no meat, and lots of water to flush out the toxins. Detox teas and herbs will help you flush out the residual toxins out of your system as well. I have lost eight pounds already and feel better.

    I hope this will help all of you who are suffering with the rashes and eczema.

    Be well,

  • Karen

    Hi Shanda
    I have skin allergies to everything except cotton. Polyester is one of the biggest offenders. It cuts my skin and burns it. Though I could avoid the fabrics that caused contact dermatitis (organic cotton garments, underwear & socks), the clothes were sewn with Polyester cotton blend thread. I have found one shirt supplier that sells cotton t shirts in bulk and they use all cotton thread on the white shirts, so the buyer can dye them .

  • Shanda
    Thank you all for your comments! I really am at my wits end. I feel as though I’ve had eczema contact dermatitis my whole life. I’ve suffered from asthma and allergies as well. But since I hit my 40s, my skin itches constantly with red raised itchy patches on my back arms shoulders it seems to be more intense were my undergarments are. Finding 100% cotton brought has helped. However when my itch Starts to come on I can almost feel the inflammation hitting. I can feel the heat rising up in my skin ! When I itch then again it does get dry and burn. I am seeing an allergist many tests and bloodwork. I have a feeling I may be allergic to my clothing after reading all of your comments.


  • Angela

    I feel most relieved to have read this article. In addition, I was having a reaction to Tencel and bamboo which I understand are eco-friendly materials, but are heavily treated with chemicals to achieve the beautifully dyed, smooth no pill fabric. Thanks for the information about the fomaldehyde resins in corduroys which you cannot wash out. I will be looking for natural fabrics like silk and linen that wrinkles. I hope to get my contact dermatitis under control which has been flaring up since February 2016.

  • Maria

    Hi everyone ,
    my dermatologist prescribed Elocon for me – it is a corticosteroid ointment to use and relieve the skin rashes until I get my patch allergy testing . I use it sparingly as it is very strong and long term use may thin the skin . It will do however for the short term . Ask your dermatologist if ELocon could be for you , as a short term solution to skin rashes

  • Maria

    For my (VERY) sensitive skin I use OLIVA soap ( it consists of saponified olive oil , salt and water ) . I use a mixture of olive oil and sugar for my face ( wet skin , apply a small quantity ,wash off with OLIVA soap) . Sometimes I wash my face with OLIVA ,rinse and, on wet skin, I apply coconut oil . I pat dry with a towel .
    For underarm deodorant I use fresh lemon juice (although be careful if you shave – if you put lemon on freshly shaved skin… OUCH! I shave my underarms in the evening and let my skin recover during the night before dabbing lemon juice in the morning .
    No hair dye for me ever as I had a bad allergic reaction to it and no cosmetics or perfumes until I get my patch allergy testing
    Hope you find some of this useful , I will keep trying things and keep everybody posted

  • Amanda

    I have many of the same issues. Email me if anyone has found solutions or just wants to talk. I was diagnosed with an allergy to synthetic hormones in birth control which triggered all my other skin conditions.

  • Mequita

    Don’t forget shampoo can have formaldehyde in it. Always check ingredients.

  • Mequita Praet
    Mequita Praet

    I am a career Histotechnologist ( handled formaldehyde daily in the lab). I developed contact dermatitis 6 months after finishing my medical training 46 years ago. So, I had all the tests to confirm that that was indeed the culprit to my skin issues. After about twenty years of suffering with sore red itchy hands & other itchy areas, armpits, etc. I happened to go to work in a dermpath lab and we had a occupational dermatology specialists on staff. He gave me the answer to my personal issues. Hydrocortisone cream ( the best one not on the market anymore) dampen hands then rub in a small amount of Neutrogena hand cream, then slip on white gotten gloves overnight. I pretty much do this on and off all the time. I use Dreft or All Clear laundry detergent, and Dove soap. Occasionally, if I get dry scaly areas on the face, I will use a soap substitute such as the Cerve, Abolene or Cetaphil. I try to stay on top of things by treating any spots that show up immediately. This regime has pretty much controlled things for the last 20 years. Although, I did try a new eye cream last Christmas that pretty much messed me up for four months. The areas below my eyes stayed red and peeled 5 or 6 times. That was after only a one time application of a tiny bit of cream.

  • Maria

    To all of you out there , a tip from my dermatologist on clothing : If you can see the weave , avoid it . It will irritate your skin regardless of the material .
    It has helped me ,I hope it helps you as well

  • Maria

    Many thanks James , I will try it

  • James

    That was Kent to be Cerave cream. The tablet corrected spelling wrong.

  • James

    Try Cera he moisturizing cream , it also comes in anti itch! Works wonders for me.

  • Maria

    hello all,
    would anyone know how long before an allergic reaction appears and how long before it clears?
    I have been suffering from skin rashes for nearly a year and I have undergone food allergy tests
    (all negative) and I am seeing a dermatologist for further testing next week .
    The rashes are on my back , on my torso and under my armpits . My eyes get puffy and itchy , my nose lining gets irritated and hurts .
    All are painful ,itchy and started suddenly . I have not been able to pinpoint the cause – I have stopped using cosmetics ,polyester,
    viscose and perfumes and my soap is made with olive oil and no added chemicals . No luck yet .

  • Kathleen

    I have been dealing with a burning rash that effects my nervous system, I have very dry patches that I have to exfoliate about twice a week I use a sugar and honey mix. This condition came out of no where about 6 months ago, the only clothes I can wear have to be polyester, there are fibers in cotton that irritate my rash ,it’s worse at night, my husband brought 100% polyester sheets for our bed so I could sleep at night, I also have to use a lot of Vaseline to calm the dryness down , I have tried every cream on the market to no avail .I just started using dove soap and it has helped a lot, I am thinking maybe steam might open my pores and unclog them. I have tried steroid creams every now and than but the dryness keeps coming back, I have it in the creases of my elbows on the inner side ,where I sit on the back of my legs and under my arm pits. When I rub the Vaseline into these areas I get little tiny hard pieces of skin that expel off my body they look like white heads not blackheads, I drink lots of water like they tell you to. I have always had very sensitive skin but I do have to say the Dove soap has helped a lot. I also stopped taking my blood pressure meds and the nerve rash has calmed down a bit I might also be allergic to blood pressure medication , I have had it changed to three different kinds and they all caused me to have a rash and and burning that irritates my nervous system, I will have to try different ones till they find one I can tolerate, this is an awful condition to have, they put me on anxiety medication but I try not to take it because it only masks the condition it doesn’t cure or control it and I do not want to take a controlled substance that I might become addicted to .

  • Seth

    Anyone know the best place to get comprehensive allergy testing done in the UK? I’ve been going to NHS GP for years and only just received a basic allergy blood test (at my request). The don’t seem to do anything unless you request it!

  • Ali Ahmed
    Ali Ahmed

    I have exact same condition as Derick Odor since the last one year "My skin has been irritating me for the past one year and can’t figure out the cause. Doctors advised me to keep avoid in certain foods plus taking antihistamine tabs like citrizen it reduced a bit but not gone. The itching is severe at night especially at the back of my neck, my back, thighs, shoulders and arms. During the day the rashes are common on my arm, they keep appearing early in the morning and disappearing after like three to four hours on a daily. They appear to look like hives from what i read somewhere. I resorted to bathing three times a day it has drastically reduced the hives. "

  • Derrick Odur
    Derrick Odur

    THANK YOU for this information. My skin has been irritating me for the past three months and can’t figure out the cause. Doctors advised me to keep avoid in certain foods plus taking antihistamine tabs like citrizen but all in vain. The itching is severe at night especially at the back of my neck, my back, thighs, shoulders and arms. During the day the rashes are common on my arm, they keep appearing early in the morning and disappearing after like three to four hours on a daily. They appear to look like hives from what i read somewhere. I resorted to using warm water for bathing which at times relieves me from the ishes. But from what I have read here I think I will have to change my wardrobe too and monitor the progress of my skin. I hope this works for me. Thanks a bunch

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  • Annette

    I have had atopic dermatitis for years. I was told to use sensitive skin Dove soap. No scented laundry soap. I use prescription Cordran ointment when I start itching. Hope this helps.

  • Jennifer Hart
    Jennifer Hart

    Message to sterile cotton

    Yes I have experienced this independent movement in new cotton sheets, like it is trying to get you to move away. It Sounds ridiculous – pleased to hear someone else has same experience

  • DIck Brashear
    DIck Brashear

    I have significant allergy to formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasing chemicals, many formaldehyde releasing chemicals (about 10-12) are used in cosmetics as preservatives . Avoid dryer sheets that are put in the dryer. Use laundry detergent ECOS free and clear, use Vanicream shin moisturizer and their hand soap and shampoo etc that do not contain formaldehyde or releasers (Pharmaceuticals Specialties inc, Rochester,MN , ph 800-325-8232 for info and catalogue, Walgreens usually stocks some of their products)

  • Sallie

    Thank you for this info and thanks to everyone who has added comments. My poor husband has suffered horribly from what the doctors have called atopic diabetic dermatitis. We’ve tried all sorts of creams and salves.. Now he’s having light treatments. However, the rash continues. We have a friend who missed a week of work because of contact with wrinkle-free sheets. She developed a terrible rash and has been treated with prednisone. Now we know the material was treated with formaldehyde. Where do we find sheets and clothing completely free of formaldehyde? Let’s keep helping each other. The doctors don’t seem to know what to do.

  • Meghan

    I see you have many fabrics listed that are safe to wear include 100% clothing. What about 100% cotton? Is this clothing also formaldehyde free and safe to wear for those with an allergy?

  • pedi

    Wow it’s amazing article and wonderful sharing the post.Hey I’m a 23 year old girl with ichthyosis, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, rosacea and very sensitive skin. Ha I have it all lol.
    The past 6 months I have been struggling. I can’t use any washing detergent, soaps or moisturisers.
    I’ve had Epaderm, oilatum, Aveeno, E45, Doublebase, 50/50, Cetraben and Calmurid.

  • Ro

    First THANK YOU! WITH MY WHOLE HEART for all these comments. I have been suffèing for years, I have had to give up my career, My social life, my self confidence, everyday comfort and normal activities because of this conditiin. And I have never heard anyone else speaking of the same issues and doctors act like this is the first case they have ever seen like this each time I meet a doctor. From my scalp to the bottom of my feet I suffer with these itchy, burning, raw, irritated rashes and inflammation. The smell of my skin makes me sick, depressed, sometimes thoughts of wishing to die. That my family does not have to.see me this way and that I dont have to suffer anymore. There does not seem to be enough hours in the day to research clothing I can wear to help, or find sources of relief. I have contact allergies, food allergies, and environmental allergies. I feel like planet earth is killing me. To read all of this information gave me hope this morning. THANK YOU!

  • aspecialist

    There are 2 types of Contact Dermatitis which shows nearly same symptoms. Irritant Contact Dermatitis (ICD) occurs when people touch something they’re sensitive which is a common type on the other side there is Allergic Contact Dermatitis (ACD) that occurs when people touch something they’re allergic. One way to treat this skin condition is by avoiding substances that reacts to your body. There are medicines that are made to lessen the discomfort or pain. There are also natural ways to treat, Dr. Sundardas a naturopathy expert wants to help We hope that you have time to visit our website or email us so we could talk about a naturopathy.

  • Sterile Cotton
    Sterile Cotton

    Does anyone note independent movement in their new clothing or bedding?

    I have this, its driving me mad so I buy old old stock (vintage called new old stock) to avoid this. I’m sure its a parasite because I’ve ended up with sores on me where I lean my weight against the cotton. Does anyone have a list of sellers of actual sterile clothing and bedding sellers? It would immensely help.

    I’m told its a GMO parasite used in cotton farming to cut down on chemical pesticides. But doesn’t that sound far fetched to you?
    I mean, how would I even get an item of my clothing analysed?
    Thanks in advance :-)

  • CKS

    Glad I found this. They are patch-testing me again this week, after 3 1/2 months of itching and severe rash all over. Allergist did not tell me to stay off of certain medications that intefere with skin tests, so my test showed no reaction to any of the 50 allergens, although the rash all over my body (except my face), got about 3 x worse during the test. My original Dermatologist is doing it this time, correctly. since it started at my ankles and worked it’s way up to all-over, I suspect the formaldehyde preservatives in personal products and other soaps; but I had always thought we washed the sizing out of fabrics when we washed them the first time. I have to add, that I never did that before wearing something, because once most things are washed (even permanent press), they never look as good as they did when we bought them. I have worn lots of things that never got worn again, after they were washed. Anyway, it never bothered me before, but sure is now. Glad to get the list of safe fabrics, and some of the brands. How sure are we that these fabrics do not have sizing? I have always worn a lot of polyester and acrylic, because they are usually soft and silky, and do not wrinkle (until they started adding spandex to everything); I do not iron. If it needs ironing, it goes in the give-away group. I am going to print out this article, to show my Dermatologist, just in case she doesn’t know that the formaldehyde doesn’t wash out.

  • Cottonique Admin
    Cottonique Admin


    Hi Dan! Normally, removing formaldehyde from clothing at home is a long and arduous process. Tips range from soaking the fabric in powdered milk to rinsing them with vinegar. Many techniques involve around 4 hours of soaking before washing, and then repeating this process several times. Even then, we can’t guarantee any of these work, unfortunately!

    The best way really is to shift to formaldehyde-free clothing. :)

  • Dan

    I recently bought a flannel shirt with a corduroy collar and could not figure out why I was getting a rash on my neck after wearing the shirt. Thank you for the info! It seems it can certainly affect men as well. I am disappointed to have to retire this shirt, though. Is there not any cleaner that can saefly wash out the formaldehyde resin?

  • wendy

    Thank you so much for your comments, it sounds just like my problem. I have seen allergists and dermatologists who all give me different answers!

  • call girls Paris
    call girls Paris

    You certainly have some agreeable opinions and views. provides a fresh look at the subject.

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