Contact Dermatitis-Table of Contents


Contact Dermatitis-Clothing

Natural fiber clothing, made from wool, cotton, linen and mohair, have never in themselves been shown to de sensitizers. Sizing and stiffening cotton with starch orrosin may produce dermatitis.

Synthetic fibers include polyester (Dacron), rayon, rubber,saran and spandex. With the exception of rubber, saran and other plastics (vinyl plastic table clothes, elastiglass wristwatch bands), we encounter a dermatitis only from spandex. This may be due to the mercaptobenzothiazole contained in some spandex or to a rubber edge in the garment(ref).

CLOTHING DYES.--Dermatitis may be induced more easily by dark clothing. Heavy perspiration, especially in oily-skinned individuals, enhances bleeding of the dye (e.g.,widow's dermatitis).

FABRIC FINISHES.--These are used to increase durability, to soften of stiffen a fabric, or to impart waterproofing,crease resistance or other properties to the fabric. The use of formaldehyde or its resins in clothing is widespread,but the incidence of resulting dermatitis is comparatively low. These are used to make fabrics crease resistant, water-repellent and shrink resistant. Dermatitis occurs mostly in obese women who demonstrate a dermatitis starting in the axilla and later affecting the sides of the neck, the antecubitals and the inguinals. In men, it is usually in the inner thighs, gluteal folds and back of the knees.

Stoddard solvent or other dry-cleaning solutions will occasionally produce a clothing-oriented dermatitis, as will moth crystals. Airing the clothes for a few days before wearing them will usually prevent this.

Management of clothing dermatitis involves the use of Decadron spray, which contains isopropyl myristate, a film or "spray-on-shield" (Kleinert) which suppresses sweat and may protect the fabric and acts as a deodorant. Weight loss in obese women sometimes seems to help, as does avoidance of panty girdles.

Those who are sensitive to formaldehyde must avoid wash-and-dry or wash-and-wear and drip-dry clothing.

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This document is a resource from the
Internet Dermatology Society
Send your comments to:
Rhett Drugge, M.D.
Last update: February 2, 1997