If you still suffer nightmares of scratchy woollen clothing from your childhood, you will be happy to learn that these days things have changed! Far from being unpleasant, wearing superfine merino wool next to the skin may actually benefit your health and wellbeing. For those who suffer from eczema or dermatitis, this is particularly good news as they are likely to receive the greatest benefit.
Older style woollen garments that wearers deemed itchy, were frequently blamed for causing a ‘wool allergy’. Rather than an allergy, the itchiness or prickly sensation could more accurately be defined as a skin irritation. Within any fabric there are both coarse and fine fibres. The coarser fibres have the ability to press against the skin, triggering nerves and sending messages to the brain that are interpreted as prickliness. Those messages lead individuals with especially sensitive skin to believe that they are allergic to wool.
Today, there is a growing range of superb woollen garments constructed from fine and superfine wool fibres (17.5 micron or less) which offer comfort and softness when worn against the skin. With wool’s unique ability to ‘breathe’, these garments are perfect for helping to maintain a consistent body temperature in hot or cold climates.
An all-natural fibre, wool creates a microclimate between the fabric and the skin. It easily absorbs moisture, drawing it away from the body to evaporate, leaving the skin cool, dry and comfortable. This incredible moisture management system acts as a dynamic buffer against the skin and has been shown to considerably reduce the symptoms of eczema in both adults and children.
A 2017 study at Melbourne’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute showed that children and babies under 3 years old with mild to moderate atopic dermatitis experienced a significant reduction in the severity of symptoms when wearing superfine merino wool when compared with cotton garments. The study has led a change in the guidelines for the management of atopic dermatitis, to include superfine wool garments as a recommended clothing choice.
A patient in the study shares her experience here: youtu.be/IPeE2NZpU6E