Fabrics for atopic dermatitis

J Fam Health Care. 2008;18(2):63-5.


The type of fabric worn by sufferers from atopic dermatitis should not exacerbate the condition but, if possible, help to control it. Synthetic fabrics and wool tend to produce itching and irritate the skin. Cotton is traditionally recommended but its structure contains short fibres which expand and contract, causing a rubbing movement that can irritate delicate skin. Dyes used in cotton garments can increase the potential of a sensitivity reaction. Cotton is also prone to bacterial and fungal attack. Silk garments are often closely woven which impedes the flow of air, and some people are allergic to the sericin protein in silk. Published studies suggest that a specially treated silk material (DermaSilk), which is loosely knitted, has had the sericin removed and has a microbial agent (AEM 5772/5) permanently bonded to it, is well tolerated and has beneficial effects on the skin of children and adults with atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis often becomes infected, commonly with Staphylococcus aureus. Some studies have investigated the use of clothing materials impregnated with substances such as silver, which has antimicrobial properties. However, these are still unproven and there are concerns about bacterial resistance and the local and environmental effects of silver. The use of the antimicrobial AEM 5772/5, which does not transfer to the skin of the patient, is a new development in the control of atopic dermatitis. Further studies are needed to determine whether an antimicrobial shield bonded to clothing material will reduce the colonisation of atopic skin by S. aureus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clothing*
  • Cotton Fiber
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / etiology
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Silk
  • Staphylococcal Skin Infections / prevention & control
  • Textiles*


  • Silk