Clothing fabrics interact closely with the skin to shape our cutaneous microenvironment. Cotton and silk have been traditionally recommended for patients with atopic dermatitis because of reported patient comfort. New synthetic fabrics combine anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, moisture-wicking, and soothing properties that may augment conventional management strategies in atopic patients.Objective
We review existing and emerging evidence for fabric selection in patients with atopic dermatitis including cotton, wool, lyocell, silk, anionic, cellulosic/cellulose based, zinc oxide coated, citric acid coated, chitosan coated, silver coated, borage seed oil coated, ethylene vinyl, and polyurethane and offer practical suggestions for clothing and bedding choices.MethodsA systematic search was conducted on PubMed and EMBASE electronic databases for articles from 1 January, 1994 to 1 January, 2020. Studies were included based on the following inclusion criteria: clinical trial, published in English, and fabric as the main agent being evaluated. Case reports, case series, conference abstracts, reviews, animal studies, and duplicates were excluded. Studies were then manually screened by title, abstract, and full-text articles and selected to specifically describe the effects of fabrics in patients with atopic dermatitis. Both adult and pediatric patient studies were included.ResultsThere appears to be an advantage to modern fabric manufacturing and processing techniques that have created smaller diameter, smoother fibers such as super- and ultrafine merino wool and anti-microbial finishes. Traditional cotton and silk fabrics have mixed evidence in improving atopic dermatitis symptoms and severity but have shown to be generally safe. Large-diameter wool has been shown to induce itching and irritation; ultra- or superfine merino wool is non-pruritic and may be recommended as an alternative. Emerging fabrics with potential efficacy in reducing atopic dermatitis severity and Staphylococcus aureus burden include silver-coated, chitosan-coated, and cellulose-based fabrics. Zinc oxide-coated, acid-coated, polyurethane-coated, borage seed oil-coated, anionic, lyocell, and ethylene vinyl fabrics have sparse evidence and require further study before conclusions can be made.Conclusions
Appropriate fabric selection can reduce the symptom severity and exacerbations of atopic dermatitis.