Chrome-tanned leather allergy: Help with alternatives!
November 29, 2011 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Allergic to chrome-tanned leather: suggestions for brands of non-chrome-tanned leather products, or non-leather alternatives!

I have an odd problem that has become the bane of my existence. I'm believe I've developed an allergy to chrome-tanned leather. I used to wear Born boots against my bare legs. These boots were made up of a patchwork of a few different leathers. One day, I got an awful hard-bumped red rash on both of my legs, slightly swollen, mirroring the pattern of one of the leathers in the boot. The rashes were a series of hard red small bumps that were in clusters and itchy. This was about three years ago. At first, I figured it was just that pair of boots, and wore all my other boots, but had the same problem with all of them. I almost had to cut another pair of boots off of me. Oddly, when I wear chrome-tanned leather, I get the rash on the backs of my calves, especially in the same spot where I initially got it, regardless of what cut the leather shoes I wear are. I get the rash there, even if I'm not wearing leather shoes at all: if I'm holding a leather bag on my wrist, say, the rash will appear on my calves as well as on my wrist. I suffered for the first couple of years afterwards, either saran wrapping my legs everyday (somehow this seems to prevent the bulk of the irritation from occurring) and using cortisone creams regularly (I know, very bad for you!), or inappropriately wearing sneakers with dressy outfits because I couldn't handle the leg itch, and sneakers don't make me itch.

Last year, I finally got fed up, and spent a few hundred hours Googling, to try to figure out exactly what was going on with my legs. The upshot of all of this research is that I believe that a chrome-tanned leather allergy is the most likely explanation (potassium dichromate/chrome III and VI, but I'm no chemist), although there are a few other possibilities (PTBP-FR). I don't believe it's bacterial or fungal, because I initially used anti-fungal creams with no success, and have taken antibiotics in the meantime. My doctor also thinks it's a leather allergy. My only successes have been with European companies that make totally chrome-free leather shoes, which seems to support the chrome-tanned leather hypothesis.

My question is twofold. First, I realize YANMD, but does this sound like a chrome-tanned leather allergy, or something else? And most importantly, what suggestions do you all have for either leather products that are non chrome tanned, or non-leather alternatives? I've found a few brands for non-chrome-tanned leather, but they're all European and very expensive. I am very ready to try non-leather/vegan products, but haven't found anything that is both durable and also doesn't look cheap or plasticky. I need footwear is long-lasting and that looks dressy, classic, and classy; I tend to wear boots with skirts. Help?!
posted by UniversityNomad to Health & Fitness (1 answer total)
From my leatherworking research, I can suggest "vegetable-tanned" as a search term to start with. A quick google with that pulls up quite a few results.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:16 PM on November 29, 2011

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