Help me not be allergic to my pants!
January 25, 2008 8:11 AM   Subscribe

Suddenly I'm allergic to polyester. But.... a lot of pants and skirts and dresses out there have at least 5% polyester in them. What do I do?

So this is a little gross but about a year ago I noticed every now and then I get lots of little red bumps on my legs. They itch like crazy and last a few days and generally look like a cross between mosquito bites and really bad razor burn. Recently I realized that they always develop right after I've worn something with polyester in it. Ok, easy, just stop wearing polyester (or similar synthetic fabrics).

Unfortunately it seems like EVERYTHING has at least 5% polyester in it. Do you know how hard it is to just find simple yoga/excercise pants that dont have any polyester in them? or pajama bottoms? and all of those black dress pants that women usually wear in the office (the type you'd get from, say, Express) always have a couple percentages of polyester in them too. The other day I wore this really cute, all cotton dress, but along the very bottom there was an inch tall strip of satiny material, and that night i saw I had broken out just in the spot around my thigh where that satiny strip hit. It's so frustrating!

So my question is, is there something I can do to "toughen up" my skin? Some kind of lotion I could use? Some kind of detergent I can use to wash my clothes in? etc? I know there's no miracle cure, but maybe something out there can help a little cuz honestly, sometimes i have to wear this stuff and just suffer afterwards. (I really cant afford to see a dermatologist right now)
posted by silverstatue to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There is really no way around an allergy. When you can afford it, a dermatologist and/or an allergist might be able to help you, but trust me, allergies aren't something you "toughen up" about. If you're lucky, it will go away in the future but there's no predicting that.

For casual clothes, I think American Appearal is all cotton?
posted by agregoli at 8:25 AM on January 25, 2008

I'm fairly sensitive to some fabrics and have found that those "free" detergents (no added anything) can really help. There are also some new no-added-anything fabric softeners that are useful. I don't know about lotions. They never helped me much.

If washing the clothes differently doesn't help, you may just have to stop wearing synthetics. It's a little more difficult, yes, but it can be done. It's also more expensive to buy 100% cotton everything, at least where I live (the internet is especially useful for finding synthetic-free clothing).
posted by cooker girl at 8:28 AM on January 25, 2008

For pants, would finding 100% cotton tights/stockings help? Or otherwise silk slips and undershirts to provide a barrier between you and the poly.

I'm not sure if this would be enough, but it might help?
posted by that girl at 8:31 AM on January 25, 2008

For yoga pants -- check out surgical/medical scrubs. They're cheap.

For pajamas -- you might do pretty well shopping Land's End, which also happens to have 95% cotton/ 5% spandex yoga pants on sale right now.
posted by amtho at 8:54 AM on January 25, 2008

I'm not denying your itchy bumps here and I am not an allergist nor doctor nor immune system researcher etc., but I am wondering if there is something other than an allergy that is triggering them. It is my understanding (as a non-allergist etc) that allergies, of which I have many (and thus have had to get a basic understanding of my itciness at least), are usually caused by immune reaction to protiens and polysaccharides. Polyester is not made of proteins or polysaccarides. Polyester is also everywhere and is not limited to fabrics in your everyday life. If you are really allergic to it, then those ear buds you've been wearing with your I-pod would be making you break out. That cab you rode in last weekend, yeah, the seats would have you bumpy all over (and not just because they were nasty). The deck of that beachhouse you were leaning against in your bathing suit last summer was treated with polyester resin. That bottle of water you were just drinking, yep, polyester. You get my meaning here, I hope. No, I'm not stalking you, I'm just saying it's everywhere.

Polyester, does not "breathe" well and the fibers can be itchy. A combination of rubbing and sweating (perhaps aggrivated by the dry winter season?) caused by close proximity may be causing your bumps. The 5% you see in fabrics may be the use of a polyester thread to hold a seam. I know that this doesn't help you cure the bumps much, but, it may help you understand what's causing them and what isn't.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:08 AM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thats interesting Pollomacho cuz i initially thought i was breaking out due to dry skin, and i tried different lotions with no real success. the fact that i specifically broke out right where the only polyester part of that dress was touching my skin is what made me think that was the culprit.

also weird is that i can wear synthetic shirts and not break out on my torso or arms or face. it only happens on my legs and mostly on the thighs.
posted by silverstatue at 11:49 AM on January 25, 2008

Ok, if it's only in one spot than I'm going to retract that it's an allergy. The only thing to suggest is to try and keep it covered and moisturized (Eucerin makes a great anti-itching cream) and wait to see a dermatologist.
posted by agregoli at 12:48 PM on January 25, 2008

Have you put on weight recently and they're rubbing?

I think you're just getting hot and moist.

Oh lordy, lordy, that sounds smutty... doesn't it?
posted by taff at 1:00 PM on January 25, 2008

Best answer: You might have keratosis pilaris.
posted by astruc at 1:53 PM on January 25, 2008

Response by poster: Ooh astruc, i wonder if that's it.... the wikipedia link had lots of ideas of stuff to try, like a milk bath and coconut based lotion. i'm also going to try the detergent suggestion from cooker girl. thanks for your input so far, everyone!
posted by silverstatue at 2:41 PM on January 25, 2008

Sounds like a combination of problems with moisture, friction, and perhaps a chemical sensitivity (different from an allergy). I haven't experienced it, but fellow cross-country runners used to get this exact thing on their inner thighs. Some of them would powder the affected spots to reduce both moisture and friction. Or - this will sound wacky - have you tried diaper rash ointment?
posted by expialidocious at 2:54 PM on January 25, 2008

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