New evidence suggests that it can! Read more to see what experts have uncovered...
Eczema affects around 30% of children and many parents have been led to believe that wool can be an irritant for their little ones sensitive skin. This is because experts in the past have claimed that wool should be avoided if you have sensitive skin, especially if you suffer with eczema.
What causes skin irritation?
While there are number of factors that can cause skin irritation, fibre type has a direct correlation. Rough seams, fibres, fastenings and threads not only can cause problems to sensitive skin, it can worsen symptoms of eczema too.
However, studies suggest that fibre types with a smaller diameter typically reduce skin irritation and while wool can have many fibre diameters, only low diameter - superfine merino wool - garments were used in the below studies.
Journal of British Dermatology
A recent study conducted by Associate Professor John Su of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, posted in the Journal of British Dermatology, challenges the negative school of thought.
His study instead found that superfine merino wool may actually reduce eczema rather than worsen symptoms. The parents involved in the trial said that their children in fact enjoyed wearing the wool garments and found them very soft; reporting less itchiness and skin clamminess as a result.
Queensland Institute of Dermatology
Another study was also run regarding superfine merino wool and eczema in Brisbane by the Queensland Institute of Dermatology (QIDerm). Researchers have also confirmed the beneficial findings of wearing superfine merino wool. In this trial participants showed substantially reduced symptoms with none of them displaying an allergic or irritant reaction, with merino wools unique moisture management properties was found to be partly responsible to this finding.
The wool appeared to keep the moisture content of delicate skin at levels that it should be, preventing it from becoming too dry and therefore reducing the risks of bacterial infection and the desire to scratch the itch.
Too good to be true? Hear it from the experts themselves...
“When comparing merino with cotton, there are also other inherent differences in fibre properties: merino’s greater ability to transfer moisture vapour and heat than the other major apparel fibres enable it to maintain a more stable microclimate between the skin and the garment.” – Associate Professor John Su, ‘Clinical trial of infants with eczema (MCRI, Melbourne)’.
“We have seen substantial reductions in skin dryness, redness and itchiness and in the measured area of inflammation - and for a number of the patients, this is the first time a real solution to their condition has been presented.”- Dr Lynda Spelman of QIDerm, ‘Clinical trial of adolescents and adults with eczema (QIDerm, Brisbane)’.
“…superfine merino is not able to pierce the epidermal layers, due to its small diameter, thus not initiating a localised, inflammatory response.”- Dr Lynda Spelman of QIDerm, ‘Clinical trial of adolescents and adults with eczema (QIDerm, Brisbane)’.
“The studies demonstrate a strong role for superfine merino in fostering healthy skin and managing eczema… The traditional advice to indiscriminately avoid wool against the skin, based on early commentaries that failed to distinguish between wool fibre types, can now be modified to include superfine merino as a recommended next-to-skin clothing choice.” - Program Manager of Fibre Advocacy and Eco Credentials with The Woolmark Company, Angus Ireland.
Observations from these studies found that superfine merino wool in garments revealed added benefit to people with eczema and sensitive skin. These studies both discovered that wearing superfine merino wool led to an overall greater improvement in eczema symptoms such as itchiness and even performed better than outfits made of cotton.