me I always try to wash new clothes before wearing them. Mainly out of fear that other people would try them on first. But sometimes, whether I’m lazy or in a hurry, I put something on without first cleaning it well. Apparently, that’s not the best idea. Dermatologists say you should always wash new clothes, because they can contain chemicals that can seriously irritate your skin.
“I definitely wash all my clothes before I wear them,” says California-based dermatologist Shirley Chi, MD. “I am also very careful when washing my children’s new clothes, as their skin is even more sensitive to irritation from chemicals.”
Dr. Chi explains that wearing new clothes without washing them can lead to contact dermatitis, a reaction that occurs when the skin is sensitive or allergic to something it comes into contact with. Weather reports that contact dermatitis can result from disperse dyes, which are used to dye synthetic clothing materials such as polyester and nylon. Dr. Chi says it can also be caused by preservatives like formaldehyde, which is used to keep clothes wrinkle-free during shipping.
You should wash your clothes (as well as your sheets and bath towels) at least once to get rid of most chemicals. Some chemical residue will remain but should dissipate with subsequent washes. If you have sensitive skin, an ultra-clean natural detergent is best.
If you skip washing and develop contact dermatitis, Rebecca Baxt, MD, MBA, FAAD, a New Jersey-based dermatologist, says your skin will become red, itchy, and sometimes scaly. If it’s really bad, she says you can even get blisters. Dr. Chi explains that the rash will occur where the clothing touches the skin.
“It’s often around the armpit,” says Dr. Chi. “And it’s not in the middle of the armpit, it’s around the edge.” Other common sites include around the waist and thighs (“where clothes are tightest”).
Treatment options for contact dermatitis include over-the-counter cortisone creams (Dr. Baxt notes that prescription creams are stronger), antihistamines, and cold packs.
Two factors that play a role in whether or not you develop contact dermatitis include how you wear the item and whether you sweat, explains Dr. Chi. Therefore, he will be less likely to get a rash if he wears a fresh off the shelf top for an hour than if he wears a new unwashed sweater all day or if he wears leggings he bought on the way to the gym.
“If you sweat, you release the chemicals and then you’re more likely to cause a rash,” says Dr. Chi. “And then you go to the gym or something and the next thing you know, you have a rash on your thighs.”
OH! Okay, so I do my best to always wash new clothes before I wear them.
Do you feel that your training clothes irritate your skin? Here’s how to make sure they’re absolutely clean, and how to tell if you’re really just allergic to them.