Toxins in Clothes
Toxic Talk and Labels

How to Avoid Irritation and Rashes Caused by Toxins in Clothes

+ Pamela Friedman

Do you have skin-irritating toxins in your clothes?

One of our CV Skinlabs team members recently told us about her experience. Read on to find out what happened to her, and why you may want to be more aware of how your clothes may be affecting your skin…and your health!

I Suffered a Skin Rash Because of Toxins In Clothes

“I recently got chemical burns on my arms from either a sweater or a shirt I bought,” our team member told us. “I’m not sure which—the shirt seemed to have a strong odor, but the irritation really showed up after wearing the sweater.”

The clothes were both from a well-known fashion brand that is widely available at locations like Marshalls and TJMaxx. “I haven’t researched yet what it is that caused it,” she continued. “Could be formaldehyde, but it is a thickening of the skin with bumps that wants to be itchy.”

Turns out she was right about formaldehyde. Wrinkle-free and shrinkage-free fabrics often release formaldehyde as a byproduct of the chemicals in them. Anti-cling and anti-static clothes, waterproof, and perspiration-proof items can release formaldehyde as well. And as you probably know, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.

Toxins in Clothes: Formaldehyde

According to the American Chemical Society (ACS), formaldehyde resins can be found on a range of textiles as it makes fabrics easy to care for.

Formaldehyde levels in clothing have been decreasing in recent years—in 1984, 67 percent of items tested in government studies had levels greater than 100 parts per million (ppm), but from 2003 on, less than 2 percent of items show this concentration of the chemical.

That’s because most manufacturers in America have switched from using formaldehyde urea and melamine formaldehyde—which release more formaldehyde during storage and use—to dimethylol dihydroxy ethylene urea and its derivatives, which release lower levels.

Nevertheless, there are still individuals that can have allergic reactions to formaldehyde in clothing. Plus, a lot of the clothing we buy is not made in the U.S. Clothing items from other countries like China are not subject to any formaldehyde standards, so they could contain more formaldehyde.

Other Toxins in Clothes

Formaldehyde isn’t the only toxin in clothing, though. There are several others, including the following:


The same types of chemicals added to cookware to make it non-stick may also be added to clothing to make them last longer, resist wrinkles, and repel oil and water. Teflon and other per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) accumulate both in nature and in the human body, where they can affect the hormone system.

Labels that contain the words “Gore-Tex” or “Teflon” may signal the presence of these chemicals. Moisture-wicking workout clothes and outdoor clothing are more likely to contain them.

Today, many manufacturers are avoiding these chemicals in their products. Look for the “PFC-free” label.


These are plasticizing chemicals known for making materials more durable and flexible. They have been linked to hormone disruption, reproductive problems, type II diabetes, asthma, and allergies.

A 2012 investigation from Greenpeace found phthalates in 31 of the clothing items they tested (141). The clothes were purchased from 29 countries and regions around the world. Two of the products were manufactured for Tommy Hilfiger, while another was for Armani and one for Victoria’s secret.

Phthalates have also been found in jeans, raincoats, and artificial leather products.

AZO Dyes

These are cheap and colorful dyes used in some clothing that can trigger allergic reactions, hormone disruptions, and even tumor formation.

Certain types of azo dyes are banned or restricted in the U.S., but they may still be found in brightly colored sports t-shirts, visibility safety vests, weather handbags and jackets, and accessories like gloves and wristwatch straps.

Toxins Sweater

Sensitive to Chemicals in Clothes?

If you find that you’re suffering from rashes and irritation after wearing certain clothing, it could be that you’re allergic to chemicals in the clothing, but it could also be that you’re allergic to certain synthetic fibers.

Synthetics like polyester, rayon, nylon, spandex, and rubber don’t breathe as well as natural fibers. They can make you sweat more, increasing the contact between your skin and the clothing, and potentially causing more friction that can lead to rashes.

Particularly if these items are tight-fitting, you may experience more irritation. Look for redness, scaly skin, or itchy areas within minutes to hours after you put on your clothes. If you notice them, try avoiding those clothing items to see if your skin clears up.

How to Reduce Your Exposure to Toxins in Clothes

If you think your skin may be sensitive to toxins in clothes—or you simply would prefer clothing with fewer toxic chemicals—follow these tips.

  • Beware of “Made in China” labels. These may contain chemicals as they are not regulated in the U.S.
  • If you live in areas with high temperatures and high humidity, they can increase the release of toxic chemicals as well as increase your skin’s chemical absorption. Be more selective in what you wear.
  • Choose natural fibers whenever possible. They are typically better for your skin and your overall health. Find a list of these below.
  • If you’re particularly sensitive to highly pigmented clothing, you may be allergic to the dyes. Choose light-colored garments with less dye in them.
  • Avoid items labeled “wash separately.” They are likely to contain a high level of dye that may irritate your skin. Also avoid those labeled as “wash and wear,” “permanent press,” “no-iron,” or “dirt repellant,” as they likely have chemicals in them that may irritate your skin.
  • Research the manufacturer you’re buying from. See if they are conscious about the ingredients they use to make their products.

Natural fiber clothing includes:

  • Cotton (preferably organic)
  • Flax
  • Hemp
  • Silk
  • Wool (preferably organic)
  • Other fabrics, like alpaca, angora, camel, cashmere, mohair, and ramie

CV Skinlabs Toxins in Clothes

Heal Your Skin from Rashes Caused by Toxins in Clothes

If you’ve suffered from redness, irritation, or rash caused by toxins in clothes, try these steps for healing it fast.

  • Wash the skin thoroughly with a gentle cleanser.
  • Calm the irritation and inflammation with our Rescue + Relief Spray. It has natural cooling and anti-inflammatory ingredients that can provide instant relief.
  • Moisturize immediately with our Calming Moisture and/or Body Repair Lotion. They both help calm, hydrate, and nourish irritated skin.
  • For more inflamed rashes, apply our Restorative Skin Balm and cover them with a bandage. This award-winning balm repairs chapped, traumatized skin so that it looks and feels healthy again.

Have you suffered reactions from toxins in clothes?

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