The most likely answer is no, according to a number of scientific studies confirming some wool can actually be beneficial for eczema sufferers. In fact, recent expert research challenges long-held misconceptions that all wool is itchy or acts as an allergen, and reveals that wearing superfine Merino wool is beneficial to eczema sufferers.
Wool is not an allergen
A major study, conducted by an expert group of allergists, immunologists, and dermatologists from across the globe, reviewed the past 100 years of research to assess claims that wool causes allergy. This analysis, published as Debunking the Myth of Wool Allergy, found no evidence that wool is an allergen.
The study found that any skin irritation caused by garments was due to the incidence of coarse fibres protruding from the fabric and that this cause is independent of fibre type. Skin irritation can just as readily be caused by coarse synthetic fibres, such as acrylic and nylon, as by coarse wool fibres. But superfine and ultrafine Merino fibres bend easily, causing minimal or no skin irritation.
“This latest review is of high relevance to allergists, dermatologists, and physicians – and also to consumers,” says Angus Ireland, The Woolmark Company’s program manager of fiber advocacy and eco-credentials. “Research is showing superfine wool base-layer garments to be beneficial to people with sensitive skin, such as eczema sufferers, so it’s important to address misperceptions that wool is an allergen or that all wool is itchy when worn directly against the skin.”
How superfine Merino wool helps eczema patients
Eczema is an inflammatory condition in which the skin becomes dry, leading to cracking, bacterial infection, redness, and itching. Eczema affects up to 28% of infants and is on the rise in many countries.
In a major medical breakthrough, wool is beneficial to the skin, providing a natural additional treatment for dealing with eczema. With skin being our largest organ, it makes sense that we want to put something 100% natural against it, not clothing derived from petrochemicals and crude oil.
Whether conditions are hot, cold, humid, or dry, Merino wool garments are the most breathable of the common apparel types. Wool has the natural ability to absorb and release twice as much moisture vapour as cotton, and 30 times as much as polyester. Worn next to the skin, superfine Merino wool works as a dynamic buffer, helping to stabilise the humidity and temperature of the microclimate between fabric and skin. It appears that superfine Merino wool performs like a second skin for people whose ‘first’ skin is too dry.
In four recent dermatology trials, infant, adolescent, and adult eczema sufferers report reduced symptoms when wearing superfine Merino wool garments next to the skin. Across the four studies, significant reductions in symptoms were observed of itchy, rough, and painful skin. These benefits translated into significant improvements in quality of life in both children and adults.
Where to find superfine Merino wool
There is a growing desire among eczema sufferers or parents of children with eczema for natural approaches to help support treatment. Superfine Merino wool (≤17.5 µm) is increasingly available and is suitable for wearing directly against the skin.