You know that feeling you get when you buy a cute new shirt and you race home to put it on and just feel pretty? Yeah, I love that feeling too. Know what I don’t’ love, though? The possibility that a few days after exposure to the unwashed garment my skin could turn into an angry rash. It turns out that you should never ever wear new clothes without washing them first thanks to chemicals lurking in dyes.
The reaction is called allergic contact dermatitis and it is the result of an immune system-wide response to allergens such as the chemicals found in many of your favourite athletic wear items. The materials used to make stretchy, water-resistant clothes require the use of disperse-spray dyes to colour them correctly. Those dyes are harsh on the skin and when they aren’t washed prior to first wear, those dyes can leech into your skin and trigger a range of effects including creating a new allergy for you when you’ve not experienced a reaction before.
When you wear new, unwashed clothes, friction and perspiration from just moving around give those leeched dyes the perfect opportunity to wreak havoc on your skin. This is why people who do get rashes tend to seem them along where seam lines touch the skin. If this sound itchily familiar, you may be allergic to some dyes.
Even clothing that says it is 100% cotton, which sounds all-natural and safe, are not safe to throw on and run around in. That 100% cotton is still bathed in a variety of chemicals, many of which are not well understood in how they affect health including the potential to cause cancers.
The best way to prevent the painful itchy rash that can last from days to weeks is to make sure you thoroughly wash your new clothes. If the item is dry clean only then you can still wash them in a washing machine albeit you’ll have to do it with a bit more elbow grease than your usual load.
To wash dry clean only items, get yourself a mesh bag and wash using the gentlest setting on your machines. It helps to Google the material to make sure the detergent you’re using and drying instructions are carefully followed.
If you experience bright red rashes that are painful and tend to stick around for a long time then it is worth talking with your regular doctor to make sure that the cure is as simple as avoiding leeched dyes into your skin.