When we talk about better choices for our health, we often think of what we put into our body in terms of nutrition, and how we move it through exercise.
But something that’s just as important to our overall health is what we wear on our bodies, in terms of the fabric of our clothing. Our skin is our biggest organ and what it comes into contact with externally gets easily absorbed and goes through to our blood stream.
Becoming a mum meant that I started to think more consciously about what I was putting onto my precious baby’s skin and what textiles they were sleeping on and being wrapped up in. And from there, once I started researching healthier options for baby clothing and textiles, that ended up crossing over to what I was wearing, and what my husband was. I’ve spent the last few years swapping out our wardrobes, towels, and bedding to natural fabrics that are healthier for us. I’ve eliminated the majority of synthetics from all of our clothing and textiles.
It’s often been a frustrating process, as so much clothing contains a synthetic component, but I have through research and perseverance found options that are natural fibres and still don’t compromise on style or functionality. And, they are usually way better quality and last so much longer.
I only buy clothing for our family that is made from cotton, bamboo, linen (thank goodness linen has been ‘on trend’ the last couple of years and has been so readily available), merino wool, and occasionally silk, and Tencel. I always try to buy organic fabric when available as well.
Fabrics like polyester, acrylic and nylon are essentially man-made plastics, and contain harmful chemicals used in their production. These fabrics are typically not breathable like natural fabrics, and can increase and trap body heat, resulting in a number of problems like;
- body odour
- skin rashes, burns or infections
- nose, throat and eye irritation
- eczema and dermatitis
- muscle pain
- Light headedness, and
- difficulty breathing
The toxic chemicals produced from these fabrics when they come into contact with our body heat can also cause sleeping difficulties (so being mindful of bedding fabric is important as well). Many synthetic fabrics and dyes used in clothing also contain toxic chemicals which are known carcinogens, and these have the potential to cause cancer with prolonged exposure.
There’s also another big downside to the production of synthetic materials, and that is their damaging effects on our environment. Synthetics are not eco-friendly or sustainably made because of their industrial, chemically driven production, and are not socially responsible or ethical for the workers who make them, because of the damaging exposure to toxic chemicals involved. Research has found that workers involved in the production of synthetic material frequently display liver damage when tested.
There’s also the environmental concern of washing our synthetic clothing and the pollution that ends up in our water ways from that. It has been found that the tiny synthetic particles that come out of synthetic clothing in the wash cycle are one of the biggest sources of plastic in our oceans.
There is really no advantage to synthetic clothing, besides the low production cost and efficiency of mass production for suppliers. But at what cost to our health and environment?
It’s hard to ignore all of this- our wellbeing can be compromised by what we are wearing on our bodies, just like it can be compromised by what we consume and inhale. I know that I’d rather go natural and not take the risk of experiencing these side effects. If there’s ever a chance to make a better choice for our wellbeing, let’s take it.
How to Minimise Clothing Risk
Experts suggest that when buying new clothing you:
- should be washing it twice before wearing to remove any chemical residue from the production process (although washing won’t remove certain types of chemicals in synthetic fabrics)
- shop for natural fibres like cotton, linen and wool- particularly for children
- look for organic cottons (particularly for underwear and clothing worn closest to the body)
- Look for natural dyes (such as vegetable dyes)
- avoid products labelled stain or water-resistant (as the process required to have these properties uses toxic chemicals)
- Look for products with the OEKO-Tex certified tag on them (meaning they have been tested for toxic substances and are considered safe by international safety and environmental standards)- a lot of textiles for babies and children have this classification, as well as bedding and towels (see example below).
Benefits of Going Natural
In addition to the safety benefits of choosing natural fabrics, another huge benefit is that they actually feel so much better to wear. Think buttery soft, flowy, cloud-like softness on your skin rather than stiff, itchy, over-heating restriction of synthetics.
In addition to their low toxicity, natural fabrics other benefits include;
- They are hypoallergenic
- They allow your skin to breathe and they absorb moisture rather than trapping it
- They are thermo-regulating, keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter
- They are durable and hold their shape
- Some natural fabrics like silk and bamboo have been shown to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties
- Some natural fibres such as wool and bamboo have natural UV protection, as they absorb radiation throughout the entire UV spectrum
Where to Find Natural Clothing Options
If you’re looking for some brands that sell natural clothing options, these are great retailers to explore;
This family run small business has become my one-stop shop for reputable and high-quality bamboo clothing, towels, underwear, sleepwear and bedding. They have even introduced face masks during the pandemic. They have such a great range of buttery-soft goodness, there really is something for everyone. I love their dresses and leggings, and they have great gift ideas too.
This is such a great small business to support, they have a beautiful ethos of embracing slow eco-conscious living, and their luxe products are the very opposite of fast fashion and throwaway living. For a detailed review of some of my favourite bamboo buys, check out the Her. Wellbeing. November Monthly Top 3 (to be published at the end of this month).
Bamboo Island have very generously provided Her. Wellbeing. readers with a 10% discount code HER10
Happiest Girl in The World creates beautiful, sustainable, comfortable and ethically made sleepwear and loungewear from bamboo and organic cotton.
Their range is 100% Australian designed and made from sustainably sourced bamboo and organic cotton fabrics. I love their tanks and T-shirts in particular, so much so that I have been known to wear them out with jeans or shorts, as well as living in them at home during the warmer months.
Happiest Girl in The World have very generously provided Her. Wellbeing. readers with an exclusive discount code- HERWELLBEING
This brand is committed to a sustainable and natural approach to their business, making silk products like hair scrunchies, pillowcases, sleep masks, and now face masks too.
I am never without a mum bun in a scrunchie at home, and Sylk and Sleep Co. do the most luxe big silk scrunchies to keep my bun secure all day long without pulling my hair. Because they’re made from silk they leave less of a ‘hairband’ mark in my hair when I take it out as well.
I absolutely cannot say enough about the beauty of this brand and their ethos. I absolutely love their cute 100% cotton T-shirts and what they stand for.
Selfawear is committed to spreading self-awareness and developing beliefs and behaviours that contribute to helping the world become a better place. The messaging on their T-shirts encourages a voice to express yourself by spreading awareness of mental health through empowering slogans. Their aim is to help women develop beliefs and behaviours that come from a place of worthiness and acceptance without constantly seeking others’ approval.
I love that they’re Australian made, 100% cotton and that they come in such a variety of styles and colour options.
This brand make great staple pieces like T-shirts, jumpers, tank tops, pants, underwear and denim from organic cotton, merino wool and hemp.
Their clothing is manufactured in Australia using organic and eco-friendly materials and dyes in small batches. They have accreditation from Ethical Clothing Australia and work with local knitting mills and dye houses.
I love their long sleeve T-shirts and organic cotton fleece jumpers for the cooler months.
I buy a lot of our staple items and children’s clothing from Target because they have brought in and organic Australian cotton line, and I am in love!
Their pieces are such good quality and stylish for the price (so affordable!), and the range spans across women’s wear, baby wear, children’s wear, and menswear.
Target have also introduced some beautiful 100% linen clothing for women, men and children as well. I have a few of their linen tops and dresses and lived in them last Summer. I’ve stocked up on their organic cotton T-shirts in nearly every colour for summer this year.
EziBuy are a New Zealand brand, and are my go-to for 100% merino wool and linen. They’re pieces are often on sale, and there are so many styles and colours to choose from.
Living in a cooler climate, their merino jumpers have been a necessity. It’s so nice to have such a wide variety of options that aren’t made from acrylic or polyester, as most other mainstream jumpers are.
These merino wool jumpers wash so well, keep their shape, and feel so soft and silky on my skin.
Most of our bedding and towels have come from Adairs. They have such a beautiful (and extensive) range of bedding and towels that are made from natural fabrics such as cotton, bamboo and linen.
I also love that everything we have purchased from them has the OEKO-Tex certified tag that I discussed above, giving peace of mind that the products we are using are toxic-free and safe (especially when it comes to my children’s bedding and towels).
If you know of any other brands that produce natural clothing, please share below in the comments. The more accessible we make these options to people to enhance their wellbeing, the better 😊
Accumulation of Microplastic on Shorelines Woldwide: Sources and Sinks; Mark Anthony Browne, Phillip Crump, Stewart J. Niven, Emma Teuten, Andrew Tonkin, Tamara Galloway, and Richard Thompson; Environmental Science & Technology 2011 45 (21), 9175-9179; DOI: 10.1021/es201811s.
Jung SJ, Lee CY, Kim SA, Park KS, Ha BG, Kim J, Yu JY, Choi T. Dimethylacetamide-induced hepatic injuries among spandex fibre workers. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2007 Jun-Aug;45(5):435-9. doi: 10.1080/15563650601117897. PMID: 17503240.
Käfferlein HU, Göen T, Müller J, Wrbitzky R, Angerer J. Biological monitoring of workers exposed to N,N-dimethylformamide in the synthetic fibre industry. Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2000 Mar;73(2):113-20. doi: 10.1007/s004200050016. PMID: 10741509.
PORTER PS, SOMMER RG. Contact Dermatitis Due to Spandex. Arch Dermatol. 1967;95(1):43–44. doi:10.1001/archderm.1967.01600310049009
Singh, Zorawar & Bhalla, Sunita. (2017). Toxicity of Synthetic Fibres and Human Health. Advance Research in Textile Engineering. 2. 1012-1015. 10.26420/advrestexteng.2017.1012.
Standards Australia, 1996. AS/NZS4399. Sun Protective Clothing – Evaluation and Classification, 10p.