What Should Clothing for Babies with Atopic Skin Be Like?

Babies with atopic skin require more care because of their reactive skin. Therefore, the choice of clothing for the little one is essential.
What Should Clothing for Babies with Atopic Skin Be Like?
Maria del Carmen Hernandez

Written and verified by the dermatologist Maria del Carmen Hernandez.

Last update: 09 December, 2022

Atopic dermatitis is one of the most frequent skin diseases in little ones. In addition to its clinical manifestations, it can even cause great discomfort in those who suffer from it. Although the symptoms aren’t serious, we’ll tell you how to select clothing for babies with atopic skin and improve their quality of life.

What is atopic skin?

Atopic skin, or atopic dermatitis, is the most common inflammatory condition of the skin’s surface in childhood. In general, it affects 15 to 30% of children. It’s characterized by the appearance of chronic, pruritic lesions that tend to recur in early childhood at around 3 to 6 months of age.

In addition, the location of the lesions differs with age, with infants and newborns usually suffering from lesions on the cheeks, extensor surfaces of the extremities, and the scalp.

What causes atopic dermatitis?

The most common triggers for outbreaks in infants with atopic skin include the following:

  • Sweating
  • Heat
  • Anxiety
  • Infections

Even, in younger children, a food allergy may be associated with flare-ups. Clinical manifestations tend to increase over the years as more and more synthetic products become available.

A baby with a rash on his thigh from contact with his diaper.
Perspiration, heat, and infections are the main causes of atopic skin. It’s important to recognize which agent triggers the outbreaks in the baby in order to avoid their contact or use.

Hygiene and care measures

Infants’ skin is characterized by a thinner surface layer, higher water content, elevated pH, increased transepidermal water loss, and an accelerated desquamation and renewal process. For this reason, moisturizing creams are the mainstay in the treatment of atopic disease, as xerosis is one of the main clinical features.

It’s important to apply the moisturizing cream within minutes after bathing. According to recommendations from the Argentine Society of Pediatrics, bathing should be done with lukewarm water (27-30 °C) and for short periods of time. In addition, the recommended cleansers are hypoallergenic, with a pH close to that of the skin, and without fragrances. What’s more, the child should be gently towel dried, using patting motions rather than rubbing.

The choice of clothing for babies with atopic skin

Another of the great pillars in the management of atopic disease in infants is based on the correct choice of clothing to avoid irritation and subsequent outbreaks. Clothing fabrics interact closely with the skin of infants to shape and condition the microenvironment of the skin.

Preferred type of fabric

Loose-fitting, light-colored, or white clothing is recommended for babies with atopic skin. In turn, it’s best that the fabrics aren’t synthetic, but rather soft and natural, such as cotton or linen, so that they have the property of absorbing sweat. In addition, those such as bamboo or those that have been made with natural dyeing processes, without heavy metals or lead, are also recommended.

Some fabrics can increase the chances of babies’ skin becoming irritated or a rash appearing. Therefore, try to avoid wool or synthetic fabrics, such as nylon or polyester.

A other fastening her baby's onesie.
It’s best to dress babies with atopic skin in light-colored, soft fabrics, such as cotton or linen. On the other hand, synthetic materials such as nylon or polyester should be avoided.

Washing clothes

All new clothes should be washed with neutral detergents and rinsed thoroughly before use, without leaving any residue. The use of fabric softeners or detergents containing perfumes or colorants in their formulation should be avoided, as they may act as allergens. It’s best to use liquid detergents, as they can be rinsed better than powdered rinses.

Avoid direct contact with allergens

Clothing labels, as well as snaps, seams, or nickel buttons, shouldn’t be in direct contact with the skin. Neither should nylon or very rough sheets, synthetic fibers, or the beards of adults. Sweating can even act as a triggering agent for an outbreak of atopy, so it’s better not to bundle your baby up too much.

At the same time, the use of perfumes or colognes for clothing isn’t recommended because of the close contact it has with the skin. This is because they can act as an irritant and cause dermatitis.

Atopic skin is more than a skin condition

Atopic disease isn’t contagious and has no specific treatment to cure it. However, there are measures that keep it under control over time. Its clinical manifestations are annoying and uncomfortable and tend to affect the quality of life of the sufferer. For this reason, triggers should be recognized to avoid the appearance of outbreaks.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Lyons JJ, Milner JD, Stone KD. Atopic dermatitis in children: clinical features, pathophysiology, and treatment. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2015 Feb;35(1):161-83. doi: 10.1016/j.iac.2014.09.008. Epub 2014 Nov 21. PMID: 25459583; PMCID: PMC4254569.
  • Mason R. Fabrics for atopic dermatitis. J Fam Health Care. 2008;18(2):63-5. PMID: 18512638.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.