The link between Merino wool and controlling eczema
Parents of children with eczema were once advised that their children should ‘avoid wearing wool at all costs’, for fear the rough and prickly fibre may irritate their skin and exacerbate the itch further. However, according to the Murdoch Children’s Research institute (MCRI), there is now new evidence that wearing superfine Merino wool may actually be good for eczema.
What is eczema?
Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that dries up the skin. It causes redness, itching, and skin cracking which sometimes leads to bacterial infection. It is often related to allergies and can be worsened by temperature changes, particularly heat.
More than 25% of all children are born with some degree of eczema. If you have eczema, or are a parent of child suffering from eczema, you will understand how painful it is to watch your child endure the discomfort of a flare up.
Many People think of wool as being itchy…or is it?
For years, dermatologists and doctors have recommended that eczema sufferers avoid wearing wool for fear the wool might exacerbate need to itch further. But herein lies the problem.
The problem with this advice is that it fails to distinguish between different types of wool fibres, of which there are many. Some wool fibres can indeed be coarse and hard, leaving an itchy feel against the skin.
However, superfine Merino wool is different.
What is superfine Merino wool?
Wool fibres come in a range of different diameters (thicknesses). The thicker the wool, the more itchy it feels against skin.
Merino wool is different to regular wool because it comes from the Merino sheep, selectively bred and highly regarded for producing the softest wool available.
Superfine Merino wool is even softer. In technical terms, superfine Merino wool has a low micron count (18.5 micron or less) and is lightweight (170-150gsm). Therefore, superfine Merino wool will feel like the softest of the softest wool on your skin. It is this miracle wool which has been used in the study to effectively debunk the myth.
In 2016, 40 children under the age of 3 who suffered from eczema were invited to participate in a study conducted by the Murdoch Children’s Research institute (MCRI). Half of the children wore 100% superfine Merino wool for 6 weeks before changing over to cotton, with the remaining half starting with cotton before switching over to superfine Merino wool.
The researchers found that when children switched to superfine Merino wool after wearing cotton they showed a significant decrease in eczema severity, whereas for the children who started wearing Superfine Merino wool and then switched to cotton, their eczema actually worsened.
“We found that wearing superfine Merino wool led to an overall greater improvement in eczema, when compared with wearing outfits made of cotton,” said Associate Professor John Su.
Debunking the myth
Prior to this, studies performed in the 1950’s used coarser and heavier wool garments. This resulted in cases of itching and discomfort for eczema sufferers, and has been a major reason leading health professionals and dermatologists to advise sufferers to avoid wool altogether.
However, we now know that is not the case and the difference lies in the quality of wool. For eczema sufferers, regular wool that is coarse may cause itching and irritation. Superfine Merino wool, however, is not only comfortable to wear but also beneficial to alleviating eczema symptoms.
What exactly makes superfine Merino wool more beneficial than cotton for eczema sufferers?
For eczema sufferers, symptoms can be greatly exacerbated by heat and sweat. The type of fibre worn against the skin can play a large part in increasing or reducing symptoms.
Superfine Merino wool has the unique ability to transfer moisture and heat away from the body as it sweats, helping to keep the surface of the skin dry and less irritated.
Cotton, on the other hand, readily absorbs and holds moisture. This means sweat is absorbed and will sit longer on the surface of the skin, increasing the risk of irritation.
Superfine Merino wool is also unique because it contains lanolin, which gives it natural and powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. This helps to keep the skin clean and avoid infections.
Superfine Merino wool, suitable for eczema sufferers
Given the research results by the MCRI, we now know superfine Merino wool can help alleviate the symptoms of eczema. If you have a child with eczema you no longer need to avoid Merino wool clothing. The key is to choose clothing made from superfine quality Merino wool such Merino Pyjamas and Layers to wear against the skin which will will help reduce irritation and effectively control eczema flare ups.