Polyester & Skin Irritation

Allergic reactions and general irritations to man-made fabrics is becoming more common, and polyester is especially problematic for people with sensitive skin. In addition, those who suffer from eczema often find that polyester aggravates the condition and causes uncomfortable skin irritations.

Understanding Polyester

Polyester is a celluose polymer made from synthetic chemicals. The causes of skin irritations from polyester are often due to the chemicals in the fabric, such as formaldehyde resins, chemical colour dyes and flame-retardant materials.


Symptoms of skin irritations from polyester include general itchiness, as well as red marks on the legs, torso and arms. If irritated, hands can become bright red, and in extreme cases minor irritations may turn into hives.

Aggravating Factors

Although the culprit is the material, other factors can make skin irritations from polyester worse. For instance, polyester holds moisture such as body sweat, which aggravates the skin’s negative reaction to the material. Tight clothes and obesity also aggravate skin irritations, as these factors contribute to keeping moisture on skin. Zippers, buttons, clasps or even snags in fabric can also aggravate skin irritations caused by exposure to polyester.


If you suffer from skin irritations and suspect they might be a reaction to polyester, test your theory by avoiding all contact with it until the flare-ups stop. Then, slowly reintroduce polyester to the skin’s surface. If irritations reappear, see a physician to get a medical diagnosis, which is typically done with a scratch or patch test.


Because skin irritations caused by polyester may be a result of an allergic reaction, the more effective treatment is to avoid contact with it as much as possible. Then, apply a topical treatment such as corticosteroid cream or tea tree oil. If the irritations persist, a doctor may prescribe an oral corticosteroid as a stronger defence.

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About the Author

River Lin is an independent writer and consultant. With a Master's degree in teaching English as a second language from Ball State University. She lived in Japan for 15 years teaching and editing. Now based in the US, she works for a variety of clients. Published work can be found in print and online at various websites and