August 1, 2007 Dermatologists developed a new kind of T-shirt fabric, called Derma Smart, that relieves the itch from dry skin diseases like eczema. The fabric is unique in that it glides over the skin's surface, it's also specially constructed, so that the seams are on the outside. Derma Smart is made of microfiber. It dries faster and uses small amounts of silver to prevent bacteria buildup.
This time of year is hard for people with allergies and rashes. Their skin is itchy, irritated, and they break out in rashes. You can take a pill, get a shot, or rub on some lotion to sooth your skin. And now, relief may come in the clothes you wear.
Not much slows 11-year-old Alexa down. "I like to ride horses, ride four-wheelers, swim and do all sorts of stuff," Alexa Nance, said.
But it wasn't long ago she was in extreme pain -- living with eczema.
"It's kinda hard and distracting for school." Alexa said. "Her dry skin, it itches a lot," Laurie Nance, Alexa's mom, said.
She's given up medications and creams -- her relief now comes in the shirt she's wearing. It's called Derma Smart. It's designed to help people who suffer from chronic skin problems.
"The discomfort is so great. The itch is so annoying that they are very unhappy. They don't sleep well, they don't focus well at work," said Zoe Draelos, a dermatologist in High Point, North Carolina. Draelos recommends it for her patients.
"This fabric is unique in that it glides over the skin's surface. The garments are also specially constructed, meaning that the seams are on the outside. There are no labels," Draelos explained.
Derma Smart is made of microfiber. It dries faster and uses small amounts of silver to prevent bacteria buildup. "This is really the first time that apparel has been used as a treatment for a medical issue," Draelos said.
The makers of Derma Smart are working with the military to help burn victims, as well as cancer patients who are taking chemo and have sensitive skin. It's the first therapeutic clothing line that could bring relief to millions, and keep kids like Alexa moving.
"It feels like it just stops the itching," Alexa said. Derma Smart clothes range in price from $30 to $50 and are sold online.
BACKGROUND: A company called Hill Dermaceticals now sells a new line of therapeutic sleepwear and 'lounge' clothing designed for infants, children and adults with chronic skin diseases, like eczema. The clothing is also suitable for recovering burn victims. The garments wick away moisture from the skin, and contain antimicrobial silver to keep away odors, prevent bacteria buildup, and to keep from washing the topical lotion in the garment away. They are made of microfiber, which is softer than 100% cotton. The clothing ranges in price from $30 for a child's long-sleeve T-shirt to $54 for a pair of adult lounge pants.
WHAT ARE ANTIMICROBIALS? Microbes are tiny, single-celled organisms that can live in almost any environment. They include bacteria, viruses, fungi, algae and protozoa. Some microbes are useful, or even good for your health: foods like yogurt, sauerkraut and cheese are all made using bacteria. But a small percentage -- less than 1 percent -- can cause diseases in humans. Antimicrobials are substances that kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeasts, and molds. They can occur naturally or be manmade synthetic compounds. Organic acids and their salts are the most common antimicrobial materials.
ABOUT ECZEMA: Eczema, or dermatitis, is an inflammatory skin disorder. In mild forms the skin is dry, hot, and itchy. In the more severe cases, the skin can become broken, raw, and bleeding. It is not contagious, but can become very unsightly. Eczema can affect any part of the body. In infants, eczema typically occurs on the forehead, cheeks, forearms, legs, scalp, and neck. In children and adults, eczema typically occurs on the face, neck, and the insides of the elbows, knees, and ankles. There are two types of eczema. Atopic eczema is a hereditary condition that affects about 10-20% of schoolchildren and 3-5% of adults. People with atopic eczema are sensitive to allergens in the environment which are harmless to others. In atopic eczema there is an excessive reaction by the immune system. This type of eczema can worsen after eating certain foods or after being exposed to other allergens such as pollen or dust. Contact dermatitis is the most common form of the condition and is often the result of an allergic reaction after touching something. This type of eczema can be caused by many irritants including feathers, metals, wool, plants and animal hair, soaps and detergents, bubble bath, cosmetics, and fabric dyes.
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.