Be wary of hidden chemicals in your clothes

The early bird will always get to choose the juiciest of worms and this is also true when it comes to shopping for summer clothes. While our wardrobes will have plenty of bits and summer firm favourites to bring back out again, now is the time to shop for anything that needs replacing or to add some of this season’s ‘to die for’ colour palette. It probably won’t surprise you that, particularly since lockdown, more and more shoppers are taking the time to read the labels on clothes, look at the material mix and where the clothes are made. While the younger shopper is still splurging on fast fashion, according to a new study, the over 35s are more cautious now. We not only want to look good in our clothes but we also want to know that the material they are made from is not detrimental to our health.

The term ‘Skin Deep’ is something that is familiar to all of us but have you really thought about what it means? It means superficial or not deep or longlasting. Our skin is the largest organ of the body and because it is porous, it absorbs everything that we put on it. Many studies now show that what we put on our skin goes a lot deeper than what you might have originally thought and can last for a long time or indefinitely. While we have all become more careful about what skincare products we use, have you ever thought about the fabric or material that you put on your body and how that might affect you?

Did you know that synthetic fibres dislodged from clothing are a major cause of acute or chronic inflammation and inflammation is the root cause of all disease? There are more than 8,000 chemicals in the textile industry! Isn’t that figure just insane? A recent Greenpeace report detected a range of toxic chemicals, including formaldehyde and phthalates in clothing and they are not listed on the tags. The most dangerous fabrics are rayon, polyester and spandex – and how we love these! Other signs that clothes could have something harmful in them is when a label says ‘wrinkle-free’, non-iron or moisture-wicking. We want convenience, but as a result, our bodies are silently (until a disease is identified) paying a very heavy price for it. Wrinkle-free clothing, in particular, is treated with formaldehyde and while we associate formaldehyde with embalming fluid and particleboard, it has never been something that we would have thought was in our clothes. PFAs (per and polyfluoroalkyl substances) have been used in clothing for decades and they are known as ‘forever chemicals’ as they take thousands of years to break down in our environment. They are connected to many health issues, primarily cancer and infertility but also rashes, asthma, headaches, blurred vision and chronic fatigue. Wearing these clothes, particularly in hot weather can be even more dangerous. As your skin temperature goes up significantly to let out sweat and toxins, the doors are also open to absorb three to four times more of whatever could be on or touching your skin. A leading dermatologist tells all patients with skin issues and asthma to only choose fabrics that are 100 per cent cotton.

While there are legal limitations for chemicals in children’s toys, there are no regulations for children’s clothing. Imagine, our most vulnerable tiny humans can be exposed to ‘forever chemicals’ (that break down the immune system) in clothing from the moment that they are born. Informed new parents are now actively searching for and buying only organic clothes for their infants, starting out the healthy and right way! Perhaps the next time that you are choosing a baby gift for a new tiny person, you might remember this. It may cost a little more but you are investing in a healthy immune system for that baby…and that is priceless.

The top five colours this season are Magenta (the colour of the year), beige, lime green, soft blue and any metallic shade.  
Pics Susu, Clonakilty & Chalk & Easel, Ballinspittle

I guess knowing that approximately 63 per cent of the materials used for clothing manufacture are virgin plastics, compared to three per cent of recycled fabrics is enough to inform you that our environment is being negatively impacted on a massive scale too. We hear so much about this on a daily basis but it might take another few years before the materials in our clothes will become part of our day to day conversation.

Whichever way you choose to go, top dermatologists recommend that when you buy new clothes, the first thing that you should do is to wash them before you wear them. Protect your skin at all costs, it is the uniform provided by the body and it is not something that you can change on a daily basis.

Some eco-friendly materials to detox your wardrobe include organic cotton, lyocell or tencel (organic form of rayon), hemp or organic hemp, linen or organic linen, organic wool, alpaca (similar to cashmere) and silk. Whether you are going tomorrow or next week, start shopping for holiday essentials now so that you get everything that you need and more. Summer is all about ease so you should be able to spice up your wardrobe stress-free. Bermuda shorts are huge this year, you can team them with a button down shirt for day wear, or a bikini top for beach wear. Denim is ‘ultra-baggy’ this season with mid-rise waists everywhere. You will probably smile when you see patchwork denim popping up all over the place. Mini-fit-and-flare dresses from 2010 have most definitely made a big comeback; these are the perfect summer dress if we get last year’s tropical weather again! Sliders are huge but be careful, they are not meant for driving in. you can pick them up in any colour or why not pick up a few pairs.

Mermaid-esque dresses are being snapped up by savvy shoppers, these dresses were inspired by the live-action The Little Mermaid movie and designers moved in quickly so that you can feel like a goddess for an evening event.

While brighter, more vibrant colours typically dominate between the months of May and September, Valentino really embraced ALL BLACK everything for summer 2023. I know that those of you who love black all year round will absolutely love this! The top five colours this season are Magenta (the colour of the year), beige, lime green, soft blue and any metallic shade. There are whispers of violet and red around too. Use these colours as a guide to build your summer wardrobe, undoubtedly you will have some of these colours already so wear them to your heart’s content.

Feeling beautiful is a decision, always remember that. For some of you, baring more skin in the summer can raise anxiety levels, especially if you are not comfortable with your weight. Be gentle with yourself, surround yourself with beautiful colours and beautiful kind people.

‘We are as beautiful as our thoughts. Make those thoughts count’.

Louise O'Dwyer

Louise O'Dwyer is an Image consultant based in West Cork

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