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A new study in the USA has supported previous findings that wearing superfine Merino wool helps ease the symptoms of eczema and improves the wearer’s quality of life.
Supported by Australian Wool Innovation’s Fibre Advocacy program, the trial evaluated the effect of wearing superfine Merino wool clothing versus regular clothing when worn by adults and children (aged over 5 years) with eczema.
The study also assessed the effect on the participants’ quality of life. Joseph F. Fowler Jr., MD at Dermatology Specialists Research and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky, undertook this two-year study assessing the effect of Merino base-layer fabrics on 50 of his patients with mildto-moderate eczema.
The average age was 26, with 37 females and 13 males; 29 were Caucasian, 17 African American, 2 Hawaiian and 2 multi-racial.
The study involved a ‘cross-over’ design, with the 50 participants split into two groups.
The first group dressed in their regular clothing for six weeks and then changed to superfine Merino wool garments.
The second group began with the superfine Merino wool for six weeks and then crossed over to their regular clothing for the final six weeks.
Each patient undertook an initial visit to establish their baseline condition, followed by regular 3 week visits until completion of the study - they were assessed for clinical, physiological and quality of life outcome measures.
“Significant decreases in eczema symptoms from Baseline to Week 3 were seen in both groups. Those who switched to Merino wool at Week 6 experienced a further significant decrease in symptoms, in contrast to those who switched to regular clothing. It was only when Merino wool was worn that improved quality of life scores occurred,” said Dr. Fowler.
Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI) scores significantly decreased (the lower the score the better) when Merino wool was worn over the first three weeks of wear.
From Baseline to Week 3 in the ‘wool first’ group and from Week 6 to Week 9 in the ‘regular clothing first’ group. Comments about the wool clothing from participants were informative – they included:
“It certainly stopped the itching – I liked that! I think the longer you wear the clothing the more helpful it is.”
“Overall I thought it was very good. I could feel it working, my skin got softer and I wear it now when my skin needs help.”
“I still wear the clothing even though I’ve finished the study. I’m super sensitive about clothing and never keep any that are not comfortable.”
WHY WOOL WORKS FOR ECZEMA SUFFERERS
Why Wool Works for Eczema Suffers
When worn next to skin,superfine Merino wool works as a dynamic buffer, helping maintain a more stable humidity and temperature in the micro-climate between the fabric and the skin.
Wool garments are the most breathable of the common apparel types, absorbing and releasing approximately twice as much moisture vapour as cotton and thirty times as much as polyester.
It appears superfine Merino wool acts like a second skin for these people whose ‘first’ skin is too dry.
AWI’s CEO, Stuart McCullough said that a compelling body of evidence is needed to overcome consumer misconceptions in some markets of wool being scratchy and a cause of allergy.
“Skin health has been an area in which we have been undertaking research since 2011, in relation to both infant and adult sufferers of eczema in Australia.
“These initial studies - published in the British Journal of Dermatology and the Biomedical Journal of Scientific Research - concluded that traditional management guidelines for eczema should be modified to include superfine Merino wool as a recommended clothing choice.
“Following on from Dr. Fowler’s study, further studies are now being initiated in the USA, Europe and Asia to confirm wool’s positive impact on eczema is consistent across different geographic and climatic zones as well as across a wide range of skin types.”
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