The Beauty of Natural Fabrics
Wearing natural fiber fabrics not only contributes to the environment but research has shown that there are actual health benefits by having natural fibers next to the skin. They are breathable, durable, help regulate body temperature, absorb water, and many of them are antimicrobial.
In contrast, synthetic fibers tend to create a barrier between you and the elements that holds moisture to the skin, traps body heat and prevents a natural airflow around the body that can encourage bacterial production on the skin’s surface. Additionally synthetic fibers are made from chemicals in a non-eco-friendly process.
Your best bets in natural fibers are silk, cotton, linen or flax, hemp, bamboo, wool, Modal®, and Lyocell, which is commonly referred to by its brand name, Tencel®.
Silk, once reserved for emperors and royalty, is now available to everyone. It’s luxurious texture and strength are usually the drawing points but it is also a fabric that is suited for almost any climate as it’s very absorbent in warm weather, which helps keep the body cool, and it helps the body maintain warmth in cooler weather. Best of all silk is truly hypoallergenic and cleans easily.
Cotton, if it is organic, does not contain formaldehyde, which no one needs next to their skin. It’s a strong fabric with a soft texture. It’s very breathable and doesn’t hold perspiration to the body.
Linen is made from the flax plant. It’s extremely durable and easy to care for but it also has some unique qualities. It’s a natural antibacterial material. Linen is a great conductor of heat and it can quickly wick moisture away from the skin surface, which is why it’s worn in warmer climates.
Hemp is one of the most environmentally conscious fabrics around. The plant requires little water, no pesticides or herbicides, and produces more fiber per acre than linen (flax) or cotton. It has anti-microbial properties, wicks perspiration, is resistant to mildew and it gets softer the more it is washed and worn.
Bamboo is taking the clothing and fabric industry by storm. Beyond its softness is its remarkable ability to breathe and remain cooler to the touch than other fabrics has made it the ‘in’ material. But the amazing thing about bamboo is that recent analysis has shown that after introducing bacteria to material samples, 98% of the bacterium is gone after 24 hours. In fact bamboo fiber socks can eliminate foot odor and athletes’ foot.
Wool, in all of its various forms, is another fabric that has excellent antimicrobial properties. It is breathable and, to some degree, helps the body maintain a comfortable temperature, although it is generally considered a cold weather fabric.The newer members of the natural fabric menu are Lyocell or Tencel® and Modal®. These are both processed, regenerated, bio-based textiles that have common roots in trees. Both products are processed from cellulose of plants. They are soft, packable, durable, and comfortable on the skin. Best of all they are considered natural and eco-friendly.