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Why is Wool Itchy?

by 顺之 聂 25 Sep 2023

Have you ever been itchy when dressed up in your favorite cozy clothes made of wool while the cold weather is coming? Woolen things in the cold season become simply necessary because they perfectly retain heat and allow the skin to breathe. However, not everyone feels comfortable and warm with sweaters, scarves, and cardigans. A new sweater, knitwear, or scarf can bring an unpleasant experience. Since they are likely to have one major drawback – some natural wool clothing prickles and causes itching of your skin. Itching and discomfort certainly don't add to your mood. Skin does not always get along with wool or yarn and can react to them with irritation.

People who like to wear sweaters, cardigan, knitwear, or others, quite often, especially those with sensitive or allergy-prone skin, react to woolen clothes. In fact, the so-called hard brush effect, when the brush in contact with the skin irritates sensitive nerve fibers, is not the most pleasant of sensations. In addition, sometimes this effect is accompanied by severe redness, itching, and even localized rashes. So why is wool itchy, keep reading you will find the answer.
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What is Wool Fabric?

Ever since humans were able to domesticate goats and sheep, raw materials for wool production have been readily available—wool and felt have been used by most ancient civilizations. Before scissors were invented, raw materials were extracted with combs or by hand. Some archaeological excavations indicate that wool was known as far back as 1500 BC. Wild goat wool fibers have been found in prehistoric caves in the Republic of Georgia as far back as 34,000 BC!

The designation "wool" is applied to a whole group of textile materials, and in the process of making them, the natural hair of an animal, such as a goat or llama, is usually used, combed out, or sheared for further processing. The raw material is then used to make thread or yarn. Widely used in the manufacture of natural fabrics or with the addition of artificial fibers, wool is also used in the manufacture of embroidery products, and carpets. Pure wool or with various modern additives is widely used for the production of winter closet fabrics, dress fabrics, suit fabrics, as well as knitwear.

Wool is extracted using various methods: it is collected during the natural shedding of animals, torn from hides, or tried to recover from torn strands. Next, it is necessary to process the extracted material in order to further treat it with special detergents in order to eliminate the yellowish tint and impurities of dirt and sand. Now it is possible to make a spinning thread. In turn, yarn should vary in thickness: thin yarn allows you to produce a thin wool fabric for sewing ladies' pants, sundresses, and suits, and thicker fabrics allow you to make cloth for the production of outerwear, scarves, and coats.

All varieties of wool have different densities, weights, and hairiness and therefore all wool fabrics are obtained with different characteristics and purposes. Semi woolen fabrics are also produced (with the addition of synthetic fibers), which significantly reduces shrinkage and wrinkling, as well as extends the life of the product and makes it easier to care for. The higher the quality of the wool and the better it has been cleaned and processed, the higher the quality of the finished fabric will be.

Why Does Wearing Wool Make Me Itch?

Is your body itchy and covered in red spots? You can think about what you ate, but if it's winter or spring and you've just put on a new pullover/dress/jacket, most likely your skin just can't put up with woolen clothes.It's not that the wool material is of low quality (although that's not impossible either). It's just that the reaction to woolen fabric and yarn most often looks like this: irritation plus redness.

The skin is an intelligent organ. It reports everything that happens to it both inside and outside through nerve cells, nerve fibers and neurotransmitters to our brain. And the latter already decides how to act in this or that situation. Any stimulus will upset the skin's system and disrupt its defenses, causing it to: redness; rashes; becomes inflamed or cracked.

So what to do in this situation? There are a few rules. And we'll start with what you should definitely not do!
1. Do not wear wool clothing on the naked body things. Many people are allergic to this mixture.
2. In cold weather, when the heating is on and the air becomes dry, the risk of skin irritation increases several times. Probably you noted itchy skin exactly in the off-season, so keep humidifiers in the house. They really help our skin to cope with the problem.
3. Give up (for a while!) abrasive peels, loofahs, brushes and do not neglect a good moisturizing and nourishing body cream.

Sometimes the culprits of the problem are low quality wool or unstable textile dyes. The skin reacts especially acutely to woolen fabrics and materials such as polyester, nylon, acrylic. If you sweat and clothes are in close contact with the body, dyes react with the skin, provoking irritation.But the word "synthetic" is largely rehabilitated. High-tech (this is important) fabrics allow the skin to breathe without causing any discomfort.Wool belongs to natural fabrics, and it is safe for health. The only disadvantage is the so-called brush effect, when the pile, coming into contact with the skin, irritates sensitive nerve fibers. Merino and mountain goat wool (cashmere) is considered the most comfortable fabrics for the skin.
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What Types of Wool are There?

The value of wool varies depending on its uses. And availability. This is why sheep's wool has become the most widespread. It has become a real universal in the world of wool, possessing all of the above properties, while having excellent wear resistance and affordability. Sheep are unpretentious about weather conditions, they are easy to breed almost anywhere in the world.

Sheep wool is widely distributed due to its versatility. However, there are different types of them:

1. Cashmere
Tibetan yak is considered one of the rarest "suppliers" of wool raw materials. Yarn is made from the down of Tibetan goats, which are called Kashmir goats. They live in harsh conditions, where the temperature can be as low as -50 degrees Celsius. Unlike sheep wool, the wool of cashmere goats is combed out to produce the most delicate and lightweight down. The fibers of Tibetan yak wool are remarkably strong, long, and soft, regulating the function of heat exchange well. Cashmere yarn is used to make women's or men's clothing, coats, hats, and scarves.

2. Merino Wool
Merino sheep are specially bred by selection and have the longest, thickest wool with a fine down. Shearing is carried out with precise observance of technology. Expensive quality fleece is obtained by removing wool from the scruff of the animal. One of the biggest advantages of products such as merino wool plaid is considered to be soft structure, so the surface does not prickle or irritate the skin.

3. Mohair
The yarn is obtained by processing the hair of the Angora goat; they are grown only in three regions of the world (Ankara in Turkey, Texas, and South Africa). It is extremely fine and soft, and it has irregular thickness, and is easily dyed. Goat hair is too slippery, so it has to be bound with other fibers. Therefore, the content of goats wool in the yarn cannot be more than 83%. Therefore, you will not find 100% mohair! On the shelves of stores, yarn with mohair can be in the composition of 10, 20, 35, 40, 50, or 80 percent. The finished product from mohair is very warm and requires careful care in further wear. Relatively short service life – a critical disadvantage of this material.

4. Angora
The threads are made from the down of the Angora rabbit. Angora rabbit was so named for its long wool by analogy with the goat of the same name. Angora rabbit was so named for its long wool by analogy with the goat of the same name. Products with added angora are very warm and beautiful. However, they have a disadvantage - it is the shattering of fluff and the deterioration of the product after washing.

5. Camel Wool
A less popular and not very expensive type of yarn, which is used both in pure form and in a mixture of other fibers. This yarn is stronger and lighter than other types of wool. It is not suitable for sensitive skin as it is prickly.

Why is Some Wool Softer than Others?

Softness of the wool is determined by the breed, and only by the breed. Softness depends on two parameters: the thickness of the hair and the number of scales on it. Therefore, it is almost impossible to soften a coat. Sometimes only slight softening is possible, only in case the original wool has not been perfectly washed from the natural mixture of lanolin and sweat, and spun with its residue on the fiber. Then it is possible that after a few washes, the wool (when the lanolin is washed off) will become a little softer.

Also, applying the conditioner to the inner layer of the wool, in some cases, makes the wool a little softer, but it will probably also make it more slippery, that is, more stretchy in the product. But in general, it is almost impossible to influence softness. It's just worth choosing each type for its own product. On a coat, the wool is coarser, so the coat will perfectly protect against rain, and on a softer cap, it does not prick. Why does some wool itch, but not Merino?

If you've ever wondered what the best wool is, we can safely answer merino wool. Merino is a unique breed of sheep. The long, shiny, water-resistant fibers of merino wool are a great raw material that Australia exports all over the world. The sheep of this breed have very fine wool. Even human hair is several times thicker, and the fiber thickness of an ordinary sheep is twice that of a merino sheep. 1 kg of wool is used to produce a large number of threads (1 kg – 600 km).

What are the good things about Merino?

1. It is not prickly at all.
What kind of wool does not prickle? That's right - only merino wool. The thickness of merino wool hair is twice as thin as that of any other breed of sheep. This almost completely negates the unpleasant sensations arising from skin contact with ordinary wool - reviews of satisfied moms and dads won't lie.

2. Keeping warm
Products made of merino wool perfectly adapt to any weather. Therefore, the question "warm or not?" falls on its own. This fabric reliably keeps the body temperature at a comfortable level. The phenomenon of wool is partly explained by the presence of lanolin – animal fat, which allows the pile to create and maintain an air layer.

3. Ability to resist odors.
Merino wool has an important quality – it does not absorb odors, so products made from it do not retain the smell of sweat.
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