100% COTTON: My Journey of Eliminating Synthetics for Four Years

Beginning in 2011, I cut ALL synthetic fabrics out of my life. At the time, I was still in the early stages of dealing with my new allergies and eczema. I was desperate to clear my skin up. This is what it looked like on one of my bad days:

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One night, my husband (boyfriend at the time) changed the sheets on his bed. I don't usually sleep in much clothing which means my skin is exposed to the bed linens. The next morning, I woke up and had itchy red bumps ALL OVER the front of my body... I had slept on my stomach.

I suspected the sheets, so I figured I was having an allergic reaction to what the fabric was made of... the sheets were 100% polyester. THAT made it pretty easy to figure out exactly what the culprit was!

I bought some new sheets and stuck to cotton clothing for a few days... my skin began healing, which was GREAT. But this also meant I had another allergy to add to my already long list. I decided not to do the fabric testing at the doctor because neither of us really thought I was going to have many allergies in the first place. Boy, do I regret that.

Although my skin was on the upswing, it still wasn't clear enough for my liking. I wondered if my skin just plain ol' hated synthetics. In my desperation, I decided "Screw it, I'm only going for 100% cotton natural fabrics from now on." My skin continued to improve, so I stuck with it.

The quest to eliminate synthetics from my life began... and oh my gosh was it an undertaking. I went through my closet and there was at least a little bit of synthetic fabric women into about 85% of my clothing. My heart dropped. This meant I had to get rid of practically my entire wardrobe. Not only did I love my clothes, but it's really freakin' expensive to buy a whole new wardrobe! I had been building mine up for years, like most people.

I bagged up my clothing and put it in the attic. The few items left in my closet hung there... looking really lonely.  And sad. I hated it.

But hey, let's look on the bright side, right? This also meant I had an excuse to buy a completely new wardrobe! I headed out to do some shopping.

After trying to find a pair of 100% cotton pants and going to every. single. store. in two malls, I was done. I had people helping me and everything... there was nothing! The fact that it was winter made it worse. You're more likely to find clothing made out of natural fabric during the warm months of the year. 

Don't even get me started on undergarments... I was able to find 100% cotton underwear by Jockey, but bras were much more difficult. I alternated between 100% cotton bras, no bra and Victoria's Secret bras which were 96% cotton/4% elastane. And lingerie shopping? Definitely not fun when you're stuck to 100% cotton.

Another thing that wasn't great about avoiding synthetics due to allergies is that you have to touch every item to check the fabric label. So, while I'm doing my best to keep my hands from breaking out due to polyester exposure.... I end up touching it anyways just so I can read the label. Most clothing in your typical store has polyester in it. It's not as easy to avoid as some might think.

I ended up turning to the internet and the doors on my shopping world blew open. I had sooo many options. I was relieved. There are a lot of great clothing search engines out there like Polyvore and Yoox. Cotton is the easiest (and I think is the softest) natural fabric, so I began building my wardrobe out of 100% cotton.

The downside to this is when it results in items showing up and being too big/small, the companies not disclosing all of the fabric content (has happened to me on multiple occasions), or the clothing just doesn't look good when I put it on. I don't know about you but I like doing returns by mail about as much as I like going to the dentist. I dread it. So, I end up being stuck with stuff I won't wear.

During my wedding planning, I realized I was going to need a whole bunch of new dresses for the events (bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, etc). I really wanted to try them on beforehand and frankly, I didn't have the time or patience to deal with trying on 5,000 dresses through the mail and having to return them. No thanks. I also didn't want to stick to 100% cotton because I didn't want to be limited style-wise. I still had no plans to re-visit polyester, though. There's no question in my mind that I'm allergic after my reaction to the sheets. Perhaps at some point, I'll see if I can reintroduce it, but I'm still too scared after my last reaction. 

And I'm just gonna be honest... sticking to 100% cotton sucks.

It really does. It shrinks, it's difficult to find when most items have a little bit of synthetic fiber in them and 100% cotton usually isn't stretchy (unless it's a certain weave). Have you ever worn a pair of 100% cotton skinny jeans? Oh my gosh. Good luck with trying to sit down because it's a bit painful. Oh and don't think about gaining a pound or two because your 100% cotton skinny jeans do not care. At all. One of the reasons synthetic fibers were added to clothing to make them more durable... and I get it. My 100% cotton socks ALL get holes in the heel about 6 months after I start wearing them. I have so many socks with holes, I can't even tell you. I have more socks WITH holes than without. I get tired of having to order friggin' socks all the time, you know? I mean, wtf? Also... finding a 100% natural fiber or cotton winter coat is next to impossible. I found one online in the UK, had to replace the lining and in the end spent about $400 on it. Crazy. What normal person can spend that much on a coat?? Not to mention super thick, natural fabric can get really heavy.

So, I bought a pair of leggings online from Asos (I LOVE THAT STORE) which had a good amount of elastane mixed with cotton. I wore them on and off for a couple weeks and had ZERO allergic reactions! Excited with my findings, I went to H&M and bought a couple pairs of pants for work and some tops which also have synthetics (no polyester). I've been wearing them for a few weeks now without incident. I AM THRILLED.

Although I used to stick with 100% cotton and I totally understand how hard it is to find stuff, I won't be tracking down 100% cotton items on the regular like I used to do with Fashion Fridays. I will leave certain Pinterest boards up, though. Since I'm still new to reintroducing synthetic fabrics (with the exception of polyester), I'm not ready to switch to synthetic bedding and I don't think I ever will. Cotton is usually much softer and I will always maintain that cotton (especially organic cotton) is best for skin with eczema. It's gentle, allows your skin to breathe and is pure. In my experience and the experience of many others, cotton is the way to go.

But since I'm able to control my skin's reactions very well at this point... I'm bustin' outta the 100% cotton clothing box! And I love it :-)