We are what we wear!

We have all heard before the famous quote: “We are what we eat”, right? However, in today’s world, we would do well to add “We are what we wear”. And let’s not forget that the skin is the body’s main interface with the environment! This means this is our external barrier against aggressive environmental influences, so consequently what we wear can affect our skin. Why? Keep reading to find out more about it and how nanotechnology and performance fabrics will revolutionize the clothing that you’ll wear.

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What is secretly ruining your health.

Our skin regulates homeostatic and metabolic processes as well as immunological reactions. Free radicals accelerates skin aging that causes oxidative stress. It has also been implicated in many dermatological diseases such as atopic dermatitis (AD). But this is also the major process underlying the natural aging of the skin during menopause.

So, what do you think that is frequently damaging our skin? No, it’s not the poor air quality or the intermittent UV. It is, in fact, our clothes!

How nanotechnology can save your skin.

Functional textiles with intrinsic properties, such as antioxidant capacity and antibacterial activity, have been gaining importance in medical applications. With the development of nanomaterials, namely metal oxide nanoparticles and the use of ZnO-function textile fibres have shown promising and far-ranging applications in the biomedical field due to their recognized anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity.

Blurred background with a close-up of two hands with dry skin

In what concerns ZnO it is considered safe to use, if it doesn’t penetrate the skin. Consequently, ZnO nanoparticles (NPs) have become one of the most popular metal oxide nanoparticles in biological applications. This happens thanks to their excellent biocompatibility, low toxicity, and high efficacy.

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In the case of MARIALMA® products, the exclusive use of ZnO NPs has shown superior anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and deodorant properties. Plus, you can also see excellent UV and visible light blocking characteristics. Moreover, the antioxidant capacity of another component used to soothe and enrich clothes, SeaCell – a cellulose-based fiber with algae powder, is distinctly higher than the one of the cotton reference sample.


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Taken together, both nanotechnology novelties seem promising as a “therapeutic” possibility to treat AD, a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by the impairment of the skin-barrier function, increased oxidative cellular stress, and bacterial colonization. Recent studies showed that when patients wore the ZnO enriched textiles a rapid improvement of AD severity, pruritus, and the subject’s sleep quality was observed.

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What happens on pregnant women.

Another promising target is pregnant women. Pregnancy is a period in which the majority of women have significant skin changes that may have a great impact on a woman’s life. In fact, skin tends to become more sensitive in pregnant women: the skin becomes dry, flaky, red and itchy. Sometimes the skin starts peeling and appears scaly and it may also develop cracks and deep fissures that may bleed.

These changes happen due to the pregnancy hormones changing and to the increase in body fluids needs. There is also a higher risk of dehydration which can trigger skin dryness. This can be worsened by pregnancy-related stress and dietary changes during pregnancy.

The effects on menopausal women.

The application of these performance fabrics with either algae or ZnO NPs can improve skin condition in menopausal women. When women enter menopause, the ovaries stop releasing eggs, menstrual periods end, and the production of oestrogen begins to decline. One of the roles of oestrogen is to stimulate the formation of skin-smoothing collagen and oils.

That’s why, as menopause approaches and oestrogen production decreases, the skin becomes slacker, causing wrinkles. Moreover, the decline in oil production means the body won’t retain moisture, causing dry, itchy skin. The skin loses elasticity and the ability to repair itself. In fact, of all older women’s dermatological conditions, dry skin is one of the most common. Menopause can cause the aging process to speed up, as hormonal shifts cause changes to the performance of skin cells.

The fabric of the future!

Nanotechnology and performance fabrics represent nowadays a promising path in improving skin health. That’s why the proposal of MARIALMA® is to create technically performant fibres used in bedding sets, sleepwear and home wear enriched by either metal nanoparticles or algae-derived products. Finally, in order to give this technology a robust scientific dimension, research studies are currently being undertaken in the Dermatology Department at the University of Porto.

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Written by:

Alexandra Matias, MD PhD

Senior Consultant of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Especialized in Fetal Medicine, Invasive Techniques and Anti-ageing
Associated Professor, Porto Medical Faculty, Porto, Portugal

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