Demythifying the Itch of Wool
As wool experts, we field a lot of questions about wool. Which is great, because we love talking about it! One of the most common questions we get is: “Is wool itchy?” This is often accompanied by a mention of a wool allergy. These two issues are actually related, so let’s break them down, shall we?
Scratching the Itch
Ah…the wool sweaters of yore…thick, knitted with love by hand, and an absolute terror on sensitive skin. What’s that about anyway?
The quality of wool makes all the difference. Generally, the larger the diameter of the strands of wool being used (measured in microns), the itchier it will feel. Likewise, the smaller the micron, the softer it will feel.
Shepherd’s Dream uses a premium blend of smaller micron wools from various breeds of sheep in all our products. This ensures that all our wool blankets, pillows, comforters, mattresses, and other products retain all the beneficial properties of wool while feeling smoother to the touch than coarser, larger micron wool fibers.
Another reason wool may feel rough is the way it was handled after being sheared from the sheep. Wool is one of the most resilient fibers, however, the more the fiber is processed, the itchier it will feel on your skin. In addition, the way the wool is washed and then processed further with chemicals can irritate sensitive skin.
We buy our wool directly from farmers who shear their own sheep, so it’s minimally processed and therefore guaranteed to be the highest quality for our customers. All our wool is natural, chemical-free, and hypoallergenic.
So What’s with Wool Allergies?
A true wool allergy is actually pretty rare. Often, what people mean when they say that they’re allergic to wool is that wool irritated their skin and made it itchy. This is very different from a wool allergy.
Researchers believe that wool allergies are likely caused by the lanolin on the fibers, a naturally-occurring waxy coating that provides wool’s water and flame resistance. But the good news is that a 2001 review of over 24,000 people with a high risk for allergies showed that only 1.7% experienced a reaction to lanolin.
How can you tell? Try wearing that itchy sweater with a base layer beneath. If that fixes it, you have sensitive skin and the fibers may be of a larger diameter or were processed in such a way that roughened them. Anyone with a lanolin allergy will still react, just as they might to any personal care product that contains lanolin.
If you’re still concerned about any potential itch, just remember that your mattress, mattress topper, or pillow will be covered in sheets and blankets. We recommend our soft and cozy merino wool blankets and organic cotton or flannel sheets, check them out here.
Your Health and Comfort are Our Highest Priority
Shepherd’s Dream is obsessive about natural, healthy, and sustainable sleep environments. We put our trust in wool as the best material to use for numerous reasons that meet our high standards and those of many certifying organizations. We hope you give wool a try!