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Does All Wool Itch

What makes some wool itchy while some are soft?
December 16, 2021
By Oliver Charles

Why Does Wearing Wool Make Me Itch?

For a lot of people, wool is a material of choice because of the natural fiber's amazing thermoregulating and odor-resistant properties.

Yet, there's another large group of people who can't stand the way wool feels. This group avoids wool for a slew of reasons. One of the most common reasons is because they're allergic to the fibers.

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Do I Have An Allergy To Wool Fiber?

After learning more about wool, we couldn't help but think there was something else happening that was causing people have an allergic reaction to the material. After all, wool fibers are essentially the same as human hairs - they're even made from the same proteins (Science Focus).

What we discovered is that in reality very few people are truly allergic to wool fibers. That said, people are allergic to what catches a ride on wool, such as lanolin. Lanolin is a fiber protectant that wool-bearing animals naturally and evolutionarily produce.

While lanolin is usually the culprit people point a finger at for causing wool allergies, the truth is lanolin and wool treatment chemicals are regularly washed out of wool before finalizing a garment. If lanolin alone isn't causing an allergy, what is?

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Why Is Some Wool Softer Than Others?

One of the most important factors that affects the way wool feels is the fiber fineness. Thinner diameter fiber is softer. While a human hair has a average diameter of 75 microns (µm), the merino and yak wool (AKA "khullu") we use in our sweaters is ultra-fine at 17.5µm.

Khullu is a cashmere alternative that is growing in popularity due to the breathability/antimicrobial properties of the wool, the lightweight, warm sweater material it can be knit into, and its soft hand feel. Khullu is not only the worlds best wool, but when paired with merino, the two super-fibers are Ideal for daily wear and make for amazing travel clothes.

How Do I Stop Wool From Itching?

If you're asking yourself this, it absolutely could be an allergy to excess lanolin on the wool fiber. To be sure, check the fineness of the fiber in the clothing you'd wear. Most brands list this information on their product page. You can find ours here.

Wools that are generally considered "soft" have a fineness <20µm. Although, at the end of the day, you know best, so try new materials at different levels of fineness and decide what you like wearing most. If you find a wool sweater you love but find slightly itchy, note that fine wools, like merino and khullu, get softer with washing.

How Do Khullu And Merino Compare?

FIBER FINENESS μm **14-1916-2014-1916-2013-18

**The above ranges represent an average of most clothing made from these wools.

All of the wool-bearing animals above grow many different types of fibers with many different degrees of fineness.

For instance, the guard hair that these animals grow on the outer layer of their coat is far coarser than the soft down fibers that insulate. In some cases guard hair is used for rope and canvas.

If you believe that every good wardrobe starts with owning less and owning better, consider buying yourself an OLIVER CHARLES sweater.
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