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What Are The Best Sheets for Sensitive Skin? Cotton and Silk

  • by Mary Babinski
  • 6 min read

Cotton and silk are the best bedding choices for sensitive skin. These breathable, natural fibers are soothing for anyone struggling with skin issues or allergies. This article explains how high-quality cotton and silk sheets can pamper and protect your skin.

Choose the Right Sheets for Sensitive Skin

If you have sensitive skin, choosing the right bed sheet set is essential to getting a good night's sleep. Whether you're struggling with eczema, dust mite allergies, or skin irritation due to a sensitivity or underlying condition, the proper bedding can help keep you and your skin healthy. In general, people with sensitive skin should choose bedding made with breathable natural fibers -- silk, cotton, bamboo, or linen -- over rayon, polyester, or other man-made fabrics.

Natural Fibers Like Cotton and Silk Are Best

Experts recommend choosing natural fibers for bedding (and clothing!) for individuals with sensitive skin or chronic skin conditions. Most natural fibers are plant-based (cotton sheets, bamboo bed sheets, linen sheets) or animal-based (wool, silk). Natural fibers are known to be more breathable, durable, and environmentally friendly than their synthetic counterparts. Depending on the type and weave, natural fibers can also be more absorbent (cotton fabric) or wick moisture away from the skin (silk).

In contrast, synthetic fibers such as polyester and microfiber are man-made through chemical processes that can leave them more prone to causing skin irritation and aggravating common skin conditions such as eczema.

While sensitivities can develop to any fabric -- or even the dye used to color it -- cotton and silk fibers possess inherent natural properties that make them good options for individuals with sensitive skin. This includes acne, psoriasis, and eczema sufferers; anyone struggling with allergies to dust or mold; individuals prone to contact dermatitis or hives; or those with super sensitive skin, including babies and children. It may take some time to figure out what works best for you, but cotton and silk are the best places to start.

Women itching her arm

How Cotton Sheets Help Sensitive Skin

High-quality cotton sheets are a wonderful choice for minimizing skin irritation, such as that occurring with eczema, contact dermatitis, or other conditions. Cotton is a natural fiber, which makes for inherently hypoallergenic sheets. Tightly woven cotton is also an excellent barrier against dust mites, which are a common source of allergy and irritation. Finally, cotton sheets are soft, which minimizes friction against skin. Cotton sheets are quite simple to care for; they can be easily and frequently machine washed, which helps them grow softer and more comfortable and quickly removes any allergens. Some buyers like to take the additional step of buying organic cotton sheets, the cotton for which is grown and then woven without pesticides or chemicals.

Cotton field

Cotton plant field, attribution:Kimberly Vardeman

Not All Cotton Sheets Are the Same

Understanding Thread Count

Choosing high-quality cotton or organic cotton sheet can make a significant difference in how a sheet feels against the skin and, as a result, whether it offers a good night's sleep. One measure of sheet quality is thread count, which represents the number of horizontal and vertical threads per square inch of fabric; higher thread count cotton sheets are typically softer and the denser weave is more resistant to dust mites. Beware, however, that many dishonest manufacturers misrepresent bedding thread counts to trick buyers into purchasing lower quality sheets. Before you shop for high-thread-count cotton sheets, read this helpful blog about common thread count scams.

Quality of the Cotton

While thread count matters, the quality of the cotton itself is equally--if not more--important. When purchasing luxury cotton sheets, look for long staple cotton (LS) or extra-long-staple (ELS) are best. Most cotton fabric is made from fiber only about an inch long; this fabric is weaker, rougher, and subject to pilling, making it harsher on delicate skin. In contrast, long-staple and extra-long-staple cotton produce sheets that are strong and soft, to begin with, and grow softer and more comfortable with repeated washings over time. This higher quality cotton, which represents only a small percentage of the cotton in the world, is identified as Pima cotton or Supima cotton (American grown), Egyptian long-staple cotton, or Giza (a special strain of Egyptian cotton grown in the valley of the Nile). Egyptian cotton sheets are known for their softness and durability.

Pick Your Perfect Weave

Finally, you will want to choose between a cotton percale weave or sateen weave. A percale sheet is crisp, cool, and breathable with a fresh feel. A high quality percale gives a "five-star hotel" feel to your bed. Percale is ideal for summertime, and can be used year-round by people who like to sleep "cool." Sateen sheets are thicker and known for their luster and drape. Sateen feels silky and soft to the touch. It is a warmer fabric, ideally suited for cooler weather or those who are looking for warmth in their bedding. With a lustrous sheen, they're perfect for bedrooms with a heavy emphasis on luxury and romance. The choice between percale and sateen really comes down to personal preference. Learn more about the differences between cotton and percale sheets here.

How Silk Sheets Help Sensitive Skin

Sleeping on a silk bedsheet delivers multiple benefits for sensitive skin. Silk is a protein-based fabric, and naturally moisturizing to the skin (and hair!). A 22 momme silk charmeuse sheet set is incredibly smooth and reduces friction on delicate facial skin; sleeping on a pure mulberry silk pillowcase to fight sleep wrinkles has become a blockbuster beauty trend in recent years.

Pure silk yarns on a the shelf

Silk is Hypoallergenic, Gentle, and Temperature Regulating

Along with helping skin retain moisture and elasticity, silk is a naturally hypoallergenic sheet material because it is non-irritating. A charmeuse weave silk sheet and pillowcase is gentle on the most sensitive and even acne-prone skin while being inherently resistant to mold, mites, and other allergens. Along with feeling fabulous -- after all, silk is the definition of both luxury and comfort -- pure mulberry silk sheets are breathable and help regulate body temperature. In warm seasons or for hot sleepers, silk sheets are the perfect cooing sheets that wick away moisture to keep skin cool and dry; in cooler temperatures, silk's low conductivity allows the fiber to create a thin layer of insulation to keep you warm. By helping regulate body temperature year-round in all conditions, silk protects the skin from temperature extremes.

Mulberry Park Silks Sheets: Certified with STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®

As we noted, 100% pure mulberry silk is hypoallergenic. But at Mulberry Park Silks, they go a step further with their fabric. Along with ensuring that their silk sheets accessories meet the highest standards of beauty, comfort, and colorfastness, all Mulberry Park Silks products are independently tested for harmful substances according to the strict global criteria of STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®. This means that Mulberry Park Silks products and their components have been tested against a list of over 400 harmful substances according to STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®. This certification keeps you and your family safe from harmful substances.

Where to Find the Best Cotton and Silk Bedsheets

The best cotton and silk bed sheets have several things in common: they are an investment, they will last if properly cared for, and they can be found right here at Fine Linen and Bath. Our team of bedding experts are available to offer individual guidance on choosing the perfect luxury cotton and silk sheets to keep your skin healthy and comfortable while perfectly complementing your style and décor. Feel free to call us for guidance, or browse our website for luxury offerings from companies like SFERRA, Matouk, Mulberry Park Silks, Peacock Alley, and Yves Delorme.

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 Bedding Tips for Sensitive Skin

  1. Use hypoallergenic mattress and pillow protectors under your mattress pad and pillow cases to control dust mites and allergens.
  2. Clear your bedroom of unnecessary clutter. Consider removing heavy carpet or draperies which can collect dust and other microscopic particles.
  3. Use an air filtration system if necessary.
  4. Shower prior to bed during seasonal allergy times to avoid transferring pollen from skin and hair to your sheets and pillowcase.
  5. Wash bed linen regularly with an unscented laundry soap specially formulated for fine linen and sensitive skin. We recommend fragrance-free Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent which is hypoallergenic and dermatologist tested. Silk sheets should be washed with a fragrance-free fragrance free Heritage Park Silk, Wool, and Cashmere Detergent which is made specifically for protein-based fibers like silk. Skip using fabric softener or a dryer sheet, which can leave a chemical buildup on linen.
  6. Avoid sheets and bedding made with unnecessary dyes and chemicals.
  7. Purchase a hypoallergenic duvet insert for your duvet cover. (Many people skip the flat sheet and use just a fitted sheet under the duvet cover.)
  8. Remove any blankets or covers that cause itching or irritation.

 Of course, you should always work with your medical provider to determine the cause and treatment of any skin irritation.

Fine Linen and Bath: An In-Store Shopping Experience Delivered to You Online 

At Fine Linen and Bath, our mission is to deliver a concierge luxury linen shopping experience with online convenience. Browse our website to access an expansive collection of bedding, bath, table linens, and accessories from the world's premier brands.

When you need answers, consultation, or help to narrow your choices, our team of expert design consultants is here to assist you. We offer individualized recommendations, personal consultation, and even complimentary swatch samples for your review. We'll help you make the right buying decisions for your style, budget, and design goals.

Please connect with us online or -- even better -- give us a call at (866) 352-4522. We'd love to get to know you!