Clothing that is the Nearest Thing to a Second Skin with Anti-Microbial Properties

Girl wearing Dermasilk garments and glove (picture from dermasilk.co.uk)

DermaSilk is a range of specialist garments especially suited for eczema children that MarcieMom first came across on twitter. Interested to find out how it can help parents manage their children’s eczema, MarcieMom contacted Jo Fletcher, the Operations Director of Espere  Healthcare Ltd, the company that manages the sale of DermaSilk. DermaSilk is produced by ALPRETEC, an Italian company that has extensive experience manufacturing allergy protection products. DermaSilk is developed with a patented process that binds the medical grade silk to an anti-microbial shield that can reduce 94% of staphylococcus aureus (staph), a bacteria that commonly colonizes eczema skin and causes skin infection.   

Marcie Mom: Jo, thank you so much for taking time to explain DermaSilk to us. I’ve read your very informative website and understand that DermaSilk is not the same as shop bought silk because the outer coating of the silk (sericin protein) has been stripped off, leaving the core known as fibroin. This is because the outer layer has been shown to cause allergic reactions. Do you know if the sericin protein is a common irritant? Also, does stripping this layer remove the antioxidants present in silk?

Jo: Sericin-free silk has been used in medical practice for many years in the form of surgical sutures (stitches). Hospitals use this form of silk as there have been reports in the medical literature of allergic reactions to sericin both in patients and in people working in the silk manufacturing industry. It is not a common irritant but with most eczema patients the irritation of sensitive skin is the last thing you would want to promote so it is logical to use medical grade fibroin silk. We’ve never measured the anti-oxidant properties of silk as our aim is to control temperature and humidity to prevent itch.

Marcie Mom: DermaSilk has taken the silk, modified it to medical grade, and enhanced it with the anti-microbial shield. I viewed with interest your video that this shield can reduce staph as it pierces the microbes and destroys it without using chemicals such as silver or nano-particles that will leach to the skin. In fact, DermaSilk can even be an alternative to steroid. Under what circumstances would you recommend parents to use DermaSilk instead of steroids? For instance, only in mild cases or certain types of eczema such as those not triggered by food?

Jo: As silk is a natural protein fibre it can be prone to attack by bacteria and fungi so it is important that we protect it from colonisation by microbes which would make eczema worse. Unlike silver, our antimicrobial is designed to bond with the silk and it cannot be washed or worn off. This means that it does not get onto the skin or into the body of the wearer so continues to work for the life of the garment. We’ve run a large number of clinical trials with DermaSilk, one of them comparing DermaSilk with a topical corticosteroid to compare efficacy. What the researchers found was that there was no difference between arms treated with 7 days of steroid and arms clothed in DermaSilk. We would not advocate that DermaSilk replaces any prescribed medication. It is intended to be an “add on” treatment which will help to control the symptoms of eczema in such a way as to possibly reduce the need for topical steroids in the future as the frequency and severity of eczema flares tends to reduce when using DermaSilk.

Marcie Mom: So what is it that DermaSilk does?

Jo: It’s really very simple. DermaSilk stops itch! It is made of a knitted fabric which helps to control temperature and humidity close to the skin. When skin is too hot or cold or too dry or too damp it itches and scratching the itch leads to more itching and skin damage. Worn as underwear, DermaSilk helps to keep optimal levels of moisture and temperature close to the skin, even in hot and humid environments.

Marcie Mom: I think we have a clearer picture of DermaSilk’s features. Let’s learn how to use DermaSilk. Parents may be mistaken to use DermaSilk as a wet or dry wrap because that is the main use of other types of medical clothing. This is incorrect as large quantities of moisturizers used in “wrapping” can impede the function of the product. Also, DermaSilk is to be worn at all times. Practically, does this mean parents who need to moisturize their child frequently have to remove DermaSilk garments, apply moisturizer/steroid, wait for them to be absorbed then put the garment back on? Or would you say it’s more suitable for night time use in young children?

Jo: Many people confuse the use of DermaSilk with wrapping garments so it is good to have the opportunity to put the matter straight. Wrapping garments are used for getting difficult eczema cases under control and may only be needed for a short period of time. During their use the child has to be covered in thick layers of sticky emollient ointments and the garments are pulled over the emollient to help force the moisturiser into the skin. Wet wraps involve two layers of garments and dry wrapping a single layer but these garments are to keep the moisturiser in place for a short time.

By contrast, DermaSilk is designed to help control stable eczema and this is achieved by constant wearing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whether the eczema is causing a problem or not. Think of it as normal underwear. It is always advisable to let moisturisers dry before you put the DermaSilk on but we find that in many cases the need to apply moisturisers frequently drops to a couple of times a day because the silk is helping to protect the skin. This means that DermaSilk can be used both day and night.

Marcie Mom: We know that eczema children are very good at scratching hard. Will their scratching damage DermaSilk garment? Is the DermaSilk glove recommended for young children who can’t keep their mittens on?

Jo: DermaSilk removes the itch so the desire to scratch reduces. The garments are pretty robust and, providing they are worn under normal clothing, little fingers are not likely to damage the clothing. For the smaller children, aged up to 4 the DermaSilk body suits have integral mits which can be folded over the hands to protect them. DermaSilk gloves, used from age 4 upwards are not intended to stop fingers from scratching but to stop hands from itching. Remember it is the anti-itch properties of the clothing which sets DermaSilk aside.

Marcie Mom: There are very clear instructions on the wear & care of DermaSilk here. One interesting point is that DermaSilk doesn’t have to dry completely before the child can wear as it can retain 30% moisture without feeling damp. Does the higher moisture retention make DermaSilk susceptible to mould? And will it expand and become loose overtime?

Jo: Silk needs to be humid in order to function properly and just like healthy skin it performs best when at 30% humidity. As with skin, silk will attract bacteria and fungi and this is why the antimicrobial is bonded to the silk to help prevent this buildup and keep the garment fresh and the skin free of excess microbes.

Marcie Mom: A final question on the durability of DermaSilk. I note that DermaSilk’s anti-microbial shield has been tested for over 50 washes. My child with eczema showers twice a day so does that mean DermaSilk can last 25 days?

Jo: Not at all! We tested the durability of the antimicrobial for over 50 washes and found that less than 1% of the activity of the antimicrobial had been removed. Our garments will last for as long as they are the right size for the child to fit into them and we’ve even had instances of families passing them down to younger siblings. 6 to 12 month lifespans are not uncommon.

Marcie Mom: Thanks, I’ve learnt a great deal about DermaSilk and must say I’m impressed with the technology. p.s. to readers of eczemablues.com, I did not receive any money from Espere Healthcare or Alpretec for this interview.

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