An eczema study1 published in April 2017 showed that there was
little evidence of clinical or economic benefit of using silk garments in addition to standard care, compared with standard care alone, in children with moderate to severe eczema.
As always, the team of researchers from the University of Nottingham in the U.K had taken on clinical studies that address questions raised by doctors and patients, with the view of having a direct impact on clinical practice. They had conducted very practical studies like softened water eczema trial and compared the efficacy of a short burst of potent topical corticosteroids versus prolonged period of mild corticosteroids. Their website also maps out the systematic reviews on eczema and list their ongoing studies (also found at the bottom of this post).
For this study, the key points are below:
Nature of study: Parallel-group, randomised, controlled, observer-blind trial
Participants: Children aged 1 to 15 year old with moderate to severe eczema; 300 children were included: 42% girls, 79% white, mean age 5 year old
Randomized groups: Participants were randomised to receive standard eczema care plus silk clothing (100% sericin-free silk garments; DermaSilk or DreamSkin) or standard care alone.
Measurement: At baseline, 2, 4 and 6 months against the Eczema Area and Severity Index (“EASI”)
Outcome: No evidence of a difference between the groups in eczema severity (EASI score) assessed by research nurses
Purpose of the study: Silk clothing is available on prescription (and online) but the randomized controlled trials previously done were for small group of participants. To provide direction for clinical practice as to whether to recommend silk clothing, this study was taken on. Silk garment claimed beneficial for eczema as they are smooth, helped regulate humidity and temperature, reduce scratching damage and have anti-microbial properties. These are important qualities that would benefit eczema to reduce scratching (versus a ‘scratchy’ fabric like wool), keep the skin cool and reduce likelihood of flucuating temperature triggering eczema flareups and reduce bacteria load as eczema skin is prone to staph bacteria colonization. However, from the outcome of this study, it would appear that standard eczema care such as regular emollient use and topical corticosteroids (or topical calcineurin inhibitors) for controlling inflammation would be adequate.
In my view, this study would really get parents who are spending a lot of money on silk clothing/ bedding to question if such money needs to be spent. These silk garments are not cheap but parents pay for them due to positive testimonies, anti-inflammatory/ anti-microbial properties of silk and that these clothing are soft, free of dye and will not irritate the skin (interviewed Dermasilk here). However, a lower-cost alternative of cotton may work as well, with standard care for eczema.
I’ve also contacted Professor Kim Thomas who is part of the research team for this study and she kindly shared this video on University of Nottingham’s website
Please refer to the CLOTHES Trial page here for information sheets for children of various age group.
My personal take is if you’re seeing benefits for your child with silk clothing and can afford it, there is no reason to stop using the clothing. However, if it hasn’t seemed to make much difference and you feel confident that the eczema therapeutics measures that you use for your child are sufficient, then it makes sense not to spend that money. See this post for the review of various eczema therapeutics and also the review study that Nottingham University had done.
Silk garments plus standard care compared with standard care for treating eczema in children: A randomised, controlled, observer-blind, pragmatic trial (CLOTHES Trial) Thomas KS, Bradshaw LE, Sach TH, Batchelor JM, Lawton S, et al. (2017) Silk garments plus standard care compared with standard care for treating eczema in children: A randomised, controlled, observer-blind, pragmatic trial (CLOTHES Trial). PLOS Medicine 14(4): e1002280. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002280
Ongoing studies at Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology at Nottingham University:
Bath Additives in the Treatment of Childhood Eczema
Barrier Enhancement for Eczema Prevention (The BEEP Study)