What Makes Your Sheets Hypoallergenic?

We break down this buzzword.

Hypoallergenic sheets are a good bedding option for those who suffer from allergies or have sensitive skin, but there's a lot to consider before scooping up the first set of "good-for-you" linens you find. Ahead, an allergist explains what, exactly, makes bedding hypoallergenic, and how to pick the best set for your needs.

crumpled white bed sheets
Getty / Paul Strowger

The Basics

According to Sanjeev Jain, MD, a board certified allergist and immunologist at Columbia Allergy, a product that is labeled "hypoallergenic" should reduce your chance of experiencing an allergic reaction while using it. "In the case of sheets, the fabric is tightly woven and made of a textile that is less likely to retain indoor allergen particles," he explains. That tightly woven fabric protects you and your body from allergens that might be located in your mattress (like dust mites and mold) by creating a barrier between the mattress and your skin. "Hypoallergenic fabrics are typically breathable and promote a cool environment in which mold and bacteria cannot grow," he adds.

You're more likely to find hypoallergenic sheets made from natural fabrics such as cotton, bamboo, silk, and eucalyptus. "Synthetic fabrics, like microfiber, can also be hypoallergenic, but are not as breathable," adds Dr. Jain. "They may contain materials that are irritating to the skin."

Allergies and Eczema

If you're wondering if hypoallergenic sheets are for you, you should ask yourself if you suffer from sensitive skin, eczema, seasonal allergies, year-round allergies, or asthma. "These sheets can help to reduce exposure to indoor allergens that trigger symptoms in these conditions and therefore reduce the number of flares and lessen overall symptoms," Dr. Jain notes, adding that patients with sensitive skin, in particular, may respond better to the hypoallergenic sheets that are made from natural fibers, as opposed to synthetics.

Sheet Shopping

When shopping for hypoallergenic sheets, it is important to consider fabrics that you personally find comfortable; they should also be easy to wash and maintain. And don't foget about budget. "If price is a concern, cotton and microfiber hypoallergenic sheets may be the best option for you," Dr. Jain says. Looking for a great source? "The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has a list of products on their website that have been tested and proven to reduce exposure to allergens," he says.

Sheets that are certified asthma- and allergy-friendly are a good option, since not all cotton, bamboo, silk, eucalyptus, or microfiber linens have the right composition to protect you from indoor allergens. But good fabrication won't mean anything if you don't clean your linens regularly. "For the best results, the sheets should be able to be washed in hot water weekly to kill off any dust mites, mold spores, or other allergens that have settled on the fabric," he says.

Just the Start

Dr. Jain says that if you're making the switch to hypoallergenic sheets, you may also want to transition the rest of your bedding over to hypoallergenic alternatives, as well. "Even with hypoallergenic sheets, indoor allergens can still stick to your mattress, comforter, and pillows," he notes and suggests switching to hypoallergenic iterations of those, as well. "A dust mite cover for your mattress and pillows can also help to further protect you."

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