Finding Your Perfect Organic Bra – Allergen-Free Bras

We’re back from vacation and ready to continue our 10-part organic and natural fiber bra series.

Today we’re discussing a specialty line of Allergen-Free Bras that are 100% organic cotton, spandex-free, latex-free, dye-free, and chemical-free. These bras have been medically tested to reduce rashes and inflammation caused by eczema and dermatitis.  There are several different styles to fit a variety of body shapes while still providing light support, modesty and most importantly, rash-free comfort.

Of the ones we show in the video, the Side-Tie version runs a little larger than the Front Close version in the same size.  We’ve had several customers tell us this as well.  While the Side-Tie doesn’t fit Kayla well since we don’t have the correct size for her, it’s actually a very popular style for women with C cups and above as it provides a little more coverage than any of the other Allergen-Free bras.

Here are the specific bras mentioned:
Allergen-Free Slimfit Bra (4-7)
Allergen-Free Side-Tie Bra (34B-42DD)
Allergen-Free Front Close Bra (34B-38C)
Allergen-Free QUEEN Front Close Bra (40C-44D)
All Cotton Bra Liner (sizes 5-10)

If you do have allergies or skin sensitivities, feel free to contact Dr. Luhrs to discuss treatments as well as wellness plans at

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Rayon versus Tencel and the Great Bamboo Debate

For years humans have been making clothing fibers from wood cellulose.  Rayon was the first fabric that could start as wood and, through a series of chemical processes, end as cloth fiber.  Rayon is also considered the first of the synthetic fibers, having been developed in the 19th century as an alternative to silk.  Rayon can be created with any cellulose, not just wood, even cotton cellulose works.  While there is more than one way to make Rayon, the most commonly used method is called the viscose process.  Rayon is generally considered harmful to the environment because its processing employs several harsh chemicals, including carbon disulfide, and because the production process generates quite a bit of chemical waste.  Approximately 50% of the carbon disulfide ends up as waste product.

Tencel is a relatively new fiber on the scene, developed by the Austrian company Lenzing.  Tencel also begins as wood cellulose.  However, Tencel employs a closed-loop process that creates almost no waste by redirecting the waste products back into production.  It also uses fewer and less harmful chemicals.  Tencel has been awarded the European Union Eco-label certification and the Nordic Swan.  Tencel also starts with  Forest Stewardship Council certified wood products.

If you’ve had a chance to feel Tencel, you’ll find it has a lovely drape similar to Rayon and makes a great eco-alternative to Rayon.  Buyers should note that, like Rayon, Tencel doesn’t generally like the dryer.

The reason I’m bringing this up is to discuss the Great Bamboo Debate.  Is Bamboo an eco-fabric or not?  Let’s start at the beginning.  Bamboo itself is the fastest-growing woody plant in the world. (It’s actually a member of the grass family.)  Bamboo grows naturally without any pesticides or herbicides and is very hearty.  So as an input material, Bamboo is very eco-friendly.  From there, however, things get dicey.  It seems most Bamboo-based fabrics are created using the traditional Rayon viscose process, which is why the Federal Trade Commission is concerned.  However, there are some companies claiming to use a closed-loop processing method similar to Tencel.  So on processing, it’s not black and white.

Finishing must also be mentioned.  Companies creating products from Bamboo who don’t specifically have an eco-philosophy may use conventional chemical finishing agents and dyes.  So the fact that something is Bamboo doesn’t give it an automatic eco-pass.  All of the companies works with are specifically focused on eco-production.  So none of our Bamboo fashions have harsh chemical finishes and they are all low-impact dyed, not conventionally dyed.

In truth, we have not followed the producer train back far enough to know which of our vendors are using viscose processing and which are using a closed-loop system.  We do know that several of our severely chemically sensitive clients have had very good luck with our bamboo products.  That may be due more to the lack of chemical finishes than anything else, but it’s something to consider.

In the end you as the consumer will have to decide if eco-friendly growing, finishing and dyeing are enough to warrant a green label if you’re uncertain of the processing step.  In the meantime, we’ll be following up with each of our manufacturers to determine how the Bamboo was processed.

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All About Dyes

There is so much confusion on what goes into dyes that I thought I’d help clarify a little. There are a large number of variations within categories of dyes, but for now we’ll stick to gross categories to get oriented. Here is my take on the overall dye process and the eco-friendliness of different dyes.

What most people hear about these days are low-impact dyes, azo-free dyes or fiber-reactive dyes. These are a category of synthetic, chemical-based dyes that are absorbed more easily into clothing than conventional dyes. Low-impact dyes are substantially better for the environment than conventional dyes because:

  • The higher absorption rate (greater than 70%) means less chemical and grey water runoff.
  • They do not include azo-dyes, a family of dye groups that can contain anything from toxic compounds such as chlorine bleach to known carcinogens such as carcinogenic aryl amines.
  • Low-impact dyes do not contain heavy metals

Still while low-impact dyes are better for the environment than conventional dyes, that doesn’t specifically mean they are good for the environment. Also, many people with multiple chemical sensitivities have reactions to low-impact dyes.

Going one small step further, some textiles are Oeko-Tek or Control Union (formerly SKAL) certified. These certifications do not focus solely on the dye, but are end-to-end process and final textile safety certifications. The dyes used in the final fabric must be at least as good as low-impact dyes and are specifically tested for skin-safety. The only problem with both of these certifications is that they are European-based and neither is widely used here in the USA. (Though Control Union is more common.) There are many legitimate, eco-friendly companies that are still using US-specific fiber certifications along with low-impact dyes. For example SOS From Texas grows cotton that meets all US Department of Agriculture Organic Standards and is certified organic by the Texas Department of Agriculture. Their final textiles would likely pass either of the above mentioned certifications, so the lack thereof for a US company is not necessarily telling in any way.

Getting away from synthetic dyes altogether, low-impact or otherwise, there is a class of natural dyes that are higher up on the eco-scale. Clay-dyes are dyes that are literally made from natural earth muds and clays. They are mixed with water and often little else. The colors are softer, but the dye stays put and they tend to work for people with chemical sensitives. Earth Creations has been offering clay-dyed clothing since 1996. Similarly, there are herbal and tea dyes which are created from plants. The range of colors is limited, but lovely and again, these dyes tend to work for chemically sensitive folks. The biggest downside of herbal dyes is the price. Faerie’s Dance has seen some lovely tea dyed pieces, but so far we’ve balked at the higher costs. We will have some herbal dyed items in 2010 to test the market desire.

Of course the overall least impact to the environment is not to dye clothing at all. So undyed is at the top of our eco-friendly list. But for those who may be tired of “natural” colored items, there is an alternative. There are several strains of cotton that are grown in colors. The colors are somewhat muted, but there is a lovely camel brown and soft green generally referred to as Colorgrown cottons. You can see the depth of color in the undyed brown sock in the center versus the traditional natural colored cotton socks on the ends. Take a look at this undyed Peasant Dress in camel brown.

In summary, the best way to get truly vibrant purples and reds is to use low-impact dyes. We all need a few fashion pieces that really make a statement. But if we fill in the closet with clay-dyed, herbal dyed, Colorgrown and undyed items, we’ll have a lighter impact on the planet and a healthier wardrobe all around.

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