Why you should care
These threads are backed by science, but are they really effective?
Long, drawn-out skin care routines are so last year. And so time-consuming. What if instead — and just hear us out — you could fall asleep in sheets that moisturize you, clean you, make you slimmer, more energetic and more relaxed?
You probably won’t get that all in one set of sheets. But a sheet — or a shirt, or a pair of tights — that’s also a moisturizing, cooling beauty product is already happening. Soft-Tex, which manufacturers pillows, mattress protectors and other bedding products, and is now venturing into the world of sheets, is just one of many retailers diving into the emerging market of wellness textiles.
Celliant has developed a fabric — which shares its name with the brand — that reacts to body heat, converting it to infrared energy to improve circulation. It received FDA approval in 2017 after waiting for certification for eight years, and has since witnessed rapid growth. Celliant launched a partnership with Under Armour, first on already-available recovery wear like pajamas and hoodies. This year it launched as one of the company’s activewear lines, with pieces ranging from $45 to $100. Skin’Up, a French brand that launched in 2015, promises to slim the body using microencapsulation and a special fabric texturing method that “massages” the wearer. It has a European patent for the technology. A pair of leggings sells for about $55.
Israel-based Nilit has designed a new fabric produced by its nylon brand Sensil, made from charcoal extracted from the shell residues of coffee beans. The fabric soaks up sweat and unpleasant odors while helping retain body heat. Swiss textile firm Schoeller in November showcased a line using the Nilit fabric, called Sensil Heat, at Munich’s Performance Days functional fabric fair. SeaCell adds seaweed to lyocell, a rayon-based textile fiber. Seaweed is known to have antioxidant properties.
There haven’t really been any improvements to polyester since … ever.
Seth Casden, co-founder, Celliant
And Soft-Tex has since last year been selling bedding infused with charcoal, aloe vera, copper and other ingredients. They’ve now expanded that to include some new infusions, including CBD oil and vitamin E via microencapulsation technology that slowly releases the active ingredients onto the skin. What these firms are designing isn’t the same as smart textiles — they don’t require microchips or anything that connects to an Alexa. Instead, think of this as cosmetics or exercise aids with added fabric that makes wearing them a chemistry-based wellness experience.
“You need the science to back it up,” says Seth Casden, co-founder of Celliant.
Called cosmetotextiles, these fabrics are a way for textile firms to tap into the massive wellness industry — estimated last year to be globally worth $4.2 trillion, the size of the world’s third-largest economy, Japan. And from a consumer perspective, it makes a lot of sense. After all, if you can’t remember to moisturize every morning, why not just buy jeans that do it for you? If your running shorts could make you faster, or less achy in the morning, why wouldn’t you take advantage?
“The beauty industry is exploding. It’s growing north of 7 percent a year,” says Taylor Jones, a spokesperson for Soft-Tex. “We wanted to mimic the success of that category.” The company’s move into sheets could open up that market further.
There’s potential for the cosmetotextile industry to expand to other applications beyond beauty, says Roshan Paul, a professor in the textile science department at the University of Beira Interior in Portugal. “Cosmetotextiles can play a pivotal role in the adaptation of sportswear,” he says. Military clothing and summerwear could see innovations as well, like clothing infused with mosquito repellent.
To be sure, some innovations in this realm haven’t worked out. Wrangler announced a line of “spa jeans” in 2013 that promised fabric infused with microencapsulated olive oil, aloe vera and caffeine, sparking headlines like “Wrangler denim spa jeans moisturize your nether regions.” The jeans are now nowhere to be found on the company’s website. Paul cautions that some consumers attracted by natural products may be turned off or confused by the idea of chemicals in their clothing, even if those chemicals are meant to enhance their well-being. Indeed, while infrared therapies were already popular in Asia when Celliant started in 2002, they’re only now becoming popular in the United States, says Casden. That lack of familiarity from consumers was initially a problem, he explains, when it came to convincing brands to sign on to the product.
Regulation in this emerging industry is also in its nascent stages. While some products can be certified as medical devices, like Celliant, others are less governed. Paul says that to his knowledge, no specific legislation governing cosmetotextiles exists, so consumers have to be careful. “One should be … vigilant of the current trend of applying anything on textiles and claiming or marketing [it] as cosmetotextiles,” he says. “In some cases, instead of providing the listed benefits, they could be hazardous to the wearer.”
Consumers should also watch out that other components of fabric, like dyes, aren’t released onto the skin along with the beneficial active ingredients. “There’s really not a certifying body today for this class of product,” says Jones, who says that’s a topic of discussion in the cosmetic bedding industry. The company can test whether some of its claims work, like how long infusions last, but whether the ingredients will have the desired effect is a little less clear. “If there was a test, we would do it,” he says.
Despite those kinks, say those entering the industry, this might be the moment for cosmetotextiles to make big changes to an industry that everyone literally comes into contact with every day. “Our mission is to replace polyester with infrared polyester,” says Casden. “There haven’t really been any improvements to polyester since … ever.”