Is alpaca wool itchy?
Do you want to avoid polyester? But you feel sheep wool being itchy? What about alpaca wool? Comparing sheep wool and alpaca wool – is it the same?
There are many distinctions between alpaca wool and regular sheep wool: fineness, weight, insulation, antibacterial properties. One is itchiness.
First of all: what is itchiness? “Itch (also known as pruritus) is a sensation that causes the desire or reflex to scratch.“ (Wikipedia)
Many reasons of itch are known: skin diseases, general diseases like diabetes, contagious diseases, allergies.
Semiochemicals or mediator substances which trigger itch, like Histamine, are released by mast cells. They are a type of white blood cells as part of the immune system. These substances can also be released by medication, food, plant or insect poison.
The importance of fineness for alpaca wool
What is the part of wool fiber in this scenario? The sensation of itchiness can also be provoked by nerve receptors in the skin. These receptors are similar but not identical to pain receptors. Whenever fibers being thicker than 30 microns in diameter touches such a receptor in the skin the sensation of itchiness can be provoked.
The diameter of a fiber in a fabric whether it is woolen or synthetic is crucial for being itchy or not. The average diameter of sheep wool fiber is 35 – 40 microns. Alpaca fiber measures 23-25 microns on average. Even alpaca fibers of lower quality can outreach 30 – 35 microns. The lowest diameter is measured for baby alpaca, below 20 microns, and royal, below 18 microns.
The percentage of fibers above 30 microns being used in a fabric is important. It should not exceed 2-3% for next-to-skin garments.
Resume: alpaca wool might be itchy if low quality/high fiber diameter wool is used to produce the fabric. High-quality alpaca wool is not itchy!
A term sometimes used is “prickle factor”. The prickle factor just describes the percentage of fibers > 30 microns. The comfort factor measures 100 minus the prickle factor.
COKAL only uses fiber below 20 microns on average to produce next-to-skin fabrics. All our alpaca fleeces are analyzed after shearing getting objective criteria determining the quality.
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