Lichen sclerosus can impact many aspects of our lives. For example, it can influence our relationship with ourselves, our relationships with others, our mental health, our sexual health, and even our clothing. Yes, lichen sclerosus and clothing can be a big deal for many folks.
While it may seem simple, clothing and lichen sclerosus can affect our mental health (in addition to exacerbating symptoms). I will do another blog on the mental health impact of clothing and LS in early 2024; stay tuned. For today's post, I take a more practical approach to clothing and lichen sclerosus by addressing the questions, “What clothing is recommended for lichen sclerosus,” “What clothing should I wear in a flare,” and “Will I ever be able to wear my old pants again”?
*I have no affiliate links in this post. Any brand I mention is either just one I like or one I have heard others recommend. I get no commission if you purchase from any of these links.
My Advice on Clothing and Lichen Sclerosus
To be transparent, no medical literature or guidelines on this topic exist. In what follows, I will share my perspective as a patient with lichen sclerosus.
What Clothing to Avoid
I would avoid anything clothing that aggravates your symptoms if you are symptomatic.
I would also avoid tight clothing that is not breathable in the early stages of your healing or while in a flare.
However, when I say avoid these clothes, I do not necessarily mean you must avoid them for the rest of your life. As your symptoms calm and when you get into remission, you will likely be able to wear those types of clothing again. I will share my journey with this later in the post.
Best Clothing When in a Lichen Sclerosus Flare
Ultimately, if you are in a flare, you want to wear whatever is most comfortable.
This will look different for each individual. Some folks will go commando and only wear dresses. Others will wear their preferred underwear of choice and loose, baggy cotton pants.
Overall, most folks in the LS community will say they prefer loose, soft, breathable clothing during a flare.
For example, Cottonique's loungewear pant is made from 100% chemical-free, GOTS-certified cotton fabric. The pants are lightweight, breathable, and designed for sensitive skin and skin prone to allergies and dermatitis.
Another example is a long-john style pant by DermaSilk. These can be worn as day clothing or nighttime pajamas.
From the DermaSilk website:
“DermaSilk Therapeutic Clothing is used in the treatment of various forms of dermatitis, eczema, and allergic skin conditions that affect different areas of the body across all age groups. Used both as underwear by day and as nightwear, this fabric allows the skin to breathe and controls temperature and humidity – reducing itch and controlling flares”.DermaSilk
Pro-tip: Like with underwear, I size up my ‘flare' pants to be extra baggy and have a lot of room in the vulvar space. Tight pants will rub against the vulva, which can exacerbate itch, pain, and soreness when symptomatic or in a flare.
Clothing and Lichen Sclerosus: Pants
As mentioned above, you can wear more types of fabric and styles as your symptoms improve, you feel better, and you get into remission. It is a personal choice, and everyone's comfort level will vary.
Once you start feeling better, you can slowly try bringing different clothing styles back. For example, you may want to try wearing leggings or jeans again. I always recommend moving slowly with this. For example, try wearing leggings for a couple of hours at home instead of going straight into going out for 8 hours in them. This will help gradually improve confidence in wearing different styles of pants. This also allows you to test out different types of clothing in a safe/controlled environment.
Alternatively, maybe you still want loose, breathable clothing overall, but you are tired of wearing the same ol' grey sweats and want to look more stylish.
If that is you, look at business-style slacks. Here are some images of styles you can look for in the shops/stores.
Clothing and Lichen Sclerosus: Dresses and Skirts
Dresses and skirts can be nice because they can be breathable and loose, and you can go commando with them.
Further, tight dresses and skirts may be OK since the fabric is not actually rubbing up against the vulvar skin.
I am a big fan of long, flowy, maxi dresses a) because I love the aesthetic, but also b) because you can go commando out in public and not worry about your dress or skirt pulling a Marilyn Monroe and exposing more than we would like.
My Experience with Clothing and Lichen Sclerosus
If you read my last post on underwear and lichen sclerosus, you know I threw out all of my sexy, lacy underwear after I was diagnosed (and regretted it later). I did something similar with my clothing.
After I was diagnosed, I figured I was doomed to wear baggy sweatpants or long dresses forever. As an avid gym goer, 90% of my wardrobe at the time was activewear – aka Lululemon legging central. Well, my Lululemon legging central quickly vanished as I packed all my leggings and brought them to a local shelter.
For the nine months of my diagnosis, I lived in sweats, loose shorts, and long dresses in the summer.
However, as my symptoms started to improve, I started to get a little more courageous. I remember thinking, “Maybe I could wear leggings again.” I experimented cautiously, as someone with anxiety often does. For example, I started wearing leggings for 2 hours at home in my apartment. After about a month of this, with no symptom aggravation, I tried wearing them for my work shift. Later, I started wearing them at the gym again, and before I knew it, I was wearing leggings again with no problem.
Nowadays, I am in remission and have not had symptoms in over three years, and I can confidently wear any clothing without issue.
The moral of the story is do not throw out your favorite clothes; you may be able to wear them again one day.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, clothing and lichen sclerosus are unique to each individual. Wear what feels comfortable for you, and know that that may vary. For example, leggings may feel comfortable 80% of the time but not while in a flare. Some days you may feel more sore than others; on those days, you may want to opt for looser-fitting clothing.
Let us know what you typically wear during flares or in general in the comment section below.
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