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Nothing takes the “yay” out of layering (er, lyayering?) quite like an itchy, scratchy sweater. I should know — last December, after years of wearing my favorite woolens without any irritation whatsoever, my skin suddenly turned ultra-sensitive, rendering my drawers of chunky cable knits and fisherman pullovers effectively useless.
Of course, not all sweater sensitivities are created equal. Many people find traditional wool, mohair, and angora styles irritating, for instance, while others can’t even tolerate cashmere or merino. Some are fine with a sweater that’s made from a wool blend, others can’t let the textile touch their skin at all.
The good news is that no matter where you sit on this sensitivity spectrum, knitwear options abound. Tons of brands produce styles made from non-itchy materials like cotton, nylon, polyester, and rayon — which tend to cost way less than most wool sweaters, by the way. What better excuse to layer up?
Forever 21 makes some really great sweaters for folks with sensitive skin; their colorful patterned options, in particular, tend to look way more expensive than they are. (True story: I’ve been asked multiple times if my favorite F21 knit is from Opening Ceremony.) And since most are made from a mix of synthetic materials, they’re entirely itch-free.
In addition to its cashmere, Everlane also offers a nice selection of cotton knits and sweatshirts — along with merino wool options, which many sensitive-skinned sweater lovers can wear without discomfort. Why? The fibers are much finer and more flexible than traditional wool, and thus less scratchy.
Good news, Topshop fans: Most of the UK import’s sweaters — sorry, jumpers — are made from nylon or viscose rather than wool, which is great news for itchy types. Just be sure to check the fabric content before you buy!
In addition to multiple numbers in merino wool, Aritzia’s large knitwear offerings include many cotton, nylon, and acrylic options that won’t leave you clawing at your crewneck.
Contemporary knitwear brand 525 America is a longtime editor favorite, and the bulk of their stuff — even the chunkier styles! — are cotton-based, making them a solid pick.
Cashmere is generally a safe bet for those who can’t tolerate typical wool, although exceptions do exist. In my own experience, not all cashmere passes the no-itch test, but I’ve had great luck with the 100% cashmere styles from both White + Warren and Vince.