Clothes for Wellness

It's no longer just what you put in your body that counts, but also what you put on your body. Wellness is fast emerging as one of today's most powerful lifestyle trends. World-renowned economist Paul Zane Pilzer estimates it to be US$ 200-billion industry with potential to grow to over US$ 1 trillion annually within the next eight to 10 years

Growing consumer preoccupation with physical and emotional well-being has created an attractive, sustainable market space that has already stimulated new business growth in sectors as diverse as cosmetics, nutrition, health, leisure and travel. Research has confirmed that both men and women are excited by the concept of well-being benefits in clothes, especially those worn close to the body.

The first success was perhaps tasted by Osaka-based manufacturer Teijin which saw 2 million pairs of its Amino jeans disappear from stores in less than 24 hours. Amino jeans were treated with arginine, an amino acid that is said to keep the skin youthful. Since then a number of manufacturers and chemical companies have started offering range of health giving finishes and textiles treated with them.

The micro-encapsulation process

Human skin or dermis is made up of cells, blood vessels and nerves in an extra-cellular matrix composed of fibrillated protein formations (collagen, elastin, etc.), which provide resilience to stretching, and a colloidal gel substance, which fills up the spaces between all the different dermal components. This gel substance is chiefly composed of water, mineral salts and glycosaminoglycans. Most wellness finishes on textiles use the time-tested technology of microencapsulation to deliver active ingredients like moisturisers, therapeutic oils, or even insecticides through the clothes onto skin directly where they are absorbed by the dermis.

Through microencapsulation process a liquid or solid substance can be encapsulated in sealed micro spheres of size 0.5-2000 microns. These spheres form a suspension of tiny droplets surrounded by a thin membrane/ polymeric wall protecting the active agent before it is released, and are applied to a fabric through a simple pad-dry sequence. During wear, simple mechanical rubbing of fabric gradually ruptures the membrane releasing active agent for cosmetic, therapeutic, energy boosting, stress busting, moisturising or deodorising effects.

There are also heat-regulating micro capsules that work on the principle of phase change. Fibre and fabric functionalities like protection, stretch, UV protection and enhanced thermal properties can also be combined with these specialised finishes to enhance the feeling of well-being.

Japan, the powerhouse of innovation recognised the growth in this sector early on. A number of manufacturers have introduced supplements like amino acids, vitamins, xylitol and other food additives into fabric to maintain pH balance in the skin or keep wearers cool. Amino acid manufacturer Ajinomoto teamed up with major sports goods firm Mizuno Corp last year to develop the "Amino Veil" brand. The amino acids in Amino Veil branded tennis and golf clothes dissolve into wearer's perspiration, enhancing the material's ability to absorb moisture and keep the skin's pH (potential of hydrogen) level balanced. The amino acid used in the product above is arginine, which helps to regenerate skin.

Clothes for wellness

Clothing manufacturers and food ingredient companies are hoping to boost profits with several new inventions. Sports clothing firm Yonex has launched a range with xylitol, the sweetener more commonly found in chewing gum. It absorbs heat when it comes into contact with water and is said to offer a cooling effect. Thus, xylitol-enhanced jeans can keep the wearer cooler if she or he begins to sweat.

Yonex Xylitol-impregnated Very Cool Polo Shirts lower body heat by 3 degrees for more comfort during the heat of play. This new Yonex development in high-tech sportswear is worn by tennis stars Monica Seles, Elena Dementieva, David Nalbandian, Jelena Dokic and by leading badminton players.

Fuji Spinning, another major Japanese textile maker recently test-marketed women's T-shirts that were covered in pro-vitamin C, a liquid chemical that turns into real vitamin C when it touches the skin. The material boasts of providing enough amount of vitamin C as one would find in two lemons. And it holds enough vitamin content for about 30 washes. Though it is still not clear that the vitamins are actually absorbed into the skin or that the clothing will do the wearer any good, blouses, T-shirts and men's shirts made with this "V-Up" technology are already available at the Takashimaya department store in Tokyo.

While vitamin C easily dissolves in water, Pro-vitamin C is water-resistant but is dissolved by sebum, an oily secretion our bodies produce naturally. As humans constantly produce sebum and sweat, dried pro-vitamin C fixed in the shirt's fibres naturally returns to liquid and attaches to the skin.

Invista (previously DuPont Textiles & Interiors) has launched a collection of Body Care range that will deliver cosmetic and well-being benefits like freshness, moisturising and massage for leg wear and intimate apparel. The stretch and recovery properties of Lycra are an integral part of delivering these new functionalities. Underwear that stays fresh has high consumer appeal for both men and women. The Body Care collection uses technologies that inhibit the growth of odour-causing bacteria and others that trap odour-causing molecules, and then release them at the next wash.

Body Care also uses fibre micro-encapsulation technology to deliver moisturising benefits. Moisturising agents stored in the fibre structure - as many as a million microscopic capsules per square centimetre of fabric - break open and release their contents progressively as garments move against the skin, continuously hydrating it. Invista has worked with International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) to develop microcapsules. Two nourishing formulas are being offered - skin moisturising Aloe Vera, and Chitosan, a marine extract that imparts skin-soothing properties. The product has been getting a significant number of adoptions in Yoga lines.

The massage properties are the result of combining textile compression technology and temperature management in special high-tech hosiery yarns. Legs stay cool in summer and warm in winter, and are toned and invigorated all-year-round by a gentle massaging action that works vitamin-rich nutrients into the skin. Body Care uses Schoeller Outlast phase-change technology for body temperature regulation.

Ohara Paragium Chemical is offering natural skincare and healthcare finishing agents based on combination of an amino-acid-based softening agent that can produce unconventional, less-sleek but full, elegant silky hand and a number of innovative finishing agents that produce moisture retaining, slimming or anti-ageing (anti-oxidation) effects.

The close-fitting women's motorbike pants from Richa (BE) have a thin lining using Schoeller's phase change material, which can be removed in warmer weather and reattached at lower temperatures.

The finish, Parafine SC-1000, brings out moisture-retaining, water-absorbent and softening effects from amino acids and aqueous polyurethane in innerwear and pantyhose. Another finish, Parafine SC-3000, imparts the fat-burning effect of capsaicin as well as the moisture-retaining and skincare effect of raspberry and squalane.

Capsaicin is a chilli component responsible for pungency. It promotes perspiration and cause neurological stimulation and generation of body heat. Beneficial effects are anti-oxidation, anti-bacterial and promotion of salt intake reduction. Raspberry extract has a moisture-retaining effect due to presence of organic acids such as citric and maleic acid, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals.

Squalane is a saturated hydrocarbon made from shark liver oil that produces moisturising and moisture-retaining effects and permeability in the skin. A third finish Parafine SC-5000, uses rice germ oil containing ferulic acid and -oryzanol that have high anti-oxidation properties effective in skincare, along with vitamin E and squalane. Vitamin E is known to be anti-oxidation vitamin and is used as a generic term for fat-soluble tocopherols.

Also, Cognis performance chemicals are integrating under their Skintex range the expertise and experience of micro-technology with the powers of nature. Skintex chemicals are a blend of precious essential oils derived from the cold-pressed peel of plants, herbs and fruit or are carefully distilled from blossoms and leaves (see table).

Skintex range of essential oil blends by Cognis performance chemicals

Cosmetic textiles

Two apparently non-related industries, textiles and cosmetics, are coming together and clearing the way for amazing prospects with the first 'cosmetic textiles'. These combine the active principles of cosmetics with textile fibers. Cosm�til Innovations, specialising in the manufacture of the new textiles has already devised several products that are sold by major mail-order groups.

For chemicals of cosmetic and beauty functions, Cosm�fil is offering Beautiva range of cosmeto-textiles targeted at busy women who have little time to devote to caring for their skin and figure. Beautiva cosmeto-textile garments are available in boxed sets of pre-treated panty hose, hose, knee-highs, lingerie or socks. The fabric of the garment is impregnated with the active ingredient, which is released by the warmth of the skin when the garment is worn.

Garments may be worn for periods extending from several days to several weeks, depending on the specific objective (moisturise, relax, slenderise). The natural active ingredients used are - cyclotella, a microalga that works on fat metabolism, promotes lymph circulation and helps resorb cellulite; and another microscopic

algae Padina pavonica, an extremely effective anti-age ingredient. The specific action continues even through several washings. It can be restored thanks to the mini-doses or spray included with the garment "re-impregnating" the fabric with the mini-dose.

Under a tie up with Cosm�til, Variance is launching a new line of cosmetically inspired fluid lingerie called Hydrabra that invisibly provides moisturising and firming effects. The bra has a specially designed lower cup having an ultra-thin cloth impregnated with a lotion formulated with extracts of Padina pavonica.

In conclusion, the wellness business is proactive. People voluntarily become consumers - to feel healthier, to reduce the effects of ageing, and to avoid becoming consumers of the sickness business.