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Culture & Religion

Why Dye On Your Skin May Not Necessarily Be A Bad Thing

If it’s natural, that is: A recent study attempts to link the dyeing and medicinal capabilities of certain plants, and posits that minute quantities of dye absorbed from clothes into skin could improve wellbeing.

What’s the Latest Development?

University of Derby textiles lecturer Kate Wells is conducting research in an area she says hasn’t really been studied before: the connections, if any, between the dye produced from a plant and that plant’s medicinal properties. She believes that a piece of clothing dyed using a natural plant extract, such as indigo or turmeric, could possibly provide physical benefits as tiny amounts of the dye are absorbed into the skin. Her work was recently published in the latest issue of Journal of the International Colour Association, and is part of a larger project involving “slow textiles” and sustainable production methods.

What’s the Big Idea?

Historically, some of the same plants used for dyeing fabric were also incorporated into traditional medicines. Wells cites indigo as an example of one extract that is found in cultures around the world: “It is extracted from different plants through a process that is steeped in myths, superstitions and religious rituals, and which evolved over centuries.” Increased interest in sustainable clothing has coincided with a new focus on cultivating plants, such as woad, that produce natural dyes.

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