Hosiery for Sensitive Skin – 5 Alternatives to Nylon

by Estelle Puleston

Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links.

I don’t know how common a problem this is, but I have extremely sensitive skin on my legs. I almost never wear trousers, and tights make my legs itch the second I put them on – I end up ripping them off as soon as I get home.

Stockings have been my best compromise to date for when it’s too cold to be bare-legged (which is at least half the year in the UK!), since the fact that they touch less skin makes them marginally less annoying. Still, they’re not a perfect solution.

The vast majority of hosiery is made from nylon, also known as polyamide, which is a synthetic fabric. It’s durable and very cheap, but unlike most natural fibres it’s not breathable which can be problematic for sensitive skin. This is particularly true if you wear hosiery on hot, humid days, or if you tend to keep your hosiery on all day long.

Luckily, there are lots of alternatives to nylon hosiery that you can try out, and this year I plan to give all of them a go. If you find all of these materials uncomfortable or itchy too, it would be worth making sure your washing powder / hand wash liquid isn’t causing the irritation. Also bear in mind that the silicone on hold-ups can irritate sensitive skin, so try swapping hold-ups for tights or stockings and a garter belt.

Silk Hosiery

Silk is a natural fibre spun from silkworm cocoons, and is extremely hypoallergenic, i.e. it’s unlikely to cause any allergic reaction. Unlike nylon, it’s very breathable so even thicker knits won’t cause your legs to sweat in warm weather. Silk hosiery is also readily available, and your only natural alternative to nylon for very sheer styles. The main downside is the price – silk is never cheap.

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Cervin Champs Elysées 100% silk stockings, £32.95

Available in black, ivory or gazelle

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Agent Provocateur 100% silk stockings, £60

Available in black only

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StockinGirl Tessa 75% silk, 25% nylon opaque stockings, ~£42

Available in black, ivory or heather grey

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Fogal Silky 95% silk, 5% spandex opaque tights, £155

Available in noir (black) or anthrazite (soft black)

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Delp Stockings ribbed 75% silk, 25% nylon stockings, ~£14

Available in black, cream or charcoal

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Cervin Rive Gauche 100% silk lace top hold-ups, £41.99

Available in noir (black), white, gazelle or ivory

Cotton Hosiery

Cotton comes from the cotton plant, and like silk it’s hypoallergenic and breathable. It’s also more durable, and much cheaper. However you won’t find particularly sheer cotton hosiery, so this option is best for winter or for those who prefer opaque legwear. Your choices are also mostly limited to tights and leggings, though after much searching I’ve managed to find a few stocking options to include below.

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Falke 98% cotton, 2% elastane opaque tights, £19.95

Available in black, anthracite or dark brown

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Spencers Mercantile 100% cotton over-the-knee stockings, ~£7

Available in 13 colours

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Green Fibres 98% organic cotton, 2% Lycra tights, £25.90

Available in black or chocolate

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LiLiSocks 100% cotton stockings, £11.49

Available in black, brown, dark grey or light grey

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Mona Livia 90% cotton, 8% nylon, 2% elastane tights, £10.95

Available in black/grey only

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Delp Stockings 100% cotton clocked stockings, ~£8

Available in black/grey, black/blue or light blue/red

Bamboo Hosiery

Bamboo fabric – which comes from the bamboo tree – has become really popular in recent years, and like silk and cotton it’s hypoallergenic so great for sensitive skin. It’s super soft, relatively cheap and it naturally wicks moisture away from the body, making it a great hosiery choice for warmer weather.

However bamboo will shrink easily so requires special care, and a colleague of mine said her bamboo tights ripped really easily (some online reviews back this up). Like cotton, your options are mostly limited to opaque tights and leggings.

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Fashion Meme 95% organic bamboo, 5% Lycra leggings, ~£20

Available in 21 colours and prints

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Braintree Dashka Hart 67% bamboo, 28% organic cotton, 5% spandex leggings, £22

Available in 3 prints

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Elle 85% bamboo, 13% polyester, 2% elastane ribbed tights, £8

Available in black, charcoal, navy, liquorice or smoked paprika

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SockShop 85% bamboo, 13% polyester, 2% elastane tights, £8

Available in black, charcoal, navy, liquorice or smoked paprika

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Whiskey Dog Wares 92% bamboo, 8% spandex footless stockings, ~£21

Available in black or slate

Wool Hosiery

Wool wouldn’t be my first choice for sensitive skin because as far as regular clothing goes, I’ve always found it a bit scratchy. However it’s more breathable than nylon, so if your irritation is being caused by a build-up of sweat you might find wool just fine. It’s also difficult to tear (though easy to pull) and will keep you super warm, so it can be a great everyday hosiery choice in winter.

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Levante 70% wool, 15% nylon, 15% elastane stockings, £10.99

Available in black, charcoal, mocha chocolate or sherry

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Delp Stockings 100% wool lightweight ribbed stockings, ~£16

Available in charcoal, cream, maroon or dark green

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Sandmaiden 100% wool footless stockings, ~£77 (includes garter belt)

Available in charcoal, grey or brown

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Foot Fetish Socks 100% merino wool stockings, £35

Available in ombre-grey only

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Transparenze Jennifer 70% wool, 15% microfibre, 15% elastane hold ups, £19

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Wolford 75% virgin merino wool, 25% nylon ribbed tights, £79

Available in black, ecrue or anthracite melé

Cashmere Hosiery

Finally, there’s cashmere – like wool, it’s made from animal hair but from the cashmere goat, which is renowned for its softness. So if you’re finding wool hosiery a bit scratchy, try cashmere! Cashmere hosiery tends to include other fabrics I’ve mentioned here, like wool or silk, and prices can vary wildly depending on the exact cashmere content and what it’s blended with.

Do check the fabric content by the way – a lot of hosiery described as ‘cashmere blend’ only contains 8% or so cashmere! I also struggled to find cashmere hosiery that wasn’t tights, so your options are more limited than with wool.

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Fogal Cashmere 65% cashmere, 25% silk, 5% nylon, 5% spandex tights, £225

Available in black only

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Foot Fetish Socks 100% cashmere stockings, £35

Available in 11 colours

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Wolford 61% cashmere, 26% silk, 11% nylon, 2% elastane tights, £129

Available in black or mocca

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Marilyn 60% viscose, 40% cashmere tights, £26.40

Available in nero (black), light grey, dark grey or milk

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Brora 45% cashmere, 20% silk, 32% nylon, 3% elastane lace knit tights, £62

So all in all, if you like to wear sheer hosiery silk is, as far as I’m aware, your only alternative to nylon. If you’re after opaque hosiery though, you have plenty of choice and the alternatives needn’t be expensive. I hope you’ve found this list useful!

What’s your favourite hosiery fabric? And do you know of any more I’ve missed off this list?

Estelle Puleston


The product recommendations directly above are affiliate links

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17 comments

Steve Ryan April 15, 2006 - 7:01 pm

Being male I have no personal experience of wearing hosiery but would like to refer to bamboo items. I have recently purchased GotWood UK pants made from sustainable bamboo. They are extremely comfortable; probably the most comfortable I have ever worn. As for legs covered in said material I’m not so sure.

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amy lambert April 15, 2016 - 10:00 am

Luckily I do not have sensitive skin. Even I have it, I think I would try to choose bamboo and silk for my skin. Well it is just my preference because I know that each skin type has its own sensitivity.

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Sarah May 21, 2017 - 11:12 pm

Hi,I come out in massive bruises any time I wear tights or stockings,does anyone have any suggestions

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Teresa April 2, 2018 - 9:26 am

How about choosing skirts and trousers that look good with bare legs? Apparently models show off clothing with bare legs. It does require reconsidering your wardrobe as clothes look very different when you change legwear/footwear/ etc. I remember I suffered from cheesey feet as a young adult and wore open sandals into the middle of winter in Glasgow. People thought I was mad but actually my feet didn’t get cold. It’s wortb a try.

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blahblahintheboudoir lingerie boutique December 23, 2017 - 11:27 am

Hi, Many thanks for sharing such a wonderful post. I am at this time in charge of expanding our sexy women’s lingerie collection and was wondering what lingerie brands you would commend? We are basically a small English- based sexy lingerie boutique. We would preferably like to mix in some artisan/ less well known lingerie labels as this is our unique selling point and why our clients go to us rather than Victoria’s Secret. I had a look at your previous posts and found some exciting companies, but thought that I would reach out to everyone to get an expert’s opinion on the matter. So far, I have come across the following lingerie brands 7Heaven, Alchemy Gothic, Anais Lingerie, Andalea, Demoniq, Dreamgirl, Gabriella, Glitter, G World, Hauty, Hollywood Curves, Leg Avenue, Livia Corsetti, Lolitta, Mapale, Me Seduce, Nine X, Obsessive, Passion Pink Lipstick, Pleasure Wigs, Provocative, Staysput and Seven ’til Midnight. Are there any obvious yays and nays? Thanks guys, appreciate your help!

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Estelle Puleston December 25, 2016 - 8:35 pm

Hi, I’m happy to be hired to help you choose the right brands and find reputable suppliers. If you’re interested you can contact me on info@estylingerie.com

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Katie August 25, 2018 - 6:54 pm

GREAT POST!!!! I hate nylons — they feel like Saran wrap for the legs. I look forward to exploring these links!

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Estelle Puleston August 26, 2018 - 5:28 pm

Glad you found it useful 🙂

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Farah Nicolas October 25, 2018 - 5:23 pm

Hi Estelle
I came across estylingerie.com as I was navigating the web for information regarding pantyhose/thigts. I invented a design pantyhose and my target audience is working class women. Right now I’m in the process of writing my business plan, I’m searching for the right combination of materials. Back in 2006 when I first applied for a patent through invent help my survey result was 100%. I finally have the patent in 2015. I would like to know if there is still an audience for such a design. My design is pantyhose with reinforced opening that promote comfort, flexibility, and breathability. I would like to know if I can promote my project through your blog. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Farah

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Estelle Puleston October 26, 2018 - 4:23 pm

Hi Farah, you can contact advertising@estylingerie.com to discuss advertising opportunities on my blog or social media.

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Chrissy Maynard April 10, 2019 - 7:28 pm

Hello all. I have always loved wearing nylon hosiery for work even though my feet do seem to sweat heavily but it doesn’t really bother me. I have recently bought some lovely, expensive CDR 20 D Eterno Super Lucido shiny tights which have a fab glassy shine but their very high elastane content of 38% seems to make my feet incredibly sweaty after a day in my leather (not manmade) heels. Does anyone else find this problem with elastane in tights ? Let’s be honest, these other fabrics are not very flattering at all. Chrissy

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Estelle Puleston April 17, 2019 - 11:40 am

Have you tried Trasparenze’s silk tights? The 30% silk blend should make them more breathable, and they’re still sheer.
https://www.calzetrasparenze.com/en/stockings-tights/shop/classic/tights/silk

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Paula April 15, 2019 - 1:15 am

Why are there no pure silk stockings for girls available in the US?? My granddaughter cannot wear nylon or spandex due to an allergy….I can’t find silk in little girl sizes. Is she destined to always have to wear tights with a dressy dress??

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Estelle Puleston April 17, 2019 - 11:55 am

I’m assuming you mean you’re looking for sheer tights (pantyhose) rather than opaque ones? I’m not an expert on children’s underwear or hosiery I’m afraid, but I’d hazard a guess that silk tights for girls don’t exist because they’re rather fragile, which doesn’t tend to be a good combination with children!

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Emily Armstrong December 20, 2019 - 12:13 am

Looking for tights for sensitive skin to wear to wedding

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Estelle Puleston December 20, 2019 - 8:59 am

Hi Emily,

I’ve replied to your emails twice, but I guess my response is going to your junk folder. So I’ll paste it here:

You don’t mention which style of tights you are looking for. If you want something that is sheer, silk is really your only alternative to nylon, and it is both more expensive and more delicate (but potentially worth it if you’re finding standard nylon hosiery irritating right now).

If you want something opaque, you have more options – personally I love the softness and breathability of bamboo tights, but you can also look for cotton, cashmere, and microfiber (a type of ultra-soft polyester). Fleece-lined tights are a thing too and wonderfully soft (they basically have a plush layer on the inside), but they are intended as thermal tights so might be too hot if the wedding’s indoors!

I recommend checking out UK Tights, Sock Shop, Stockings HQ, Luxury Legs and More Tights if you’re in the UK, or Stockingirl if you’re in the US, which all stock multiple brands.

Hope this helps.

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Bamboo Hosiery: 11 Pairs of Bamboo Tights | Esty Lingerie May 21, 2020 - 7:13 pm

[…] to choosing bamboo hosiery. It’s very soft and breathable, making it a great option for sensitive skin compared to standard nylon. In fact, I have a pair of bamboo tights which are the comfiest legwear […]

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