Is Polyester Bad for You? Our Team Investigates

Is Polyester Bad for You? Our Team Investigates

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Polyester is a synthetic material derived from petroleum that's used in many different types of clothing. Recently, there have been news reports suggesting that polyester may be harmful to human health.

But is polyester actually shown in studies to harm human health? How does it affect the body? What's the best polyester alternative? And can the health risks be minimized?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more, as we analyze clinical studies on polyester's effects on the body to share our opinion on whether or not the material can be harmful to human health.

We'll suggest polyester alternatives, as well as some options that may help to naturally detoxify the body.

Is Polyester Dangerous?

Polyester is damaging to human health both indirectly and directly.

Polyester is a major source of microplastic contamination of the environment. A medical review published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal found that washing polyester clothes using a home washer released thousands of microplastic fibers, which later end up in our environment.

As we discussed in our review of Hint Water, microplastics are clinically shown to have estrogenic effects in the body.

Polyester can also directly impair male fertility.

A 1996 clinical trial tested the effects of different types of underwear in sexually active men over the course of 24 months.

Men wearing polyester underwear and polyester blend underwear experienced significantly worsened sexual function, causing the researchers to conclude the following: "polyester underpants could have an injurious effect on human sexual activity."

In fact, polyester is so effective as an anti-fertility agent in men that one clinical trial described polyester underwear as a "reversible method of contraception in men" because it made them infertile.

Clearly, polyester is dangerous long-term.

Which Clothes Contain Polyester?

A YouTube video from popular creator "Doctor Mike" describes the types of clothing containing polyester:

Our Recommendation

Choosing 100% cotton clothing (ideally organic cotton) is the best way to avoid the negative health risks of polyester use, and to help preserve the environment.

Cotton has been used as a textile fiber for over 6,000 years, and is entirely non-toxic.

For consumers choosing athletic wear who want something more breathable than cotton, there are a crop of alternative fiber brands that are plastic-free.

This roundup article from an eco-focused publisher features some plastic-free athleticwear brands that may be worth checking out.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews


Polyester is bad for you, as are nearly all plastics to varying degrees.

Polyester can break down into microplastics which have a range of negative health effects.

Polyester also has a direct anti-fertility effect in men. This effect is so strong that polyester underwear was shown to be an effective contraceptive in at least one clinical trial, and shown to negatively impact sexual function in another.

We recommend that health-conscious and eco-conscious consumers entirely avoid all plastic use as much as possible, but particularly for underwear.

100% organic cotton is the most readily-accessible option, but there are options for athleticwear that are plastic-free, which we've referenced in this article.