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Q: I have heard that polyester is not very breathable. What exactly defines breathable?
A: Breathable refers to how well the water vapor that is produced from a person’s skin is able to escape the skin surface. Evaporation of liquid into gas creates a cooling effect. Evaporation of liquid refrigerants is the basis for air conditioning and refrigeration systems.  Humans regulate their body temperature by evaporation of water vapor on the skin's surface. The secretion of water from the pores on the skin is commonly know as sweating or perspiration. Dogs regulate their body temperature by panting, not sweating. Since humans are designed to cool off by sweating, a garment that traps evaporating water vapor between the garment and a person's skin impedes the natural body temperature regulation process. Such a garment is uncomfortable in warm conditions. Breathability also refers to a garment's ability to allow body heat to escape through the garment.

 

Q: Are all synthetic materials bad in terms of breathability?
A: Not all synthetic materials have poor breathability. Rayon and Gore-Tex are two that breathe well. Fibers that breathe well are able to absorb and release water molecules rapidly. The immediate absorption of water vapor into fabric fibers helps to immediately cool the body. Rayon rapidly absorbs one-third of its weight in water before feeling wet to the touch; this makes rayon a very breathable fiber.  There is a wide variety of polyesters, and most are not very breathable.