Monday, March 22, 2010

Query: How do you know you're sensitive or allergic to things?

A question keeps popping into my head - how do we know we're sensitive or allergic to something? I see comments by people all the time (not on this blog, but other forums) saying "I'm allergic to quaternium-15" or "I can't use fill in the blank because I break out", but I'm always curious - how did you figure this out?

Bath & body products are complicated things. A body wash can contain anionic surfactants, amphoteric surfactants, cationic polymers, hydrolyzed proteins, esters, thickeners, preservatives, fragrance, and so on. Even within that list you see different types of surfactants - sulfates, sulfonates, sulfosuccinates, glucosides, etc. How do you figure out amongst that giant list that one thing you shouldn't use?

Before I made my own products, every single thing I used had to be "sensitive skin, unfragranced" type stuff. Now I can use anything I want, including fragrance oils! (Yay!) What changed? What within those store bought products bothered my skin? I've never used SLS in any of my products - it is one of the least compatible with skin (meaning, more irritating) than the surfactants I use now - so I could extrapolate and say it was SLS, but I can't say for sure. Or could it be the lack of moisturizing ingredients? Or the type of preservative? With a list of ingredients a paragraph long, it's hard to figure out exactly what annoyed my skin so much.

I found out my hair didn't like silk by adding it a conditioner recipe that worked well for my hair. I changed one thing - 2% silk - so it seems obvious that was the culprit! But really, I could have put a tiny bit more BTMS or a little less cetac or a tiny bit more preservative in the mix and that could have caused the problem. (I have tried it a few times and I frizz out every time, so trial and error worked in this case...)

Just curious how you found out a certain ingredient didn't work for you!


Nancy Liedel said...

I know I'm sensative to Bismuth Oxychloride and Cornstarch, cause I did a knock-out test and followed up with a patch test to be sure. I could have paid a doctor, but they are probably not true allergies. Just sensativities brought on by my penchnnt for breaking out by even looking at the wrong oil, or thinking about cornstarch. I've lived with acne for so long, 13, and I'm 46, that I've learned to figure it out. Still, when I first learned about making makeup and knockout tests, where you knock out certain ingredients, one at a time, I was super excited. I could find out what it was. My husband had the list of stuff to knock out and we used the product for two weeks without chemical X. We took photographs and documented my acne, ran it against charts to make sure it was not hormones and sure enough. Cornstarch and BOC.

I loved it and fell in love with science and chemicals again.

I've derailed again, haven't I? Darn ADHD.

Sierra Snow Soaps said...

I had a friend who used a face cream and the second jar made her face swell up. Same stuff. The derm. said she was sensitized by the first jar and had a reaction to the second jar. Scary.
Michelle in NV
I am loving all the skin care info you are reasearching!

Mich said...

I found out that I am sensitive to aloe because when I was a teenager, I tried using a 100% aloe gel on my skin and almost instantaneously had a reaction: stinging and redness, and sort of a tingling/itching feeling. At the time, I had chalked it up to the brand (it was a generic). Also, whenever I'd get a little burn or cut, my mom would squeeze aloe from a leaf onto the area, and anywhere it touched (not just the injury) got irritated almost on contact.

So, I avoid anything where it close to the top of the ingredient list. Recently I was at the hairdresser and she put something on me and in moments I was feeling it and said "Um, is there aloe in that?"--sure enough, the second ingredient.

So sad because it has so many nifty properties. (And it is especially annoying because they put it in so many sensitive skin products. And in anti-itch hydrocortizone creams. AGGGGHHHH!)

I also know I can't do witch hazel because I tried Clinique toner (which contains it) when I was a greasy teen and it itched my horribly. Then I tried plain witch hazel, and it was even worse.

Again, another perfectly useful ingredient that I can't tolerate! Woe is me.

That's my story!

tr3kkie9rl said...

Although this isn't a cosmetic chemical necessarily, I found out I'm lactose intolerance through much pain and discomfort, and at points by just avoiding dairy for weeks on end and having the symptoms disappear only to reappear when I consume it again. Since I stopped consuming regular milk and have added lactase pills any time I eat anything else dairy, my face has cleared up significantly!

I also found out that I was allergic to benzoyl peroxide when my face and eyes got so swollen and itchy after using it that I was almost ready to go to the ER. That happened several times and I haven't touched it since. It led me to deal with my acne in other more creative ways.