Product Recommendations – Or Not?

As someone with multiple allergies to chemical ingredients and scents, I am always looking for products that are safe to use. OK, so if I know what to avoid, what do I use instead? Well, like discovering the different names for PEG or PG, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Manufacturers are not required to keep the same ingredients in the same product over time – and that’s a good thing for innovation. A company that can say their product is “New & Improved” gives a message to their customers that they are always looking out for ways to make their product better.

So how can you find products that won’t leave you itching, wheezing, or worse? Here are five ways.

1. Get to know your ingredients. Keep a list with you at all times. Check for new names for the ingredients you react to. I just discovered a new name for glycol compounds and added it to the list by searching on “polyethylene glycol allergy.” I found a blog for people who make body care products and discovered brand names for glycols that I had never seen before and added them to my list.

2. Look for companies more than products. I have had more success with safe ingredients by finding companies that have a commitment to use safe ingredients that come from plants and animals rather than from petrochemical labs. Proctor and Gamble has a commitment to a mass-market consumer, and that consumer doesn’t have a glycol allergy.

3. Remember that “natural” doesn’t tell you anything about glycols. Here’s a cream by a company that calls itself The Eczema Company that the company considers safe for people with allergies, yet the ingredients are listed like this: Natural, alcohol-free cream base with propolis, calendula, hydrocotyle (pennywort), and a blend of homeopathic remedies (non-cortisone). What’s in the “cream base?” Remember that because polyethylene and propylene glycols are “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS) they can be included in a “natural” product. If they are inactive ingredients, they often don’t need to be listed at all.

4. Remember that “hypoallergenic” doesn’t tell you anything about glycols. Companies have certain customers in mind when they advertise. Almay made its fortune advertising their “hypoallergenic” makeup only because it was unscented. Read the ingredients in Almay’s Clear Complexion Concealer (ingredients I highlighted in bold are glycols):

Active Ingredient: 1% Salicylic Acid. Inactive Ingredients: Aqua (water), Cyclomethicone, Butylene Glycol, Dimethicone, Boron Nitride, PEG/PPG 18/18 Dimethicone, Talc, Tribehenin, Trisiloxane, Cetyl PEG/PPG 10/1 Dimethicone, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Alumina, Nylon 12, Methylmethacrylate Crosspolymer, Polyisobutene, Synthetic Wax, Cera Microcristallina Cire Microcrystalline (Micocrystalline Wax), Sodium Chloride, Fomes Officinalis Extract (mushroom), Tocopheryl Acetate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Centaurea Cyanus Flower Extract (cornflower), Spiraea Ulmaria Extract (meadowsweet), Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract (matricaria), Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Phytantriol, Methoxypropylgluconamide, Panthenol, Panthenyl Ethyl Ether, Sorbitan
Sesquioleate, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, HDI/Trimethol Hexyllactone Crosspolymer, Methoxy Amodimethicone/Silsequioxane Copolymer, Silica, Methicone, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Tetrasodium EDTA, May Contain: Zinc Oxide (CI77947)

No fragrance, but hardly hypoallergenic for us!

5. Make your own foods and body care products from ingredients you know are safe. In a future post I’ll list some books and sites with body care recipes you might find useful.

I’m still on the lookout for products I can use that work for me, and I’ll share those with you, but if you only take away one thing from reading this blog, it’s that you have to be responsible for knowing what works for you. No one else can do that for you. I can recommend products, but only you can decide if they’re safe for you. My friend over at The Allergista recommends products all the time that would send me to the hospital – but that’s because she’s only allergic to propylene glycol, so she can use all kinds of things with polyethylene glycol that I can’t.

Take care of yourself – you’re the only one who really can!

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