You probably know me, I love chemicals. Have a problem? Pour some bleach on it! Whinging about organic stuff? I’ll roll my eyes and drink some full sugar coke in front of you. Yes, we can safely say that I am a big fan of technology, no matter how convoluted it gets. There are over 7 billion people in the world, so most of these chemicals are probably preserving your life 9/10 so shut up.
Anyway, what was my point? I don’t really have one, but what I wanted to talk about was sudden allergic reactions. (wait for applause) So many of you will remember me whining about how my skin suddenly puffed up, went red, scaly and sore for about 7 months there. Nothing would soothe it for long, cortisone wouldn’t help and the professional help I was getting went nowhere.
I consulted 2 pharmacists, 2 doctors, a skin specialist, a cosmetic surgeon and the blasted internet with no results.
I know many people couldn’t tell (Or at least, said they couldn’t tell) that something was wrong, but trust me – you know your own face, so when it starts resembling a plague patient, you pile make up on over it to cover it up. You get frustrated, sad, and you spend a lot of money on so-called ‘natural’ or ‘sensitive skin’ products, all which don’t work. As someone who is in front of the camera fairly often, it was and still is distressing.
I finally saw a dermatologist who specialises in immunology and allergies. It all started with a blood test or 5, to make sure it wasn’t food or something in my system. When that all came up negative, I had the ‘True Test’ – which is a 60 chemical panel patch designed to irritate you for a week, but reveal what is causing the skin inflammation.
Mine came up with: Formaldehyde, Quarternium-15 , methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI) andmethylisothiazolinone (MI). These are all known as about 20 other chemicals, all with very long names.
1. Not all products list these ingredients on their labels.
I’m severely allergic to Formaldehyde and Quaternium-15 – both of which are in shampoo, conditioner, liquid soaps (including laundry and dish) as well as many make up items. They are preservatives which work just great if you aren’t allergic. They don’t stay in your system, so if you haven’t tested as allergic, there is no reason for you to stop using them. They aren’t required to be listed on the product because the levels contained aren’t generally a concern. Except to people like me. I can find out by contacting the manufacturer, because it must be listed on the safety sheet for the people who work in the factories, who arguably get overexposed to it.
MCI and MI are in everything from toothpaste to deodorants and also all liquid soaps etc. I am a 3/5 for severity with this one, 1 being ‘You’ll get an itchy scalp’ and 5 being ‘Don’t plan on opening your eyes this fortnight’
2. I can no longer use basic toiletry products without spending a fortune, or making them in a backyard lab.
Luckily, most expensive cosmetics don’t contain this stuff, but I also can’t go for a facial, get my nails or eyelashes done or go to a salon. I have to tell the chemist or dentist whenever I buy something or get treatment. I can’t use any nail polish that is easily available, and if I must, I spend over $25 for polish that scrapes off in a few hours (Formaldehyde is what helps harden enamel). I’m on the lookout for a good fluoride toothpaste that doesn’t contain MCI, my lips are getting pretty bad… All the preservative free items for teeth are just baking soda and oil, which isn’t very good for tooth enamel. I like my teeth.
3. Organic or Natural products can be worse.
Plants and extracts of them, in their natural form are some of the most highly allergic things available to humans. Plants defend themselves by increasing or decreasing certain chemicals in their systems so no two batches will be the same, and they are trying to stop us from harvesting them.. little bastards. Most chemicals are synthesised for safety from plants, and are safe, but since no one bothers to learn latin anymore, the chemical names get a bad rap.
Many natural products have MCI and Quaternium-15 in them to counter-act the spoilage of the natural crap. Not all, I’m not writing a damned list, but supermarket brands, yes.
4. No one cares.
At work, I have to bring my own soap, but I know there are other items I probably will never identify or be able to get away from, like fumes from printer ink, the desk (chipboard), smoke from a BBQ, cleaning fluid etc. Same deal at home, but I can somewhat control what I clean with.
If I’m on a shoot, I have to bring my own hair and make-up items, which aren’t always best for the job. I have to refuse eyelash extensions or stick ons, and unless they want to shell out for the fancy nail polish, it’s a no go. Some make-up artists hate this, and many directors will undoubtedly think I’m being precious. So I carry a photo in my phone, of the allergy in full swing to educate them.
I say no one cares because most people can’t see it if I’m wearing make-up, and the room is slightly less than daylight. But it hurts, it’s swollen, itchy as hell and my skin is getting damaged for life, every time it happens. Which is getting less often, but still.
5. The medication has long term side effects
So, I mentioned I used cortisone cream to no avail? Yes, it’s because the creams I was given, contain the allergens. Lucky me! So the cream I finally tried that worked a little bit, is a sticky, disgusting goo that is worse than Vaseline. It also gives me pimples and millia. Great.
The tablets are steroids which are stress inducing, so you simply don’t sleep. I have to use them for only a few days when I get an outbreak, but that means no sleep for a few days. Also, if I take them too often, they can cause diabetes, irreversible water retention in my joints and mid-section, amongst other things. Double yay.
So, if you keep getting weird rashes for no apparent reason, you aren’t crazy. Nor alone, the allergy/sensitivity to MCI is rising as they are being used as a replacement for parabens (of which, there is no sensitivity recorded, but some studies have shown they are not too good for babies, although, again.. 7 billion people.. maybe just deal)