Posted by : Sherri Cornelius Monday, July 28, 2008

Update: Check out my fragrance-free blog, Poison Scents.

Well obviously I didn't go to Conestoga. There really was no possible way to do it on such short notice, so...that's that. Maybe next year.

I appreciate all the encouragement given on my neurotic post. Sometimes you just have to step back and take stock, and that's what I did. Looking at reasons I have trouble writing, without blaming anyone, helps clarify things, and, for some stupid reason, declaring anything to the world brings answers more quickly and decisively.

So after posting I had a revelation. If you've been reading long, you know I have chronic sinus and eye problems, manifesting as inability to see and concentrate, developing into headaches. Doctors haven't been able to tell me why, and medicine doesn't help. I may have found the cause, though I don't want to get too excited about it, in case it turns out not to be so.

It could be (at least partly, and I am in no way getting excited)...


...a fragrance sensitivity.

After I figured out that my deoderant was the cause of that pinchy feeling between my eyes, I did some research of the Google variety and came across a list of symptoms associated with a fragrance sensitivity: blurry vision, brain fog, chronic sinus problems, migraine headaches, even asthma-like symptoms. The list could have been written by me.

So what could I do, except rid my home of fragrance, just to see what happened? People, that's a lot of stuff. Seven or eight plastic grocery bags. Perfume gives me a headache, I've avoided it for years, but I never thought about all the fragrances sitting around my house: scented candles, shampoo, kitchen cleaner, lotion, deoderant, virtually EVERYTHING has fragrance added. You might be surprised to know, as I was, that even products labeled "unscented" probably have a masking fragrance. All of those things went out to the shed for a trial period.

The change was instant. My vision cleared to a certain point, concentration improved. That pinchy feeling between my eyes left, but returns whenever I come in contact with a fragranced product.

The resulting quest for unscented products took me to Walgreen's and Wal-Mart, where the headache came on from just standing on the lotion aisle for several minutes. No wonder I always feel terrible while shopping.

I've had to compromise on some products, because it is just damn hard to find truly fragrance-free products in the stores. There was one body wash, one bar of soap, one anti-perspirant, a couple of lotions, and forget about shampoo. And don't forget that fragrance-free products cost way more than all the stuff I've been using. Since I'll have to order the shampoo off the internet, I've taken the shampoo out of the shower and put it in a plastic bag under the sink. When I open the bag, the smell hits me in the face. It's incredible how the constant barrage of chemicals becomes mere background noise.

I'll probably start making my own soap so I can control the ingredients, and maybe lots of other things. Stay tuned for more developments.

{ 14 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. Ooh, cool! You found something! And making your own soap? How Little House on the Prairie can ya get?? (In a good way, in a good way. Really.)

    Hope it works out for you and I'm glad you're feeling better! Hugs!

  2. Sherri,

    Wow. I'm glad you found out what the culprit is. I suffer a lot of sinus problems, too. I wonder . . .
    Also, on your "neurotic" post I liked that you included a column of things you did right! That doesn't sound like a very neurotic person to me.

  3. Hugs back atcha, Knyt.

    And look, Angela's here, making my day as usual.

    When I start making my own soap I'll send y'all some. I plan to order the ingredients this weekend.

    And, yeah. I think every person in America ought to go a week without fragrance and see how they feel. I just can't see how being constantly inhaling a broad variety of chemicals can be a good thing. Did you know that some air fresheners release carcinogens in the air? I need to find the links I got my information from...

  4. Oh! I have some stuff for you to try, at least for natural cleaning. Make window cleaner with white vinegar, water, and a dash--no, a smidge--of dish soap. I use that stuff for damn near everything. Yeah, it smells like vinegar for a few minutes (you can take that, right?), but once it's dry, ALL smells are gone. Use baking soda for scrubbing (ala Ajax), and use hydrogen peroxide instead of bleach or disinfectants.

    Much friendlier home, smells clean instead of like chemicals.

  5. Could you get by with "natural" fragrances? Like crushing flowers or herbs into your soap?

  6. I've heard of fragrance allergies or sensitivities and after reading your post, I did a tiny bit of digging. Here's what I found for you:


    I hope they help. I hope you feel better hon - it sucks to be miserable like that all the time, not knowing why. Maybe you're on to something. :)

    Love and hugs!

  7. She, send me your soap recipe. I hope it's not like Grandma's lye soap. Cheryl, I'm definitely trying those cleaning tips!

  8. Well, Mom, I will be using lye, but I think one must in order to soponify the oil.

    Fal, I saw the refreshingly free site, but not the other. Thanks. :)

    Ian, I think natural fragrances are fine, but I haven't experimented with any of them yet. I'd like to use essential oils if possible, but they may be too strong.

    Cheryl, I've made my own stuff before, but I'm lazy and the dollar store has cleaner cheap, so I always go back to store bought. No more. Thanks for the tips.

  9. If you haven't already, check out the Miller Soap site. Wonderful tutorials, sample recipes, and lots of great information.

    Secondly, been there, done that. I've had fragrance problems my whole life. Ironically enough, living in Sri Lanka has helped that, what with the huge dust problems here, which is just bizarre to me.

    Something else you need to research - there's a difference between essential oils, fragrance oils, and scents. Essential oils are created by nature with processing help. Fragrances and scents are created solely through chemical processes. Fragrances and scents are usually the culprits. After going scent free for a while and clearing your space, you might be able to use some essential oils. Might.

    Good luck. I hope you find the answers and solutions you're looking for. :)

  10. Hi, Laurie. I suspected that essential oils might end up being all right, since they did come from nature, but I wanted to wait a while to try anything, as you suggest. It seems to be a certain chemical used in most products, which is, of course, impossible to pin down since most of the time the fragrance compounds used are not listed.

    Thanks for the tip on Miller, I'm going to check it out now.

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  12. I have the exact same issue. There are certain stores I will not go to, simply because it can ruin my entire day. Often I have to walk across the street to avoid a young lady who is probably on a hot date by the way she smells.
    I work right by a great grocery store, called Trader Joe's, and they have all the products I need (and several brands).
    I also recommend getting an inhaler if you have breathing issues/chest pains. This helps out greatly for me, I was even able to tolerate a vacation out of state (although my wife said I looked miserable).
    Sadly, the best solution I have found is to simply avoid all fragrances. This means I don't go to movie theaters or music concerts much anymore, I ask for a table farther away from people in restaurants, any car window closest to me is rolled down. The list goes on (I've turned into a bit of a home body).
    It's a terrible affliction that has clearly downgraded my quality of life. I wish there was some way to make it all go away.

  13. I guess the only thing we can do is talk about it, make people aware. Hope they don't roll their eyes and tune us out. Maybe we could write letters to the big companies and our political leaders to ask for reform.

    An issue I hadn't considered is my children bringing the chemicals home on themselves. My daughter's teacher is a great teacher, but she has lots of fragrance in the air to enhance the learning experience. Just the residue left on my child can give me a headache. Also, her friends coming over is going to be an issue, I can tell. Not to mention I don't like the kids being bombarded by unnecessary chemicals.

    I feel for you, bud. Thanks for coming by.

    Oh, and you might want to go to my new fragrance-free page. You'll see the tab at the top of my blog.

  14. Nice and usefull post, thanks, this is one for my bookmarks!


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