Posted by : Sherri Cornelius Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I've been in a lot of public places lately, which means a lot of fragrance exposure. I'd relaxed my defensive efforts--nose filters, mask, short excursions--because it seemed fragrance's hold was lifting. I have tight, burning eyes and sinus pressure regardless of whether I go out now, and my short trips to the store and the longer outing to my friend's place...Well, it seemed like those things weren't making the symptoms worse like it used to. I thought my body was recovering.

I still think it is, but I'm finding out that repeated exposure can still build up. I've left only a day between each exposure over the past week or two--library, casino, grocery store, school enrollment, pizza place--and it has sure been taking a toll. I need longer rest time in a neutral environment between each outing to allow my body to metabolize the toxin. It's such a relief to get back to my home, the most neutral environment I've found.

I've avoided making a list of fragrance-free products I use, because of laziness, yes, but also because until now I hadn't tried enough of them to settle on a list of favorites. These products work as well as the ones they replaced, and in some cases better.


  • Clorox Green Works Natural dishwashing liquid, Free & Clear. I love this stuff. I also put it diluted in pump bottles for hand washing.

  • Soapopular hand sanitizer is completely inoffensive

  • Simplicity Hypoallergenic Non-toxic automatic dishwasher sachets

  • Borax is an excellent grease cutter. Nothing better for getting grease off appliances.

  • Ammonia

  • Vinegar

  • Water. Seriously, do you need to use a chemical everytime you wipe the crumbs off the counter?

I have yet to find a suitable replacement for toilet bowl cleaner, so I just use ammonia or vinegar, whatever I'm in the mood for, but they don't really get rid of the water stains. I'm still looking. Be wary of trash bags, because they often have fragrance added.

Body-care products

  • Earth Science Fragrance Free Shampoo and Conditioner

  • Aveeno Active Naturals Skin Relief Body Wash, Fragrance Free (I prefer the store brand version of this, because it doesn't seem to have as much of an odor and it's cheaper, but this will be more easily found.)

  • Dove Sensitive Skin bar soap. Make sure it says "Fragrance Free" on the package and not merely "unscented."

  • Dove Sensitive Skin antiperspirant. Again, make sure it says "Fragrance Free" on the package. "Hypoallergenic" or "Unscented" doesn't always encompass it.

  • Almay makeup contains no fragrance ever, as far as I can tell.

  • Lubriderm Daily Moisture for me, and Suave Natural Oatmeal Moisturizer for DH

  • Olay Complete All-day Moisture Lotion, Sensitive Skin.

Be wary of any feminine hygiene products, because they do not have to list any added fragrance. I once bought a package of Carefree panty liners and was surprised with fragrance, so I avoid all their products, just in case.

Along my journey through the house listing all my products, I found a couple of scented products that sneaked past me. One was the Dove "unscented" soap, the other was my husband's hairspray, both of which don't list fragrance in the ingredients. I assume they list the actual chemical name of the fragrance, but the research to find out which one would be a couple of hours. And it doesn't matter, anyway, because they have to go. These could be the reason for my constant eye and sinus irritation, and also the reason for the decreased stamina outside of the house. I've put that soap on my face every single day for a couple of weeks.

Anyway, that's my list. Here's an interesting interview I tweeted yesterday about toxins in personal care products if you're interested in such things.

Update: So guess what? I didn't use the soap or a new antiperspirant, and I feel tons better. It's like night and day. I'm so happy I could scream. :)

Another update: I re-checked the packaging on the Dove soap, and it does say "fragrance free" on there. Guess it was just a red-herring after all. That's why this is such a stupid problem. It's possible something besides fragrance in the soap is irritating my eyes. I really need to make some more soap.

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

  1. Hey, this is a nice article. Well-written and explanatory. Has LISTS (people love lists!), bullet points, headers ... the works!

    You should register this and your Poison Scents blog on and get the word out.

    Good job on this!

  2. Aw, thanks, Knyt. :) I put it on StumbleUpon and already have one hit from it. I hope it helps somebody.

  3. Sometimes those water stains in the bowl are caused by lime or magnesium. I don't know of anything other than "The Works" or "Lime-Away" type products that will get rid of that. I know Clorox makes a drop-in tablet with bleach that may help but I don't know if they're fragrance free.

    And I'm glad you're feeling better too. :)

  4. Oh, yeah, those things smell. My new toilet is fine, but the old one is so porous it needs a thick liquid that will penetrate the porcelain. They might have something online, but I haven't checked yet.

    And thanks. :)

  5. I found these ... also maybe oxyclean?

    I'll probably end up in moderation now, lol. Also, I've heard that in the days before chemical bowl cleaners, homemakers used a type of pumice stone to scrub the stains out. But who wants to work that hard if you don't have to? I hope those links help.

  6. I'm in your moderation folder, messin' with your spam :D

  7. That's funny, because I looked at my spam folder earlier and thought, "I really should check for legitimate comments...Nah, there's never one in there." LOL

  8. I'll check them out, thanks. I'm not sure about Oxyclean. I had a generic version, and it seemed to have a chemical scent so I threw it out. However, that was in the beginning when I still didn't know much, so I might try it again. Going to a new store here in a minute, I'll let you know what I find. :)

  9. It's a shame what you have to go through, but your woes bring up a point I've always wondered about: how are the unneeded additives (scent, preservatives, dyes, etc.) affecting us all? We are a soup of such stuff these days, and with the apparent increase in autism and other diseases/problems, shouldn't we look at the cumulative effect? Shouldn't we expect a cumulative effect?

  10. Oh, and I think castille soap is scent free, too. It's what I've been using for years since a lot of soap makes me itch. You can get liquid that IS scented, but I use the bars, which aren't.

  11. Yeah, Wyrdd, that's why I've been so vocal about my problem. I'm convinced the cumulative effect is causing the rise of conditions like asthma, allergies, autism, diabetes, Alzheimers, et al. Even obesity, because we eat so much pre-packaged food with synthetic chemicals and altered natural ones. It's crazy, and I hope that somebody in authority casts an eye toward this problem soon.

    (BTW, don't know if you were aware I have a blog on this subject, , which has a link to the CDC website and other resources, if you're interested.)

  12. Hi Sherri,

    I googled to find out more about Oxy Clean because it now comes in a fragrance free version - and your website popped up. A kindred soul! I had to write.

    I don't break out or have obvious symptoms from fragrance, I just get overwhelmed by scents and my body doesn't want it. Period.

    I wanted to search to see if fragrance free Oxy Clean was "safe" (no scents or residues) to use to wash my white sheets (I only have linens that are natural cotton with no finishing, resins, formaldahyde, etc). But they don't stay very white and I thought Oxy Clean might help. Haven't left your website though :-) I will probably call the manufacturer tomorrow to research.

    I have been "fragrance free" for decades and haven't met many people who are as sensitive to fragrance as I am. However, I know they exist. Years ago, the "stink police" was created in San Francisco to get the laws changed about fragrance in public places. More and more articles appeared about the hidden hazards of fragrance and lawsuits were filed over fragrance being sprayed in department stores. One major lawsuit changed retail policies abruptly I recall. (I never go near cosmetic departments anywhere).

    One of my personal pet peeves that has kept me out of most restaurants for decades is those bathroom air fresheners in public restrooms. I can't stand them. So I carefully hand pick restaurants. If you ever come to Los Angeles, I can recommend an excellent restaurant without any fragrance in the restrooms. I have had issues with highrise commercial buildings in the past - not all are evolved enough to understand, but some are.

    I got a publishing deal which will take me a book tour and speaking engagements next year and I am concerned about using restrooms. At least at a hotel, you can request that they don't spray your guest room with air freshener (same at my car wash - they know me by now). But book stores might be an issue.

    The good news is...I know we're not crazy...

    I have some wonderful newspaper articles quoting doctors and dermatologists and great material from health organizations that I saved from years ago - I think you would love to have copies.

    I can also recommend great fragrance free products. I will copy and keep your own list, but I will just mention a few here. I also love the Green Works free and clear dishwashing liquid, but have been using Planet brand which works equally as well and seems to more available in markets. Seventh Generation has a free and clear laundry detergent for delicates that I use for hand washables. I use Arm & Hammer free and clear for machines. Never use softener, even fragrance free - it's still filled with oils and chemicals which I avoid.

    For my skin, for decades I have been using Cetaphyl Moisturizing Lotion for face and hands and Complex 15 Lotion for body. They have kept my skin incredibly clear and young and it's never dry (and looks 20 years younger than my age). So I'm sticking with them!

    Oh, you were looking for a toilet bowl cleaner. As much as I would like to use all the "natural" new cleaning product lines, I can't handle those citrus scents. Like you, I want my air pure and fragrance free. So the best toilet bowl cleaner I have found is Lysol (I get the one with added bleach). Any odor dissipates completely. There is no "scent" added like in other commercial brands.

    I used to use Basis pharmaceutical soap for hands, but believe it or not, the best soap I have found for washing hands is good old Ivory - it has a miniscule amount of fragrance that I cannot smell and the company assured me long ago that nothing remains on the skin.

    Thanks for listening :-)

    Los Angeles

  13. I also have trouble with bathroom air fresheners. To me, if they just keep the bathroom clean that is fresh enough. Thanks for the tips on cleaners. Unfortunately, any contact with fragrance leaves me woozy so I can't use even the Ivory soap.

    I wish we had a stink police here. I'd join up immediately.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  14. Thanks for your list. I have the same problems as you. I am sick of all the fragrances added to everything. The best soap I have found is Kiss My Face fragrance free Olive Oil. There is nothing in it to be offensive. Saffonated Olive Oil. Another nice soap is Coastal Classic Creations. Their soap is made with goats milk and you can get fragrance free, too. My face loves this soap. All of their products are listed on as being totally non-toxic. I use EWG's Skindeep Database to find safe, new products for my use.

  15. Hi Sharon, thanks for your suggestions. Since I wrote this post I've replaced my moisturizer with a Kiss My Face olive oil something-or-other. It's not as thick as the Lubriderm so I can use it on my face. I've never tried the soap, but now I will put it on my list.

    Your comment reminds me I need to make an updated list. Come by anytime.

  16. I am so glad to find your site. I have severe hives (sometimes life threatening and I have to use my Epi pen to avert Angioedema.....or worse, anaphlaxis). I also have red patches on my skin and my neck area will get red and swell. The itching is so intense it feels like I am literally being eaten alive by nats (no see ums)for those in the South.
    I had four intense episodes in the last five months and went to an allergist. He took one look at me and said I have severe uticaria and took me off any and all medications, vitamins, etc. No asperin, NSAIDS, no wine or other alcohol, no colas,etc. He sent me to a respected dermatologist who ran an entire battery of patch tests (read in 2 and 4 days). He said I am highly allergic to fragrances and balsum of peru and baccitran. I am now on a wash out diet referred to as a Balsum of Peru free diet. All my clothing, linins, etc have had to be rewashed using All free and clear and softner to Downey free. My lotions, shampoo, etc have been changed to Vanicream. Between all the personal care products and the household products I am trying to weed out of my home,,,,and now the diet (which is very hard to detect from the ingredients labels on various foods), I am at my wits end and my wallets end. I am now scheduled with a well known allergist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Mn in the next few weeks (which is costing me a bundle).........but I am desperate. Your list of products that you have found to be Frag. free were very helpful to me. I spent four hrs at the supermarket just reading labels and trying to decifer through all the frag free vs unscenteds and then all the chemical names of the tons of junk they are processing our foods and beverages with!!!! Can you offer me ANY suggestions on how to cope with this condition of mine? I am a very strong person, but if there was a support group for this, I would join in a heartbeat! (you just want someone to ask questions of that has walked in your shoes). I think my home is fragrance free but yet I continue to have terrible itching, hives, sinus drainage, hearing impaired, etc from this nightmare. HELP. What am I missing in my environment that my help relieve me? Thanks so much for ANY help you could provide.

  17. Hi Brenda--I'm very sorry to hear about all your problems. Your problem is way more severe than mine, which is not life-threatening. You might want to go look at a blog I sort of abandoned on the topic, , which has some links that may help you on your search. Especially helpful to you might be the Cosmetics Database, which lists all ingredients used in our personal care products.

    Some things to look for that you may not have thought of...Bug spray often has scent added, and carpet cleaner will linger undetectable to your nose because you're used to it. I used my carpet shampooer without cleanser just to rinse all the residue out of the carpet, and it helped enormously. It might take a while to get all the scent out of your house, because it likes to hide in unexpected places. I walked by a scented candle every day for about a month after taking all the scented stuff out of my house, just because it had always been there and I didn't notice it anymore. The carpet was the same way.

    Don't forget, anytime you go to someone else's house or a public building, you are likely exposed to air freshener, as well as the other people's body care and laundry products. The air freshener kills me, though my symptoms are internal. The kids bring it home on their clothes and their hair, so it's a constant battle to keep it to manageable levels.

    About reading labels...I'd keep it to a minimum. Do as much research as you can online, and eat as close to whole foods as you can. While standing on the deodorant aisle looking at the labels, you are exposing yourself to massive doses of fragrance. I've found it necessary to my sanity to let go of my store habit and just buy things like shampoo and deodorant online. In fact, my symptoms usually don't hit me hard till a couple of hours after exposure, so if you are irritated in your frag free home, this may be why.

    Sorry this was so long, but I hope it helps you. Feel free to comment on my other blog too if you like because I do still get the notifications, I just haven't posted in a while. Good luck to you.

  18. Wow! At long last kindred spirits! I have been having this problem with scented products now for about three years! No one I know has the problem..every one I know uses many different scents on themselves, in their homes,etc..they all hit my eyes, nose & throat..I get hoarse & then loose my voice.
    I can no longer stand the smell of scented fabrice softeners at all. It has made my life miserable..I have to wash everything I am wearing when I come home. This is very uspsetting to my husband who can't seem to smell anything!..I have now come to realize that I need to throw many things in my house away to trully de-scent my environment. I never realized therir were so many others out there with this problem. My doctor said she & her collegues felt that these health issues from the synthetic chemicals in these products will reach critical mass in the population in another 3 to 5 years. Some of the chemicals are known neuro-toxins & some are carcinogens. Is there a group out there working on getting these chemical pollutants out of these products? My allergist said they are all pure poisin and should be avoided at all cost. Any help or suggestions will be appreciated. Is there a support group? Susan

  19. Hi Susan! One good MCS forum I know is called Planet Thrive. They are a website dedicated to all environmental illnesses. You're lucky your doctors are taking you seriously, because everyone I've ever talked to about it seems to doubt the truth of my symptoms. But I think your doctors are right, more and more people are realizing their chronic illnesses are due to environmental toxins, and hopefully we'll have legislation to deal with these problems soon.

    Not only are these chemicals possible neurotoxins and carcinogens, but also endocrin disrupters. One group I follow that's working on awareness is Evironmental Working Group. They have a whole lot of resources on their website to get you started.

    If fragrance bothers you, I feel strongly you need to make your home and your family completely fragrance-free and avoid going to places with fragrance present if at all possible. (Hard, I know.) I've found that I'm healing, better able to tolerate fragrance in small exposures without completely ruining my day. I never thought it was possible, but I think this stuff has damaged me, and as long as I was around it my body couldn't heal.

    Good luck, Susan. Let me know how it goes.


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