For the food allergic, it seems logical the kitchen (and school cafeterias, and restaurants, and bake sales … ) would be a tricky area to navigate. I expect these challenges, as the parent of a food-allergic child. Where I don’t expect it is in my bathroom.
In recent years, I’ve tried to use more and more in the way of natural products for my hair, skin, and body. Likewise, my husband and I try to be mindful of which products I’m using for my son. Let’s use sunscreen as an example. Over the past few years, there have been more and more articles about how certain ingredients are bad, so I try to stick with more natural options. The Bug and I both have fairly sensitive skin, as well, and he is very fair-complected. During our occasional Florida vacations – and especially during the years we lived there – daily sunblock is/was a must, so we wanted to be extra careful, but finding products without the scary-sounding chemicals can be tricky. Imagine our surprise when we found, in our chosen brand, a substance called arachidyl alcohol, which is derived from peanuts. Were it not for my Italian-speaking husband, who recognized this word root as being akin to the word arachidi, Italian for peanuts, we’d never have known! There was no allergy warning anywhere on the label!
Now, around this time, I had also discovered that my shampoo at the time contained soy protein, and thus stopped using it – at least during showers with my son. That, I admit, was probably overkill, as reactions to soy are usually mild and not contact-based. However, reactions to nuts – and especially to peanuts – often are contact-based. At home, if my husband or I eat peanut butter, we have to wash our hands and faces before touching Bug. If I kiss him before I have rinsed out my mouth, he will get a red welt on his skin where my lips were. So I can’t help but to imagine his whole little body covered in red splotches from using a nut-based sunscreen! At the time, he had eczema flareups so often, it’s impossible to say whether or not we saw a direct reaction from the few times we used the lotion before noticing the label, but considering how deadly these allergies can be in some people, it wasn’t a chance I was willing to keep taking.
Fast forward to the present. I’ve been experimenting with different shampoo and conditioner options, trying to find the best balance of “works well,” “doesn’t cost a fortune,” and “isn’t full of scary unpronounceable chemicals.” I had a solution I absolutely loved… until one day I was in the shower and took a closer look at the label. Almond oil. Again, no allergy warning on the bottle, nothing to tip me off unless I looked very carefully at the ingredients list. Sighing, I planned another trip to the grocery store and packed the offenders into my gym bag where I didn’t have to worry about contaminating the shower or bath my son would be using. (Which of course then makes me wonder how the severely allergic manage in public showers!)
Now, I know it is my responsibility as a consumer to read labels and to be aware of what it is I am purchasing. I’m not writing this to blame anyone, nor to spew righteous indignation all over my computer screen. Though I do think it would be nice if the FD&C required allergen labels for substances which come into contact with skin, I admit.
More than anything else, though, I am simply shocked and disappointed at how difficult it is to find products without nuts in them, when shopping for natural/organic skin-care products. Maybe it’s time to start looking into how to make my own shampoos and conditioners! Perhaps that will be a fun summertime activity for me.