Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Where did this all get started? The story of my passion for going all natural

I did not grow up in a family who could buy the best products for their kids or who was heavily into designer make up.  I was not raised by earthy hippies who love all natural products and taught me all about them.  No, I was just a girl who bought Cover Girl and Maybelline when it was BOGO at Kmart with the money I made babysitting on weekends.  So how did that girl come to be this woman who is truly passionate about not using chemicals in anything used for cosmetics, skincare, haircare or bath & body?

It all started in the Spring of 1994.  I was a Junior in High School and was noticing that my lips were hurting.  They were itchy and seemed like they were cracking around the edges.  It did not look pretty and I had no idea what was happening.  I went to the Dr and was told that it was likely herpes, otherwise known as a cold sore, yay?  I used medications that burned and hurt and it seemed like it got a bit better over time but of course, not better in time for my senior pictures to be taken.  I somehow managed to get them calmed down enough and wore make up just right so you can't really tell how bay my lips were.  I moved on quickly as I thought nothing of it, aside from the trauma of needing to look good for my pictures.

As I grew older, I started to have these reactions more and more and the flare ups were worse and worse.  By the time I was in my 2nd year of college it was really bad.  My lips would obviously swell and puff up, the blistering & cracking was more severe and painful. There was redness all around my mouth.  My friend joked that it looked like I had a kool-aid stain.  Nothing seemed to help it go away.  I had no idea what was causing this.  Again, I went to a Dr.  He walked in, asked me what I thought I did.  I said, well I was out in the sun?  He said, don't do that anymore, handed me a prescription for hydrocortisone and left the room.  I was puzzled but went and picked up the hydrocortisone and suddenly, something worked.  It made my lip swelling go down, it finally made the intense itching go away.  Eventually, the cracks and blisters healed. After more of these reactions, I was starting to notice a pattern that did not involve the sun.  It was a lip balm I wore all the time.  I stopped wearing it and the reactions were almost gone.  I came to notice that these reactions came about anytime I wore something that said SPF on it. This made me start doing some research about SPF and I found out a lot about the chemicals used and that I was not the only person who had reactions to it.

When I was working on my BA in 2000, I took an advanced Psych course with an instructor who had severe life threatening allergy to "fragrance." Not just scents but anything with fragrance listed as an ingredient.  If you had anything on, she could tell and would ask you to leave class. I started to wear fragrance free deodorant and used all natural shampoo and conditioner on the days we had class.  She educated us what fragrance listed on something means.  It pretty much allows many chemicals to be lumped into an ingredient list by calling them "fragrance."  This peaked my interest in my move towards all natural even more.

I had a job at a daycare for a while and when the children went outside, they had to wear sunscreen.  I carried a baby and the next day, the entire arm that had been in contact with the baby was broken out in tiny itchy blisters.  That is when I knew, it was definitely SPF and I needed to get this checked out.  I went to a dermatologist for my reactions to SPF and of course, she was all out of the skin strip test. 

I kept doing research and started to read ingredients more.  I had seen Bare Escentuals on QVC a few times that year and finally in June 2001, I decided to give it a try by ordered the Summer in the City collection.  I have to say, I was hooked and I had no idea how good it was for me or that it was so natural. I  just thought it looked nice and fun and like something I would enjoy.  I had not worn much make up in years.  My skin was not looking too great. I was using harsh acne treatments and still not having much success.  I was able to wear all BE products except their Vitamin E sticks which had SPF.

When I went to Hofstra University for Grad School in Art Therapy, I decided to find a dermatologist down there.  I got the strip test on my back and let me tell you it was not fun.  They tape it to your back and you have to leave it on for days and not get it wet.  I was insanely itchy and uncomfortable but I did get diagnosed with lots of chemical allergies.  Of course, none of these explained the SPF reactions.  Apparently, I am allergic to a handful of chemicals but I am also chemically sensitive so even if I am not technically allergic, I am having a bad reaction.  This was when the new me was born. Another reason for me to be so sensitive emotionally to the thought of chemicals going into my system is that I lost my brother to cancer when I was 18.  Childhood cancers rarely have an official cause and I often wonder if it can be related to environmental toxins. 

I did more and more research on products I could use and could wear.  I wore more and more Bare Escentuals and loved it.  I found a sensitive formula sunscreen from Neutragena that was good for the time being.  Eventually I grew more aware of new products on the market and now I even have my BF using chemical free or low chemical products.

This is the story of how I got started.  Now I am at the point where even if I don't react to something, if it contains chemicals, particularly ones that contain ingredients on my "avoid list" I still choose all natural.  Of course, even natural things can be bad for you or cause an allergic reaction (too much of a good thing, etc.) but wouldn't you rather have your body exposed to natural products? All the make up, lotion, skincare, haircare, etc that we use absorbs into our system and becomes part of us.  It is just as important as the food we eat. 

If you want to learn more about natural products and what ingredients to avoid, check out this great page on the Burt's Bees website: Pin It StumbleUpon

1 comment:

  1. Heather -- this is SO interesting! I have had a similar lip reaction to a Philosophy product but luckily other things don't seem to bother me. But the more I read the more healthy it seems (in general -- allergies aside, even) to use natural ingredients. I'll have to check out the Burt's Bees link!


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