It’s a new week and summer is flying by. I know it happens every year, but it still drives me crazy when I duck into a store mid-summer to get, oh, I don’t know – kitty litter, and I run straight into school supplies. Everywhere. I know some parents jump for joy when they see the school stuff coming back, but honestly as my kids get older I want to slow things down a bit and not speed them up. It seems that in our culture we’re always anticipating the next thing to come whether it’s back to school, Halloween, Easter….
Ok, so I’m ranting. My point does relate to soaping however, really it does. Here’s how – if we’re always rushing ahead, anticipating the next thing, getting ready for what’s around the corner – how will we ever pay attention to what’s going on right now? How can we stop and think about what products we’re using, what the labels are and aren’t telling us, what things really mean and how they are affecting us… all this, and of course how can we smell the roses? The real roses, not the synthetic, neurotoxic kind 🙂
There is a real, serious story behind why I started Beautiful: The Soap Company and why we have the mission that we do. I grew up using chemicals to clean, to freshen, to disinfect. I believed for a long time that no good thing could come from not arming yourself with bleach, Lysol and PineSol if you wanted to truly do the right thing by your children and guests. How could you know things were truly clean otherwise? I used all the drugstore brands for cleaning my face, my hair, my clothes…. of course they were the best, right? TV and magazines wouldn’t lie to me, never! Well, fast forward a few (*ahem*) years and here I am with a bad case of rosacea, spraying Febreeze around my house so you couldn’t smell that dogs lived there, slathering on tons of moisturizer because my skin was always thirsty….. and then my daughter was diagnosed with Chemical Sensitivity. She was a young teen at the time and kept getting so sick. Rashes, colds, flu-like symptoms, migraine headaches… you name it, she got it. It got so bad that at one point she couldn’t go to school for more than 3 days of the week. The rest she spent sleeping and crying into her pillow. As her mom, I was so worried, and pressed the doctor to send her to an allergist for testing.
Finally we were able to get into see the specialist (he had to travel up from Vancouver, as we lived in Prince George at the time, more on that later) and I held my breath while he scratched her skin and placed condensed amounts of different known allergens on the scratches to see which she reacted to. The answer was none. I couldn’t believe it! Then the doctor explained that he thought he knew what was going on based on the descriptions of her reactions – Chemical Sensitivity.
In short, CS is when a person’s autoimmune system is stressed by encountering chemicals in their environment, and reacts to try to get rid of them. Different people have different chemical triggers, but in general, the more volatile the chemical (think artificial fragrances, White Out, bleach, etc.) the more it causes problems. There is no cure for CS/MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) and the only treatment is to avoid the triggering chemicals as much as possible. So, this is what we started doing. I started by getting rid of all my bad cleaners and went from there. Sounds easy, right? Not! There are chemicals in EVERYTHING we commonly use, from perfumes to shampoos, from foods (think MSG and food dyes) to office supplies and from new carpets to shower curtains. This was no simple endeavor. And the lies! Some products hide their chemical ingredients and others don’t have to disclose them. Sometimes we just had to learn from my daughter’s reactions to things whether they had bad stuff in them. Luckily though, this is not 30 years ago, and there is an awakening now, a lash-back almost, about what these toxic chemicals are doing to our bodies. It used to be that doctors would laugh at their patient’s symptoms and tell them it was all in their heads – boy, am I thankful that it is a much kinder world for CS sufferers now.
We found a lot of great alternative ways to live our lives in a much healthier way. For some things, we found a suitable replacement product and for others we learned how to live without. I learned to clean my house with a few simple natural ingredients, and stopped caring whether my couch smelled slightly of dog sometimes. I learned to put vinegar in the rinse cycle as a fabric softener and which dish detergents were truly “green” and fragrance free. But one part of our lives proved much harder – personal care products. Cleansers, moisturizers, shampoos, conditioners, soaps, hairsprays… the list goes on and on. And what about the alternatives? I can’t tell you how many times I brought home a new product that claimed to be green only to find out it wasn’t. So frustrating. So I decided to take matters into my own hands – start at the beginning and make some soap 🙂
There is still learning to do, and as we make the transition to organic ingredients for all our products things will get even better. I can say that things are so much easier now for my daughter – and when we run into problems, we have an arsenal of good information and ingredients to tackle it with. David Suzuki has a great list of chemicals to avoid in our cosmetics, as does Adria Vasil here. Not sure whether your products pass the test? Check them out here at the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database which rates products for their toxicity – you might be surprised.
If you or anyone you know (or even if you don’t), has CS/MCS – check out this great educational website. It’s run by a woman who has CS, so she knows her stuff. CS/MCS sufferers aren’t the only ones who need to avoid chemicals – cancer patients, asthma sufferers, people with autoimmune disorders are just a few who need to eliminate chemicals from every day life. But even if you don’t have any conditions requiring you to cut them out, it just makes good sense to do it anyways. Who needs such toxic things on and in our bodies or in our environment?