It’s back to school, and one of the most common products that students have attached to their backpacks is Bath & Body Works’ hand sanitizers. As someone who suffers from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, these products (and all products from this company) cause severe illness, ranging from (ocular) migraines that last for days, vomiting, tension headaches, dizziness, and trouble breathing.
The chemicals that create the fragrances found in these products are created to last, meaning they will linger. A few months ago, I went to a supermarket and the cashier was wearing one of these products on her hands. When I was driving home, I did not know why I was still smelling the product in the car. To my horror, the reusable shopping bag, all of the fruit, and groceries were coating with the fragrance. I had to throw everything away. I left the reusable bag outside, and even after two months, it still smelled.
So what’s in these products? Ever since I developed MCS, I realized that not only are these chemicals making me sick, but they are harmful to people who don’t have MCS and to the environment as well. I’m going to go through some of the ingredients in this “Fresh Strawberries” hand sanitizer.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua, Eau), Isopropyl Alcohol, Fragrance (Parfum), Honey Extract (Mel, Extrait de miel), Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Extract, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Extract, Wheat Amino Acids, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Carbomer, Glycerin, Lactose, Isopropyl Myristate, Cellulose, Hydroxyethyl Urea, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Propylene Glycol, Aminomethyl Propanol, Ultramarines (CI 77007), Red 33 (CI 17200), Yellow 5 (CI 19140).
While it contains several natural ingredients, the bulk of these are very harmful – not just to people who have MCS. Notice how there isn’t any “fresh strawberries” in the list?
Fragrance (Parfum) – When you see “Fragrance (Parfum)”, it means that the product contains synthetic fragrances, and these are the scents that make people with MCS very ill. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), “the word “fragrance” or “parfum” on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.” Diethyl phthalate is particularly harmful to women of childbearing age, with “endorcine disruption leading to birth defects and developmental disorders.” About 75% of all products containing “fragrance” contain phthalates. “The average women uses around 17 different cosmetic products daily”, and this adds up. It rates as 8/10 for high toxicity. According to Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, “exposure to phthalates has been linked to breast cancer, developmental issues, decreased fertility, obesity and asthma.”
Did you know?
According to PETA’s Caring Consumer guide, hydroxyethyl urea is “excreted from urine and other bodily fluids. In deodorants, ammoniated dentifrices, mouthwashes, hair colorings, hand creams, lotions, shampoos, etc. Used to “brown” baked goods, such as pretzels.”
Products that are scent-free or made with true essential oils and no synthetic fragrances that I recommend:
- Dr. Bronner’s Fair Trade & Organic Lavender Hand Sanitizer uses real essential oils and contains only four ingredients (Organic Fair Trade Ethyl Alcohol (62%)*, Water, Organic Glycerin, Organic Lavender Oil). A big bonus is that it contains glycerin, which prevents severe drying of your skin. If you suffer from eczema, this is a great product to use. You can find Dr. Bronner’s products at most health food stores.
- Another semi-natural and very gentle hand sanitizer is Cleanwell’s Hand Sanitizers. The fragrances in their sanitizers are natural.
- If you’re looking for a fragrance-free conventional product, apparently One Step makes a Fragrance-Free Hand Sanitizer. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a full ingredient list anywhere online to confirm this. Staples and Wal-Mart sells this product.
- The very popular Purell sanitizers contain synthetic fragrances (so they make me sick!)