Need help finding the guilty ingredient in a body wash.
February 21, 2017 9:14 AM   Subscribe

My little girl tried Trader Joe's Formula No. 3 "All For One, One For All" shampoo/conditioner/body wash last night. Almost immediately, her skin started itching. Can you help me narrow down the suspect ingredients?

Ingredients can be seen in the image on Amazon.

She also gets contact dermatitis from plastic, but not fabric, bandages. Because she tested negative for a latex allergy, we're guessing it's the adhesive.
posted by moira to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My son and sister are both allergic to chamomile, getting itchy mouth/lips when they have some. Has she had chamomile before?
posted by xo at 9:29 AM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

A possible culprit is the unnamed "FRAGRANCE (PARFUM)" component. Likewise, if she's allergic to any of the plants listed as extracts, those can be discerned from a skin allergy test. The other components are fairly ubiquitous in commercial washes.

Itching skin is not in itself indicative of an allergy or sensitivity. It may simply be a response to skin becoming dry. Consider using a gentler wash, one with fewer ingredients (like a dilute fragrance-free castile soap).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:31 AM on February 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Quick clarification: her skin started itching in the shower just after she had applied the body wash, and kept itching a while after.
posted by moira at 9:40 AM on February 21, 2017

Best answer: As xo said, it might be the chamomile. I'm allergic to ragweed, and when I used a chamomile body wash, I immediately started itching as you describe. Turns out chamomile and ragweed are cousins.
posted by writermcwriterson at 9:42 AM on February 21, 2017

I immediately scanned for lanolin, a common allergen in crunchy-hippie body products; given that there's none, I'm definitely voting for chamomile.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:57 AM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

On that ingredients list, I am strongly allergic to Methylchloroisothiazolinone & Methylisothiazolinone. However, they are fairly ubiquitous as preservatives for water based products in the US , so if this is the only thing she's reacting to, probably not the culprits - unless she just recently developed the allergy, which is a thing that happens.
posted by superna at 10:02 AM on February 21, 2017

Response by poster: She had about a gazillion colds this winter. Now I'm wondering if it was ragweed allergies. Is that something that can develop later in life?
posted by moira at 10:07 AM on February 21, 2017

Best answer: Yeah, any allergies can develop later in life.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:21 AM on February 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm sensitive to the cocomidopropyl betaine from that list of ingredients -- it shows up as a sudsing agent in a ton of shampoos and liquid soaps. It's super common, but it was a later in life allergy for me, and I itch, itch itch, if it's in something I've used lately.

I also see there are a ton of extracts in there. I'm personally also sensitive to ylang-ylang, which is not on the list, but it does show up sometimes body washes. So if there's a floral extract that she's sensitive to that's on that list of ingredients, it could also be causing the itch.

Allergies can develop at anytime -- I've always been allergic to cats, but the betaine allergy I got maybe 5-10 years ago. So that's a possibility! It probably won't hurt to have an allergist and a dermatologist give her some allergy testing -- I did different tests through both -- a shorter prick test with the allergist and a longer, more invasive scratch test with the dermatologist. (Probably start with the allergist, as that one's more of a one and done.)
posted by PearlRose at 10:21 AM on February 21, 2017

It easily could be butylene glycol. My husband developed a sensitivity to it as a side effect after he had a bone marrow transplant. He has to avoid the sun as much as he can, and after using some sunscreens last summer he had the same reaction. But since he had actually put it all over his face, his skin itched and burned and eventually peeled.

He saw a dermatologist who said corporations use these ingredients--butylene and propylene glycol--in personal care products because they are cheap. It is about profit. He also said that more than half the population will react to it, and as they age it will get worse.

We read the labels of everything these days, and avoid them, plus parabens.
posted by chocolatetiara at 11:39 AM on February 21, 2017

So Fragrance (Parfum) is always problematic because it can be a basket ingredient for many many allergens. The way to test for this is, generally, to get a patch test for a fragrance mix allergy and a balsam of Peru allergy which is also hidden in everything and is a pretty common allergen.

Patch tests are horribly itchy but they give a ton of great information for people who experience contact dermatitis.

As a data point, I'm allergic to fragrances, dyes, adhesive (not latex, just adhesive), most pollen including ragweed (which is the WORST), the glycols (propylene, butylene, etc) and a bunch of other ingredients in detergents, often not disclosed in labels (like Balsam of Peru). I find that the best policy is to find one kind of soap/shampoo/detergent that I don't react to and keep on using that.
posted by lydhre at 12:18 PM on February 21, 2017

Best answer: Nthing chamomile as the likely culprit. I've had the same reaction to other TJ's cosmetics with chamomile in them.
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:51 PM on February 21, 2017

Methylchloroisothiazolinone & Methylisothiazolinone are known allergens. This stuff is not highly regulated; it's possible the bottle has an extra-high concentration.
posted by yarly at 1:52 PM on February 21, 2017

Best answer: I'd also guess the chamomile and "fragrance/parfum." I use exclusively unscented bath/body products because I never know what's going to bother me. Also, there is the "drop in the bucket" theory, which essentially prescribes minimizing your exposure to as many allergens as possible. TLDR: someone with contact dermatitis should forgo scented products.

There may be an AskMe about suggestions for unscented/hypo-allergenic personal products. If not, you should Ask one, because I'm sure MeFites have a ton of suggestions (I certainly do).
posted by radioamy at 3:52 PM on February 21, 2017

Response by poster: Okay, back to report: we did a DIY experiment at home with warm water and chamomile tea. I had my little girl close her eyes and I swiped each armpit with a solution. Result: chamomile allergy confirmed.

You all are the best. Thanks so much!
posted by moira at 6:05 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Also, I mostly marked "chamomile" answers as best, but all of these are going to be super helpful if she develops other sensitivities down the road. Thanks again!
posted by moira at 6:12 PM on February 21, 2017

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