Chemical-free beauty + skin/hair/self care
August 4, 2021 12:55 AM   Subscribe

I have an intense chemical sensitivity. It goes like this: a real orange: totally fine! Something with orange flavored chemicals in it? I will get wildly ill.

I am looking for products for skin, hair, lips etc that does not have chemicals in it (but would be really nice if it had a non-chemical smell). Shampoos, conditioners, soaps, hair strengthener, basically everything a normal person would want. Bonus points for makeup that would work for me!
posted by jitterbug perfume to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total)
I’m afraid you’re going to be more specific about your intolerance because, quite literally, all these things are made of chemicals. There is no such thing as a chemical free shampoo.

It could be you simply have a fragrance sensitivity - you could try fragrance free products.

It could be that you are sensitive to sulfates so you could try sulfate free soaps and shampoos (note: they do not lather up as much)

You could be sensitive to complex formulations. You could try products marketed specifically towards sensitive skin which use gentle chemical and shorter list of ingredients (for example cetaphil).

Literally, no such thing as chemical free for any of these things. I’m sorry that’s not super helpful but you need to do some more investigation to either the ingredient level (is there a common ingredient that triggers you) or look for a dermatologist who can help you narrow it down.
posted by like_neon at 1:12 AM on August 4, 2021 [21 favorites]

Since the entire world is made of chemicals, it would probably be useful for you to find out which chemicals make you ill.

This is something I have not yet been able to nail down with respect to my own perfume allergy, mainly because there's no legislated requirement to identify specific chemicals on product labelling where I live and the troublesome ones simply list "fragrance" which is completely useless, because so many of the non-troublesome ones do as well. But perhaps you'll have more luck in your own country of residence.

Meanwhile, just do what I do and look for stuff marketed as hypoallergenic and/or fragrance-free, on the basis that fragrances are volatile by design and therefore more likely to provoke some kind of respiratory system response than other classes of chemical you'd find in consumer products.
posted by flabdablet at 1:17 AM on August 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Also, pure cold-pressed coconut oil is cheap, smells nice, and is good for skin, especially in folds that tend to stay damp; some of the chemicals that make it up are useful anti-fungals.
posted by flabdablet at 1:22 AM on August 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Aleppo soap is generally made from nothing but saponified olive oil and laurel berry oil. Many people who can't use other soaps can use that one. Personally I use it to wash both my body and my hair, to good effects. It's not drying and makes my skin suppler and softer.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:30 AM on August 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

I am also really sensitive to artificial citrus frangrances but I love real citrus smells. I find fake citrus scents horribly cloying and nauseating. Attitude body wash and hand soaps have an orange scent that is not artificial if you are looking for a citrus scent that is natural. They also have non scented products. It is the very first orange scented body product I have used that actually smelled like an orange.
posted by donut_princess at 4:11 AM on August 4, 2021

I am intellectually on board with “everything is chemicals” but viscerally on board with “Vanilla is a pleasant smell, but getting even a whiff of most scented candles makes me nauseated.” I don’t even know how to start figuring out what the problem is.
posted by LizardBreath at 8:09 AM on August 4, 2021

As alluded to above, "unscented" doesn't always mean "fragrance free". You can throw all kinds of stuff into a vague Parfum or Fragrance on the list of ingredients and have your product still be "unscented". I'd start by experimenting with those.

Arm and Hammer unscented deodorant is fragrance free (but does contain talc, if that's a deal breaker for you). Mitchum unscented is not. The unscented Dr Bronner's soaps are also fragrance free.

The event I go to that asks people to bring only fragrance free toiletries always gives this list from the East Bay Meditation Center as a list of specific products.
posted by hoyland at 9:44 AM on August 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

Here's my rather extensive list, after much trial and error, that does not set off my many, many skin allergies:

-New Wash 'shampoo'
-Kristin Ess' fragrance free hair line, I use her conditioner, deep conditioning mask, and detangler
-Seen Fragrance-Free Blowout Creme
-Pattern Argan Oil Hair Serum

-Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm
-DMK Enbioment Cleaner
-all serums, actives, eye creams, and moisturizers are Skinceuticals. It is NOT cheap but it's worth it to me.
-sunscreen is either Skinceuticals, Suntegrity, or Skin Medica.

-RMS Beauty for lips, cheeks, and eyes
-Brow Naturale Brow Lamination to Go
-Thrive Causemetics Mascara

-Dr. Bronner's baby unscented soap bar
-I use Kristin Ess conditioner as shaving cream
-Shikai Borage lotion or Cetaphil Daily Advance
-Acure Free+Clear Deodorant
-Sun Bum Baby Bum Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen

-Ecos Free+Clear hand soap
-Biokleen Free+Clear laundry detergent and Dropps Unscented Oxy Laundry Boosters
-Seventh Generation Free+Clear Dishwasher Tablets (don't ingest your allergens!)
-always wear gloves when you clean

General tips:
-looking for things marked "free and clear" or "fragrance free" (NOT unscented! that's useless!) will usually get you 70% of the way there, then read the label.

-many 'natural' beauty products are worse for me! They often include essential oils/fragrance terpenes that can cause you to become sensitized to allergens and then have an immune response. Limonene, linalool, and geraniol in particular are big triggers for me.

-I don't buy things if the ingredient list includes "fragrance", which is just a catch-all term companies can use to hide all kinds of compounds. Fragrance can be added to skincare, makeup, cleaning agents, food, and drink products so be wary!

-you can search the EWG Skin Deep database by ingredient which was helpful to me in the beginning; I looked up products I already owned that I had a reaction to and then tried to identify common ingredients.

-some of the products I listed are expensive! I try to buy everything skin/hair/makeup I can through Dermstore because they have great sales (usually by brand, ~4x/year, so I try to save up and buy all my Skinceuticals when it goes on sale, for ex.) and a good points/money back system. You can also search for products and limit by "sensitive skin" + "fragrance free" which is what I do when I'm looking for an item in a new-to-me product category.

-r/skincareaddiction can be helpful, it's also a very active community so all the posts can be hard to wade through. Sometimes I just google "reddit skin fragrance free", "reddit skin makeup allergy", etc.

-feel free to memail me--it's a journey, that's for sure!
posted by stellaluna at 11:23 AM on August 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

Regarding identifying what your triggers are, you can try to DIY by using some of the methods I suggested in my above comment, or you can get patch testing. This is a great rundown of what to expect from patch testing, including cost, process, and outcomes. I got patch testing, and was glad I did--it helped me a lot.
posted by stellaluna at 11:31 AM on August 4, 2021

Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser is a terrific gentle gel face wash that’s dermatologist recommended for sensitive skin. Find it at any drugstore- it’s very affordable, and they make a while line of unscented products. For sunscreen I like MDSolarSciences SPF 50 Mineral Creme as a physical based sunscreen that is truly fragrance free. I just wanted to add to the above that chemicals are indeed what everything everything Is made up of and everywhere, and I’m not sure if you’re looking to avoid specific fragrances, or just synthetic fragrances. Something that it took me decades to understand is that natural fragrances, like essential oil blends can make skin very reactive over time and synthetic fragrances are often better from an allergic standpoint. So if you’re at all sensitive, avoid using essential oils until you have a better understanding on what’s causing your specific allergies.
posted by Champagne Supernova at 12:39 PM on August 4, 2021

I use a lot of fragrance free products because my skin is very easily offended, so the following may well be too limited for you if you have more reasonable skin, but I can recommend:
  • Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser which I use as body wash
  • The Ordinary This is a different idea about how to do skincare and a bit of a rabbit hole, but everything you get is what it says on the pack, and there are no fragrances anywhere. Some of acids and retinol compounds are very powerful so choose wisely and patch test everything!
  • Korean skincare brand Etude House's Soon Jung range.

posted by Cheese Monster at 3:17 PM on August 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

+1 the ordinary

in some cases you’re ordering one active ingredient at a time so can completely control what goes on your skin.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:06 PM on August 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Does anyone know if any of these products are organic? I try to stick to those to help with my issues. Should’ve said that up front.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 1:27 PM on August 6, 2021

Most cold pressed coconut oil suppliers label their products that way.
posted by flabdablet at 6:50 AM on August 7, 2021

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