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  • Emily Manny

The Not-So-Obvious Places to Look for Allergens

My best friend and I go to sleepaway camp every summer for a couple of weeks. We have to bring our own shower stuff, and we always bring travel-size soaps because they take up less room. A few summers ago, we were at camp, and my friend had been having mild stomach aches all week. She had just learned a few months earlier that she had Celiac’s disease.

You’re probably wondering how any of that connects.

Well, halfway through the week, she read the label on her 3-in-1 soap. To her surprise, the soap contained gluten. She stopped using it, and the next day she felt completely fine. She had no stomach problems after that.

Soap. Shampoo. Conditioner. Lotion. Deodorant. Makeup.

These might not be things that make you think about food allergies. But just like food, these items are made up of ingredients. More and more lately, I’ve been seeing beauty products and hygiene products with allergens in them. I, personally, am allergic to nuts, and I’ve seen countless shampoos, conditioners, soaps, and lotions with almond oil in them. I even saw a soap once that had macadamia oil in it (which I hadn’t even known existed until then). Almond oil seems to be the main issue. Just last week, I looked at the label of my shampoo that I’d been using for about a month and realized that it contained ‘sweet almond oil.’ I’d been having breakouts on my face that would not go away, and even a few bumpy spots that were itchy and might have been mild hives. I stopped using that shampoo, and the breakouts and itchy spots have been slowly going away. It might just be a coincidence, but then again, it might not.

The worst part about body care products containing allergens is that they don’t list the allergens in bold like most foods do. They can also sometimes disguise the allergen by putting its scientific name instead of the common name. For example, the almond oil in my shampoo was listed like this: prunus amygdalus dulcis (sweet almond) oil. With the fine print, the crammed words, and the crazy scientific terms, someone could easily miss this ingredient. For someone who has a severe allergy, this can be extremely dangerous. Using a product that contains your allergen can cause anything from mild skin irritation to hives, breakouts, and rashes.

So how can you avoid having a reaction to your skincare products? Read all labels carefully. Especially people who are allergic to nuts, and apparently, wheat (my best friend and I were both so surprised that a shampoo actually contained wheat. Like, what does that even do for your skin?). It irritates me that companies can be as sneaky as using the scientific name for something that can cause reactions, but alas, we live in a world that has yet to realize the true severity and prevalence of food allergies. So until we can bring more attention to it, we have to be cautious. In the meantime, if you know others with allergies, make sure to tell them to check their beauty products.

Hope everyone is safe and well!

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