Hidden Nickel

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I had patch testing done years ago and was able to have relatively itch free years. Knowing the chemicals and metals that affect me and being free of them makes it so much easier to figure out when something new sneaks in. Sometimes it takes awhile but the most usual suspect is nickel.

Two surprising sources of nickel are acupuncture needles and supplements/pills. I thought the needles were supposed to be 100% stainless steel but I was having a reaction and my practicioner contacted the manufacturer and there is a slight amount of nickel in them. So slight that they are not obliged to list it!

I have also realised after many months of dealing with hands that were erupting,peeling and repeat for months that the supplements I was taking were causing the outbreaks. They and many pills, toothpastes and other products have titanium dioxide added for whitening. This titanium dioxide also has some nickel added during production which is not listed on any packaging. I have now stopped taking the supplements and are researching others that are not coated.

Hope this info helps others who are suffering and looking for hidden triggers!
— Anonymous

I’ve always wondered about acupuncture needles! The practice of acupuncture has interested me for quite some time and I almost booked an appointment. I ended up being swayed in another direction (you can read about there here), but after reading your story I’m glad I didn’t try the needles! I think it’s terrible that they aren’t at least required to list a trace amount of nickel. Some of us are crazy sensitive!

I gave a big frowny face when I read about the supplements… nickel seems to be hidden in SO many things. It’s overwhelming! I’m glad you were smart enough to figure out that tid bit about titanium dioxide, though. Good job! Now I’m gonna check my vitamins. Thank you for sharing this info with us :-)

XOXO, Jennifer

Living With Propylene Glycol Allergy

I'm just gonna say it: living with propylene glycol allergy can be a real bitch. It's in such a wide range of products that it's practically impossible to avoid. The only real way you can eliminate it from your life is to adapt a new lifestyle by taking a look at every product that touches your skin. Being diagnosed with propylene glycol allergy can even mean needing to switch careers. Think about all the products hair dressers come into contact with or all of the products skin care professionals use at corporate spas. It's not like you can just bring in your own products. You have to use products approved by the company... I've heard that it's also used in factories to help plastic molds from sticking together. It's even used in bakeries that use boxed mixes!

So, What is Propylene Glycol?

It's a clear, ordorless, almost tasteless liquid which freezes at a lower than normal temperature. This is why you'll usually find it in anti-freeze. Since it's odorless and pretty tasteless (it's ever so slightly sweet), PG is perfect for dissolving other chemicals like flavoring into it.

Which Types of Products can Contain Propylene Glycol?

  • soap
  • body wash
  • shampoo
  • conditioner
  • make – up
  • deodorant
  • medicine (oral, injectable & topical)
  • theater smoke
  • botanical extracts
  • e-cigarettes
  • hand sanitizer
  • mouth wash
  • ointments
  • baby wipes
  • deodorant
  • gel cap pills and vitamins
  • eye drops
  • contact lens solution (even the solution in the lens packaging)
  • polyester resin (laminate countertops & more)
  • tobacco products
  • electronic cigarettes
  • vaporizers
  • anti-freeze
  • emergency eye wash stations
  • water-based paints
  • water-based system cleaners
  • processed food such as:
    • dry baking mixes
    • baked goods
    • potato salad
    • snack foods
    • salad dressing
    • coffee
    • salad dressings
    • sauces
    • modified food starch
    • artificial flavoring
    • extracts
    • candy
    • fast food
    • liquid sweeteners
    • ice cream
    • whipped dairy products
    • soda
    • food for dogs and sugar gliders

Propylene glycol is Sneaky

One would hope that reading ingredient labels would be enough, but sadly it isn't. For whatever crazy reason, hidden ingredients are completely legal! Whether it's food or a body product, companies can hide ingredients in their all day long. This is how it works: not every ingredient is pure, right? For example: modified food starch. What do you think that means? Really, without doing research.... a person would have no idea! The truth about modified food starch is that it can be modified with a whole bunch of different chemicals. All they have to do is call it modified food starch, though. Companies aren't required to tell you which chemicals the starch has been modified with. Read more about that here. Another example is the good ol' botanical extract. When you get a "natural" shampoo with all sorts of lovely smelling extracts... you're not necessarily getting a pure extract... and companies aren't required to disclose this either. This is how I learned about that whole thing.

Propylene Glycol also goes by more than one name. Not only does a person with PG allergy need to look for "propylene glycol" or PG on ingredient lists, they need to look for all of these as well. Make sure to scroll down to the comments for other alternate names added by readers of this blog. Even doctors are confused by Propylene Glycol's many names. I investigated whether or not Propylene Glycol and Propanediol are the same (read more about that) and here's what the doctors said.

PG Allergy at Your Job

Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, your employer is required to provide you with a safe work environment. For me, this means that I have a doctor's note requiring my desk to be covered in glass. At every place of employment that I've worked, the desks and counter tops are made of laminate. Laminate is that plastic-y, fake type of counter top. I figured out the link between PG and polyester resin after I noticed the underside of my right forearm developing eczema... not my left, though. The one thing I touched the most with my right forearm was the desk. I taped computer paper onto that area of the desk and sure enough, the eczema began disappearing. I did some research and found that propylene glycol is part of the production process of polyester resin. Read more about that here.

How to Live With This Allergy

  • Here's the hard and fast rule: if there's a word before or after "propylene glycol" or "PG", then it contains propylene glycol and you must avoid it. If there is a word, letter or number between "propylene glycol" or "PG", then it's a different chemical unless you're allergic to that other chemical, you don't need to avoid it.
  • Read every single ingredient label
  • Make sure all your doctors and dentist know about this allergy
  • Have your pharmacy check to see if the ingredients have changed before filling any prescription
  • Get the list of ingredients before you're injected with anything
  • Don't assume that your doctor or anybody else has checked the ingredients. Double check. I learned this the hard way.
  • Educate yourself by doing research about the content of anything you consume or put on your skin... especially when it comes to hidden ingredients
  • Find other people with the same allergy
  • And last but not least... take time for YOU. In the beginning, this allergy can be overwhelming, aggravating, depressing and as a result, it can really ruin your mood. Sometimes it helps the mind to create a little PG-Free environment at home. Make yourself a recipe completely from scratch and savor every bite... cozy up with a bunch of fluffy blankets and your pj's while you read a good book or watch a movie. Go to sleep early and allow yourself some rest and relaxation. You deserve it!

Stories From Other People With Propylene Glycol Allergy:

source: wikipedia

Difficulty Of Being Allergic to PG

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About four years ago, when I was in seventh grade, I had dry skin on my face that my dad gave me some Eucerin lotion for. The next day I woke up with my face so swollen and irritated that I couldn’t open my eyes fully. I looked like a tomato with teeny slits for eyes. For about a week my face stayed like this, rashy, irritated, puffy and peeling (it’s gross). I finally got diagnosed by a dermatologist as being allergic to PG and Propylene Oxide after missing almost a week and a half of school. I got some desonide cream from the local Walgreens pharmacy and life was good. Until my most recent reaction. My family went to a concert for my moms birthday, and the band’s techs were running an absurd amount of fog from the machines, and it only took about 10 minutes for my skin to start itching and burning. We left after being there for 30 minutes total (the band feels really bad, my dad is friends with their light tech) and then had an awful 2 1/2 hour car ride home. I went to our new doctor for a prescription (my old tube of desonide cream was empty) and I went on my merry(ish) way to get the prescription from the pharmacy. I put some of the cream on the second we were out of the store, because at this point I had been in pain for 3 days straight. The cream tingled, which I thought was normal, and the swelling went down. I woke up this morning with my eyes puffed up again, so I put my cream on, and hoped for the best so I could make it to work. Within minutes of putting on the cream, my entire face started burning, itching and swelling. We checked the ingredients of my prescription (which was a topical corticosteroid I had used for 4 years but a different brand) and it had PG. I did research to find out more about my allergy (this blog has helped me so much, by the way, thanks) and found that the best place to find the kind of corticosteroids that I need is Canada. I live in the middle of the US. Im fine with reading labels, im used to it. What I’m not used to is my face feeling like it’s going to implode. If you have any tips, tricks, etc. it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again for your help :)
— Anonymous

Hello, fellow PG allergy warrior!

I am SO GLAD you brought up the theater smoke thing because I recently ended up bowing out of a family outing because I was told theater fog would be present. I won't get into the details because this is about YOU, but the whole situation was really aggravating on SO MANY LEVELS. It's amazing how many different types of things contain propylene glycol... from food to body products to medication and theater smoke... it's hard to avoid! People joke sometimes and say things like, "Man, I bet you're even allergic to soap!".... thinking they're being funny and extreme, but their face always drops when I tell them they're accurate. I'm very grateful for this online community because most people just do not get it. How could they?

For steroid ointments, I had success with Desoximetasone. I haven't used it in over a year because I hate paying for expensive medications and people's skin can become dependent on topical steroids and thin the skin... not good. But if it must be used, what else can you do? I've tried oral steroids (Prednisone and between how bloated it made me and the side effects I read about, like, psychotic breakdowns... I was like, no thank you).

As far as tips go, it sounds like you're on the right track. Reading ingredient labels is huge as is doing your research. The most aggravating thing about propylene glycol is that is goes by many names! Here's a list of alternate names. Definitely stay away from modified food starch... read more about that here. Many people with PG allergy will tell you to avoid propanediol, so I looked into it. I also got some doctors involved and you can read about that here. This is also a little list of other items to watch out for.

I hope this helps! Best of luck on your journey!

XOXO, Jennifer

Product Review: Organic Cotton Briefs from The Eczema Company

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UNDERPANTS! :-D

I never really saw myself doing a product review on underwear but it makes a lot of sense, actually. My polyester allergy can make it difficult to find under-things. Many people with sensitive skin have to deal with the scratchy and irritating elastic in underwear and the last place we need to deal with raw, effected skin is on our lady parts, am I right?!

The Eczema Company has been adding clothing to their online shop lately. From socks to mittens to sleepwear and hats, they're really stepping it up! The Eczema Company is one of my favorite affiliates and when they reached out with some socks and underwear to try, I was happy to do so! You can check out my review on the socks right over here.

These 100% organic cotton briefs have some unique features such as...

A super soft label:

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And covered elastic:

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There are some other great features too! Learn more and hear my thoughts:

*this post contains affiliate links*