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01 May 2012 @ 08:58 am
"You're soaking in it."  
Your Obedient Serpent has a coconut allergy. They don't normally do immunization shots for food allergies, but because coconut oil was so ubiquitous in the 1970s, they included that in my weekly cocktail of joy.0

It seems to have taken, since I don't seem to react to inadvertent doses of coconut in my cuisine; over the holidays, I had a big bowl of my sister's black eyed peas that (unknown to me) had been made with coconut milk, with no noticeable ill effects.1

On the other claw, it doesn't seem to have done a thing for my skin sensitivity, and as I've grown older, that's either started to increase, or I've become better at noting cause and effect.

The hell of it is that, near as I can tell, almost every brand of liquid soap and shampoo on the market contains at least one coconut derivative, and usually several. Cocamide? Cocamydopropyl? I can't believe it took me decades to twig that those were coconut derivatives. No wonder Head & Shoulders wouldn't touch my dandruff problem. I now use bar soap with carefully-vetted ingredients in both sink and shower, and a coal tar-based psoriasis shampoo that has nothing with the letters "coco-" chained together.

This winter, I found myself with another case of Badly Chapped And Cracking Skin on the backs of my hands. I'd assumed was due to cold, dry weather ... but as an experiment, I stopped using the Softsoap in the bathroom dispenser at work.2 Voila! My hands are happy.

Liquid soap is now pretty much off of my list. There are some that say "palm oil OR coconut oil", and Trader Joe's "Next To Godliness" gets cagey by listing "Natural and Plant-Derived Surfactants", but that's as close as it gets to "safe".

Yes, even that Doctor Whatsisname's Big Wall o' Text liquid soap that you can get at Whole Foods.

This isn't all about me, however.3 It's something I've noticed as a result of this:

Believe it or not, they don't label the ingredients of dish soap, the ubiquitous squeeze bottles of thick, brightly-colored goo that sits on every kitchen sink. Everyone uses it, even people with automatic dishwashers: those pots and pans won't wash themselves, after all.4

"Oh, but it's not for human consumption! It's not a cosmetic, or anything of that nature! We don't need to label things like that!"

I don't know about you, but it takes me longer to wash even one pan than it does to wash my own hands, or soap down in a shower. Generally, there's more than one pan -- and a if you don't have a dishwasher, you have to do all of your dishes by hand.
This means that a significant proportion of the population gets exposed to dish soap for substantially longer periods of time than someone using hand or body soap (unless you take a long, leisurely bath in a tub of soapy water).5

That's not even counting the people who wash dishes professionally at restaurants.

There's a better-than-even chance that I'll be moving into a place without a dishwasher when I finally get a place of my own. I guess it's time to invest heavily in rubber gloves. Nitrile, maybe.

Still ... what is everyone soaking their hands in these days? you may not have any allergies, but if something spends that much time on your hands, I think you should be able to find out what it is.

This is a big, nasty glitch in the regulatory system, and one that needs a-fixin'.

0For values of "joy" equal to "five years of weekly jabs in both arms with a mix of everything my system reacts badly to, from the ages of 11 to 16". And still, totally worth it.
1I was a little congested, but not unusually so, and given that my sister owns two big dogs ...
2I've compensated by making sure to wash my hands for no less than 45 seconds after every use. The friction and the action of the water contribute more than the soap, anyway.
3Although this is MY journal, and if you don't want to read about me, you're totally in the wrong place!
4I have an extensive body of empirical data supporting this hypothesis.
5Just keep the candles out of it, and nobody has to get hurt.
ebony14 on May 1st, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC)
Citric acid, here. It's still a part of my life, but it seems to have tapered off, unless I'm stressed overly much. It manifests as an eczema on the tips of my ring and pinkie fingers. Definitely don't use liquid soaps, and I've rotated through shampoos since I turned 25 (while they do have to post the ingredients, they don't have to tell you when they've changed the formula). Any sort of cleaning solution that inclues the marketing "made with natural ingredients" or "fresh scent" I have to look at carefully. Fortunately, the cream my doctor has given me works really well.
Your Obedient Serpentathelind on May 1st, 2012 05:58 pm (UTC)
Ow! That's HARSH.

Mine is so subtle that it takes repeated exposure -- like, washing my hands several times a day, or scrubbing it into my scalp five times a week -- to get a reaction.

But yeah, "natural ingredients". PFAUGH! Cyanide's natural, too.
Bobyourbob on May 1st, 2012 08:28 pm (UTC)
I'm absolutely sure you've thought of it, but for any readers of your journal that may not have:

The "Green Clean" books and websites often have home-makeable stuff that works great and you can make sure of your own ingredients.
Panthpandragon on May 2nd, 2012 05:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Now I have an easy thing to remember next time I'm at the bookstore.
Stalbonstalbon on May 1st, 2012 10:35 pm (UTC)
Liquid soap, especially Softsoap, as you pointed out to me some years ago, is terrible for your hands, yes. I try my best to just use the bar soap around, but I know that's got coconut extract in it, for certain. Still, like yourself, I end up with chapped knuckles and webbing throughout the winter, and sometimes at other times of the year, if I'm washing too much.
leonard_arlotteleonard_arlotte on May 2nd, 2012 12:34 pm (UTC)
Most restaurants I know of have (and are required to have) a dishwashing machine for dishes and pots and pans. The shlubs that get stuck on dishwashing duty get exposed to nasty food residue, and high pressure hot water, but usually don't have direct contact with the soap.

Way back in the day when I worked in a restaurant as a prepcook, I discovered that the juice from slicing tomatoes caused significant itching on my hands. Rubber gloves were my first solution to that. The second solution was to find a job at another restaurant where I didn't have to slice tomatoes. (and later, I got out of the restaurant industry altogether)