I spent a couple of hours at Walmart today scouring the shelves for hypoallergenic products. Before I moved out here to Dayton I’d never concerned myself with this shit before. Who were all of these people out there with “sensitive” skin? Did this mean the creams were less abrasive? Were there no crushed walnuts in these particular brands of face wash?

What I came to learn, living in a house with someone who is, well, allergic to everything, is that “hypoallergenic” and “made for sensitive skin” and “fragrance free” are often the labels that distinguish between “safe to use in the house” and “instant death.”

Ian’s allergic to a number of household chemicals; nobody’s entirely sure of which ones, but if we stick to hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, “for sensitive skin” he doesn’t have to be taken into the emergency room.

Steph and Ian have been together for 8 years, and I’d always known he was allergic to perfumes, scented candles, and all Lysol products, but until I moved in here, I wasn’t aware of just how violent that reaction was, and how many things could trigger it.

We had a couple of near-misses with my spray-on deodorant and at least one roll on substitute that turned out to be worse and made him tear up and start hacking (I switched to Dove unscented anti-persperant deodorant “for sensitive skin,” and that one seems to be a keeper), but the day I nearly killed him was when I was using my face wash and he walked into the bathroom after me and started hacking.

What I’ve realized since that episode is that instead of replacing my empty bottle of face wash with the same kind I’d had before, I’d accidentally picked up the same brand in a different bottle, but instead of saying “sensitive skin” it said “blemish control.” I spent several days trying to figure out why he’d had a sudden reaction to this facewash I’d had for a month, and then realized I must have made a stupid error when picking up the replacement.

While going through products to verify that it was, indeed, the face wash, he ended up huffing too much of the stuff and spent an hour prone on the couch while his lungs seized. He eventually had to use an epi-pen so he could breathe.

This is scary fucking shit, to be poisoned by common household products, and it’s been a struggle to find products that work that don’t kill him.

I finally had to go in today, a month or so after that reaction, to get hair products because I realized that some of that “you need to dress more professionally” thing during one of my interviews had to do with the fact that since I was no longer using product on my hair, I really looked like dirt.

I’ve found that Dove and Aveeno actually make the most “fragrance free” and “for sensitive skin” products. That’s pretty much all we use around the house. Ian uses some salon products as well, Paul Mitchell, I think, which also manage to wash and style without the threat of sudden death.

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