Fragrance Free World

A Day in The Life of ... Me

If you've already read through some of the other Day in the Life scenarios, you're in for a different type here. My world, by necessity, has become more and more fragrance free. Read on for more.

First - A Definition

Fragrance-Free: I don't go by what it says on the front of the label. It may not tell the whole story. There are products that say "fragrance free" or "unscented" that still have a fragrance in them. They will say something like "masking fragrance" in the ingredients. To me, it is still a fragrance. And since most fragrance are un-natural concoctions of chemicals and VOCs, I stay away from them. Usually, "no fragrance added" is a good bet. If it's not a personal care product, but rather a household cleaner, that may be all you have to go on since they don't always list their ingredients. For me, it gets even more complex. I've had such severe reactions that I now react to strong natural smells. Yes, I even had to quit making homemade spaghetti sauce. I would start it at 6 AM and let it simmer until time to eat. The last time I made it (December 1, 2003), I wound up with a massive migraine. The smell, of course, was all through my house. Oddly, I had no problem eating the spaghetti sauce that night, but I've been afraid to make it ever since.

Second - some clarification:

If you've never had problems with fragrances in your life, you're mostly likely going to start thinking that I am stark-raving mad. Or that I am a very picky person. You're probably going to say that you don't notice half the fragrances that I'm talking about. And that may be true for you. And it used to be true for me. But, believe me, they are there. And, sadly, I have become hyper-sensitive to them. Also, having eliminated so many of them from my environment, I will notice them first. If I go somewhere and then later say that I picked up a fragrance there and it is now on my clothes, I'm not making it up. My private world is virtually fragrance-free. As a generally rule, there is no fragrance smell in any of my clothing. So, if it does smell, it had to have come from some place I have been.

My Morning Routine

In the shower, I have Olive Oil soap from Kiss My Face. It's ingredient list is short and sweet - Saponified Olive Oil, Water, Sodium Chloride, and Citric Acid. My shampoo, while not quite so simple, is also fragrance-free. I've actually found that I don't need a conditioner with this shampoo. Out of the shower, I have found no bath oil that I can use, so I'm forced to skip that routine, although if I could find one, I would use it. Kiss My Face also makes a Styling Gel that I am able to use, it helps keep my hair under control. No hair spray and no make-up. Between fragrances and my other allergies, I've had to give up all of that.

I have to confess that I haven't found a deodorant that I'm perfectly happy with yet. Even some that say they have no fragrance give off an odor that I cannot tolerate. Others cause allergic reactions. The one I use technically works, although it doesn't last as long as it should.

There are hand lotions out there that are fragrance free. But basically, that's my morning routine. It actually has simplified parts of my life.

My Laundry

I have found one commercial laundry detergent that I can use with no problems - All Free & Clear. I once tried Costco's similar product, but it caused such itching that I quit using it for my clothing. Fabric Softener? Forget about it. I haven't ever really used it. For a long time I bought the unscented dryer sheets. But, they all have a fragrance from sitting in the warehouse next to the scented ones.

Recently, I read about some things that really helped me out with the laundry. Someone suggested using vinegar as a fabric softener. Makes sense, it helps to remove the excess soap. An added benefit is cleaner clothes! The other secret is Aluminum Foil Balls in the dryer. They get rid of the static, they're reusable, and they add no fragrance to your clothes! They are a little noisy, but that's okay. They will last quite a while. I've found that four in the dryer is the minimum number needed.

My Home

I have spent a lot of time on the internet looking for fragrance free home care products. Natural Choices has been a good resource for me. I use their floor cleaner - Clean & Free Floor Cleaner Concentrate and their dishwasher detergent - Oxy-Dish Automatic Dishwasher Detergent. I've debated their laundry detergent, but the cost is higher than what I currently use and I have no problem with it, for now.

Many products I buy at one of the local health food stores. I have to stay away from any of the products w/ citrus oil (lemon, orange) in them. They are too strong. I finally discovered that Olive Oil is good for polishing wood furniture. Much of my furniture is unsealed, so I'm not supposed to use polishes on it anyway. I actually buy the Olive Oil cooking spray for dusting. (Don't laugh, it works!)

My Work Life

Through March of 2005, I worked in corporate America. For the last 2 years of that time, I worked most of the time from home. Although it was by no means easy! Being a computer programmer, it really didn't matter, at least most of the time, where I did my work. But, I worked for a manager who measured your value not on what you did, but on how much time you spent in the office! I actually accomplished more from my house than some of my co-workers did in the office! But that didn't matter. I had to have notes from the doctor and jump through some other hoops in order to work from home.

I had a difficult time convincing management that there was a fragrance problem. Even though there were these "air fresheners" (better they be called polluters) in the bathrooms. Their scent carried far, and the VOCs carried farther. Add to that all the cleaning chemicals, plus the copiers and such. It's no wonder I experienced daily migraines in that environment!

Since April 1, 2005, I have been self-employed. I am now a website developer, working almost exclusively out of my home. I do have to go out sometimes, but I can accomplish a lot from my home.

Impact on Family and Friends

First is my husband. He has been so understanding and flexible through all of this. I wouldn't trade him for anything. I've had him change his deodorant, soap, lip balm (seriously!) and he's done it willingly! I'm working on his shaving soap - just as soon as I can find one that my body approves of!

I have a good friend that I see for lunch about once a week. She told me recently that she has to plan those in advance because there are certain fragranced products that she likes to use. If we're going to lunch, she won't use them that day.

I have a tendency to want to use my own car, because fragrances really build up in those small spaces. I also am reluctant to get into cars with some people because of their fragranced products.

One of the worst offenders is actually Dove Shampoo. That stuff leaves behind a boatload of fragrance. Nasty stuff too!

When family is coming to town, I have to ask them to not use any aerosol products. I would prefer they use the shampoo and soap I provide, but that doesn't always work. The aerosols are bad because they hang around long after they are used.

Getting My Hair Cut

I gave up thinking about coloring the gray in my hair. I've grown to like it. And I probably can no longer handle all the chemicals involved.

These days, I can barely manage to get my hair cut. I schedule my hair cuts on Tuesday morning. The shop I go to is closed Sunday and Monday. So on Tuesday morning, there hasn't been a lot of hair spray or other fragranced products used yet. I haven't had my hair washed in a salon for several years. It's clean when I go in. In fact, I've actually resorted to carrying in my own spray bottle of water. Seems that the one in the salon, being plastic, absorbs all the fragrances in the atmosphere, then they become soluble in the water. Even at that it is no longer enough. I've even gotten my hairdresser to not burn her candle until AFTER my hair cut! If only I could get my hair dresser to not put on so much perfume! It transfers onto me!

Out and About Around Town

I may spend a lot of my time at home, but I am not a hermit or a recluse. I do get out a lot, but I have a growing list of places I will not go.

Surprisingly, on that list is a car wash and a doctor's office. This car wash has a lobby that you go through to pay while your car is being washed. Of course, they try to sell you stuff, and a lot of what they sell is Potpourri and other scented stuff. The smell in there is almost suffocating. The last time I went, I spent 5 minutes in there and walked out with a migraine. I'm not going back, ever. (Can you imagine what it must be doing to those that work there?) The doctor's office was a podiatrist. I had gone to see him after I broke my toe. They stuck me in this tiny room and after about 15 minutes I thought I would be sick from the fragrance. Everyone in the office was baffled as to what it was. Probably some artificial flowers they had bought. I wound up sitting outside and the doctor came out there to see me!

Malls are notorious for their fragrances. Sure, you're probably thinking of the perfume section in the department stores. But that's only a part of it. Some places are now actually running fragrance through their environment as some sort of 'branding' thing. Gagging is more like it to me.

Then there are sections of stores that I avoid. Obviously, I try to avoid the cosmetic and perfume counters in department stores. Ain't easy either. I've been known to hold my breath while walking very fast through there. In the grocery store, I avoid any perfume or shampoo aisles and soap aisles, where possible. Sadly, Wal-Mart seems to think that the Air Fresheners belong directly across from the Kleenex!

But the scariest to me are people's homes. I went to a coffee at a lady's house recently. She had one of those fragrance things you plug into the wall and it emits scent every so often. That was a big mistake. Since then, I've been careful about whose house I go to. Somehow, asking in advance doesn't always help. One house I went to, I was assured they had nothing like air freshener, but they actually did.

So, if I don't want to come to your house, please don't take it personally!

Traveling Away From Home

This is a somewhat risky undertaking. We recently went out of town. We stayed in a hotel we've use many times recently. Either they added something fragranced, or I got much more sensitive. I had maybe 2 hours of sleep that night! On a positive note, my hubby did some web searching recently and found that the Hilton O'Hare actually has some environmentally friendly rooms. Read it here. So, perhaps there is hope.

Generally speaking, name brand hotels seem to be safer than a Bed & Breakfast. We stayed at a B&B a while back. They had used fragranced fabric softener on the sheets. I could barely sleep there too.

The homes of friends and family may be another story. I've been in people's houses where I could barely get near the bedrooms because of the smells of the fabric softener. Years ago, my sister would wash the sheets and not use fabric softener when I was coming to town. But I wasn't near as sensitive then as I am now!