Maya's Happy Place

A multiple food allergy kid grows up.

Soy or Peanuts in Haircare Products: Allergic Reactions in the Shower

My dear mama cared for me so carefully and was one of the first food allergy moms who had no labeling or support back in the 80s when I was covered head to toe in eczema from anything and everything. Since I was allergic to pretty much everything when I was baby, she was always so careful with anything she fed me and anything she put on my skin.This past Tuesday she was so excited to tell me about a new shampoo and conditioner my dad bought from Trader Joe’s.

If you have severe allergies, ALWAYS read the ingredients!

“Maya, its woooonderful! Look at my hair! No frizzies! I don’t even have to put anything else, I just dry it and its sooo soft! You have to try it!”

“Oh wow! Ma, your hair does look really nice!” (It did.) “From Trader Joe’s?”

“Yep. And the price is right, too!” she said, beaming at me. I just wasn’t in the mood. I had been battling an allergic reaction for the past few days now. Just when I thought it was getting better, it would get much worse. I was also having mystery stomach problems which were telling me I had been glutened somehow and had no idea how, since I thought I had been so careful.

I weakly smiled and turned back to my computer.

Fast forward to the next afternoon, I went to shower and remembered the afternoon’s exchange with mama.

I picked up the Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo by Trader Joe’s sitting in the corner of the bath and turned it around to read the back as I always have to do with every single product I use. My eyes scanned through the many natural oils then stopped. If there were a car behind my eyes it would have crashed.
Soy protein. My stomach dropped and I threw it down then picked up the other bottle of conditioner.
Yep, same ingredient listed in the middle of the long list there, too.

I looked down at the bath basin and thought, you! You are my mysterious reaction. You see, when you wash or bathe, your bath basin, shower curtains and any products on the shelves in close proximity will be coated ever so slightly with anything you wash your hair or body with. I am no doctor or scientist, this is just an educated hypothesis. No studies have been done on this matter (although I hope one day there are) and all I can give you is my experience.

I didn’t itch right away, but the lichenification of my skin from the eczema breakout around my mouth from the last few days will tell you, this is very real. As soon as I got out of the shower, I made it a point to rinse out my nose, although the damage was probably already done. I had already inhaled the steam of a very warm shower which had been wafting up from the shower’s tub. I found out later my mom had used the products twice and my dad hadn’t used them yet at all.

As I walked downstairs to tell my mom about her shampoo, my heart dropped further. It hurt me to have to take away even a small thing that made her happy. I know this is something that we deal with on a daily basis with our loved ones and I realize that those who love us have no problem doing it. But the guilt we feel having to say, “no, you can’t eat that, baby” to our significant other or “no, sweetie, I can’t cut that apple for you,” due to hand eczema (saw that one on Twitter) breaks our hearts just as much as you watching us suffer does. Hence why many of us with severe allergies or celiac disease walk around with a lot of guilt.

“Mom? I’m so sorry…but you know that shampoo you love so much?” She looked up from her computer, “Yes? You tried it?” she asked excitedly.

“The main ingredient is soy protein. You have to give or throw it away. I’m so sorry…” I felt so bad I wanted to cry. “I think its the reason for my strange reactions this week…the steam from the shower is making me inhale it. I’ll buy you a really good shampoo and conditioner for you next week, okay?”

“Are you okay? Did it make you itchy?”

“Yeah, for now, sort of…its my usual soy reaction which doesn’t happen right away, but you see my face?” I said, pointing around my lips, “..and my hands are starting to itch.”

She looked like her pet cat died. If she had one. “I’m sorry Maya.”

“Ma, you have to read the labels before you buy things to put in a shower we both use! That’s like smearing peanut butter all over the shower! All it takes is a few proteins to travel up my nose and–”

“Ok, Maya, I know. I’ll send it to the Phillipines.”

I hated being so anal and neurotic with  shampoo and conditioner, but I couldn’t help it. Suffering is not fun. But neither is feeling guilty.

“I’m sorry mom…” as I walked over to hug her with tears starting to warm my eyes. “I know how much you loved those new hair products..” and she hugged me back and retorted, “Oh stop it, its okay! I can use anything!” and she smiled at me. “Can you ask dad to clean the shower for me with bleach? I can’t use it until he does that.”

“No problem.”

I walked back upstairs and let out a huge sneeze while starting to scratch my hands. Sigh. This isn’t going to be good. My mood was already changing for the worse and this definitely explained my depression and fatigue lately. I started to feel what felt like tiny mosquito bites biting my feet. Makes sense, I thought. There is about a half inch of water at your feet when you shower, which was filled with soy protein and god knows what other allergens you didn’t even notice in the ingredients.

Yes, allergen proteins can stick to the tub and shower curtains.

About fifteen minutes later, my arms had already started to have those ‘waves’ of goosebumps which precursor hives and an all-out itchfest. So right away, I grabbed my bottle of hydroxyzine and took 10mg along with a Target brand Zyrtec (which is soy-free) hoping that would help without knocking me out.

As the hours progressed, the rash on my face got worse, my head was hurting and all I could think about was that I needed my espressos from Starbucks to function as a normal human being. The area above my lip felt as dry as sandpaper no matter how much organic lip balm I rubbed on.

Hopefully anyone reading this with severe allergies or living under the same roof as someone with severe allergies now understands that people with deadly food allergies are not only affected by what they eat. They are affected by what they touch and breathe, too. So please take a moment and check the products in your shower for things you or a loved one might be reacting to. If someone has gum in their hair, DO NOT use peanut butter to get it out! Even if its on a different child, it will coat the tub or sink and unless you scrub it thoroughly afterwards using bleach, the peanut allergy child can have a reaction from the steam and by touching surfaces.

Many of you out there have experiences waiting to be told. Many of you have pains and suffering that I couldn’t begin to fathom. Others of you might have several stories of darkness and triumph that could fill an entire saga.

What are you waiting for? If someone told you that you would be automatically a huge success from your words, music or art, would you do it? Of course you would, but we all know automatic success is not reality…because there’s always that other chance of failure. Its the fear of not knowing that keeps people stagnant. Its the fear of rejection, abandonment and any other negative responses others could have towards you. But what kind of chances do you have if you don’t even try?

Anything that makes you emotional should be the topic you write about, sing about or talk about. Since you are passionate about it, you will easily enrapture others with your energy.

I don’t know why I just went on a motivational rampage, but I’m guessing someone reading this needed it and I hope it helps you, too. So going back to the risk of a reaction from surfaces, remember that even if you tell people, they might forget. It happens.

So for this reason, I take it upon myself to read the backs of shampoos and conditioners in the shower on occasion. People don’t forget on purpose so to avoid accidental problems, you could maybe request that nothing enters the shower area before your personal inspection. People with severe allergies to soy or peanut should observe the bathroom with the same internal microscope they use for the kitchen. Hopefully after reading this your shower and bath area can truly be a safe haven!

Now I just stick with a few drops of Costco’s USDA Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. And I promise, you won’t smell like a salad. If you’re worried about that, simply dab on a few drops of your favorite essential oils (I love neroli and lemon balm oils by AuraCacia).

If you have any suggestions for nut-free gluten-free soy-free dimethicone-free products please share! We all would love to know!

2 responses to “Soy or Peanuts in Haircare Products: Allergic Reactions in the Shower”

  1. Thank you for sharing your misery with others. I hate that you've suffered (and continue to suffer) but these posts are extremely helpful to those of us just starting this food allergy journey. What a shame we can't even wash our hair without soy!

  2. LOL Leslie, thank you for commiserating with me!I'm so happy you're getting some valuable info. Yes, it is definitely a frustrating journey, but it makes us appreciate the good things so much more. Thank you so much for stopping by!

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