29 May 2009

Soap, the wonderful wonder ...

My go to soap is ALL TERRAIN's Wonder Wash ... I have two backup bottles.

It is:
- fragrance free (of course)
- pH neutral (which makes it a multi-purpose soap)
- biodegradable (it is advertised as a Hiker's soap) ... it probably isn't environmentally friendly/neutral, but biodegradable is a good start
- filled with eight ingredients ONLY

I've used this to: clean my makeup brushes, degrease my body, wash my hair, and wash my face (no eye stings). I have not yet used it to bath dogs, but I'm sure it will happen eventually.

This product receives a low 1/10 on the hazard scale at Cosmetics Database. I thoroughly recommend it to those with sensitive skin.

Sodium coco sulphate
coco betaine
coco amide
vegetable glycerine
sodium chloride
olive oil
citric acid

Soap ... when it's so drying it hurts

Another JASON Naturals products with a thumbs down ...

Even the hubby, who describes himself as an oily beast, had drying problems with this soap. He liked it best on days when he had been working outside and really needed a good detergent for a single soap and rinse.

JASON Fragrance Free Body Wash is simply too strong to use as a daily soap.

I won't be purchasing this product again.

Fragrance Free Body Wash

Gentle, fragrance free body wash bubbles into a rich, creamy lather to make your shower as luxurious as a bath. Gently cleanses with botanical surfactants while soothing skin with Aloe Vera and Chamomile. Leaves skin feeling soft and clean. Great for sensitive skin types.

16.0 FL OZ
Item No. 02022

I used this body wash for close to a month. I like the fragrance free aspect (naturally) and that it degreased my skin. The only early problems I noticed was stinging eyes. For whatever reason, maybe its slip ingredients, this liquid soap can squeeze through my lids and get directly on my eyeballs ... just about every time I washed my face. Now, I've been using liquid shower soaps for a while, and I've never had this consistent problem.

Secondly, after three or so weeks, I finally figured out that this was making my skin so dry! My mucus membranes were so itchy. Once I discontinued with this product and returned to my old soap, no more problems. I don't have a really good hand on soaps, so I don't know where Sodium Myreth Sulfate falls as far as detergent strength. However, either the detergent or another product was making me very uncomfortable, for days at a time.

The hubby is going to finish the bottle off, so I may get an update eventually.

However, with my own experience, I would not recommend this product for someone with sensitive skin ... regardless of what the bottle says.

It gets a low 2/10 hazard on the Cosmetic Database rating.

Aloe barbadensis leaf gel
Sodium Myreth Sulfate
Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine
Cocamide MEA
Glycol Stearate
Begetable Glycerin
Chamomilla recutita extract
Camellia oleifera extract
Echinacea angustifolia extract
Rosa canina extract
Glycereth-2 Cocoate
Benzoic Acid
Sodium Benzoate

28 May 2009

Some of my favorite recipes ... searching for cheese!

I guess I've been following a Vegan diet for about a year now. It's difficult only when going to restaurants and grocery shopping. I don't have much trouble "denying" myself (let's not talk about the chocolate), and I don't miss much from my previous dietary life. I don't even miss cheese itself. Sure, the smell of a block of Swiss or Colby or Mozzarella on the counter can make my mouth water, but I don't usually miss cheese. (I don't miss smelly French cheeses at all, I never handled strong cheeses well. That just means I left plenty for the person who does!)

I've been on the hunt for a couple of good faux cheeses. Macaroni and Cheese was a childhood staple. I think Mom gave up trying to make us eat healthy all the time, and a box of Mac and cheese was the thing we loved as kids (with hot dogs cut up and swirled around in the cheesy goop left behind). I've tried a couple of recipes, and they are usually edible. But only one gets two thumbs up.

Faux Mac N Cheese - Allison Rivers Samson's Mac 'n' Cheese is a VegNews favorite and I can see why ... I've made it twice, and even the omnivore in the family enjoyed it. I cut down the sea salt and margarine (in half I think) as it was too fatty and way too salty the first time around. I love how much zing this has in it.

The one thing I've have missed more than anything with my Vegan adventure is cheesy nachos ... chips, chili, and melted cheese. I could do the chips and chili, but there wasn't any cheesy goodness to add on top. And the faux cheeses at the grocery store just didn't do it for me (there used to be a Monterrey Jack that was fairly edible, haven't seen it in years though). However, this mustard dip is a good replacement. The hubby said, "Kinda bland" when he tried it. To which I replied, "Good, that means I'll get to eat it all." (Um, I'm married to a metabolic menace, and I cannot tell you how many times I've gone to the fridge to get something, and the MM has already polished off the item in question. It is nice to make something for me, knowing that it will be there the next time I check ... root beer, melon, soy yogurt, and now vegveeta are on this list.)

Faux Cheese Dip - Dreena Burton's Vegveeta is a Kira favorite.

Obviously, it is not going to taste like cheese, but it tricks my taste buds enough that I thoroughly enjoy my nachos now. :) It also keeps pretty well in the fridge for several days. I've made it three times and it usually lasts me four or so days.

Restaurant Concerns for Vegans and those with Food Allergies

Expanding on our restaurant problems:

I went to a new middle eastern kabob restaurant a couple of weeks ago and ordered the mixed appetizer platter. I requested that the waitress ask the kitchen what on the appetizer I couldn't eat due to the dairy allergy (I was expecting her to tell me the Tzatziki yogurt sauce was the only thing off limits). Well, lo and behold the hummus and babaganoush had "milk by-product" in them. I was shocked. I've been making hummus for years, and I've yet to come across a recipe that calls for milk (or its by-products) and in a search for babaganoush recipes I found the same thing. I was ready to send the appetizer back and say I wasn't paying for it since I couldn't eat the main foods I bought it for. How utterly disappointing. You can't let your guard down for a minute!

And this also tells me how accurate are the "homemade" claims of this restaurant. I don't know about you, but I pick up "milk by-product" powder in my grocery aisle ALL THE TIME!!! Sheesh, makes me wish I enjoyed cooking.

15 May 2009

Seborrheic Dermatitis Comments

I am so thrilled that you have found my SD thoughts useful.

Don't we always feel like a spotlight is trained on our SD breakouts and just know the whole world is thinking strange and disturbing thoughts about our little known disease problems? Now we have a small forum for sufferers with similar experiences.

It feels good knowing that I've brought the information to a wider public. I think most of us feel very alone following the thoroughly useless discussions we get to have with our GPs or Dermatologists. I felt like I was in a Jeff Foxworthy skit, "Here's your [sign] meds! You have Seborrheic Dermatitis, we don't know what causes it, it is not caused by an allergy, and here is a prescription. Go fill it and don't bother me."

Ick! And just another stick for the depression pile, huh?

So, I've decided to collate all the information I've gotten from commenters to this point. You've made many excellent suggestions, thanks.

So many of us seem to find a food allergy underlying our problem. (grumble, grumble) ... Why don't the doctors ask us what's going on? We know!

And, perhaps not so surprising, milk and its hidden by-products are the culprit for several of us. As readers pointed out casein (milk protein) is a BIG problem. And yes, when you cut out dairy you realize exactly how much you don't get to eat. (My pantry is so pitifully narrowed in product range these days.) Milk and its by-products are in just about everything! I really cannot figure out why manufacturers, in adjusting their recipes, think, "hm, lets add a bit of milk to this and all our problems will be solved!"

In scientific parlay, casein is a calcium salt phosphoprotein. Its stability makes it an excellent binder and one would assume the price is fairly cheap ... hence the large amount of it found in our foods.

Unfortunately, casein allergies are widespread and most of us aren't aware of the problem. On a purely scientific basis, most animals (us included) lose the ability to digest milk as we leave infancy.

Regardless, one of the great things I've discovered on ingredients lists: allergy info! If you scroll to the bottom of an ingredients list, there is usually an allergens in product list. And milk is included 99.95% of the time. :) This is one of the great and worrisome things about science, we can split a product up in a 1000 different components and you don't know what the original product was if we use one of those components. Hence casein and not milk being in the ingredients list itself, but milk being listed in the allergens list. Whew, clear as mud?

On to the comments -

Brandon in Honolulu shared his SD story, and his problems seem gluten related. He cut out wheat and citrus (some people have trouble with the acidity and/or plant protein allergies). After suffering for 25 years, his symptoms have disappeared.

Since he suffered digestive difficulties along with SD, Celiac's Disease seems a likely culprit. So while he's cut out breads and some fruits, he's much happier with his skin.

There are several recipe books for gluten free/celiac disease diets. I always check out Amazon and the reviews. I'd also strongly recommend checking any of these books out of the local library before buying.

One Anonymous poster has gone through two years of SD flare-ups. This SD sufferer began using direct pure Tea Tree oil application as a temporary fix. (I caution you to take care in Tea Tree Oil usage, it is usually highly concentrated and far too strong for direct skin application, especially with us sensitive skinners. I'd recommend diluting the product. It did not work for my own SD problems.)

"A" eliminated eggs first ... they were not the culprit. But a wheat elimination showed a great deal of skin promise. An unexpected relapse led to the discovery of "hidden" gluten. Much like milk is hidden in many products, so is wheat. Gluten proteins are a stabilizer, so many companies dump it into products. (I also found out that current labelling laws do not require all present gluten be labelled in foods ... if the FDA recognizes a food additive as GRAS, generally recognized as safe, it may not have to be listed on the label if this food does not normally contain the GRAS food additive ... Huh?!?)

And just like "A" found out, when I went gluten free, I found gluten in everything. "A" discovered wheat diluted soy sauce, in practically every sushi restaurant in town. I finally started bringing my own soy sauce to the sushi restaurant. I use the San-J Organic Wheat Free Tamari Soy Sauce. It is available at my local grocery store, but I bet you can order it online if you can't find it locally.

"A" has had problems with cross contamination by gluten products, and is VERY careful of all dietary choices.

Ludawg noticed a huge improvement in SD symptoms when taking the antifungal Diflucan for yeast infections.

Ludawg is also a casein allergic individual. And when searching for casein free foods, realized that few foods were actually casein free. Such unexpected products as soy cheese had casein. Yes, I completely agree that milk products have no business in soy cheese, and yet, there they are!

Once the casein was gone, not even the dry, cold months of winter brought the SD back! Yeah! Another success story.

Steve Carper's webpage has a great list of milk free cheese alternatives. I also found awesome cheese and Faux Mac N Cheese recipes on the blogs. I haven't completely given up on cookbooks, but the bloggers definitely have something going.

Another Anonymous poster uses Ketoconazole shampoo to treat the yeast overgrowth. I'm glad it works for some of you. It did not work for me.

Tiffany has been dealing with SD for several years. She began wearing mineral makeup, which is a really good idea. Mineral makeups don't sink/absorb into the skin, they rest on top. And since so many of us with skin diseases/conditions seem to have sensitive skin, the less you challenge/test your skin with difficult ingredients the better. Which is why we need to be careful when we test new products attempting to control our skin problems.

I really feel for poster "M," talk about the docs from H-E-double hockeysticks! What a run around to get an allergy test completed, and then to find out the test didn't cover casein allergies! I am so sorry "M".

Once we fall into the allergy circuit, it really feels like a downward spiral doesn't it? Once that immune system is sensitized, the strangest things can happen. "M" was dealing with recurring sinus infections, major skin sensitivities, pink eye, etc. I've been through the antibiotic cycle, where you come out of each round worse than you went in.

"M's" problems are mostly casein based (which, of course, the doctors couldn't figure out). However, "M" also has other food allergies, which have worsened over time.

"M" reminds us of how quickly problems show up on our skin. It has the largest surface area of any organ of our entire body, and has an incredibly close relationship with our immune system. Pay close attention to your skin, and you'll have a good idea of your health status.

  • "M" wrote ... I am starting to wonder if doctors who make their living treating skin conditions are negligent or if there's actual malice in never exploring the cause of these problems.

(Sigh), I've had similar thoughts. I try to place myself in my doctors' shoes, and I haven't yet figured out why they can toss off our concerns so easily.

Doug developed an SD sensitivity following sunscreen exposure, and subsequent cleaning and removal via scrub mitts.
  • Please join me in welcoming Doug to the sensitive skin family. 
  • Doug supplements with probiotics to improve digestion and nutrient uptake.

For his sensitive skin, he now follows this routine:
Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser - let face air dry For daytime, Neutrogena Combination Skin Moisturizer  
For nighttime, Cetaphil Sensitive skin moisturizer cream  
Once a month application of 1% hydrocortizone cream with aloe in the corners of nose and ear canals (irritation arises from ipod earbuds at the gym - I wonder if this could be a chemical sensitivity to something in the earbuds???)  
Using the extra suds from shampooing with Head and Shoulders as a face wash, finishing with Cetaphil cleanser   
Doug's better than I am and NEVER uses hot water! He's also given up his chemically laden sunscreen and uses sunblock from Keys Soap. Being zinc oxide based, it normally "wouldn't" absorb into the skin ... however, Keys Soap sunblock uses nano sized particles of zinc oxide. And, well, science (and regulating government) hasn't figured out how to deal with nano sized particles in absorbable/ingestible material yet. Keys Soap isn't hiding their ingredients, but they aren't drawing attention to them either.   
Doug made the excellent suggestion to bring your own face towel to gym. Depending on how sensitive your skin is, you might want to bring another towel to minimize direct contact with the equipment. Also remember to regularly wash your pillow cases and sheets.

Being that several of us have pinpointed casein or gluten as a major factor in our SD, I'm really interested in Doug's report of his diet adjustments.

Doug tried psoriasis face wash and face cream from the Home Health line of products and reports positive results. In the words of a friend, "They didn't do squat for me." But this only highlights how many difficulties and complications this condition presents.

I hope the additional information helps.

Product Review - JASON Fragrance Free Nightly Facial Moisturizer

From the website, http://www.jason-natural.com/products/fragrance_free.php:
"Fragrance Free Nightly Facial Moisturizer

Cucumber Extract, Shea Butter and Organic Jojoba Oil alleviate feelings of dryness and tension associated with sensitive, extremely dry skin. This nightly treatment seals in moisture for hydrated, balanced and even skin tone

Item No. 02097"

I was hoping to use this as an alternative to my La-Roche Posay Toleriane Skin Cream. No go.

Within 10 minutes of putting this on my face, my skin started to burn and ache. So off it came.

One month later I tried it again with the same results.

I've got too bad a reaction to recommend it for anyone with sensitive skin.

The only plus ... fragrance free. So what am I reacting to? Or what combination am I reacting to? Maybe it is the Ceteareth-20 or the phenoxyethanol or one of the plant extracts (though I've been exposed to most of the plant extracts in other incarnations)? Whatever the cause, it gets a thumbs down. I've got to say, more Jason products get a thumbs down than up in my own studies.

It does get a moderate 3/10 hazard rating from the Cosmetics Database (I use this site all the time).

Cetearyl Alcohol
Glyceryl Stearate SE
Aloe barbadensis Leaf Gel
Prunus amygdalus Dulcis Oil (Sweet Almond)
Helianthus annuus Seed oil (Sunflower)
Vegetable Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride
Stearic Acid
Butyrospermum parkii (Shea Butter)
Myristyl Myristate
Vegetable Glycerin
Vegetable Squalane
Simmondsia chinensis Seed Oil (Jojoba)
Natural Tocopheryl Acetate (Vit E)
Cucumis sativus Fruit Extract (Cucumber)
Calendula officinalis Flower Extract (Marigold)
Epilobium angustifolium Flower, Leaf, Stem Extract (Willowherb)
Panthenol (Vit B5)
Cellulose Gum
Potassium Hydroxide
Potassium Sorbate
Sodium Benzoate

Semester 1 - Whole Class Teaching

I have just completed my first semester teaching Anatomy & Physiology to pre-nursing and other pre-medical students at a local community college.

Whew, thank the goddess I made it out alive, healthy, and sane (or at least as sane as I was when I started). I don't think I have worked harder in my life!

The student evaluations trickled in, and I am reminded at how un-prepared our high-schoolers are for college. They don't know how to study, they expect me to hand out notes (NOTES!), and they are incapable of taking care of their own business. How many times I wanted to say to my classes, "What do I think you all are? College students?!?"

Apparently, I am supposed to teach high school, 13th grade. And what I love is my students who think paying for class is enough to get them a passing grade, and not even that, a high grade, an A even!

So I've begun putting my opening lecture together for next semester.

It will start out with:
I am not teaching 13th grade in High School.
I am not your parent.
I am your facilitator.
You are the teacher.
Paying your tuition, and occasionally putting in an appearance in class is not enough.
I do not grade by your effort but by your performance.


I cannot count the number of students who told me, "But I have to pass this class." Um, that's great. Do your work.

Sigh, I fear for our future.